Why is Making a Living as an Artist so Hard

I’ve just spent the last several hours, . . . hell, I’ve spent most of my life pondering this question!  Being an artist once was regarded as a serious profession which required rigorous training, and achieving a high level of skill was an artists primary concern, which usually assured his or her ability to earn a decent living.  Today, the art world is so full of flashy, commercialized, soulless, gimmicky nonsense aimed more to shock viewers than to move them. With the endless forms of concept art, anime, abstract expressionism, and so forth, this leaves artists with a very real question.  If no standard exists, and, in most cases, the reputation of a “successful” artist is deemed by one critic’s opinion or the reputation of a big name gallery, what is an artist’s real aspiration? Creating honest art, or proving to the so-called “intellectual elite” world of collectors, critics and gallery owners that they’re creating work worthy of their high opinion?

Unfortunately, there is more truth to this idea than I often want to admit.  I’ve seen so many talented artists fall by the waste-side simply because they weren’t able to get their work exposed to the right group of people.  And, by the same token, I’ve seen artists with very little talent become hugely successful, simply by making the right connection.

I think an artist should pursue their genuine passion.  True effort will produce truthful work, and truthful work will touch an honest audience.  Connecting to the general public, and stirring an emotional response within a majority of people, is a far nobler pursuit for any artist than trying to appeal to that small fraction of the “intellectual elite” or following a trend in hopes that it will bring success.

But the truth is, every artist still has to make a living.  So, perhaps the question really is, how does an artist support himself while continuing to create art?  This has been a continual challenge for me.  Over the years, I’ve had several jobs from personal training, to illustrating, to teaching, always trying to juggle work with creating my own art.  But, I’ve always had that inextinguishable desire to create more art – even as I am coming home from a fourteen hour work day, blinded by exhaustion, I will go directly to my studio to look at my current piece, and somehow be drawn into working on it. This is how I know that I could never give up my art.  An artist needs to create art and will find any way possible to do so.


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