The art income shock

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Dear Artist,

A recent Canadian study of the annual incomes of visual artists might have implications for other countries. The results are a shock to many.

The study was based on research by Michael Maranda, an assistant curator at the Art Gallery of York University in Toronto, Ontario. Maranda paints a picture of poverty. Average visual artists’ incomes in Canada, at $20,000 a year, are $7,000 below the national median. He figures we have 22,000 to 28,000 visual artists. He notes the widespread erroneous perception that artists live on grants. According to his study, only 34 percent ever get a grant. It seems that most artists receive their modest incomes from sales (54 percent) and fees (12 percent).

The average visual artist works 26 hours a week doing studio work, supplemented by 14.5 hours on art-related jobs, and 7.6 hours doing something not related to art.

Maranda’s study finds artists as a group to be older and better educated than they were a few years ago, having an average of six years of post-secondary education. The real shocker comes with the revelation that the higher their education level, the less artists earn from their art.

At the risk of being taken out and shot, I’m offering a couple of possible reasons for this. Highly educated artists may make art that is too sophisticated or esoteric for people to buy. Further, a formal education often gives artists a sense of entitlement that may hamper their access to or interest in the commercial gallery system. In my experience, higher incomes are enjoyed by workers with previous design experience — ex–sign painters, illustrators, ad-agency people, etc. Further, immigrants with traditional art experience and the benefit of prior poverty frequently thrive.

Estimating the average incomes of artists is like estimating the average incomes of golfers. Many at the low end don’t collect a plugged nickel, no matter how many birdies they sink. The Tiger Woodses at the other end nicely pull the statistics up to $800 a year. Further, guys like Maranda are way off base when it comes to grants. In my thinking, less than one percent of deserving artists ever get a grant. According to a study done by Grumbacher a few years ago, four percent of the population have paints and call themselves painters. That would make 900,000 painters in Canada. Maranda’s respondent-driven sampling appears to include a high percentage of sophisticated duffers.

Best regards,

Robert

PS: “We can categorically state that the primary funder of artistic practices in Canada is the artists themselves.” (Michael Maranda)

Esoterica: A key to the lousy fiscal performance of artists could be the low number of hours they apparently spend alone in the studio. A twenty-six-hour week is not enough. Forty is more like it. Sixty is better because you can start to get good at sixty. Show me artists who have put in ten thousand hours and I’ll show you a chicken in every pot.

 

Insulting and condescending
by Suzanne Hesh, Tucson, AZ, USA

 

Psalm 014 original painting by Suzanne Hesh

“Psalm 014”
original painting
by Suzanne Hesh

Well, maybe not shoot you but some other kind of pain is in order! My shock is from the “market” attitude toward creating art that you expressed. As an artist and retired art educator, the value of art isn’t purely monetary… we all know that. If an artist wants to “create to sell” that’s a personal choice that I would never argue with. But for you to low-ball advanced education and promote artificial commercialism in one’s art is appalling. Your use of statistics is weak and unsubstantiated. This is the first time since I’ve been a subscriber that I’m tempted to cancel. What have you contributed to the lives of artists by writing this letter? Oh, yeah… you told us it’s hard to make a living as an artist. Your letter was insulting and condescending.



There are 5 comments for Insulting and condescending by Suzanne Hesh

From: Anna — Apr 07, 2009

Oh come on, Robert’s views are not appalling in the slighest, (cruelty to animals is appalling). Obviously, they must be in opposition to your own views for you to take such offense, but your reaction could appear to indicate the odd insecurity brooding away under that educated exterior rather than a wise and well considered response.

From: Kathy Weber — Apr 07, 2009

I took Robert’s meaning a little differently. Having worked full time for a number of years as an in-house greeting card illustrator, I think the advantage to having a design or illustration background is that you’re already used to spending 8 hours or more a day working at your desk or easel. That discipline easily transfers to the painting studio. It also means you have fewer technical problems, because after spending years as an illustrator, you’re pretty comfortable with your paints.

From: Sara — Apr 07, 2009

Being around many educated women artists, I find it interesting that many do not find anything insulting or condescending falling from their own lips. Art, it seems, is degrading if it does not fall within their own parameters of being unsaleable.

From: Bob — Apr 07, 2009

Asking Robert Genn this question is shocking to me:

“What have you contributed to the lives of artists by writing this letter?”

This web site with all the letters…what a wealth of information and inspiration…I am speechless…

From: David — Apr 10, 2009

Not surprised at the flame war this has created. Emotional charge around money is a key to the reasons why certain people make it and certain people don’t, regardless of what vocation they’re in. Looking into one’s beliefs about money will give you further insight… but so many hold on dearly to their beliefs as if they are their beliefs.

 

Also appalling
by Janet Lee Sellers, Monument, CO, USA

 

Untitled original painting by Janet Lee Sellers

Untitled
original painting
by Janet Lee Sellers

Robert, you appall. In a year, to get 10,000 hours, one would need a 27 hour day working non-stop. With 3 years being around 1000 days, one could pull 10,000 hours by 10 hours a day. You know as well as I do that 10 hours a day is not the real deal: more like 16 hours a day of work that paints out to 10… 6 are musing hours. Artists must work smarter, not harder… richer, not poorer… find what we need to succeed on our terms and get money in all that is legal and moral… or perish. Well, the good news in that is dead artists seem to make more money per painting.



There are 2 comments for Also appalling by Janet Lee Sellers

From: BoJo — Apr 07, 2009
From: Anonymous — Apr 09, 2009

“Appalling” is a good word for the quality of work submitted by those appalled by Robert. Could it be that they are pointing their fingers in the wrong direction?

 

Highly educated low-earning artists
by Dr. Westy A. Egmont, Boston, MA, USA

 

Being from a family of professional artists, one trait that highly impacts any demographic study of ‘artists’ is that for many they spend years as teachers and professionals in various careers and when they are finally free of tuitions or mortgage or whatever shackles had held them back, then they joyously claim the identity of “artist.” At this point they are less focused on income and more on creativity and thus evolve into being highly educated low-earning artists. Among my professional sculptor friends, only a few ever made their income in the creative arts.



There is 1 comment for Highly educated low-earning artists by Dr. Westy A. Egmont

From: tatjana — Apr 07, 2009

This is in line with what I am seeing as well. Baby boomers are going into the retirement, and being raised by parents who went through the depression and encouraged their children into “sensible” professions, they are only now reclaiming their talents. Finely free to create at their heart’s desire!

 

Many educated artists succeed
by Claudia Roulier, Idledale, CO, USA

 

The racers original painting by Claudia Roulier

“The racers”
original painting
by Claudia Roulier

I agree mostly with your assessment except the one point about “too” educated… not a relevant point, in my opinion. I know plenty of artists that defy that idea. Also the study did not seem to take into account the world global economy’s downturn. It’s up to artists to figure out innovative ways to promote themselves. Artists are like milk: the “cream” tends to rise to the top through promotion skills and talent.



There is 1 comment for Many educated artists succeed by Claudia Roulier

From: Liz Reday — Apr 10, 2009

Now THAT’S a great painting. I bet you have been painting quite a long time. As far as education levels and success, a lot depends on the “type” of education, i.e., years of workshops & practice in the field versus MFA & teaching. Very sophisticated art has a slim market accessed by having a high level of social skills and knowing select collectors. Many artists would prefer to just paint, too.

 

Chicken in every pot department
by James Von, Otisville, MI, USA

 

Great Grey Blue in the Blue watercolour painting by James Von

“Great Grey Blue in the Blue”
watercolour by James Von

I dropped out of art school to become an Artist. Once I learned that I didn’t have to pay to work at my heart’s desire, all that was left to me was work. I learned the art of creating it, then framing it, then selling it. Artists, however talented or educated, will never sell a thing if they don’t have some experience in marketing/sales. The people that spend time getting an education in the arts also need to learn to sell it. More like learn to sell themselves. Art is an extension of one’s self. When you learn to sell yourself the paintings go out under the arms. Actually, the easy part is selling your art. It’s getting good enough to do so that takes time and effort. And I would have to agree with Robert. Show me artists who have put in ten thousand hours and I’ll show you a chicken in every pot.



There are 2 comments for Chicken in every pot department by James Von

From: Sonya Bennett — Apr 07, 2009

I have loved this painting from the moment I saw it…I agree with you and our wonderful Robert… time spent in the love of our craft equals success either emotionally, spiritually and hopefully monetarily… two out of three is great. I live in Fairhope, Alabama where this Great Grey Blue comes to visit me sometimes… you have totally captured the essence of this beautiful bird in a blue moment… sonyadell@yahoo.com

From: Susan Downing-White — Apr 20, 2009

Hi Sonya, I agree with you and Robert as well — just now catching up on these older “letters.” I see you’re in Fairhope — I’m in Mobile. How funny to find another Alabama fan of Robert Genn. Best wishes, Susan Downing-white PS. Clicked the ‘send email’ thing but nothing happened…

 

Lousy statistics
by Ann DerGara

 

Landscape 20 original painting by Ann DerGara

“Landscape 20”
original painting
by Ann DerGara

I have supported myself and my family since 1978 as an artist, only working as an artist and producing my work. I sent my children to college, paid for my home, bought my cars etc. etc. Most of my artist friends have done the same. I have made far more than this fellow Maranda is saying…. I also always employed assistants in my studio and even gave them health insurance. The art business is a huge business. Make Your Life a Work of Art.



There are 4 comments for Lousy statistics by Ann DerGara

From: Anonymous — Apr 07, 2009

That’s not really art…that’s PRODUCT…Even Rubens stuff, when only a commission and only the last touch was his, was PRODUCT… Strong colors and some stylization and going a LOT in the PUBLIC’s taste direction doesn’t mean art…

From: John Boeckeler — Apr 07, 2009

Anonymous, only if you disregard the marketplace and subscribe to the notion that art is whatever artists and curators can get away with.

