Post image for Earning Potential | Can a Fine Artist Make a Comfortable Living?

Earning Potential | Can a Fine Artist Make a Comfortable Living?

by Jason Horejs on 11/13/2013 · 37 comments

As an art gallery owner, I have the opportunity to spend a lot of time with artists. I get to interact with artists across the spectrum – from those who are just getting started, to very well-established artists.During the course of my interactions with artists, I feel I have a great opportunity to take the pulse of the visual arts community. I get a sense of  the health of the broad art market, and I get a feel for the attitude of artists.

I’m happy to say, that as the economy slowly continues to improve, I’m beginning to see a more positive outlook among artists. Of course, that’s looking on the positive side since artist sentiment and outlook has been so low for so long that it doesn’t really have anywhere to go but up.

The last five years have been incredibly difficult for everyone, but for artists in particular. The recession and collapse of the housing market had a huge impact on art sales. Many galleries closed and the income for many artists dropped precipitously.

With all of the economic difficulties, I can understand how many artists have come to feel that commercial success is only a remote possibility, or that it simply isn’t possible to make a living as an artist.

If I may, I would like to take a moment and try and shine a ray of hope out to those artists who are struggling and may have given up hope of building a successful business selling their art. I don’t want to minimize the challenges – I am fully aware that it is not easy – but I want to try and balance some of the negativity I’ve sensed among some artists.

Informal Survey

In preparation for writing this article, I posted a simple survey across my social media networks asking what artists felt about the prospects for earning a comfortable living from their art sales. If you didn’t get a chance to participate in the survey, I would first suggest you follow me on Facebook, Twitter and Google+ (!) and I would then encourage you to take the brief survey at https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1_f7zUrTnvwrraJ4R94QhoU2C9du2lO9mVnBUInpmFpc/viewform.

The survey asks the following questions:

  • Do you believe it is possible for an artist to make a comfortable living from the sale of his/her artwork?
  • Do you believe it is possible for you to make a comfortable living as an artist?
  •  Why do you believe it is or is not possible for you to make a comfortable living as an artist?

The poll is obviously far from scientific (at the time of this writing, I had only 86 responses), but it reflects the perceptions I encounter in discussing the subject with artists. Here are the results thus far (these charts are updated automatically as the survey receives more input).

In other words,  a good percentage of artists are optimistic about the possibility for artists to make a comfortable living in general, but less optimistic about their own ability to make a living.

You may view all of the responses to the survey, including the written responses to the third question by going to https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/pub?key=0Anzys2MJXqEAdDA2UVd6bVp0RzRpSGI2YzhXMHQzbnc&output=html.

Of course, the third part that is missing in this mini-survey is the answer to the question, “Are you making a living as an artist?”

For that answer I want to refer back to my annual State of the Art Survey, where I found the following

Less than a third of the responding artists (there were about 1200 responses) were selling more than $25,000 worth of art per year.

By the Official Numbers

2013-11-12 09_24_32-Craft and Fine Artists _ Occupational Outlook Handbook _ U.S. Bureau of Labor StIt’s difficult to come by statistics about how much artists are earning, but It’s interesting to look at some numbers from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. According the BLS website (http://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/craft-and-fine-artists.htm), the average fine artist or craftsperson is earning $43,470 per year, which comes to about $21/hour.

I would be very interested to understand the BLS’s methodology for coming up with these numbers. Their statistic report only 56,900 artists/craftspeople in the entire country. This number obviously doesn’t report the many aspiring artists who pursue their art part-time while working in another profession to make ends meet.

Still, it should be reassuring that there are at least 56,900 artists out there reporting to the BLS that, on average, they are making $43k a year. This may not be a luxurious living, but it is a living nonetheless.

I was happy to see that the BLS has finally separated out fine artists and craftspeople as a group separate from illustrators and graphic designers. In the past when I’ve looked at their numbers, artists were reported together with these other groups – skewing the figures.

Defining Success

I should note that financial gain is far from the only measure of success for an artist. I know many artists who would be willing to suffer any physical privation for the sake of their art. In many ways, thoughts of commercial success are secondary. Still, sales allow an artist to focus on creating more artwork, and an artist who wants to make a living at their art should know it’s possible.

Is it Possible to Make a Good Living in a Bad Economy?

