Thoughts on Canvas 1: Balancing business and art

We have a lot of romantic notions about the starving artist, or carefree bohemian painters, but even those of us in other careers know that most artists have to grab whatever time they can spare from jobs, family responsibilities, and the various chores of daily life. Only the lucky few get to actually spend their time making their living off of their art.

Even for those lucky few, life is not as simple as one might hope. You can’t just create a masterpiece and collect your payment. If no one sees your art, no one buys your art, and your rent goes unpaid. So successful artists have to also develop skills at marketing, self-promotion, and networking, along with their painting or sketching skills.

And today, the internet creates more opportunities for independent artists, but it also comes with a bunch of new skills to learn. Even artists who prefer to work entirely in traditional media have to learn about web design, digital file formats, online ordering and fulfillment services, and of course all the new ways to self-promote and make connections. Meanwhile, that new canvas is sitting there untouched.

This seems like a catch-22 for artists— the only way to have a career in art is to spend a lot of time not making art. So why bother? I asked one of our Studio YU artists what motivated her to keep at this endeavor. I was expecting something about the joy of the creative process, but I got a more interesting answer. For her, painting is how she connects with her thoughts and feelings and makes sense of her own mind. She really does put her thoughts on canvas. The final product of her painting can surprise her, and the joy she takes in that surprise is motivation enough to get back to the studio, no matter how any other distractions are in the way. 

We all have different reasons to seek creative expression, and we've all had to make tradeoffs to do so.  How have you found space for your art in your life?