From: Anna — Apr 07, 2009

Anonymous, It does so mean art!! It may not be your kind of art nor mine but it is art (ask the person who painted the majority of Rubens work, are they not artists of merit too?), get off your horse sunshine, I can’t believe the narrow minded, scathing, and mean spirited opinion oozing out of some people. My hat goes off to Ann. What a wonderful success story. We all choose our path whether we paint to please our market or paint to please our egos. It is all art, the only differences being the artists goals, dreams and intent. Who be you to judge whether Ann’s path is worthy. Baa humbug Anonymous.

From: Mikolean — Apr 08, 2009

Ann, Sounds, like you put in alot of love hard work and creativity to live your art. I repeat your art. That really is the point people, expressing your vision your way. I do wonder how the art curmudgeons, like anoyomous, fare in the art world. A bit of advice for your next venture; you may want to think about sharing your the specifics of your story because, boy do we artists need some marketing coaching.

 

Paint for love anyway
by Merv Richardson, Barrie, ON, Canada

 

Cookstown watercolour painting by Merv Richardson

“Cookstown”
watercolour by Merv Richardson

I don’t believe that income level determines whether an artist is good, bad or indifferent. There are a goodly number of very fine artists who do not sell well for a wide variety of reasons, not the least of which is that they are painting for the sheer love of it and not to put another notch in their brush handle each time they make a sale. On the other end of the spectrum are artists that can’t paint a lick, but who cater to the unsophisticated buyer. (Case in point, if I really wanted to make a decent living at art, just for the sake of the almighty dollar, I would only paint trilliums and birch trees since, for some strange reason, people go gaga over this stuff). As to grants, my personal opinion is that I seldom see a grant project which would justify the expenditure of government funding. (By the way, I have never applied for one, so it’s not a sour grape comment here). I really appreciate receiving your emails, and find the content to be of an outstanding quality.

 

Who’s the audience?
by Dwayne Davis, Williams Lake, BC, Canada

 

Untitled sketch by Dwayne Davis

Untitled
sketch by Dwayne Davis

Look at the works of Wassily Kandinsky, Joan Miro, Marc Chagall, and Pablo Picasso, who are but a few of the more “famous” artists of our time. Their work that is revered in the higher art circles would not even place in a local town art fair when judged against little Jenny’s painting of “Puppies in a basket with flowers.” But again, Jenny’s piece shown in New York’s high-end galleries would be a laugh beside any of the names listed above. As an “educated” art enthusiast, I get the Kandinskys and the rest of the artists I was fortunate to be able to study. For the rest of the masses, Jenny’s puppies win out every time. That brings to question, who is the audience? When I paint, I ask myself this because I want to relate what I’m saying in my work to the people seeing it. Art is communication that has the ability to reach out and touch anyone who has the physical and mental faculty to receive it. Art can bridge age, culture, and language differences, relating the viewer personally to the piece when produced in a way that one can read into the work and identify with it. Art in its simplest form matches the sofa in the room but in its most elegant form it moves the soul.



There are 3 comments for Who’s the audience? by Dwayne Davis

From: Marsha Savage — Apr 07, 2009

Dwayne, I think you said it very well. Art, in whatever form, is different for each person. It must be felt by the person viewing it. Most good artists paint for themselves first, and then for their “market”. Again, well said!

From: Karen — Apr 07, 2009

I agree with Dwayne, he nailed it. It is so much about the expectations and experience with art, of the viewer. We can’t get away from that!

From: tatjana m-p — Apr 08, 2009

I think that Robert was refering to the art audience which appreciates art in some way that enables the artist with an income sufficient to survive and hopefully to live well. The question of the art type and audience type goes one level deeper.

 

Of grants and success
by Brett Busang, Washington, DC, USA

 

Constitution Avenue acrylic painting by Brett Busang

“Constitution Avenue”
acrylic painting
by Brett Busang

The subject you attempted to dispose of in a single letter is far too complex to summarily address – though I’m sure you’re aware of that yourself. What, for example, is an “artist”? I would not rush to judgment and pronounce somebody an artist simply because he or she happens to spend twenty-six hours or more in a studio. I know of rich idlers who spend all day and accomplish nothing of any value, and never will. I spent ten hours on a painting a couple of weeks ago and made a pretty good little medium-sized thing. (Because I have become somewhat lazy in my middle age, those ten hours were all I spent before an easel that week.) Yet: the innumerable hours I had spent in restless experimentation, on failed projects, as well as the odd “keeper,” made my moderate success possible. Studio idlers could not have done that little painting in five hundred hours. Nor would they have wanted to. It was, by most sensible definitions of the word, work. And work is something such people wish heartily to avoid.

No work ethic devised by man doth a painting make, though I will readily acknowledge that you do have to show up now and then to make something that might hang on a wall or rest uneasily on a pedestal.

As to grants, I think your assessment must be closer than the lab-tested one. To use my own example a second time, I have applied for dozens and been awarded with a collection of form letters that make for insanely comical reading – provided you’re in the mood for them. On the other hand, I have collegial relationships with a fair number of artists who have received grants – and keep on receiving them. If those who have shall get, it’s very likely that their gravy train will not run out. Just as mine will never get started.

Artists are people who are driven, not merely by visions of success, but by the following: the attraction to a specific medium; the need to work in that medium to the exclusion of others; a personal integrity that need not translate “man hours” into an occupational tic; a commitment to what workshop gurus call – quite rightly – personal growth, which isn’t tied to statistical reckoning, but to the workaday efforts of the artist him or herself. I must also add that if these workaday efforts are not tempered with self-criticism, they have limited value. Robert Henri described painter-workaholics as victims of “idle industry.” Unnecessary work shouldn’t be rewarded any more than no work at all. The French academic painter, Meissonnier probably spent a hundred hours a week in his studio. Does that make his work superior to that of Manet, who was no clock-puncher and wouldn’t have cared to be? I don’t think so!



There are 3 comments for Of grants and success by Brett Busang

From: Anonymous — Apr 07, 2009

You have a point there! Manet had more than just drawing ability and the drive toward success… He had that sparkle, that ‘sun in the guts’ Picasso was speaking of… The truth is that an authentic artist is a very rare and very precious human being (I’m not implying I am one), just as rare as an authentic, original writer (or composer or whatever)… and success doesn’t mean anything, really… Van Gogh was – after today’s criterions – a total failure during his lifetime. Postmortem doesn’t count, for him… And if he put a lot of hours in his body of works wasn’t because of working ethics or such, in my opinion. It was because he had passion, because he had pleasure doing his painting… Because his painting was the only thing he really cared about…

From: Anonymous — Apr 09, 2009

If you think about the 10,000 hours divided by 60 hrs x 52 weeks, you would come up with something like 4 years give or take. Now that sounds like a college education only rather than paying someone to teach you you teach yourself and save yourself the student loans that put so many college grads behind the eight ball. Now if you are producing works of art and studying your trade and your masters then I can’t help but think that you are going to do well. If you spend your money that you might have for a degree from the Wizard of Oz, on promoting yourself or studying under a particular artist then you are also directing your own career. Better than the empty promises that some high school teacher gave us about grades being all important. When it comes right down to it experience, a portfolio is what counts. Experience is getting the test first and then the lesson.

From: Liz Reday — Apr 10, 2009

One of the reasons Brett Busang’s words have such resonance is that his work is so darned good! Also Paul deMarrais. Thanks guys!

 

Not in the economic reality zone
by Linda Sorem

 

Untitled sculptural baskets by Linda Sorem

Untitled
sculptural baskets
by Linda Sorem

I was recently discussing some of your letters with a friend who also receives them. We were wondering if painters like you do any of the normal activities that the rest of us do like laundry, cooking, house cleaning, mowing the lawn, grocery shopping, paying bills, etc. or if these mundane but necessary tasks are all done for you? Your last letter seems a bit harsh in its conclusions. I do agree that a set and structured amount of time needs to be devoted to studio time — but it’s not 60 hours a week, unless one is working towards a deadline or show date. Where is the balance in that? I used to do that and burned out. So back to my statement about living real life. As you seem to travel quite a bit, you probably are not in the economic reality zone that most of us live in. We in Minnesota have done extensive studies by region about economic health of artists and the picture is not pretty right now. Artists contribute far more to communities and economies than what has been recognized in the past despite how little they make. Last year I attended a conference called “Art Works!” and the keynote speaker was pointing out the benefits of arts in a community. If all the artists I know were doing nothing but working in their studios for 60 hours a week, there would be no community involvement or volunteer time available.

Recently I attended a marketing/grant writing workshop with approx. 50 other artists, most who were well along in their careers and I would say the average age was somewhere between 45 and 55. The economy has forced many of these people back to jobs and out of the studio or to a diminished lifestyle. Grants are surely (as you mentioned) not a dependable source for income. The world of art is becoming increasingly expensive to participate in, whether its materials, show fees, photography, computer programs, website maintenance — the list goes on and on. What I heard in the workshop is that all the marketing-related activities that must be done take away time and creative energy from the studio.

So I conclude that either you are a wizard or you indeed have this team of people doing all the grunt work for you so you can paint. Thanks for giving us food for thought and discussion (and some aggravation/motivation).



There are 2 comments for Not in the economic reality zone by Linda Sorem

From: Sara — Apr 07, 2009

This speaks directly to the most influential interest that life has for me. The old Chinese saying “read a thousand books, paint a painting.” The point being that life is life and must be lived first, with wisdom and understanding giving you a viewpoint from which to paint. Far too much art is created with no purpose other than the artist’s ego being on display, showing skill, yes, but sadly, no understanding or even worse, no communication. For what is art?