In my frequent conversations with artists, another complaint I often hear is that the economy has made it impossible to make sales. As I mentioned earlier, there is no doubt that the economy has had a tremendous impact on the art business, but even in the down economy, there are artists who continue to sell there work and even prosper. I was recently at a party and had a discussion with an artist who said he saw a decline in sales in 2008 and 2009, but that the following years have been good. Both 2011 and 2012 were record years for him. Many of the artists I work with in the gallery are having similar experiences. They’ve continued to produce and promote their work, and the sales have come, even if they have had to work much harder to find them.

Keys to Success

So what does it take to make a comfortable living as an artist? There are as many answers as there are successful artists, but I want to share several things that I’ve observed about artists who are supporting themselves with their art:

  1. They are pursuing their art full time (for an entire post on this, click here)
  2. They are pricing their work in the middle to upper range of the market (for pricing considerations, click here). It is difficult to sell enough volume at the low end of the market to make a living.
  3. They are showing in multiple galleries and/or participating in multiple shows.

There are many other factors, in fact, this blog is dedicated to sharing ideas and suggestions that will help you on the path to more sales. In my experience, however, the three factors above, seem to be consistent among artists who have attained some level of success.

Do You Believe it’s Possible to Make a Comfortable Living as an Artist?

Share your thoughts and comments on the viability of making a comfortable living as an artist. What sacrifices have you made? What are your plans to move to self-sustainability with your art? Leave a comment below.

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About 

Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of reddotblog.com, and founder of ARTsala. Jason has helped thousands of artists prepare themselves to more effectively market their work, build relationships with galleries and collectors, and turn their artistic passion into a viable business.

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{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

Kim Jones November 13, 2013 at 10:55 am

I think after reading this article and all the comments from the survey, I would say that it kind of seems to boil down to not enough galleries for all the artists out there. I think a lot of artists by nature ,would prefer gallery representation to self marketing. Those that enjoy doing self-marketing are blessed in my opinion, because the present world of marketing on-line and self representation is made to order for their personalities. It has also encouraged more artists to go professional, so more artists are out there selling their work that in the past may not have even tried. However for those artists who do not come by that marketing ability naturally, the struggle to find representation in galleries is huge. That alone can consume great amounts of time. Add in social media, etc. and time to paint becomes ever more elusive. A tricky juggling act at best. I think the lack of optimism some artists feel is having to wear too many hats and trying to learn to be someone that they just aren’t by nature.

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Jason Horejs November 14, 2013 at 8:15 am

Kim, you make valid points, especially in regard to the “many hats” issue. In order to succeed, most artists will have to figure out how to wear those many hats, or they will have to have a business partner who can manage that side of the process for them.

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Sue Betanzos November 13, 2013 at 12:58 pm

I agree with Kim, especially the last part – too many hats. By the time I finish with getting my art out there, updating, posting etc. there is little energy or time left for the studio. I have been very fortunate that new curators at a gallery I show like my work. With the previous curators, my work was not as selected and I did far fewer shows.
Yes, too much to do, not enough creative time and Overwhelming information to read on artistic tips/success then having to choose what could work.

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Robert Colburn November 13, 2013 at 2:42 pm

I was having a similar conversation with an artist I work with earlier today. What I am seeing in my area (New England) and hearing from other galleries is that clients seem to be more interested in the image and less interested in which artists is making it. As a gallery with a reasonably robust roster (40 artists represented year-round), we sense from our clients that having a broad selection in our inventory is more useful to them than a few very specific (if perhaps better known) artists. This is good for galleries as it increases the chance of having something a client might want to take home with them and good for artists seeking representation since it may encourage the few galleries remaining to add artists, but I think it is harder by and large for any particular artist because the clients seem less focused on their resumes, awards, and achievements which have traditionally been the bell weather for people building collections. The only solution most of our top sellers seem to feel is most viable is to find representation in multiple galleries in different geographical areas. This counteracts the seasonality of New England’s art sales cycle and also gets their paintings out in front of a greater and more diverse audience. BUT, that said, many report haphazard sales from all venues, it’s just they have enough galleries doing enough sales to keep them going. No one gallery or location seems to be doing much better than another regionally. For the emerging artist who may not have the luxury of one gallery let alone several in different regions, this presents a huge hurdle to getting off the time clock and into a self-sustaining studio practice. Lastly, another point in the discussion I felt was interesting and which supports the idea that individual artists are falling prey to the “cult of the image” if you will, is the way search engines display image results. Most clients may not search for an artist by their name if they are looking for seascapes (or whatever). If they type “seascape + Maine” into Google, image after image of seascapes will be displayed. It is only once they select an image that the artists information may be discovered. So to stand out among the hundreds if not thousands of images being made by any given artist painting any given genre, is nearly impossible. It is entirely dependent on the desire of the buyer whose criteria for making a buying decision could be far removed from us gallerists with our well curated walls and lengthy artist bios. All of this is very beneficial to the person seeking art, but makes it very difficult for any individual artist to stand out from the crowd…

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Jason Horejs November 14, 2013 at 8:18 am

Robert – this experience is pretty universal right now – the sporadic nature of sales. More than ever, it is important for an artist to diversify representation and have a lot of venues carrying her/his work so that the sporadic sales can cumulatively add up to decent income.

