Being a Full Time Artist

Being a Full Time Artist


Photo (c) Jason Wallis

“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-head-shotSpunk Brophy xxoo (Follow me on Twitter!)

    Posted at 22:28h, 19 August

    This is a great idea here Mistress Brophy; it is not an easy road 2 make art pay; I decided a long time ago that I would accept that I was a renassaince man and that I wanted 2 first define my orgins as a bad MF (google GABE ALBERRO and check all mediums incl. video, images, writing, etc) And while it made me jack of all arts, master of none, the true artist in my opinion shouldn’t be consumed with making his art pay. I understand ofcourse that we live in a world where we need money terribly, but how much do we truly need to be comfortable? Are u a true artist from the soul? Does it bleed from your veins? SO, then why is so important for you to have jet skis and flat screens? Not that those materialistic things aren’t great, but be true. Artist or businessman, hustler or wannabe, find your strengths and recognize your weaknesses and then capitalize. I moved every few years town to town, networked rigorously, but had no direction. Then it was music but I wanted to make what I thought was cool , hell with what was most marketable. For a while, capitalizing meant selling out. Then it was film then back to the original passion of painting, sketching, writing. But where writing requires a certain amount of thoroughness and a scattered mind can thwart progress, painting is the lick, but what a struggle! I agree with Van Gogh on that one. So, to wrap up, I sell an album every now and then and a painting every now and then and occasionally am approached to do a video project, but mostly stalled for the time being while raising twin sons by myself. If u have a spouse or do not have kids, or do but have family helping, you have no excuse but to hone in on what you love, what u are good at, and condition it, and then reach out until u have enough support to turn it into a business. I am stuck for now in a town where culture is a one day a month deal and for that reason saturated to the hilt with artists brooding the rest of the month in a lounge act town built for anything but. But rest assured, tho i wasted time when I was free, now I know when these guys are a bit older, I will return and BURN THIS B$&*$% TO THE GROUND!!! Woah, sorry for the rant Maria… Keep an eye and ear out for me. ALBERRO

  • paul mann
    Posted at 20:15h, 29 January

    yep ,finding im doing less and less art just trying to sell my art … and do every aspect actually ..which isnt really where i wanted to be .loved your information …i can relate to all of it .The hardest part for an artist who wish to sell their art is talking …and correcting mistakes . Thank you

    Paulie Mann

  • rob schwager
    Posted at 17:30h, 11 September

    Always inspirational!

  • jay Alders
    Posted at 07:53h, 11 September

    Fantastic advice which you know I wholeheartedly agree with and follow.

    It’s sad how many creative & talented people out there are afraid to pursue their true passions.

    We are truly blessed.

  • Maria "Spunk" Brophy
    Posted at 13:17h, 06 June

    Al, you are a living, breathing example of an artist who has taken charge of your career. Your story is inspirational and one that people can learn from. That’s why I’m including your story in my upcoming book for artists!

    Thanks for reading these posts and commenting. I totally appreciate it!

  • Al McWhite
    Posted at 09:19h, 06 June

    Maria-Good talking w/ u the other day! I agree wholeheartedly with this post. Rule1) never follow the advice of naysayers 2) It’s never easy, but have the passion & fire that ultimately drives any successful endeavor 3) Keep motivated, keep creating & never sit idle
    4) Don’t be afraid to break the rules…rules can be like obstacles!
    Big Smiles,

  • Mitch Fields
    Posted at 07:32h, 05 June


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