From: Liz Reday — Apr 10, 2009

A lot of artists successfully employ teams of assistants as well as wives to handle household, childcare and business/marketing stuff. Many are men, but some women I know are capable of multiple employees and/or partners for domestic and studio assistance. I agree that it looks expensive to participate in marketing campaigns, show entries, framing and shipping to and from exhibitions, not to mention photography, websites and workshops to keep the artist current. However, community involvement can be an excellent way to increase your collector base and learn from other artists and businesspeople. Without employing a small army,(and wives or spouses) to do all this stuff while we stay in the studio and ponder our painting, how do other artists do it?

 

Art school survivor
by Kathrine Allen-Coleman, Jackson, GA, USA

 

Peaches original painting by Kathrine Allen-Coleman

“Peaches”
original painting
by Kathrine Allen-Coleman

I have been reading your letters for several months, and found this one particularly interesting. I was born in Victoria B.C., and tried to get my art career started there. But after many twists of fate (positive) ended up marrying a fellow artist and moving to a small town in Georgia, USA. Scott paints in Watercolor, I do mixed media pieces, we both have a bit of a designer background. We often easily put in 60 hour weeks, not including time spent at shows. We exhibit at outdoor art shows a couple times a month. Not the clinky windchime craft fairs, but the higher end shows that fortunately thrive down here. Cherry Creek in Denver, Coconut Grove in Miami, St. Louis Art fair, and such.

I could never get a toe hold in B.C., couldn’t make enough in gallery sales, had one small museum show, and the competition for a few dollars of grant money was huge. Not to mention the cost of living in Victoria! I had to agree with you on so many points, yes, the 10,000 hour rule is a good place to start. Yes the more art school you get the more handicapped it leaves you. Two years of art school, 10 years to get over it. I am actually on the brink of contacting my old art school instructor, but the fear of him turning up his nose at how I’ve ‘sold out’ is holding me back. Yes I make art to sell, and usually I sell it.



There are 2 comments for Art school survivor by Kathrine Allen-Coleman

From: Nina Allen Freeman — Apr 07, 2009

We all do what we have to to make a living – some like me worked for thirty years as a social worker, others teach. You make art and sell it at art fairs, that’s great! You have found a way to make your art education pay for you. If you are lucky, your life will be long and you will have time for more than one career.

From: Thaine — Apr 07, 2009

I’m attending an artist’s school on and off now. One of the teachers recently said beginning artists often have an idea of creativity… but don’t follow that. Instead, listen to your prospective clients, and gallery owners… find ways do what they want, and let that stretch your techniques and talents. That is one path to becoming a better artist and person.

I was surprised by her advice, but am beginning to see it as a very valid path.

 

Go ahead, pat yourself on the back
by Paul Kane, Bloomington, IN, USA

 

Musharraf of Pakistan Spreads Democracy sketch by Paul Kane

“Musharraf of Pakistan Spreads Democracy”
sketch by Paul Kane

Well, I don’t think you should be shot for a little classic ‘blaming the victim.’ I think you should just be very ashamed of yourself, though I suppose it’s quite natural, in a twisted way, for an artist who has thrived in the commercial art market to basically accuse those who have not of being snooty elitists. Ok. Fine. You go there. Now it’s my turn: I think much of the art that sells well isn’t very good for the same reason that many of the books that sell well aren’t very good, ditto movies, ditto TV shows, etc…, I think that some very good artists sell well and some don’t and I think that some not so good artists sell well and some don’t. I think a lot of what makes the difference is luck. I think that a sophisticated business plan can make a difference, but I think that says as much about the quality of the art as McDonalds’ success says about the quality of its burgers. I think that public support for the arts can be a very helpful thing, but that it works best when it works broadly. I think that contemporary arts programs hand out awards to very few people and that this could possibly do more harm than good, because it rewards political skills over creative abilities. I think the WPA program for artists worked magnificently precisely because it helped a broad swath of artists. This was important, because it reduced the political component, apparently there being a recognition that it is impossible for some committee to know ahead of time which artists will ultimately do the most important work. It was also important because it helped create an environment in which something like a critical mass of active artists was achieved — enough to provide both competitive energy and support — not just material support, but — more importantly — the kind of support that tells you that what you are doing is valuable to be doing.

And, finally, the broad support for many artists helped, I think, to encourage a wider and more sophisticated audience. See, we don’t actually have to assume that education just turns people into snooty elitists. It can also provide environments in which individuality, perception, awareness and understanding can flourish.

But, hey, if you think Die Hard 90 is automatically MUCH better than La Dolce Vita since only eggheads watch Italian art films, or whatever, you go ahead and break your arm patting yourself on the back every time you sell a painting and maybe even go ahead and snort a snoot or two at all those hyper-educated eggheads who maybe paint things other than feel-good landscapes.



There are 5 comments for Go ahead, pat yourself on the back by Paul Kane

From: Marsha Savage — Apr 07, 2009

Okay – another comment. There are many different reasons to create many different kinds of art! So, what is wrong with a “feel-good landscape?”

From: Liz Schamehorn — Apr 07, 2009

THANK YOU PAUL! While I agree with Robert’s statements about the importance of hard work, there was a little too much “I’m all right Jack” in that letter. I am also getting bored with his anti-education stance. Great sketch by the way.

From: Janet Best Badger — Apr 07, 2009

Paul, you have expressed perfectly what I have felt and experienced.

Well said!

From: Karen — Apr 07, 2009

I see from this one that it is still all about trying to figure out what will sell, and why, or rather, what will not sell and why not! I have tried that too and it’s a mug’s game. I’ve seen mediocre stuff sell and really good, quality stuff sit on the walls of galleries. And there’s no rhyme nor reason to it all, it seems. It’s public taste and I agree, often, luck. Sometimes the determination and marketing skills of the artist trump the actual quality. Sometimes it’s tapping into the zeitgeist, or what is trendy, a little while ago anything on the subject of Tuscany was a hit, and would sell to suit the decor mode of the time. People buy art for so many different reasons, and not all of them involve aesthetic appreciation. It is very interesting to read this and to see and feel the outrage and the complacency of the various reactions. I am detaching from it. I will cease to worry about what will or won’t sell and paint what I want! Because it probably won’t make any difference anyway. Interesting as always, to read the many views on this, at least ideas are flowing and debate is alive and well!!

From: Bob — Apr 07, 2009

Interesting, what an intelligent letter except for a very ignorant beginning and end.

 

Feeble art education system
by Yvonne Callaway Smith, Montreal, QC, Canada

 

Orchard IV acrylic painting by Yvonne Callaway Smith

“Orchard IV”
acrylic painting
by Yvonne Callaway Smith

I’m inclined to believe the low incomes indicated in the article result from a dearth of buyers, which is generated by a feeble art education system – formal and informal. Folks will spend money on posters or mass-produced images at big box stores, but not art because of grievous misconceptions:

• Art is only for rich people.

• Art is only the stuff in the costly range of Damien Hirst.

• Art is only for people who know about that stuff.

Too many folks don’t realise that “affordable” art is available through art schools or from many proficient local artists. Indeed, many don’t recognise local work as being “real” art. For too many, art is the stuff that makes headlines – millions paid at auction for a handful of artists. And folks don’t trust their own taste because visual art is not in the mainstream in the same way that music and film are, people don’t have an opportunity to develop their eye (and opinions) and want to own art.

Improved art education in the schools would be a good thing. More accessible would be articles – that don’t pander to the myth of exclusivity – about art and artists in our country (and abroad).

I spend an inordinate amount of time informing people about art, artists and trusting their own eye. I try to re-educate people who approach me saying, “I know nothing about art.” We have a culture that does little to support the idea that art is for everyone, that all are as entitled to own art as they are entitled to own a cell phone, or flat screen TV or toaster. Art may be the last luxury, but all can – and should be encouraged to – own it.



There are 3 comments for Feeble art education system by Yvonne Callaway Smith

From: Karen — Apr 07, 2009

I agree! It is an elitist thing here in North America….in Europe art, the arts, are for everyone. It is a shame that we have allowed that to happen. It is almost as if you have to be effete to appreciate art. I am with Yvonne, I try to educate people too, when they say they “don’t know anything about it”, as if you can’t trust your own instincts and feelings.

From: Keith — Apr 07, 2009

However Karen, it’s been my experience at various shows, people know what they like but are some how put down because they don’t feel they understand when an abstract painting is picked as the best of show instead of a (let’s say) quite stream painting or something they can associate with. Maybe our judging of what true art is is confusing the public and maybe we should have more shows judged by the viewers instead of well educated art evaluators which in turn may bring more people into the art community if given a voice. Just a thought.

From: Suzanne — Apr 07, 2009

Sadly Karen, your comment about the arts in Europe being for everyone is not true; certainly not in the UK anyhow. I don’t earn my living as a professional artist but really love art and enjoy discussing it but it is so, so hard to find anyone who shares this same interest. (That’s why I come here!) If my passion was sport, there would be no problem. I think part of the problem is that it’s not a team thing; a bonding activity. Art is a minority interest. I don’t think the rise of conceptual art a la Damien Hirst does it any favours; just encourages the weirdo, ‘what on earth is that about’ image.

 

 

World of Art Featured artist Karen Martin Sampson, Australia  

'Afternoon tea by Karen Martin Sampson, Australia

Afternoon tea

pastel painting 19 x 26 inches
Karen Martin Sampson, Australia

 

You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013.

That includes Carole Munshi of Alexandria, VA, USA, who wrote, “The Grumbacher Award sits smugly on a shelf in one of my many book cases and gets dusted now and then when I am in need of a push to live up to my past. Being a member of the highly educated (I know everything) group with no money to prove it… That Grumbacher Award swells with importance now and then. However, I have recently joined a particular snob group interested in hopping out of their cages of pride. We shall all create crap art for a bit of boost to our incomes.”