Most of the artists I work with in the gallery are showing in multiple galleries in various parts of the country, and many are doing shows as well.

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Kathleen Durst November 13, 2013 at 3:09 pm

I find the survey results pretty scary, but I’m determined to be successful. As a “new” artist recently retired from my day job, the hardest aspect of the business side of art making is all the technology I’m having to learn. I’ve taken your advice, Jason, and save that part of my work for later in the afternoon, but think about (and dread!) it all day. Just that one change in my schedule has boosted my inventory to a level that amazes me! Having my work in brick and mortar galleries is my ultimate goal. Thanks for keeping us informed and I, for one, read every word you write and attend every webinar that you (and Barney) offer. Thanks for looking out for us. It feels like I have a friend who really gets me!

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Jason Horejs November 14, 2013 at 8:20 am

Thanks Kathleen – pretty soon you’ll find yourself not worrying about the afternoon work.

Sounds like you are building up inventory for gallery representation quickly. Remember, when you have 20-25 gallery-ready pieces, you’re ready to hit the gallery market.

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Kathleen Durst November 13, 2013 at 3:10 pm

ps my website is under construction, so stay tuned!

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kathryn November 13, 2013 at 3:18 pm

personally i think it boils down to excuses. i work a full time job, am a single mom of two teenagers, foster cats, volunteer, hike, cook, clean and still get in 20-30 hours a week studio time. yeah, am i tired…absolutely…do i have the nicest front yard in the neighborhood…no! it’s priorities. i can rest when i’m really, really old and i don’t care what my neighbors think! right now, i am SO passionate, determined and goal oriented to make it as a full time artist in the next 5 years that i am willing to put in all the effort i can to make it happen!! (plus all the things i give my attention to make me very happy!!)

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Jason Horejs November 14, 2013 at 8:24 am

Kathryn – there’s definitely truth to what you say – many use the difficulty of making sales and finding representation as an excuse for not trying. My argument is that you will be creating the art one way or the other, it makes sense to be serious about it and set challenging goals and go for it.

I know many artists, who, like you, have to battle for every second at the easel and struggle to find time to market, but they make it work.

Keep it up!

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Barney Davey November 13, 2013 at 3:57 pm

A couple of years ago, I wrote a post titled, “Is Good the New Great?” http://artprintissues.com/2011/04/is-good-the-new-great-in-the-art-business.html

I made this point then, which is just as germane now. This is not the time to be average. There are opportunities, and there are artists doing well right now. But, if you look at what they are doing, you will find the work has some sizzle to the substance. That just means they are doing their best work and at the same time the work is feeding into the zeitgeist. That does not necessarily mean it is trendy. Some have successfully been doing variations on their core themes for years without regard to current subjects or colors, etc. It just means their work lines up with what buyers want to buy. Whether that is calculated or simply synchronicity, I cannot say, and it really doesn’t matter.

Coming back around. The best thing any artist, or small business owner, can do is to strive to do the best work, the best marketing and offer the best customer experience possible. That’s how to make your art career profitable and rewarding.

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Jason Horejs November 14, 2013 at 8:27 am

Great points Barney – and great post. Excellence has always been a determining factor, and in a competitive market like the one we are in now, it’s even more important. All of us need to be putting forth 110% to succeed.

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linda billet November 13, 2013 at 5:26 pm

I think it’s all about belief. When I was really new in the game, I was fortunate enough to have met some artists that were doing a lot better that just comfortable. I believe I can too and so I will.

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Jason Horejs November 14, 2013 at 8:30 am

Linda – I’m glad you brought up the examples of artists who showed you what is possible. Find a mentor, or even just an example from afar, of a truly successful artist, and use them as a guide for your career.

I worry that many artists surround themselves with artists who have negative or pessimistic attitudes. The attitude can rub off, and before you know it, every bump in the road feels like an affirmation that the negativity is true.

