Why I'm Not A Full-Time Artist

This is a tough one to write, but I need to get it off my chest. Mainly because it's really difficult to explain in person; it's a long-winded answer that makes some sense but would lead to more questions that I don't have the energy (or mental capacity) to explain to everyone in my life. I'm trying to type it out so I can get some things out there, to anyone who cares to read about the current status of my artistic career.

1. I don't make enough money from artwork alone. I have to supplement my income with freelance social media, event sales, and photography work.

This one is the one that leads to many more questions OR my favorite, "you should really think about doing x, y, z...." Every response to this #1 reason tends to illicit negative thoughts and feelings in me and so since I'd rather not go down that path, I never can say this one out loud - especially to anyone who is not my family or close friend. The reason this is #1 is because it's the sum of all the subsequent reasons. I don't sell enough artwork because I can't price my pieces above a certain point because the market for my work is such that.... see everything below. 

2. My name is one in a sea of many, many others.

You probably know more artists than just me, am I right? Having access to visual creators and access to the tools it takes to become a visual creator means... there's a lot of visual content out there in the world! How do you sift through it all and more importantly, how do you even choose a favorite? To anyone who has purchased my work, I am 1000 times more appreciative because that means out of all the things you've seen - my work was the one to spark something special in you. It's hard enough to get people to even care about owning original artwork in the first place (yknow, with shifting attention spans and access to cheap prints and on-demand shipping), let alone get them to commit to one thing for their wall. 

3. I've only gotten as far as my connections and friendships have taken me.

One thing I'm really grateful for and owe all my recent projects to is my friendships and connections. Knowing and supporting other thriving entrepreneurs like myself means that when they've grown, they've pulled me along with them. That support has been the key to almost everything I have on my resume. The problem that follows is, where do I go from here? How do I expand my network outwards and continue pushing myself into new territory? The answer is, little by little. I have to apply to what little amount of artist calls I qualify for. I have to donate my artwork to charities and auctions to get more eyes on my name. I have to just hope and wish that the right person sees my work randomly or hears my name from someone they respect and then follows through with contacting me. Opportunity is where hard work and luck intersect, right?

4. I find it difficult to invest in one avenue of art-making.

Being an artist costs money. Like any business really, you have to spend money to make money. People aren't going to support you without seeing some great work so you have to constantly be producing new and noteable things to sell. Unfortunately because people would rather drop a dime on clothes, toys, and who knows what else, it's difficult to predict what is going to be worth your investment. I haven't figured out a formula for the media and format that makes me the most profit and TBH I'm not sure if I want to. I don't want to restrict myself to just being a muralist or just working on paper. I am trying to do it all and unfortunately it means I spend a lot of money on materials, tools, and supplies. And then usually when I get a new project, I have to spend money on more tools and supplies I don't already have. 

5. I find it difficult to market myself.

This is related back to reason #2. I always compare myself to other visual artists I see online. I know comparison is the thief of joy and all that, but I'm only human. And I doubt myself ALL THE TIME. I constantly am fighting that voice inside of me that wonders if I'm even special. Am I any different than all the other hundreds of thousands of hobbyists. It's not wrong to have making art be your hobby. But how do I know if I deserve to say that I'm worthy of achieving anything more? That's why it's hard for me to pretend like I'm confident enough to market my own work.

6. I don't know if being a full-time artist is even what I want.

The concept has always been unattainable for me and sometimes I wonder if it's because I prefer it that way. If I had to exist in a situation where my living is based off of this thing that is so deeply personal and integral to my being, then it would feel all the more precarious. Like what if I devoted EVERYTHING to it and then I realize it's not what I want to do everyday? Or what if I realize I'm just not good enough to make it last longer than a few years? That all sounds pretty pessimistic, but I also enjoy the other work I do. I enjoy taking photos, I enjoy being part of a team, I enjoy interacting with customers about something other than my artwork. It's... I don't know how to fully be just one thing. Perhaps that's the millennial in me or perhaps that's just the real artist in me. I'm not sure. 

I don't know if this blog post really has a point other than giving me a place to just let it all hang out for a sec. But if that's all it is, still worth it for my sanity in the new year.

1 comment

  • Christina, I love your honesty in this post. Growing through opportunities with friends is so fun and heart warming, I 100% feel it in my life too! And stepping out to market yourself is a huge step to take (I find it really awkward and uncomfortable but it’s necessary!) Just don’t let any unanswered emails or soft declines make you feel like you can’t do it. There are people out there and they will find you! There is DEFINITELY a bit of luck in that magic formula but I think you’ll collide with it, for sure.


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