And also Christine Ritchie of Harrison Twp, MI, USA, who wrote, “Some things, like your opinion on why highly educated artists make less money should be kept to yourself as you are making assumptions based on nothing but your own opinion of education. It shows ignorance.”

And also Gretchen Markle of Metchosin, BC, Canada, who wrote, “It would be wonderful if we could spend 60 hours per week in the studio. But most of us don’t have staff to do all the marketing nor, failing either a better income or a compliant spouse, someone to take care of all those pesky little household duties that keep us fed, clean and clothed.”

And also Peter Reid who wrote, “I know a number of artists who enjoy a short work week and plead poverty.”

And also Jack Dickerson of Hingham, MA, USA, who wrote, “Twenty-six hours in the studio a week! No wonder they aren’t making any money. Can you imagine an investment manager, a plumber, or a nurse working 26 hours a week and expecting to pull down a big salary? It ain’t gonna happen.”

And also Amber Southard who wrote, “Thanks. If this is true, you saved me about 5 grand in college loans.”

And also Ron Ukrainetz of Great Falls, MT, USA, who wrote, “The thickness of one’s wallet is directly proportional to the amount of time spent at the easel. It should really be no surprise. Hard work and study reduces the time needed to correct mistakes and find the finished painting.”
 

 

Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for The art income shock

 

 

From: John — Apr 02, 2009

Yes..no shock…really.

From: Daniela Ionesco — Apr 03, 2009

I don’t live in Canada but what I know is that you describe well a general situation, I am not able to give all the subtilities,

I can only say that I spend my life with the painting matter, I lost my health, I put all the money that I earned in my artistic activity (in my studio materials and all), I worked day and night and I am as poor as in the begining,

I may perhaps not have high diplomas and recognition , I didn’t look for, but I studied by myself much more than some of those who do have such diplomas;

the quality of a painter is not only a matter of technicity,

we can speak with difficulty about our times but if you look at the past you can see that the greater artist was whithout diplomas by they sacificed there lifes not because they intended to do so but because the situation was as in our days.

I can’t explain deeply,

I cant describe how a whool bunch of ignorant, nasty abd not talanted people make a joy by make a hell of my life and did everything to stop me paint.

I didn’t ask anythink to anybody, just did what I can and make my living, is what I can is more than what others can is not my fault,

I don’t take myself for Van Gogh and I don’t imitate other people,I just tried to do my job the best as I could.

This is my testimonial, is true, sincere and not hateful ,

I am on the end of my life and I don’t care to be poor,

I just want to be let alone to do my life as I do understand it,

I dont belive in the colectif mind and stuff,

You have talant and in that case you are an artist,

you dont and in that case you can be a teacher,

is a very honorable job too.

Perhaps I am wrong from others point of view but is what I think and is about my life experience.

Thank you for your interesting letters.

From: Carole Pigott — Apr 03, 2009

Wow – you should be shot unless you are an artist who is more concerned with making a living than making art. Yes there is a great formula for making money in art. Follow the formula path that galleries take because it is easy to sell paintings that look like someone who has a lot of advertising out, or already has a name. Personally I have decided not to dumb down and to do the best work I possibly can, for my work to grow so that at the end of my life I know I used this god given gift as fully as I could. And yes you are right, the better I get the smaller my audience. But that is better than galleries (salesmen) dictating what is art. If your focus is on money then do that. But the institutionalization of the arts does not make better art, just allows non creative people to control the arts. Better that control be in the hands of the artist than a former shoe salesman.

From: Ted Duncan — Apr 03, 2009

Who is counting their hours? Much better to consider what you are doing on your canvases.

From: Russ Hogger — Apr 03, 2009

I didn’t think that artists were supposed to make money, I kept my daytime job just to afford it.

From: Dwight Williams — Apr 03, 2009

Years ago a vice-president of a large corporation I briefly worked for saw my art and said he didn’t know I painted in my spare time. I told him I worked for the company in my spare time, that what I really did was paint. He was the rare type who understood perfectly what I was all about and when I decided to paint full-time (forty years ago) he was the one who was really happy. He said, “That’s great!” and jumped on his desk to cheer. I told him that was easy for him to say. We had four teenagers to raise and I did not know how things would work out. As it turned out I made more money (without painting just to sell) than I would have made if I had stayed with the company. We worked hard for a long time and it was worth it. I still work a lot and show in only one gallery now, but don’t worry much if things don’t sell right along. My advice to younger artists? Keep at it! If you’re the genuine thing you will anyway, without my advice.

From: Wendie Thompson — Apr 03, 2009

Don’t people in Canada have free health care? Doesn’t that fact alone raise their income level?

From: Madge — Apr 03, 2009

So much is stacked against commercial success in the art market. At every level. Our local Festival of the Arts is no exception. Visual artists must pay to even be considered to be shown, even though it is well known that sales are few. The musicians that participate in the festival are almost all paid to some level. If most of us aren’t sufficiently happy with the process of making art, we’re setting ourselves up for grief. Anything else that happens for us, no matter how hard we strive for it, is really gravy. If it comes your way, enjoy it.

From: Rick A. Pilling — Apr 03, 2009

As a recent graduate of a Master of Fine Arts program, the suggestion that artists with more education actually make less money doesn’t surprise me whatsoever. The drive of academia exists in its own bubble, and is progressively detaching itself from reality year by year. My repeated suggestions that, as artists, we have a responsibility to the public, were dismissed far too easily and completely. If the rationale for this dismissal was that an artist’s ‘vision’ should not pander to mass appeal, that would be one thing. I would still debate this conclusion, but I would soften my stance considerably. The default belief that appears to be present in academia is that it represents the ‘avant garde’, and is therefore naturally beyond the understanding of an uneducated public. It got to the point that it seemed to be thought of as a fatal flaw in a work if it could be understood outside of academia (“it’s too didactic.”)

Contemporary “Art Theory” has little or nothing to do with art. Thesis exhibitions from students tends to be judged primarily on the written support material (in reference to ‘art theory’) rather than on the work itself. Why? My belief is that this is because we’ve already concluded that judging the artwork itself is largely a subjective experience. ‘Art Theory’ provides a more structured basis that can, at least ostensibly, be judged objectively (again, even if it has nothing to do with art).

I could go on, but it would undoubtedly turn into a rant…

The goal of an artist, in my opinion, should be to create good (or great) art. I would say that the more that these qualifications refer to the CONCEPT of the work, particularly if it’s at the expense of the OBJECT itself, the more that the artist should consider being a writer instead. The ‘art’ becomes merely the shell for a completely different endeavor. And making a living from its sale is not even on the map, that is, until graduation brings one back into reality.

As far as I’m concerned: academia’s weariness of commercialism, ironically, ties its hands more than the commercialism itself. The avoidance of something can dictate as much as the adherence to it. Either way the artist’s ‘vision’ is subjugated to the expectations of others – the public on one hand, the academy on the other. If we as artists forget about all that and just concentrate on what drives us personally, I can easily imagine the income statistics changing for the better.

From: Karen Baker Thumm — Apr 03, 2009

I would be interested to know if that Canadian study was broken down by gender and how the income levels compared between the sexes.

Female artists, by tradition, have far more additional responsibilities than men and find it more difficult to devote 40 hours to studio time in a week. Figure in childcare, household management, caring for elderly parents and perhaps helping in a husband’s business. Add to those the hours of book keeping and marketing duties that many of us spend to further our careers.

I am speaking of male and female artists who do not have an outside job to support their art career. Usually, a spouse is the breadwinner in these situations, and the woman artist is still at a disadvantage due to all of the traditional roles that she fills on a daily basis. I don’t mean this as a whine; I mean it as a fact of life that should be considered when surveying artists and their incomes.

From: Tammy — Apr 03, 2009

I was already aware of these statistics before Robert’s email – and quite frankly I was more disappointed and shocked by Robert’s blanket statements about educated artists feeling like they are “entitled” than I was by the sad reality of the economic status of Canadian artists. This shows a lack of character on his part since he is judging a large population of artists without digging deeper into the issues. I am also offended by his statement “Highly educated artists may make art that is too sophisticated or esoteric for people to buy”. I think it is insulting to insinuate that the general public is too unsophisticated to understand or appreciate art that is more than simply a copy or representation of a familiar object or face.

I am also disgusted by his studio comment – obviously the majority of artists would choose to spend all of their time in the studio if it was possible. Unfortunately that is not realistic for everyone –all artists do what they can to survive and making them feel inadequate because they have to work multiple jobs on top of their art practice is counterproductive and less than generous.

I found his comments shortsighted, judgmental, and somewhat holier than thou. I’m concerned that some artists take his word as gospel – and I think he has used poor judgment by sending these comments out to a large population.

From: Karen Baker Thumm — Apr 03, 2009

Well said, Rick A. Pilling!

I reject the notion that because I strive to sell my art, I am not committed to excellence and do not also strive toward a higher plane of artistic understanding and achievement.

It is not an either/or as those so-called purists would have us believe. It is a matter of staying true to one’s Muse and always being open to learning and experimenting in the pursuit of excellence.

From: Susan Warner — Apr 03, 2009

As usual, you are right on ! Your comment about ‘some’ Artists being too sophisticated for the average buyer is true.

I recently attended an exhibit of the work of Norman Rockwell. The attendance was amazing. It seems that everyone found a memory or situation to relate to in his work. The “Art Snobs ” are still not giving him the recognition he deserves as a Painter who was true to himself. Was it the fact that he actually made a living at his art that was offensive ? Most of us have “real jobs” unless there is someone else paying those pesky bills. And “Illustrator” is not a four letter word.

What is the “right way” ? Being true to oneself, making Art that is truly yours? Or appealing to ‘the average Joe’ ? Trying to please a juror? Lowering your standards? All tough choices, but as you stated , only a small percentage of Artists are living the high life.