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Marian November 13, 2013 at 5:36 pm

If I read the pie chart correctly, according to your survey , 81% of responding artists make 24k or less. And from that group of artists, approximately two thirds make less than 10K. My guess is that if you break the chart into responses from visual 2D artists, specifically, the results would be more grim. Is that correct?

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Jason Horejs November 14, 2013 at 8:34 am

Marian – keep in mind that my survey reached out to a very broad array of artists, not just full-time professionals. Many of the 81% may not have income as their primary goal for creation. The numbers are better for those who are pursuing art full-time as a career.

If you go to http://www.reddotblog.com/wordpress/index.php/2012-state-of-the-art-survey-results-from-full-time-artists/ and look at the very bottom graphs, you will see that income goes up as production (a proxy for how fully an artist is engaged in their art) goes up.

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Frances Vettergreen November 14, 2013 at 9:06 am

Are you sure production is a valid “proxy for how fully an artist is engaged in their art”? There are many ways to be fully engaged in your art. Not all of us have the same processes; some of us need to spend a lot of time in our heads to make fully engaged — and engaging — work. Is the artist who makes 12 major, thoughtful works a year less engaged than the artist who paints four small landscapes a day?

Also re the woman who has two kids, a job and manages to spend 20-30 hours a week in her studio — how? Has she given up sleep? How does that fall into the category of a “comfortable living”?

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kathryn November 14, 2013 at 4:09 pm

Frances…I get between 6-7 hours of sleep a night. Part of it is just having a very disciplined routine , being organized and a huge, huge determination. Eventually in 5 years, when I meet my goals and don’t have to work a full time job I can rest a bit more…I doubt that I will, but I will have more freedom to have that as an option!

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SuzanneL November 13, 2013 at 5:45 pm

Don’t worry, Kim! You are still going to have the same percentage of people who have the time and perseverance to keep at it. It’s a ton of work, and many people are not ready to get out of their comfort zone of relaxing in front of the tv or whatever. Then there are those of us who are way too scared to drop the “day job(s)” to pursue art full time. I applaud those who do!

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Elizabeth Jiménez Montelongo November 13, 2013 at 8:08 pm

I think it can work with self-promotion, networking, and strong work in large quantities. I’m off to a great start with 20-30 hours a week last year. Now I’m making it 30-40 hours per week in my studio starting this month. This includes online and real life promotion, networking, sending proposals, ect.

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Jamillah Jennings November 13, 2013 at 8:28 pm

My last job teaching was in 2010, i was home with my husband, He passed in 2011, he was a Painter and Professor of Painting teaching for SVA. i am a painter, Sculptor and Printmaker. my son just graduated from SVA with a MFA in Computer Art. I raised a son and two stepdaughters, my husbands children, plus went to school receiving a MFA and a BFA. Making a living as a artist is very hard, i am African American- and most white artists get all the breaks, in the Art world. but this only makes me work harder. Losing my husband, was hard, but i also lost my Dad who passed in 2012. my late husband left me a lot of paintings, drawings and prints, i am writing a book about his life, and hopefully somebody will purchase his art, he help a lot of students from different cultures, but i was his best student, He taught me alot about the creative process of producting Art.

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Jay McDougall November 14, 2013 at 10:58 am

Keep in mind that selling $100K is not the same as having a $100k income as an artist. If most professional self-representing artists (like me) are honest with themselves they will find that 50 – 60% of their time is spent actually producing their art with the remaining 50 – 40% of their time devoted to wearing all of those other hats: website; blogging; photographing work; show applications; bookkeeping; public speaking; traveling; exhibiting; etc.

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Stephen Hall November 14, 2013 at 1:14 pm

I’m new to fine art. My experience has been that there are more artists than galleries, and more galleries than collectors/buyers. While the three keys to success are critical, Jason, I believe a new paradigm for the marketing of art is needed in order for a larger number of artists to be able to make a comfortable living. In short, we need to create more collectors. I believe this can be accomplished through a national, marketing cooperative (not a co-op gallery) that is user-owned, user-controlled, and user-benefited. Both artists and galleries would be the members.

The cooperative would promote, through advertising and other means, that art is just as important as a new couch or wing-back chair for the home. Although a couch will provide comfort for the body for a limited time, original artwork will provide comfort for the soul for one’s lifetime. Artists, gallerists and existing collectors know that the value of art goes beyond investment potential. However, the majority of people have no appreciation of original art’s true value to the spirit.

