The Not-So-Secret Connection Between Art and Money
Here's a shocking idea: artists are not destined to be poor. If you're an artist, you can actually make money from your art, feel good about it, and build up a following to support your independent career. Seriously.
Why do so many artists fail in their quest to earn a living through their art?
The good news is that most artists fail NOT because they lack talent but because they have not been trained to represent themselves, to build a customer base, and to actually sell their great artwork.
See, the old way for achieving fortune and fame as an artist (or at least a working income) was all about receiving the favor of gatekeepers. Beginning with the patronage system in Europe and continuing with the galleries and museums of modern times, the old way was all about groveling for the endorsement of outsiders, who then took a huge percentage of the artist's income in exchange for the "privilege" of representation. It was very effective... for the gatekeepers.
The old way still works for a small minority of artists, but the problem is that it's a zero-sum game and hard to break in. Thankfully, there is a clear alternative.
- Figure out your priorities and map out a personalized long-term action plan
- Set prices that respect the value of your work and still cater to a wide range of buyers
- Draw new and repeat customers by connecting with cool people and telling stories
- Earn extra income by creating work that can be sold again and again
- Expand your online presence without overwhelming yourself
The clear alternative (the new way) involves taking your art and your future into your own hands.
Instead of hoping for a big break or the favor of art critics, the new way allows artists to build up their own fan base and sell directly. The new way won't work for everyone (never believe anyone who promises success for the whole world), but it will work for most people who are willing to take risks and work hard.
Building on the knowledge of successful, working artists, the Unconventional Guide to Art and Money offers a range of materials to help you supersize your career in the arts (if you want one) or begin earning money from your art.
Art and Money was created by Chris Guillebeau and Zoë Westhof, in collaboration with a number of successful, working artists. Zoë and Chris are both self-employed writers, so they understand basic concepts about working for yourself and attracting an audience. However, they're not visual artists - so to get the perspective of painters, illustrators, photographers, and crafters, they went to the source. Here are some of the experts interviewed and featured for this project:
- Michael Nobbs
Michael draws, makes books, and blogs at MichaelNobbs.com. Michael became a full-time independent artist in late 2008 and is steadily expanding his art career through the internet. Among other things, he has built a wide network on Twitter.
- Karen Walrond
Karen quit her job as a lawyer in fall 2008 and became a full-time independent photographer and writer. Karen has a portfolio of her projects and a blog at Chookoolonks.com.
- Dan Duhrkoop
Dan is a painter who runs Empty Easel, a value-packed resource for independent artists. Dan also created the art-selling service Foliotwist after being disappointed by the options available to artists selling online.
Soniei is a painter who shows her work and blogs at Soniei.com. Soniei began her independent art career in 2006, after leaving a string of unfulfilling jobs to finally focus on her genuine passion.
- Hazel Dooney
Hazel is a conceptual artist who displays her work at Hazel Dooney.com and blogs at Self Vs. Self. Hazel abandoned the traditional gallery system in 2004 and built a highly successful art career by representing herself online. (Warning: Hazel's art contains some mature material. Her income is also highly provocative, since she earns more as an artist than most professionals do.)