From: Barb — Apr 03, 2009

Tammy,

Try to read Robert’s letter at another time of the month…you may be able to get it!

From: Lodi — Apr 03, 2009

I want to comment on Karen Baker Thumm’s comment. I am so glad you’ve spoken to this issue. I have been brooding in my lonliness for a while, now, trying to figure out “at my age”, how in the world do I grasp all this, let alone conquer the new technology (i.e., Twitter, Facebook, My space…), what about copyrights???, I don’t do any of them, because I can barely see to my family and household responsibilities, put in the studio hours and learn marketing, making a business plan, trying to “meet the demands of learning how to write for a grant and go door to door, selling my art; yeah, I go there; money for entry fees to even exhibit in a descent juried art show… The Almighty made me an artist. It is what I’ve done all my life. No one taught me business. Hell, until lately, I didn’t even know I needed a license to sell my art, and a Seller’s Permit to sell my art under a “fictitious” name… A m I ranting? LOL – I might as well. I’m not going to quit making art. It’s what I do.

From: Tammy — Apr 03, 2009

Barb,

How unfortunate for you that you think women are hindered by their biology. Everyone participating on this forum is entitled to their own opinions as long as it is done respectfully and thoughtfully. I carefully read over Robert’s email and responded accordingly. Perhaps you should take less time trying to belittle people who are participating in the conversation by offering an alternate point of view – and spend more time seriously evaluating and critically responding to what you are reading.

From: Gene Martin — Apr 03, 2009

My main issue with being an artist is the word “exposure”. Why do we do anything for free? If we stop donating art for charity auctions, be much more judacious in where we agree to hang our art, think seriously about how we price our art and most importantly how we present our art, all of us would be better off. When we have respect for that which we produce, and for ourselves, we will make a better living. Stop giving your talents away.

From: Brigitte Nowak — Apr 03, 2009

Maranda’s research on artists’ incomes confirms the results of a 2005 Ontario study entitled “A Statistical Profile of Artists”.

I think the fact that so many artists are willing to work at their art in spite of the poverty that results – a group of people this highly educated in any other field would likely be making twice (at least) the income, speaks, in spite of the low number of “studio hours” they put in, to their commitment to their craft. The other half of this figure is that, at $20,000 per year, these artists are making almost as high a wage as clerks and restaurant workers.

I would like to note a couple of points. As far as grants are concerned, I think the figure of 34% of artists receiving a grant is probably quite high. My own research suggests that 8% of full-time artists have received a grant from one of three government bodies that dispense grants in this geographic area (in a recent year, 655 of 5,240 full time Ontario artists received a grant; Ontario Arts Council information indicates that less than 1/4 of artists that apply are successful ). The impression provided by the granting organizations is that the granting process is open and fair. The Canada Council indicates that “professional artistic excellence or comparative artistic merit” are the primary criteria. However, it would appear that the most reliable predictor of success in obtaining a grant is previous success in obtaining a grant: 40% of the aforementioned 655 artists have received more than one grant. Some have received as many as seven or eight; one artist 12. One significant reason for this is that although the government granting organizations take great pride in the fact that grants are “peer-reviewed”, what this means is that grants juries are comprised of artists who have received these same, very rare, very precious, government grants. In a random sampling of 15 Ontario Arts Council jurors randomly selected, 10 jurors had themselves received these grants. Peer assessment may be the best way to distribute grants, but when the majority of jurors are themselves grant recipients – while most visual artists are not – the type of work that is rewarded may not have the breadth, depth and excellence of artwork being produced and displayed.

Clearly, the time I have taken to do some of this research is time that I wasn’t working alone in the studio. However, I think there is value in analyzing these results.

Another note, in response to Wendie Thompson: Canadian health care is not “free”: however, it is considered a basic human right, and therefore, is paid through our taxes.

I’m not sure that highly educated artists have a sense of entitlement; it may just be that they are trying to address more esoteric art concerns than those artists whose work is fairly traditional, such as that often produced by ex-illustrators, immigrants, and sign painters. Commercial viability is one criterion of success; self-satisfaction may be another, and peer esteem may be a third. All are valid. Yes, artists will always whine about being under-appreciated, and yes, many are “duffers”. The marketplace is a valid arbiter of success, but it isn’t the only one.

From: Benz — Apr 04, 2009

Aw come on! Remember the dictum: “90% of anything is crap” (actually the percentage is closer to 95%, I think). Do you think all self-described ‘artists’ deserve to make money on their stuff regardless of lack of quality, drive, craft, market-savvy, content or vision?

From: Edith Pfeifer — Apr 04, 2009

I was always far too practical to ever think I could earn a living as an artist. I opted for a job in retail, married and had a family. All the while I worked on my sculpture, and took classes. It was more or less a hobby. My goal was to retire early, and then be able to “get serious” about my art. I have been able to do that, but have never come close to supporting myself with my art. I never want my art to be “work”, instead I prefer to make it my “play”. So, maybe that doesn’t make me a “real” artist, but I love what I am doing, and that is good enough for me.

From: Andrew Bray — Apr 04, 2009

I’m a musician who writes and produces, and generally feel I have underachieved in the last couple of decades. I am happy if I put in 15 constructive hours a week, so I am shocked to hear you talking about 60 hour weeks. I have to eat you know!

I also fear that applying rigid structure and discipline will diminish the magic of the creative process. Please set me straight cause I only have so many decades left!

From: Susan Geissler — Apr 04, 2009

…A quick thought: Could it be that many of the more highly educated artists become TEACHERS of art, rather than full-time working artists? Also agree that the 34% of artists receiving grants is a really,really wrong number. (Maybe he meant 3.4% !! )

From: Gary Bolt — Apr 04, 2009

I can offer a few opinions that might get me shot, too. Having supported myself as an artist for 20 years, and deciding that I was burned out and not interested anymore, I have a bitter view of the whole art career thing. I would offer that many of the highly educated artists who are making $20,000 or less are doing so because they have a spouse who brings in more money, they have done well in a previous career, or they were just born into money (Plus the fact that they could afford all that education in the first place). In other words, they can afford not to earn more. Morna and I always worked a lot more than 40 hours a week to modestly make ends meet. The old romantic concept of the struggling artist is somewhat of a rarity. Successful artists often make it because they can afford to and struggling artists often give up or compromise their vision because that is the only way they can survive. At one point I was probably one of Canada’s best known hot glass artists but I make more money in the seafood department at Thrifty Foods and I don’t have to worry about my Mercedes-driving gallery owners not paying me anymore.

From: Greg Freedman — Apr 04, 2009

My guess would be that the income stats in your piece were gathered in relatively healthy financial times. If the incomes of artists in the ’30s are any indicator, we can expect private sales to head south like their dropping off a cliff. Mine already have.

From: Sarah Louise Hannah — Apr 04, 2009
From: Jeanne Aisthorpe-Smith — Apr 04, 2009

I think that artists in Canada are highly undervalued… The Canadian government sees fit to pour millions or billions into winter games so that athletes can shave a second off of their personal best… with that kind of income I bet I could shave a few seconds off the time it takes me to finish a painting…

I work hard at my chosen field and have done relatively well, but I never got a grant… have applied many times and even paid $65 to take a class to teach me how to apply for one… the only thing I learned from that $65 was that I was doing it correctly to begin with… And, if you don’t get a grant you don’t get any feedback on why you don’t, no matter how many times you ask… this has been my personal experience.

Maybe if our government looked at art the way they look at athletes we would be better compensated for our talents… we bring a lot of joy to people’s lives, we make them think and show them another side to life… and we CAN shave a second off our personal best… we are in it for the long haul… I know I am.

From: Helen Opie — Apr 04, 2009

I’d like to know if there are artists, especially women without any other source of income or family support, who can spend 50-60 hours a week in their studios…

Ten hours a day, 5 or 6 days a week = 60 hours. Three hours a day for personal care (dressing, bathing, preparing, eating and cleaning up after meals), and another 2 hours or so for other stuff – doing laundry, getting food in, making necessary but not art-business phone calls, and some time for excercise – walking/ jogging to one’s studio, perhaps – as well as a little bookkeeping or accounting now & then. That adds up to 15 hours a day, leaving 9 hours for sleep, which is probably reasonable as it allows time to fall asleep and time to gather one’s wits on awakening. This sort of schedule is why some women call themselves Art Nuns.

From: Roberta Bragg — Apr 04, 2009

I know lots of painters who don’t attempt to make a living painting… so why should we consider them in a survey on artist income? So who did this study consider to be artists? Clearly you only consider painters as artists, what about those who work in other media? Did the surveyors define artists and if so how?

I’m not saying 26 hours is enough, but to make any income from art you also must spend time other than in the studio, i.e. promoting yourself to those galleries, updating a website, applying for grants, working somewhere to pay the rent on your studio, buy supplies, … furthermore… Hard work and a large number of hours does not guarantee success. Look at the number of artists of the past who earned little from their art during their lifetime… that happens today too, no matter the hours they spend on their art…

From: Kelly Borsheim — Apr 04, 2009

May I suggest that if the survey says artists are better educated than they were “a few years ago,” perhaps it is that over those several years they have been going to school? This might account for the low amount of hours in the studio.

Statistics. Say a lot, and yet nothing at the same time. Like the words “interesting” and “different” — without further examination, one can conclude what one wishes.

From: Marney Ward — Apr 04, 2009

Well in some ways I am an exception to the statistics, because I am highly educated (PhD) but also fairly successful, I am a signature member of the Federation of Canadian Artists and am represented by the most prestigious gallery in my home City. However, I still make considerably less than $20,000 per year. I think you are right that we need to spend more hours painting to get good, and we need to get good to be successful, but how do you find the time to paint more when you have to work at least a part/time job in order to survive? Even great painters like my hometown artist, Emily Carr, had to spend painful hours running a boarding house she hated, in order to support herself. Only after her death did her amazing paintings start selling for high prices, so Canada benefits from her art, Victoria attracts tourists because of her art, but she herself led a difficult, impoverished life.