An aggressive and consistent national marketing campaign could change the public’s perception—from the idea that original art is for only for the well-to-do, to the perception that original art goes hand in hand with a well lived life. When organic farm products began to take hold with consumers, it was due to a national marketing campaign by an organic cooperative that educated people on the benefits. I would like to hear from anyone interested in pursuing the idea of a national art marketing cooperative (shall@kotadesign.com).

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Jason Horejs November 15, 2013 at 9:21 am

Stephen – it’s an interesting idea. There would obviously be some challenges organizing and administering this kind of organization, but if there were broad participation the cost to participate for individual artists and galleries would be pretty low. I imagine you would want to have a website behind it to direct traffic to participating members.

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Stephen Hall November 15, 2013 at 12:57 pm

As you note, Jason, there are challenges in starting a national cooperative. Fortunately, there is also a well-worn, documented pathway to success. There are over 29,285 cooperatives in the U.S. generating more than $652 billion in revenues. Arts and crafts and entertainment are part of the cooperative business model. If a purchasing cooperative (art supplies and services) is paired with the art marketing cooperative, individual members would not only get their art materials at greatly reduced costs but would also share in the earnings from cooperative sales.

The website would be the foundation of the marketing program. All advertising/marketing channels would direct the collector to it, where their search/buy experience for member artists or galleries and their personal websites would be simple and easy—similar to stock photo sites like iStock.com. If a collector or newbie collector does a google search for landscape paintings, they get 25 million results. Even a more focused search, such as Southwest landscape paintings gets you 215 thousand choices without a system to edit down to a manageable level.

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Lori Woodward November 18, 2013 at 5:15 pm

Hi Jason, This post has made it clear to me that if I want to make a decent living with sales, I probably need to spend more time in the studio, less time writing and art related activities. The other point that made sense for me is to find a venue where I can raise my prices to a level where I make enough to get decent income. I think that may mean gallery representation again. I’m currently working on a new body of work and some larger paintings which I hope to have ready next spring. I see gallery sales picking up for some of my artist friends who work with galleries.

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Michael Chesley Johnson November 19, 2013 at 6:59 am

Absolutely you can make a living from art. However, to do so I have many web sites,(more than 7) teach many weeks of the year,http://michaelchesleyjohnson.com/html/workshops.htm write articles for national art magazines, have my own 3 seasonal galleries, have seasonal promotional sales http://www.michaelchesleyjohnson.com/holiday_sale/holiday.htm , do free public demonstrations and talks http://mchesleyjohnson.blogspot.com/2013/11/3-masters-speak-and-holiday-clearance.html, write regularly in my blog(http://mchesleyjohnson.blogspot.com/), do a regular newsletter http://us4.campaign-archive2.com/home/?u=92e63ff8fb786f8bd8592b6c2&id=40c35e375e, and work 7 days per week at something I love including being a member of many art organizations which create lasting friendships. I even get to take painting vacations http://mchesleyjohnson.blogspot.com/2013/11/road-trip-painting-arizona-strip.html ! I have to make it happen since I won’t be getting a pension from anything but my efforts…

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Linda Eichorst November 19, 2013 at 9:28 am

Stephen, I agree with you. We, as artists, are hardworkers by nature, and do little if anything at all to educate the general population about the value of original art. The cooperative is certainly a beginning point that sounds appealing. I have witnessed, as many of us probably have, a shopper getting all excited about a badly printed picture in a plastic frame and paying 20 times its value to hang it in their home. That same shopper would probably be too intimidated to walk into an art gallery if they even thought of it at all.

I live just 20 miles outside the city, and would rarely know what was going on in the art world if I didn’t belong to arts organizations. You are right, the internet has brought us many things, but has now overloaded and confused the art world. The television, in reverse, reports only who shot whom, and which politician has disgraced himself/herself. I never sit down to watch the local news without my ipad or computer so I can do meaningful work while I suffer through it. I don’t want to miss any information about what is really going on in our community so I continue to tune in.

We, as artists, need to participate in the elevation of original art as a worthy part of everyday life. The paradigm does need to change. Promotion of original art needs a new platform to fit the new world we live in.

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Mason Parker November 22, 2013 at 1:33 pm

I agree with all of the three keys to success mentioned above, matches my experience too. Other ones that I have noticed and practiced:

Sell art in a theme that can be recognized or appreciated anywhere. I sell 3-D glass renditions of butterflies and damselflies. Anyone on the planet knows what those are. When I managed a gallery before, I strongly believe that is why any form of frogs did well there. On the contrary, my stationary of the paintings of scenes of Portland Oregon do very well here, but I am not sure what kind of success I might have if I tried to sell them outside Oregon.

