Thursday, June 23, 2016

Thursday Thoughts...

“I remember the first time someone told me that many artists with apparently thriving careers and gallery representation still had day jobs. It was the first of a very long series of realizations that the art world is at least 50% smoke and mirrors. At the time I felt an almost personal betrayal at the realization that artists I had already perceived as incredibly, unattainably successful still had to find another way to pay the bills. Many years later, I still haven’t really gotten over it! Tons of brilliant and well-known artists (and curators, and critics and art dealers) are utterly broke, working full-fledged outside jobs, relying on money from their families, or some combination of the above. The art world is a hard place.” 

artist Jennifer Dalton, in the book Living and Sustaining a Creative Life: Essays by 40 Working Artists, edited by Sharon Louden

On my computer (like many others) I have a sticky note function which lets me put computer-based sticky notes on my screen - things to remind me or words to inspire, books to buy and paper to explore.

This book has been at the top of one sticky note for quite some time - I think I'd like to buy it, but I don't know whether others have enjoyed it or if it is really useful helpful (perhaps I shall see if our library can get a copy for me) - but I do like the passion in this quote!

As a person not steeped in art schools or education; on the fringes of anything really considered arty; and with no career path ever in mind, I have no idea if/how people make a living from art. My sense is that very very few can make their living from art with its periodical payments, long droughts between successes or simply low prices for hours and hours of investment.

I imagine many successful artists make a living through grants from foundations or governments; from touring exhibitions or showing in public galleries where they receive a fee; some through teaching; some through sales; some through licensing their designs...

I expect most artists supplement their art income with other jobs; with family income; or government support.

I know I would be starving if I had to rely on my art to feed me; but it does in a completely different way.  Barry is busy work-working at the moment - that will help feed us; I am about to go away and teach and receive income for that; that will help as well.

As I've said before, Barry and I don't make a living from our art, but we do make a life....


And others, appear to make little or no money during their lifetime and then after their death their art sells for millions...

Vincent van Gogh at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York.

12 comments:

  1. In the early 80s, when I thought I might not get another job in publishing, I looked into starting a craft/art gallery. I went to the UK Crafts Council for advice and was immediately asked whether I had an independent income, because not one of the craft galleries on their recommended list made a living from that alone. If the gallery does not make a living, how then the artists?

    On the other hand, how can one evaluate art in monitory terms? Part of the artist's reward is the making of the art, I believe, and so the work can not be valued as a conventional product is. It is sometimes so much more rewarding to exchange works with an artist one admires, but artists have to live, to eat and to be sheltered etc. It's a conundrum.

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    1. You have captured so many of the quandaries so well Olga - not only that there is so little money to be made; but also that it is so difficult to consider art as a commodity that is easily priced. I think I'll keep work-working and make just me for...

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  2. The part that confounds me is how someone can work out in the world and have enough energy to create when they get home. For years my creativity was limited to vacation time ... retirement has been a gift beyond measure.

    As for making a living by creating works of art ... it seems a rare feat. And it requires one to let go of a huge piece of oneself each time a work is sold.

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    1. I agree re full-time work not allowing much if any time to be creative. I know when we worked full-time in salaried jobs there was no way we could make; we were lucky to drive past a gallery on the way to work! Now we work for ourselves, have flexible hours and that lets it happen much more easily. I think you'd have to change your mindset towards your work bit wouldn't you if you really relied on selling - you would have to be able to let go regularly and often - and celebrate that you had!?! All tricky stuff Liz - go well.

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  3. love your ideas...I like the painting.

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    1. Thanks Sue- it is stunner isn't it? Go well.

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  4. "The Gift - Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World" by Lewis Hyde is a very good read. Being an artist is a calling, a vocation & the good thing is we get to work til we die! The vagaries of the marketplace are another thing altogether, we can leave those complexities to the arbiters of taste to wrangle.
    & re letting the best work go, that's what's it's about, isn't it? making the dream real & sharing the vision by putting it out in the world... letting the best work go can feel like selling a great big chunk of your heart and soul so decide on a price that makes that worthwhile & funnily enough getting the work out in the world allows room for so much more!

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    1. Thank so much Mo - I have The Gift by my bed and dip into it...
      Selling and setting price is such a hard thing to resolve - and sometimes you do keep the best for yourself until you can let them go, but as you say, then here is room for more in you heart and in your mind! Apologies for tardiness it has been so hectic...

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  5. Great post, Fiona and of course, brings up all the issues we deal with regularly. I am confronted by this continually and as I realize how intertwined my art making has become with the "marketplace". It's funny, because I worked at the library at the art college that I attended for 25 years and came home and made art regularly. I remember saying to myself more than once, knowing deep within myself, that I would continue to make art whether anyone ever saw it or not. I was showing work sporadically, but selling was not really part of the equation. Now, without a job in a completely different location, trying to scrape together even a modicum of income from my work, I find that I make different work based on what might possibly sell, I have less motivation and I have less patience for the slow work that I used to make. I find it frustrating that we continually seem to have to apologize for the price we might charge for our work. It's a strange world and I don't have any answers, only questions. I say bravo to you and Barry, that you can live and make work without having to rely on it for income. Cheers!!

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    1. Oh Patti your words hold such truth and describe the conundrum faced so eloquently. Making to see changes things so much and you feeling about your art changes and its horrid to find yourself resenting it, but you do. I feel that way about commissions sometimes - making work I'd rather not make. I do hope you find ways for supplementary income so that some of the joy of making can return...go well.

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  6. Hi Fiona, thanks for your quoting Jen Dalton and mentioning "Living and Sustaining a Creative Life." First and foremost, Vincent Van Gogh died in 1890, and so did the myth of the Artist-Hero where a lot of artists make a living directly from sales of their work. One of the reasons why I wanted Jen and other artists to share a little bit about themselves is to show you and others that the contemporary artist today is still an artist even if they have a "day job" (I actually hate that term because it implies that an artist is just doing their "job" at night or around a "day job," which isn't true: we're still thinking about it, we're still artists, we're still creative in all that we do) and even if they aren't making direct sales from their work. We give in so many other ways. What happened to the value of well-being and how artists give to that so much? Or models of creativity that contribute to the creative economy? As artists, I think we have to change our own vernacular but also our way of thinking. I think it will free us all, too. All the very best and thanks for this post!

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    1. Thanks for touching base with your thoughts and word Sharon! I certainly still feel an artist even tho I have other work that feeds me - it is intriguing to see the many and varied ways artists can be in the world...
      And your re right we offer so much to the world! Go well.

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I appreciate your thoughts and comments; thanks for taking the time.