Art needs to be valued by society and artists need to be supported with greater tax benefits and more support from all levels of government, not only in grants but in the form of actually buying paintings to hang in city halls, hospitals and public buildings and galleries. Right now it seems that only the occasional sculpture seems to be bought as public art, to be installed outside of airports and other public places. What about filling the walls of airports and universities and sports centers with paintings by local artists? This would not only put some money in our pockets, but would make our art accessible to the public as well, including those who seldom venture into galleries. It’s shameful that artists are not more highly valued, for our contribution to our society lasts long after we have gone.

From: Steve Hovland — Apr 04, 2009

Art income is a function of marketing. Many artists in all media are not very good at marketing. If you want to be an economic success as an artist, you need to be as good at marketing as you are at producing art.

From: Anonymous — Apr 04, 2009
From: Ion Danu — Apr 04, 2009

No shock for me here, Robert! What you wrote (based on those statistics): story of my life entirely… True, my annual revenue it’s about 4000-5000 $ less… I get by with about 15000-16000 $ per year…

I have 5 post graduate years (a BA in History and a Visual Arts Certificate… I could have done more… but it was too expensive and I got also bored by all that academic artsy-fartsy stuff) … I work 8 h per week in a art teaching job and some in non-related little jobs… I’ve got one 800 $ grant in the last 10 years…

True, I don’t think I work hard enough to perfectionate my art… I could work harder… But, without a bit of lazzyness and dreaming… how can I be an artist?

All this is true. But then, I’m almost free – as free as somebody «poor» can be – I can draw, paint, read and write… I can do almost whatever I want (without money)… I don’t worry and yes, I’m happy… I do what I want to do. I do what I LIKE to do. Ok, no south of France travels, no fancy restaurants, no fancy car or women…

So what? Spring is coming and there still are so many drawings to draw, so many paintings to paint and books to read…

From: Ann Hardy — Apr 04, 2009

I think you are dead on!!!!! on every item you took on.

From: Tom Lockhart — Apr 04, 2009

I am a working professional artist here in the U.S. I work 50-65 hours per week on my painting.

I teach workshops across the US and classes locally. I serve on the Board of Directors for a local Arts Center.

I judge art exhibits and travel to paint on locations.

I earn a nice income between $75,000.00-$100,000.00 anually. I have a family I support and lots of bills.

I pay my fair share of taxes and do my best to donate for great causes.

I have applied for grant money and have never been awarded, (because I make too much).

I am not trying to live off the system or expect handouts from the Government, but I am sick to death of worthless, talentless so-called artist who do. (Because they cannot sell their work) because it’s crap, but they are suffering for their craft, YUK!!!!!!!!!!!!

And then there are the constant flow of retired “artist wannabees”, doctors, lawyers, dentists, architects, etc. Now flooding the galleries with their art. Making it more difficult than ever to sell to the uneducated, less sophisticated, confused public.

It is extremely difficult to make ends meet anymore. With the rising prices on frames, art suppies, (which have gone through the roof), advertising, show entry fees, dues, web sites, equipment, studio, office and travel expenses. How much more will it take to earn a living?

From: Norman Ridenour — Apr 04, 2009

First, are the income figures gross or after expenses and taxes?? Second, I think you are off base when you say an artist should be forty plus hours per week in the studio doing creative work. When I was “supporting myself” as a professional artist I calculated 25 hours of productive work per week… Then there was marketing, hauling pieces to the photographer, preparing design packages for proposals, packing for exhibits or hopefully deliveries, installing the larger pieces, paying bills, getting materials (for me a big chunk of time), going to shows/markets with the loading, driving, unloading time/set up. My 25 hours of creative work was normally a 55 hour work week. A run on the beach twice a week often was a luxury and after I got a family….?

I was reminded of the joke from my military days, “Trooper if the Marine Corps had wanted you to have a wife they would have issued you one.”

The plus side is that as artists we can take a long weekend to Los Angleles or New York (these days Berlin or Milan) and put it “on the Business”. I once did that with ten days in Paris. It kicked the hell out of net income for the year but helped the tax bill and did I see a lot of art, on the walls and on the plates.

Maybe painters have a different pace and weekly rhythm!!

From: Podi Lawrence — Apr 04, 2009

A point not made in the survey is, if you are “lucky” enough to get a grant, it is never enough to cover all costs involved, let alone get paid a fee. Therefore, the artists have to cover the shortfall by spending some of their time in other employment. Personally, I think the whole system of grants needs an overhaul.

Anyone wanting to start and new business has the opportunity to more easily obtain a starter grant or financial funding. But artists are not looked upon as “business” people despite the fact that most artists who have a passion about their “work” will also realise that they need some business skills or assistance in order to be successful in selling your work or other means of distribution. The present grant system does not meet this need.

From: Teri Wright — Apr 04, 2009

I sell art at our restaurant/bar/art bar for local artists and paint myself. I believe your theory is true about the education or the elite attitude about some artists. The artists I know that make the least amount of money are the very ones that will not negotiate with prices, will not price the work that will fit in to the average buyers budget and that refuse to create uncomplicated work. It is either so minimal, so large or so strange that buyers can not relate to it. I find most buyers, and we have a lot of them, really like all kinds of art but it has to be approachable and the price has to be negotiable. I would rather price a piece higher to be ready for negotiation than less and not be able to. It is just a mental thing for buyers.

I think the art world is too exclusive and should be more inclusive. It scares people away. Most regular people will not go in a gallery for fear of not knowing enough or being blown off by the owner. It is crazy!

Art is like music in that the more complex it is the harder it is to understand and it then attracts a smaller audience. If someone likes country music they do not have to explain it. If another likes hard rock and classical, they don’t have to explain why. People feel like they have to be educated to be involved in visual art and it is a shame. That is why no one is making any money.

I love selling art out of an open environment like the place I work. We are formal with our openings but inclusive in that everyone who comes in gets to view and appreciate the art for whatever reason they like. They can walk through with their friends and comment on it or decide to purchase their first piece of original art. It is great!

From: David Lloyd Glover — Apr 04, 2009

How many artists have asked me how is it I am selling in galleries and they are not. Most are MFA’s and quite talented. But what is common is that they all have a terrible attitude about the business of art. They expect galleries and dealers to come to them and even if they do they throw up all the barriers to establishing a good working relationship. They horde their best pieces as if they will never paint that well again (was that painting just an accident?). And they consider a gallery director’s selection process an affront to their massive artistic talent. Let’s face it, even if the economy is strong you have to check your ego at the door when it comes to working with the selling side of the business. Listen to your dealer who knows their clientele. You might learn what it is about your work that will be appealing to a collector. Therefore you might even make a living at this.

From: Richard F. Barber — Apr 04, 2009

I have lived in China for the past five years and I paint daily, for anything up to fourteen hours a day, depending whither I’m teaching oral English or not. In which case I fit my art around it. I sell virtually none of my artwork, yet I have my artwork on quite a few sites. I won the Artrom International Landscape painting competition for 2008 making me a Guild Member and was asked to take 20 of my artworks to Brazil this April for a month’s Solo Exhibition, which I had to cancel due to my third heart attack, where upon I was advised to return back to the UK for treatment (where I am now.) The fact that I earn nothing on my art has never bothered me until now, living in the UK I can’t afford to do my art and feed my family. While in China I can do both, feed my family and do my art on my small pension. So my art has had to come to a temporary stop, so all I can do here is collect data for my art, on my return to China. I understand the economic climate that has put so many artists under great pressure, but I fail to see how some of the art of today ever makes it into a gallery or justifies the prices that they are sold for, even with the world’s economy at its lowest ebb since the depression years of the thirties. Is a fool and his money still easily parted?

From: Marcia Perry — Apr 04, 2009

I don’t suppose you’ve collected any current statistics for the United States’ visual artists? The 1990 census quoted artists as averaging $6,000 per year which is the sum I use to advocate for paying artists for their contributions whenever possible. That such a financially challenged group should continue to subsidize so many wealthy fundraising attendees seems unconscionable.

In addition, it should be noted that sculptors usually make far less than painters. And many of us spend 60 or more hours working every week. Any statistics on that?

From: Robin Baratta — Apr 04, 2009

Most of the artists I know (3 guilds 2 critique groups = a lot of artists) have another source of income. Either a pension, a supportive spouse, or a part time job.

Making art can be a very expensive ‘job’. On Monday I had coffee with a well known artist who told me that he sold $48,000.00 worth of art this year, and when all was tallied lost $300.00. Now most of us don’t travel giving talks and doing ‘plein air’ the way he does, but once the expenses are taken into consideration (jurying fees, guild fees, supplies, overhead, etc, etc), I for one am even further in the hole than that.

Your comment about 60 hours in the studio also hit home, as someone who was recently laid off from her part time job, I’ve been establishing a routine, that I can now see needs to be ramped up, quite a bit, 6 hours ‘ain’t gonna do it’. Thanks for your, as always, timely words of wisdom. To the studio….!

From: John Dobrowolski — Apr 04, 2009

I’m surprised by some offended and disgusted victims of this latest edition – are you wounded Tammy? – who should take such objection to Roberts’ radical, far out theory that educated individuals might have a traditional bias that conflicts with current tastes or trends. Vicious, wasn’t it?! …almost a human rights violation. (I laughed my guts out Barb, Thanks.) …and the whining about the “unfair” amount of hours Robert suggests is hilarious! Is it hard to swallow – that success, recognition, independence as an artist requires a tremendous, sustained effort that the majority of people, for one reason or another, cannot afford. So, BooHoo! Baaad Robert! Do you think he should “dumb down” his best advice from now on, to preserve the dreams of those handicapped with diapers, work shifts, cleaning, preparing meals, or being terrific, attentive parents? Robert, Good call! The Truth can be a bitter pill. This was a valuable eye-opener.