Basic formula for inventory – A few big showpieces, lots of medium priced items, and some small under $50 fun things.

Keep your health and car in good condition, will save you a bundle of money and time.

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alice harrington December 5, 2013 at 1:02 am

I have a few problems as an artist.like not knowing how to put things on the internet.i,m not a new artist but ive just got a friend that knows marketing and business.i,m a shy person by nature but my friend isn,t.she is helping me quite a lot.i,m old now but not dead yet.i intend to make it in the art world.i,m going to a gallery next week.

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Karin Schultze December 6, 2013 at 2:20 pm

Hello,

I agree, I think the future in the arts is probably on the upswing (check the dept of labor predictions but spent a lot of time since the internet was released setting up digital art, after lifelong exposure to the photo industry) from pure demand and a sophisticated public demanding quality in the arts at a time quantity goes up.

Thanks for the broadcast, I’ve spent much time looking for this style blog but recently finally saw experts on the internet.

Sincerely yours,
Karin Schultze
RF Design
racconfaces@gmail.com

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jason Haber January 2, 2014 at 10:38 am

I gave up b/c I was getting ripped off. from scam artisits like RAW to uncommon goods who negotiated for four months, agreed to terms and I produced a seiries of pieces on their terms but when I tried to set a timeline to actually post an item to sell, they backed out leaving me with a series that all look too much alike. My website manager abandoned my site without giving me notice or recourse. Production space is a constant problem. fighting with too many negative elements to even submit to show. I conclude that the artworld in not a good business partner. it’s driven by insular wealthy interests who’s preferences dissapoint me.

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Jason Horejs January 2, 2014 at 1:34 pm

Unfortunately, I think many artists share this experience, and I don’t think anyone would blame you for feeling frustrated. I would just recommend that you keep your eyes open for opportunities and try to continue creating. As the market improves, more opportunities will open up.

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Abby Focht February 8, 2014 at 6:46 am

I am looking at moving in a little over a year to another state (I need change), will be leaving a full-time job with good pay and benefits…because I want to live a life doing what I love and make a living off of it…my jewelry. I’ve established myself well here, in my home town, as a member of a local artists’ cooperative and work in two other galleries. Last years revenues were over 12 grand. Any (marketing) tips on how to make this transition? The place I am planning on moving to has a good arts scene; I feel like I will have a lot of opportunity, including a Saturday Market which goes on for most of the year (April-Nov.)…and there are others. I plan to have stuff up on Etsy before I go, so I can have that source of income and as I will be leaving the artist’s gallery (co-op) and probably the other two galleries I have jewelry in. There is another local gallery that has expressed interest in carrying my jewelry…so I may have that too, as a source of income after I move.

Any tips or advice for making this career transition?

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Scott Morton February 12, 2014 at 5:47 pm

I do think it is possible to have a great income from producing art: Unfortunately the two mindsets often compete with each other. There are a lot of variables that come into play but those who create exceptional quality work and market themselves at the same level are rare. Put those two channels together and success will come. Most art is noticeably not exceptional. To make good money you need to understand the level of quality, sophistication and originality required to stand out. Those who deliver what buyers want can command higher prices. No matter what level, the biggest factor is selling art is being where buyers are buying. Focus your energy on quality and being in front of buyers as often as possible. This will require a lot of determination and talent but it is definitely possibly. Based on the statistics above, the top 10% seem to be doing well and some sell in the millions.

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William February 26, 2014 at 7:30 pm

The key to making a comfortable living as an artist….Pricing. I did an analysis of my sales once ( I am not a full time artist, I have a day job and a family). I do pretty well selling my 30×36 abstract works on paper for $1200 each; after gallery cut, I make $600. To make a “acceptable living” I would need to sell 100 per year; that’s 8 per month ; 2 per week. I dont know about the rest of ya’ll, but that is some heavy sales velocity. I once bought an hour session with an art business consutlant and the first thing she said was I would never make a full time living with those prices. I need to ditch the works on paper and sell canvases, bigger ones, and jack up the price. Sounds reasonable. But my technique is more condusive to the works on paper. Maybe kick up the works on paper prices, double them, and supplement with some large canvases for the big money. Don’t ever not think Picasso & those guys thought like this. You wont read this in any art history book, but those guys were brilliant (gasp) businessmen.

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