“Don’t be afraid to go out on a limb. That’s where the fruit is.” H. Jackson Browne
I recently read an article written by long-time fine art consultant. This woman has a huge following and is well respected in her field. But I was floored when I read this line in her article:
“You will not be able to make a living off of the sale of your work.” This was her advice to artists. It made me cringe, because my message to artists is just the opposite.
You CAN make a living off of your art. It’s done every day.
Many well-meaning experts will tell you that you cannot make a living off of your art. Some of these people are teachers, consultants and accountants. Don’t believe it for a minute.
You can make a decent living off of your art if you do the following:
1.) Make the decision that this is what you are going to do
2.) Keep the fire of passion burning
3.) Kill any Plan B or Plan C and focus 100% on your art business
4.) Treat your art business like a business
5.) Diversify – find multiple ways to sell your art
Years ago I quit my high paying career in the insurance industry to join Drew full-time with our art business. At the time, our business was not run very tightly because I had been working on my Plan B (the insurance job) while trying to run my Plan A (the art business).
We met with a business consultant to help us get our business on the right track. And what this highly paid consultant told us was earth-shattering!
He looked me in the eye and said: “Mrs. Brophy, you and your husband are going to have to shut down your business and get jobs.” This was after looking at the numbers on our financials for only five minutes!
I went home and cried. Drew and I knew we would never work on anything but our art business, because it was our passion. We were determined to pinpoint where our business was in trouble, and then deal with it.
Our source of trouble was that we were producing products ourselves, selling directly to retailers and the retailers were slow payers, which in turn caused great cash flow problems.
Our next decision saved our business – we shut down the portion of our business that produced products, we let go all of our employees and our warehouse, and we changed our focus entirely to creating art and licensing to manufacturers instead. And we’ve been making good money ever since.
Thank God I didn’t listen to that consultant-expert. Had I listened to him, I wouldn’t be doing what I love, and taking 8 week vacations every year, and enjoying every day of my life in the art business.
The moral of this story is three-fold:
1.) DO NOT listen to the advice of well-meaning people who use the word “CAN’T” (in other words, do not take advice from people who say you can’t do it.)
2.) Analyze and Correct: If you aren’t making enough money as a full-time artist, take the time to analyze where your weak spots are and correct them
3.) Don’t Give Up and be Patient: It takes time to get it right, and if you love what you do and you are passionate about it, it will work out for you eventually
There are many ways to earn a living as a full time artist. I think the hardest is that of a fine artist who relies entirely on selling original artworks. Unless your fine art is as popular as that of Wyland or Hazel Dooney or Goddard, you may need to cultivate other means of income from your art besides art sales through galleries.
Here is just a short list of ways to earn money off of your artwork:
- Commercial Artist
- Book Illustrator
- Design CD Covers and Logos
- Art print sales
- Painting murals
- Hand painting useful items (surfboards, helmets, guitars, skateboards, cars, etc.)
- Designing posters for Hollywood movies
- Selling designs for many useful items, such as contest posters, t-shirts, belt buckles, etc.
- Licensing your art to manufacturers
- Teaching your techniques to other artists
- Find a niche that fits your personality, and design products in that niche (i.e. surf, music, motorcross, basketball, etc.)
You can be a full-time artist, you just have to commit to it.
Spunk Brophy xxoo (Follow me on Twitter!)