Are you considering making a living as an artist? Kari Johnston, Curator for The Turquoise Iris Journal shares her perspective for artists in this space.
“I just want to paint,” Gary Blevins says with a sigh.
“I want that for you,” I respond, and I mean it. It’s hard for him to believe, after hearing me throw 1001 ideas at him for monetizing his art. He looks at me with skepticism, remembering I am the same strange creature who asked (ok, borderline begged) if I could please organize his prints with shelves and labels.
My face says “but this will be fun!” His says “please get her out of my studio”.
The Two Conundrums
Every artist I meet faces one of the following two conundrums:
- They were born to be an artist and want to make a living as an artist. Therefore, they feel pressure to develop a business strategy, which zaps the creativity right from their very soul.
- They were born to be an artist, and so they create art but make a living doing any number of other things that they also enjoy. However, they are so talented, they feel the pressure to make their art into a business, which zaps the creativity right from their very soul.
Making a Living as An Artist
If you resonate with the first conundrum, your heart’s deepest desire is to make a living from your art. This will require one of two things to happen: either a mysterious benefactor will have to discover you in a fairy tale moment of serendipity, or you will have to develop a business strategy for monetizing your passion. I’m sorry to say that in this economy, mysterious benefactors are hard to come by.
Here is the good news, though – you don’t have to sacrifice your creativity at the altar of Making Money. Why? Because the same Universe/God/Scientific Marvel that gave you artistic genius gave me a heart that flutters at the idea of putting together a PowerPoint with charts and graphs (sick, right?).
What I mean is, you can outsource the parts that don’t light you up. Or at least, you can get excellent business advice from a number of reputable sources. Facebook groups like The Creative Connection (have you heard of Dionne Woods, The Turquoise Iris?) and The Creators Club (led by the fabulous Kelly Wiler of Girl UPcycled Studio) teach both artistic and business techniques in ways that are super digestible to artists. Even good ol’ Google and YouTube can get you started.
Living as an Artist
If you resonate with the second conundrum, you have no desire to be a Full-Time Artist. You simply create for the pure joy of creating, and guess what? That is a perfectly worthy pursuit. You are not lesser of an artist if you moonlight as an artist while spending your days as a banker, a hairdresser, or an HVAC technician. Your art makes you an artist.
Gary falls somewhere in the middle, which is on brand for his gently rebellious nature. He is retired from decades when he made a living in printing while doing photography on the side. Throughout that time, he did one painting a year because he knew that was his heart’s calling, but now, he just wants to paint. And travel in his RV with his girlfriend, Pattie. And watch his five grandsons in their variety of sports. And hang out with his buddies.
So periodically, he carves out some time to talk business with me. He paints and tells me the stories of how these particular creations were inspired. I take pictures and notes and we discuss where he might want to speak or his exhibit his work next. He grows tired of such conversation, so we go to lunch, and he gets back to painting and I manage his website and social media accounts. Oh, and we wrote a book about his life together, if you want to check it out.
Photo Credit to The Good Camera
He is in the chapter of his life where he doesn’t need his art to make him money, but he’d like as many people to see it as possible. He does not sell his originals – he invites people to come see those – and we sell the prints. He pursues joy, and any money he makes is a bonus.
Photo Credits to The Good Camera
My favorite part is that he has always considered himself an artist. Even when the world may have seen him in an office or behind a camera. He only spent time behind one canvas per year, but that was enough for him to know he’s been an artist all along.
Whatever your path, my desire is that you’re walking it with joy. There will always be pressure to do things a certain way, but my message today is that your way is the right way for you.
If you ever need someone to talk through how to make the vision of your life come to life, I’m here for you.
Kari Johnston is the owner and consultant of Rose City Boutique and Consulting. She lives in Springfield, OH with her husband and son & their two dogs. Though she spent 14 years of her adult life in Corporate America, she transitioned into Brick & Mortar Retail in the fall of 2020 and then consulting in 2022.View Kari’s Full Bio