PUBLIC SERVICE ANNOUNCEMENT:
As an artist, I love that I can make art any time, any where, and with any thing I want. This is a good thing, because otherwise my head might explode with all this pent up creative energy that’s oozing around there. Unfortunately, this also means that I’m always working and about 99% of that time is spent working for free because I just create art, one piece after another and no one’s paying me to do it. I invest & pay for all the materials myself, people get to see if for free both in person & online, and sometimes a piece sells, or I get a commission, but in general, I work for free. Doesn’t sound like a very good business model, does it?
Well, unfortunately, that is the life of a fine artist. Unless you become a famous artist through the luck of “exposure” or from death, then you might actually make money, but the “exposure” thing is no different than waiting to hit the lottery and if you die, then well, you know…
Many think being an artist is a dream job. They see it as having a full time job slinging finger-paint like ya did back in kindergarten. Some think all artists are hippies and should just get their head out of the clouds and get a real job. While others just think the “artist” is a magical creature that pulls art out of the air with no effort or financial commitment.
Well, the truth is, it’s more than a full time job, we work hard to achieve our skills, most of us go to school & get degrees, we get no benefits (401k, health, dental etc), we help make everyone else money (ie. school teachers, colleges/universities, art stores, restaurants, framing shops, real estate owners, the government, etc etc etc…) , we help improve the quality of life for everyone, we enliven & beautify communities, we help raise money for your charities, we bring people into your restaurants & coffee shops, we help bring in tax revenue at a local & state level, and we even give ya something to look at during Art Walk
If you think about it, it’ll make your heart hurt for the 99.9 % of artists who haven’t hit the “famous” lottery or haven’t died yet, because generally that’s the only time an artist actually makes enough money to make a decent living. This means, an artist either spends their life working a day job to make money instead of creating art therefore never reaching their full potential or they live the life of a starving artist which is neither glamorous nor lucrative but it seems to be glorified & encouraged by history, movies, & the media.
And all the grant money you suggest we should apply for…well, as easy as that sounds, it’s not. It’s extremely competitive, overly time consuming and very little money actually goes to fairly compensating the artist for their time and effort.
So, next time you have an awesome project that requires a creative person’s expertise, whether it be a mural in your daycare, art work for your restaurant or a t-shirt design contest for your super fabulous retail store, and you have somehow managed to budget in everyone from the project overseer to the janitor to housekeeping to the caterer etc etc etc, but you decide the artist should be willing to work for free, then all I can say is: shame on you :-/
Like the poster says: I have bills just like you.
Disclaimer: there are exceptions to everything. Yes there are some grants & arts organizations out there that fight for the rights of artists & find ways to pay them and there are a small amount of artists who are not “famous” or “dead” but have still figured out a way to become lucrative at what they do, but unfortunately these are very rare. The exploitation of artists is, unfortunately, the norm instead of the exception.