From: Theresa Bayer — Apr 05, 2009

My measure of wealth as an artist is the joy I feel during painting, and the satisfaction that comes from knowing I’m making progress as an artist.

From: John Boeckeler — Apr 05, 2009

“A rich man’s hobby and a poor man’s way to make a living”. I don’t remember who defined art that way, but I think it’s a fair statement. It’s well known that most artists don’t make much money, and I’m not surprised that a survey has found that more highly educated artists tend to earn less from their art. I suspect that their higher education levels make them more capable and adaptable to earning money in non art-related jobs.

From: Sarah Zoutewelle — Apr 05, 2009

Maybe we need to question the prevailing paradigm that says something is only of value if it can be sold. And that if you are an artist you automatically have to sell your work in order to justify spending time on it, and calling yourself an artist.

I think artists are working with an entirely different value system than the marketplace one. We grapple with our creative limits daily in the studio developing certain qualities that are essential to living a whole life, not just for artists but for the society too. For example, the willingness to take risks, commitment to a vision, making things that take time (not cost efficient!), bringing together dissimilar elements to create something new, etc.

Society sees art as a luxury, which forces artists to attract buyers if they want their work to sell. We have to spend an awful lot of time and energy convincing people that we and our work are worth it.

I see art not as an extra but as a vital part of creating human culture and as a healing and as powerful force for individual transformation and change in systems. In this way it is central not marginal to human life. Our left brained, logic based society has it by the wrong end. We need more vision and imagination in the society and artists can supply that.

Instead of trying to fit in with the commercial hype of our times, we should be standing up for different values and inspiring people to adopt those. The value of following your heart, the value of individuality, of breaking new ground in your own process, of making things that take time, of trusting the process and constantly renewing one’s creativity.

Artists aren’t bad at marketing, they just don’t care enough about it. To succeed at business you have to be passionate about it. Some succeed in being passionate about both their art and about business, but only a fraction of artists, I think.

I think, if you buy the whole bag and go commercial with your work, you have two choices, play by the current marketing rules or create your own and make them so convincing others will follow.

From: James Harelson — Apr 05, 2009

Most artist spend 20 hours a week in the studio as an average, is what I found very interesting because that is what I spend or less every week. But because I can not make a living as an artist by just painting alone, I must work at another job for 40 to 45 hours a week which limits my ability to spend more time in the studio. There by I will never or have as yet got to the point as to where I can leave my job and work as a full time artist. This letter has given me something to think about that has made me face the reality that Most galleries that I have approached do not consider me as an artist but as a hobbyist of art which really gets under my skin. So I have settled into a lifestyle of freelance art rather than pursuing that which I really love to do. My question is Robert, What makes some artist more marketable than others such as some artist seem to have little talent and can make a successful life as an artist while others such as myself seem to struggle with just a messily success enough to buy supplies and to continue to paint. Oh, by the way after several attempts to get a grant none of which to date have been successful. So what is left for me to do? Continue to paint and hope that after I pass from this life that sometime down the road that like van Gogh my art will finally pay off for those who can afford it or the wealthy collectors? The frustrating thing is that no matter what happens either way I still have to accept the way things are now and most important Keep painting as much as can.

From: Roberta Henry — Apr 05, 2009

I doubt I speak for the majority but for me…

Income is not the point of art (nor life) some artists are quite happy living on what others might consider a pittance some artists thrive in alternative lifestyles and have opted out of the consumer mentality when I make sales, that’s nice. When I don’t, that’s okay.

From: Kimberly — Apr 05, 2009

I am a self taught artist. Although this is really not true because I have been taught by other artist. I follow up the first statement with the last. I owe my skills to other artist. Educated and or not. In saying that I am responding to this with no surprise about the educated artist. In my community I am widely known as a professional artist. I have had great success and have sold paintings for large sums of money. I have broken the “selling rules” in our community. I have to say that my friends that are academic artist, mostly teachers, some graphic designers etc. Come to me for help. Either in Selling their work or know what they need to do next or to demonstrate to their classes. I found this very strange in the beginning of it all but now I see the problem. #1 so many of them are stuck in the academic end of art they can see the paint for the canvas #2 they have pigeon holed themselves to one thing, one avenue of art experience. #3 They are usually too rigid. All of these friends I enjoy greatly and am humbled by their education that I wish I had. Living in poverty I had no guidance other than get a job pay for yourself. I always dreamed of college it tugs at my heart even now at 49 years old. I would die to go to a great art school. I respect these artist for what they did. I am however graetful that I didn’t go out of high school I know with certainty that I would not be the artist I am today. I do wish to go NOW though. Doing what I have done, having the experience of an artful life and then going and getting the information I feel I am missing would be wonderful. Thanks for having this site> I love it. Some days you write what we here in Warren PA are always worrying about or talking about. Thanks for the push to think…

From: Paul deMarrais — Apr 05, 2009

I would question the accuracy of any study of artist income. This is a sore spot for many artists and goes back to our whole relationship with money in the USA. In our capitalist society, people are often judged as people by what their income is. You are what you earn. Naturally people with low incomes suffer a certain feeling of shame or inferiority and are reluctant to reveal their true status. This feeds into the whole public perception of the ‘starving artist’ , that heroic and or stupid independent individual who shuffles around with his eyes to the ground when not drunk or depressed. Artists often feel bad because they don’t earn the money the other professionals command. Hobbyists feel bad because they aren’t ‘making a living’ at art or have to perform a “real job’ to pay their bills. The question I often feel people asking me, {even if they don’t actually ask me} is how much money do you actually earn from art? My mother in law just comes right out with the big ugly question and wonders why I don’t have a ‘real job’! The core issue in our country is that people don’t value art as a necessary contribution to our society. There is not a tradition of valuing the work of artists as there is in Europe, for instance. Look at the history of art and you see people who were highly valued…….Leonardo, Michelangelo, Rubens, Delacroix, Ingres etc. In America our history is that of intinerant sign painters and portrait artists, oddball adventurers and misfits. The few who actually “made a living’ came from or were trained in Europe. Our society does not value artists so they are not highly paid and many struggle at the margins. We value athletes and actors , bankers, corporate executives so these folks often have ridiculously astronomical salaries. It is not pleasant to realize that your work is not of value to many people but this is a question every artist in this country faces on a daily basis.

From: Susan Goldenberg Rothschild — Apr 05, 2009

I agree the more hours one puts in at any task will make them better at it. However grants really help artists who have committed their lives to working essentially in the visual arts. However if as you notice the study indicates that artists are a better educated group as a whole. One cannot apply for a Canada council grant as long as you are a student, but so many artists continue to study to improve their work. So not only are they selling less and paying for education they cannot apply for a grant. Mature students, women artists who return to their studies and continue to sell from their studios are I think an even poorer subset. This would be a group that perhaps some kind of grant should or could be set aside for. We should never take these grants for granted, they are a privilege and a help. But they also encourage artists to come to Canada and continue working in Canada.

From: Judy Brayden — Apr 05, 2009

The most problematic thing for me is the assumption that immigrants may have experience with poverty… wouldn’t like to say that myself… sounds a bit “western world-centric”. Further, in my experience, the changes to the average age and education level noted over the last few years, are due largely to the fact that many retirees (from many fields) are joining the artist community. I personally know many wealthy and less wealthy artists who fit into this slot, but without a doubt, the folks most concerned about selling art are the ones who have limited retirement/and or other income!

From: Pepper Hume — Apr 05, 2009

Maybe it’s because I’m one of those older, better educated artists, but these findings do not surprise me. There’s a saying about the performing arts of theatre and movies: “You can make a killing, but you can’t make a living.” Which translates to a few superstars can command enormous salaries but the general community of even working actors/artists don’t make enough to live on. I suspect this is true in all art forms.

From: Sarah — Apr 06, 2009

Paul de Marrais,

I liked your addition to this thread. I am an American artist living in Holland and the situation of artists is no better here in Europe, I promise you.

Years ago at an art opening, an artist quoted a member of the Dutch parliament saying in effect,” Artists are on the fringes of society, creating for a few by a few. They are in the entertainment industry and don’t deserve grants’.

There were some drastic subsidy cuts this year , leaving dance companies, theatres and other cultural ventures gasping and wounded. Some had existed for years and were simply judged by a panel as not being viable. While others were. Go figure.

From: Rick Rotante — Apr 06, 2009

I have been a contributor to this forum for a while now but no subject has had such an outpouring of insightful, thoughtful and heartfelt comments as I’ve read above. I too had a “day” job most of my life to support my artwork. I’ve put more hours after work and weekends in my studio than I care to mention, more hours preparing for and exhibiting in shows, creating work that had to be expelled from my soul. I was always aware that I would never make a fortune with art, especially in America where art lives a second-class existence. But all that was okay because I’ve been given a gift though unappreciated, is a way of life I could never give up. Being an artist is not something I do, it is something I am. I have always been an artist and can no more change that than change my history.

I’ve tried to conform, I’ve tried to be commercial, but that was not me and my work suffered as I did with every attempt.

With age and maturity comes awareness that if you are not truthful in your endeavors, you cheat yourself of the true riches in life. I’ve always felt that art enriches the soul and that artists should strive to lift the human condition and show others different views of life.

If I am fortunate enough to paint for the rest of my life and sell every piece, I would never recoup the costs in education, material, and personal struggle I have spent to be able to do this.

It would be foolish to say money isn’t important for artists. It’s our lifes blood to continue creating art. But as many have said above, we will do and have done whatever it takes to pursue making art, no matter the cost for no other reason than we are artists.

From: Dave C — Apr 06, 2009

I have been amazed at the rancor and hatred that has been sent Robert’s way after this last letter. You would think that he got up and told each and every person that their art sucked and was of no value whatsoever.

