In one of my art circles this little questionnaire was posted regarding the decision to become a professional artist. I liked it, so I thought I’d repost it here.
Were you lost? What questions did you ask yourself? Did your family support your decision or tell you to find a “real” job?
I never wanted to be a professional artist. I didn’t have any friends because everybody thought I was too weird and odd for them to be worth hanging out with. My only friends were my books, my pets, and my art. And I guess my relatives. For the longest it was just me, my mother, and my sister since my dad had to work a lot to keep heart and soul together. We got to see our grandparents most weekends.
So art was something very personal to me and to draw for money felt the equivalent of whoring myself out. My family thought I was pretty good and should draw for money. Thankfully most of them respected my decision to let my art be something personal and dear to me until I after I married and had somebody who liked me for me.
How difficult was it for you to actually support yourself once you decided that drawing would be your life?
HARD. On the one hand you’ve got these $1000 for 16″x20″ photo-realistic oil painting artists, and then on the other are these teenaged bottom feeder artists drawing an 8″x10″ for $5 or less. Both of them make it hard to set fair prices without turning customers away because they are two very extreme ends of the price spectrum and make the middle ground hard to find. If you set your prices too low, nobody thinks you’re any good and won’t hire you or they’ll only hire you so long as you’re dirt cheap. If you set your prices too high, nobody can afford you or don’t think you’re worth your price tag.
My first year was spent working at $3/hour and working myself into the ground just to keep my family together. It’s hard to support a family of three on $50/week. My husband couldn’t help at the time because of his health. That gives you a bit of an extra incentive to try and make it as an artist. A little bit of something is better than nothing.
Did you take on many jobs and draw in your spare time? Were you quite poor before breaking through? Did you quit, did you choose to take a “safer” path in life?
I’ve chosen a safe route. I’m working hard as an accountant and as an artist, and trying to build them both up. So I work two jobs. Three, depending on how you look at it.
I’m in income tax preparer, so that is my main income and pays the bulk of my bills. Should the IRS decide to do away with income tax preparers like they talk about from time to time, I can still do bookkeeping and art.
I’m a bookkeeper during the rest of the year, and that provides a trickle of income. If I never get another bookkeeping client or lose what few I have due to them going out of business or something, I have income taxes and art to fall back on.
I’m an artist in my free time. It’s not much, but every little bit helps. If nobody wants portraits, at least there are taxes and record keeping to do.
Some years I make more as a bookkeeper, sometimes I make more as an artist. Neither can yet compete with what I bring in as an income tax preparer. I’m still broke as hell though, all three of them are pretty young and require a lot of work to build them up. But so long as I stick to it, we’ll be alright.