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Is it possible to make a living as a traditional artist? #JULY 2020

I'm in art school to become a fine artist, but feel insecure about the prospects for artists in this day and age. Is it really possible to be a practicing artist without a side job? artist art school fine-art arts

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Stephen’s Answer

Only to the extent that anything is possible, then the answer is "Yes."
Statistically, the answer is "Way No." But I made a living, and a very good living, doing the kind of work that I wanted to do.
Here is what, in my experience, artists need to do ALL OF THE TIME:
1. Create works that excite people. If you don't do this, the rest won't matter.

2. Document the work.

3. Get the work out in front of as many people as possible, as often as possible—virtually and in real life. When people ask you what you are up to, or what you do, tell them that you are an artist. Then take out your phone and show them your online portfolio.

4. Never, ever, never, never, never lower your price. Better to start a little low and steadily increase your prices, then have to cut them.
If you cut your price, you will be the artist that people can just wait out and get a better price. Also, don't go too cheap. People want to get art inexpensively, but no one wants "cheap" art.

5. Make connections with as many people as you can, who are ready, willing and able to purchase art. Lots of people love art, but you need money to live. So you need buyers, not lovers.

6. Relevant to "4," if you can connect with someone who is passionate about your work, can "sell," and has connections with people who can buy, see if they will represent you. They can be galleries, individuals, just about anyone. Realize that if you spend most of your time with people who can't or won't buy art, they will not help you. Even if they are your friends and love your work.

7. Don't just seek the obvious connections. The financial director of a school got me the largest commission I have ever had, as an example.

Stephen recommends the following next steps:

Make and maintain (keep it fresh) an online portfolio site.
Post your work on Instagram, or any other social media site that floats your boat.
Don't be shy about letting people know that your work is for sale.
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Terry’s Answer

Hi, Isabel-

It depends on what you mean by "a traditional artist." The tradition of artists varies depending on practice and network. I would ask yourself what are you willing to give up to live your life as an artist? Art 21 has mini-docs on contemporary artists and their trajectory. One of my favorites is by Barbara Kruger who took the time to ask herself, "what it might mean to call yourself an artist." I think you might ask yourself that question.

For me, I needed to support myself and my kids so I worked in creative business fields, but not as an artist. Now, I am older and I am looking for part-time and project work so I can have the time I need to be an artist and produce work. I had a professor in grad school who said that she would have been a lifelong waitress to be able to have the time to work on her craft. In fact, after graduating with her MFA, she was a waitress until her paintings began to sell and she was able to support herself by painting and teaching.

If you are looking for a yes or no answer, doe artists that is not possible. We artists work in the grey areas. Assess what your goal is and then work backward on how to achieve it.
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Tiffany’s Answer

Years ago, I would have said “no”, but now with social media as a platform anything is possible . Showcase your work on Facebook, Instagram and other social sites. Ask friends and family, to share pics and videos of your work on their social media pages . This will help you gain followers .

Also make sure to set up an Etsy page, so your followers can purchase your artwork. Keep working diligently, to pursue your passion and turn your dreams into a career.
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Gladys’s Answer

Hi Isabel,

Many years ago I studied commercial art which is focused on digital design space. I was always told that fine artiest struggle to make a living, which also worried me back then too.

Here is what I've come to realize over the years;
1. just like any freelance work, the effort of your input and output is on you, how far do you want to go?
2. you can certainly make a good living, again its up to what you deliver.
3. Ask yourself what your reality of a good living is? cost of living is different around the world and people have there own interpretation of good living. Do you want to stay medium/high income?
4. if you have the talent to make fine art, continue to work on that skill. Fine art is a skill that not many people have and is very valuable
5. Portfolio, start one if you haven't already. You can use social media as a platform to showcase your work and even sell

Art is more valuable then people realize, most of everything is today world is created by art.
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