He is somewhat right in the idea that the more highly educated an artist is, the more sophisticated their art is and thus, wholly unappealing to the mass of art viewers. Those that do appreciate this type of art remind me of those people we see in movies all the time, standing around at some highbrow function, with their martinis in one hand and cigarettes in the foot-long gold-plated cigarette holders, pontificating about the state of the art, or politics or whatever. Precisely the kind of crowd you couldn’t pay me to hang out with.

The highly educated artist that seems to survive and thrive is the one that can put all their education behind them and just create for the sheer joy of creating, trying to bring to life a piece of art that will reach the soul of those that view it. They are not trying to make a statement. They couldn’t care less about making art that tries to tear down some societal monolith that, perhaps does need to be torn down, but would much rather turn a piece of canvas into a fascinating view of the bend in the river about a mile from their home, or maybe turn a few pounds of clay into the most beautiful vase a person has ever seen.

There will always be artists that feel the need to put out works that are created to shock and in this world we live in, they have every right to do so. But, when I walk by that piece of “art,” the one showing a woman tearing her chest open and pulling her insides out, all done in “wonderful” 3-D realism, I have the same right to say it’s junk and walk on my way. The world has room for artists of all kinds, and each artist can define his or her success as an artist in whatever way they choose. But, if the artist of the 3-D gore art whines and cries because he isn’t making a good living by selling his art, he is the one that is totally off-base, not the art viewing public.

Can a person become a great artist working only 25 hours a week in their studio? Sure they can. Twenty-five hours a week of practice and dedication to one’s art can make a great artist of anyone. I used to put in 2-3 hours a day in my study of music, guitar and piano, and became quite good on both instruments before arthritis did me in. An artist will become a much greater artist at 25 hours a week than if they were only spending 5 hours a week in there. And if they spent 40 hours a week in the studio they would become even better. But, in the end, it’s what have you produced in the end that counts. Does the piece of art you produced cause me to stop and look closely at it, to marvel at its beauty and craftsmanship, perhaps to the point of making me want to pull out my wallet; or does it cause me to glance at it as I walk by, not giving it a second thought? I can assure you that I would be much more likely to spend a few hundred dollars on an oil painting of a ballerina that makes me dizzy just imagining the pirouettes that she is doing, than pay even five dollars for some piece of welded together junkyard garbage that is supposed to be some commentary about the ills of some part of society.

I think Robert hit a little too close to the heart, and too close for comfort, for some of those that have replied to this letter of his. While I don’t agree with everything he said, I do agree that he has made some valid points and some of those attacking him need to climb down off their high-horses and come back down to earth for a spell because if your art isn’t selling like you would like, it isn’t the market or the economy, it’s because your art doesn’t resonate with the viewers enough to make them want to buy it and make it a part of their lives.

From: David Benjamin — Apr 07, 2009

I am overwhelmed by many of the comments above. I practice my art as an individual who has no desire to sell or show. I do it for my own gratification. My critics are my friends and family and the occasional stranger that passes through my door. Perhaps, that is a luxury that few can afford and still have time to do their art. But, I do it for myself and my loved ones.

Given that, Robert has his opinion and it must be accepted as just that. It is not proper to attack him for his beliefs. Rather one can express an alternative opinion and/or suggest, in a civilized manner, where Robert may have gone wrong. Personally, I find he goes wrong only infrequently and then not seriously.

From: Marsha Savage — Apr 07, 2009

Robert, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your letter, and all the responses to it. I even commented to a couple of the responses above.

In the Live Comment section, the one above me, Dave C, you hit it exactly on the head! If you want to make money, then you need to make art that “resonates” with the market you seek.

And, Rick Rotante, you also have said it very well.

I think Robert gives us much to think about in every letter, whether we agree or disagree. It still makes us think about what we are doing and why we are doing it. Good job!

Some weeks I spend 2 hours in the studio — because I have marketing and other art related stuff to do. Then there are weeks where I am in the studio 10 – 12 hours per day, each day, playing with my art, or creating for one purpose or another. Such is the life of an artist. We go with the flow if we are smart.

Thank you Robert, and all that responded. Good reading! Even those that I don’t agree with.

From: Karen R. Phinney — Apr 07, 2009

Wow, I’d say Robert hit a nerve here! Well done, Robert…..haven’t seen so many strong views and (s)word play for a long time….

From: Susan Kellogg — Apr 07, 2009

If you are counting the hours, you are not in your right brain; it can neither count nor tell time, all it can do is deal in shapes and colors and emotions.

From: Anonymous — Apr 07, 2009

Susan, Amen! Time escapes me – and so does efficiency, reliability, production and the money… not to mention the satisfaction and happiness that is just out of reach… I’m working on it. Thank you, Robert.

From: Ben Watson III — Apr 08, 2009

Making money as an artist is great but not to the degree that you are not painting what means the most to you.

I know a lot of painters but very few artists. The artists are the ones whom will be remembered in the future for the quality of their work and will be sought after by museums. The painters ( for profit ) will simply end up in someones garage sale because it no longer matches the colors of their furniture. I prefer to have my work collected by art lovers not decorators.

From: Liz Reday — Apr 10, 2009

Bring on the decorators! Anyone who wants to buy art right now is more than welcome. My issue with marketing and even creating more saleable “commercial” art, is that I just don’t have the time. I know that painting local landmarks will always find a ready buyer, especially when they are realist/impressionist with a certain amount of detail and color, are relatively small, and are less expensive. Having done that, my soul yearns for urban grunge, layered calligraphic graffiti burnished by grit and time, large canvases that go their own way and change some more, the excitement of contrasting areas of color and texture, and the intensity of loud music, good paint, new brushes. This kind of excitement you can’t equate with buying and selling. This kind of feeling doesn’t always come in the scheduled time. But people aren’t stupid, they pick up on the excitement that the artist has translated into the canvas; they may not buy a large painting, but they will stop and check it out and smile. But it’s not below me to crank out a few dozen “potboilers” to pay the entry fee or the art supplies for the next show. Maybe, also, I spend all that money from painting sales on travelling to another country, getting inspiration and making small oil sketches to bring back to the studio. Yes, i spend all my time on art, but the travel is tax-deductible! The advantage of having a family in troubled times means that there are more hands to help, both in the kitchen and setting up the next show. Even shopping at the local farmers market has brought inspiration in the form of still life of radishes and Japanese eggplant. Having children really made me appreciate life and the simple things it brings. Being involved in the community has increased my collector base and gives me that all important psychological support. Donating art to a charitable local cause is a form of advertising- but cheaper than a 1/4 page in an art magazine & more likely to result in sales or a commission. More than anything, the HABIT of going into the studio in the morning of each and every day (after obligatory morning bike/exercise) makes making art the backbone of my life. I never know what idea is going to bear fruit, make sales, bring respectful collectors, get painted over or make of lovely background in the fullness of time. The day goes fast in a blaze of color. I try to work on six or seven paintings at a time, with many more in reserve, sitting here in limbo, waiting for the final cut, the camera and finally onto my website, into a frame, out to an exhibition and with luck, a home. Can’t control the end result, whether the entry fee was worth it, or the shipping costs. Maybe I’ll never make it, but one thing’s for sure, I’ll never stop painting.

From: Rick A. Pilling — Apr 10, 2009

Dave C, you’re spot on.

I would go so far as to say that “art” should be a word that describes a reaction as opposed to an object or concept. We seem to fight continuously over the word and what it ‘should’ be attached to, squabble about what ‘real’ art is, and debate issues of value. In doing so, we forget what makes us interested in art in the first place. At some forgotten point in human history there was no such thing as “Art.” Eventually we decided that some objects needed to be distinguished from everything else and Art was born. I mention this because it seems we too often forget that the criteria for distinguishing it existed first and the name was coined as a label after the fact. Now we fight over the name as if “Art” exists as a Platonic form and our goal is to discover what it really is. It is, and always has been, that which we (individually or collectively) deem worthy of distinction. A $5 poster can match my couch. A common bigot can shock and disgust me. Neither is worthy of distinction, and “Art” must do better if it is to be labeled as such, or the word has lost its meaning. Commercial art flirts with considering itself a product like any other; Academic art often assumes that _any_ reaction means success, or that a clever reference to an obscure element of art history is what proves an artwork’s value, and its creator’s merit.

I am a full-time artist and I live well below the poverty line. I can deal with my work not selling… it’ll just take some time. The only thing that has made me question whether I really want to be an artist has been art school.

From: Ullie — Nov 19, 2009

I am an artist, but I am also working on my Ph.D. in a different area. I run a search for the guys you are referring to. I cannot find them anywhere. Even google scholar doesn’t have these articles in their database. This means that these studies were probably not done in a scholarly way and the results are essentially worthless and filled with bias. Probably.

From: Ullie — Nov 19, 2009

That or it is too recent, I don’t have enough data, he wrote in French and I can’t read it, the name is not right, or there are other circumstances that prevent me from finding it. Could you provide more information? Thanks!!!

From: marcie — Mar 19, 2012

I am amused at all the unfettered emotion splattering against the frenetic keyboard pounding. There may be some truth that artists with higher education don’t make as much money. Schooling tends to narrow thinking as opposed to expand the breadth and risk-taking. There are rules to follow and mindsets that come with art education. I think an artist would do well to avoid it altogether. Talent is genetic, anyway. You can’t really teach it. You can hone it, but you can’t teach it. Either you have it, or you don’t. As far as making money as an artist, if you create strictly for yourself you’ll be eating a lot of Ramen soup. If you’re flexible and create both for the market and yourself, you can make a good living. Hell, even a great one. I don’t understand all the emotion and anger here. My advice is to stop posting on blogs and get out your Wacom or paintbrush and start working. The rest is all meaningless.

 

 

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