As an artist, you want your work to be seen, appreciated and even bought/commissioned. But this is one of the hardest and most depressing parts of being an artist, you might be a brilliant artist, great at what you do… but does that even matter? Probably not. We live in a capitalist society, where the winners win more and the bottom lose often. A society built on money will never be able to offer the true value of a craft or profession as more than just a market price. I don’t have money, I literally have almost nothing but stuff I’ve bought, which will eventually end up on ebay. Wouldn’t the world be a better place if the artwork you created was devoid of monetary value and full of evocative and emotional importance without you having to sell-out on the parts of you that make you a great artist, to just be a service that gets paid to do whatever a client wants because their service needs to be sold to another person as another service so we all get paid and can afford to eat.
This is the realisation we live in today, it doesn’t matter how good you are, you could literally be the best artist in your town, city, country or even the world, but unless people know who you are and what you do, and find a monetary value in your artwork as a service and can ‘sell’ it (as a product or an accompaniment to their marketing or business) it ain’t worth jack. Private commissions are a nice exception, however artwork has never been so accessible and websites are setting up left right and center to do all the legwork for you. The worst thing about being a struggling pennyless artist is you can’t even afford art either. I’ve stopped walking around art gallery shops, big or small, because I know I’d feel obligated to buy, supporting other artists craft, who may also be in the same position as me, because other artists are usually the biggest appreciator / supporter of the arts. It’s just an endless cycle of poor artists not been able to support other poor artists, until every so often an art admirer with gold in their pockets puts into the system.
Balancing becoming a better artist is also difficult, you’re trying to be better to get noticed, but also you’re trying to get noticed… the hardest part is doing both effectively and equally. It’s even harder to be your own art director. One bit of advice is, don’t limit yourself, you’re forever learning, you should be learning something new as much as you can just like any true professional has to do in their role, don’t ever get comfortable, because that won’t get you any further than where you are now, and if you’re already making nothing from your art, what have you got to lose? Worse case scenario is you have to get a part time job, hopefully somewhere relevant to get you involved with people in the art area, or at least in close vicinity so you can visit the galleries and cafes, and network with potential clients.
An even worse case scenario you could end up like Vivian Maier, you may still not have heard of her, but she is considered one of the greatest Street Photographers that ever lived, it was only after she died a few years ago and her lockup of negatives and some photographs were put up for auction by close friends whom she’d been a nanny for. For years she lived in different homes working as a nanny for children, the families not really knowing her as she was a recluse, she’d take the children out to rough neighbourhoods whilst she took photographs in the area. Few had ever really seen her photographs, but she took hundreds of thousands, most were undeveloped rolls of film.
There’s also Vincent Van Gogh which still tears me up the thought of that Doctor Who episode, considered the greatest painters of all time.
If this blog post doesn’t want to make you fight for it, even through the struggles our society has created for us with uncertain professions, then you must change your perception, be positive. Find the potential in every opportunity and if you have to get a part time job, then you must, but keep making art. Keep trying new things. Never stop learning. You can make art until the day you’re 110 years and older, you’ll be a cyborg by then anyway and the only jobs humans will be doing will be creative ones computers can’t figure out yet. iRobot, by Apple, coming soon. So get out there and art, for your future robotic overlord demands it.