Is there inevitability for individuals choosing to be artists to end up starving or at least having to earn a living from something more mundane? Why? I have often pondered why so few artists can earn a living from their creativity.
Most of the time my theory is based on the idea that if you are really gifted in one area of life you are rarely given mad skills in others. Therefore if you are a gifted artist you are not likely to be a skilled sales person or bookkeeper. Annie Leibovitz undoubtedly is a gifted photographer, and has had more “success” than most artists could hope for. Yet, that success did not bring her long term financial stability. Why? Most of us never reach that level of notoriety, and cannot hope to earn a fortune from our craft. Why is it that so few of us can even earn a living from our craft?
I heard a story (on NPR, I think) about successful entrepreneurs. One of the things that sets them apart from the less successful is that they find a niche that needs filling, or keep looking until they find one. When they find that their product is a dud they dump it and move on until they find something that the market really wants. That’s great, if your goal is to sell someone else’s widgets. But what if it is your art that you are compelled to make that no one seems to want to buy? Do you give up creating things in your own style and mimic items that have a proven audience? Clearly that model works for some folks, look at the preponderance of people making and selling items with Disney, Hello Kitty or Twilight characters on them. But that is neither legal or honorable, nor is it truly creative. Do you listen to the myriad voices that suggest ways to improve your art, or new directions to explore? If their suggestions are coming from a marketing perspective is that more or less valid to an artist than if it were encouraging you to explore new artistic inspirations?
Do artists create because they are driven by something internal to make things, because they have something to say and art is their mode of communication, or because they see it as a viable career path? It may be some combination or none of those.
There are no Renaissance patrons out there offering to pay you room and board and provide all the supplies you could ever wish for. If you are compelled to create, no matter what your medium or your skill level to survive from the sale of your work you must also master sales and business skills as well. Yet, once an artist has a mastery of business skills what do they do if there is no market for their art?
So many questions, so few satisfactory answers.
What do you think?