Thursday, July 23, 2009

Why Be A Professional Artist? and Summer With a Toddler

What a strange profession I am in! Is there any other carreer or job besides being an artist that one works in because its the only way one has any time to do it? Most artists love their work. I sure love to create things. But I can't help wondering, How the heck did I end up an artist? And why?

Being an artist is almost always a really a lousy career. Few people are very successful at it financially. I know of a few, and amongst those few at least half feel they have sold out, or aren't really doing what they want to do. I suppose if one can make it work it's pretty priceless. And how does one go about becoming a 'sucessful' professional artist? Should I hire my own business manager like Schnabel? Should I tote bad reproductions of my work to all the galleries on the west coast? Should I go back to full time illustration and make someones images in a two week turnaround? Should I get a desk job and paint two nights a week and on the weekend? Should I take on any job that uses any sort of creativity? Should I move to New York? Should I scale down my paintings and and sell prints on Etsy? (actually I plan to open an Etsy shop soon for selling prints, as well as toting my bad reproductions down to LA where I think I'd have more luck matching my art to a welcoming gallery but why why why?).

Why? Why do we do it? Is there nothing else I'm good at? I don't remember being 5 years old and saying "I want to be an artist". I guess we just paint and paint and paint and eventually start to sell the paintings because they are piling up in the garage/bedroom/livingroom/shed, and after all, eating is nice, as is buying more art supplies to support this habit.

Some guy from Freecycle wrote to ask me why my handle (on Freecycle) was ArtWithoutReason. I think I scared him because he never responded to the somewhat lengthy account I gave as a reason. But seriously- there is enough art in this world. California is up to her pretty neck in artists! They are like a poor plauge on this coast. And beauty? There is enough beauty in the world- the world itself is amazingly beautiful. And my 'vision'? Is it so necessary to add another persons ideas or outlook or vision to the world? Has art ever REaaLLy had an impact? Changed peoples way of seeing for the better? Should I do somehing just because I do it well or even better than some other people?

So why the heck be a professional artist? What do you think?

While you are considering this question please enjoy these completely unrelated photographs of summer with a toddler.


  1. I'm not sure I'm qualified to answer, as I think you're concept of artist is directly related to painting, but as someone who has spent his entire life at creative ventures or attempts at early retirement to facilitate creative ventures, I find the value in the journey. I wanted to be a writer from the day I learned how to write a paragraph. I NEED to write, or my brain goes all wonky and my dreams become a series of surreal disasters, like my creative pipes back up and pour out the wrong end. As for making money at it... if you can't make money doing what you love, make sure what you're making money doing isn't taking up so much time that you can't ALSO do what you love.

  2. mmm, thinking about art and 'career' and finance does my head in! think i just do it coz i love it.... hope u decide on the best path. re your question ~ i use golden acrylics and the matte-satin varnish in that range :)

  3. Yes, art has always impacted people and thought and how we view both ourselves and light and how we value the natural world around us. Art is reflective. Art records the human spirit just as words do. If it weren't for the art in caves, and eventually the language on onion skins and parchment, I fervently believe that we would still be flapping our big lips in the very caves where some of the earliest art has been recorded.

    We need artists, and it doesn't matter how many of them there are, to keep us moving forward, to remind us to play, or to wake us up. Just as we need artists.

    I believe you paint because you have to. If you really want to test what your motivation is, why you do it, whether you might be happier doing something else I dare you to not do any art for six months, get yourself a part time desk job or cafe job or whatever you can find, and see how you feel. See how necessary your non-creative work feels.

    I could write a dissertation in answer to this very provoking question! (And already almost have!) I have personally found work, not writing, but kind of related, and don't feel that what I do for money is very important. It's entirely possible that the same 150 regular readers of my blog will be the only people to ever read my writing, but I do feel it is important, and for those people who read my work, I know that I have helped several step back from the edge of suicidal urges and personal black holes- I am lucky they told me so- so that even though I may never make any money writing, I know it's important to someone outside myself.

    That's more than enough to keep me going.

    Your art has personally given me such a different perspective, visually, and it has added humor and also gorgeousnes to my world and I disagree that there is already enough beauty in the world. For all the beauty there is equal horror, so there is never enough- the beauty is needed to keep the ugly in balance.

  4. We "art" because we must!

    Hey there blast-from-the-past! Just randomly Googled you for the first time in a while and POW! you're blogging. Coolness. Glad to see and hear that you and Norman are doing so well (and your boys are adorable!). We're (Laini and me) about to welcome our first (a girl) into the world any day now (we're a few days overdue but not stressing about it).

    I hope your upcoming show goes well. We dig your animal paintings!

    All best,