The goal of being an artist
From a young age I was fascinated by art. Specifically, all the visual media you’d expect a boy a come into contact with- cartoons, comics, video games, anime. For some reason my passion for art only grew as I got older and I decided to turn it into a career. Over 20 years later, I wonder- was it worth the struggle?
I always wanted to express my passion for the things that brought me joy. I wanted to share this passion through my creations, to inspire others. And in some small way, bring joy to those who aren’t able to create their own art, yet want it to feature somewhere in their lives.
I may not have been trying to develop a cure for illness or bring world peace, but at least it was a goal. Sometimes just having the goal to begin with was enough to get me though tough times in life. Times when my art wasn’t enough to pay the bills, when I became seriously ill or when I’d deal with the loss of a loved one.
Pursuing my artistic ambition was a great thing.
Every career is going to have a list of pros and cons
– If I’m going to spend a huge part of my life working, it might as well be doing something I’m interested in, right?
Below I’ve listed some of the top 10 pros and top 10 cons when it comes to working as an artist:
Career as an artist PROS:
- Creative fulfilment
- Flexibility in work hours and location
- The ability to express oneself
- Potential for financial success (un-capped income)
- The ability to impact and inspire others
- Constant learning and improvement
- Opportunities to work in a variety of mediums and styles
- The ability to turn passion into a profession
- The opportunity to work independently
- The ability to work on meaningful and impactful projects.
Career as an artist CONS:
- Financial instability and unpredictability
- Difficulty in finding steady work and clients
- Lack of job security
- Constant competition and rejection
- The need to continually market oneself
- The pressure to consistently create new and successful work
- High likelihood of low pay and limited opportunities for high-paying work
- The need to continually adapt to industry changes and technological advancements
- The challenge of balancing creativity and commercial success
- The potential for criticism and rejection of ideas, which can feel personal
In my previous blog post about “being an INTJ artist“, I mentioned how I’m “high up on the negative emotions spectrum”. The result = being someone who has a much greater need for security.
Unfortunately, due to some of the cons listed above, this gave me a problem. A big problem. Deciding to become an artist, musician, dancer or indeed, anything most people enjoy and engage in for free, as a hobby, means a high probability of financial struggles if turning such activity into a career. That’s just the hard truth of it. Indeed, a lack of cashflow was something I battled with constantly.
When it comes down to the questions of “did I waste my life?” and “was it worth it?”, it’s only something I consider when reflecting upon the sacrifices I made. I was forced to live with certain restrictions. To live a modest life. I couldn’t afford the latest gadget, to move out when I wanted, or settle down with a family. Surviving and ‘getting by’ took up too much time and attention.
Pursuing my artistic ambition prevented me from having a “normal” life.
I often wonder if I would have gone into the artist game if I was aware of the many obstacles I’d need to overcome? … Probably! Like I say, without the art career goal, I might have been completely lost or without hope. If I’d pursued a run-of-the-mill job to pay the bills, perhaps I’d ultimately end up living with regret for never making a good go of the art career?
However, it certainly would have helped to have been prepared for some of the dragons I’d need to slay in order to pursue this artistic journey. I want to discuss some of the obstacles I’ve faced, offer some advice and, hopefully, aspiring artists can then walk away a little more informed than before.
Obstacle 1: Learning your Craft
Before working as a pro, you need to be able to produce work to a professional level. Learning a new skill is never easy, and this is especially true when it comes to drawing and producing art. It requires a lot of dedication, patience, and hard work, and it can often be frustrating and overwhelming.
One of the biggest difficulties in learning to draw and produce art is developing the technical skills needed to create the images in your mind. This requires a lot of practice and repetition, and it can be frustrating when you’re not able to get the results you want right away. You may find yourself comparing your work to others and feeling like you’ll never be as good, but it’s important to remember that everyone starts at the same place.
Another challenge is finding the time and motivation to practice. It’s easy to get discouraged when you’re not making progress as quickly as you’d like, and it can be tempting to give up and move on to something else. However, I learned it’s important to keep pushing through and to keep practicing, even when it’s tough. Learning to draw and produce art is a journey, and it’s not something that you’ll master overnight. It takes time, patience, and dedication to become a skilled artist, but with practice, you’ll get there.
In conclusion, learning to draw and produce art can be a challenging and difficult journey, but it’s also one of the most rewarding things you can do. With time, patience, and dedication, you’ll be able to develop the skills you need to create the art you’ve always dreamed of, and you’ll be able to see the world in a whole new way.
Obstacle 2: Taking Commissions
After getting to a point where I was capable enough to turn out a half-decent character artwork, I started out by taking commissions for people who wanted custom artwork. I was always amazed at first that there were strangers out there who would pay for me to work on their projects on a freelance basis. During my teen years, and without easy access to answers on the internet, I naively expected that working as a professional illustrator meant going to a studio and being employed full time.
Taking commissions as an artist can be a great to way to generate your income, but it can also be a significant obstacle, especially for those who are new to the art world. Commissioned projects require artists to work closely with clients, who may have different ideas and expectations about the final product. This can be a challenge for artists who are used to having complete creative control over their work.
One of the biggest obstacles in taking commissions is managing client expectations. Both private individuals and companies often have specific ideas about what they want the artwork to look like and how it should be executed. Artists must be able to balance their own creative vision with the client’s needs, while also ensuring that the final product meets the client’s standards. This can be challenging, especially when dealing with clients who may not have a strong understanding of the art world.
Another obstacle is managing the timeline and budget. Commissioned projects often come with strict deadlines, and artists must be able to work efficiently and effectively to meet these deadlines. Additionally, clients may have a specific budget in mind, and artists must be able to work within these constraints while still delivering a high-quality product.
Artists must also be aware of the legal implications of taking commissions. It is important to have a clear and detailed contract in place that outlines the scope of the project, the deadline, the budget, and any other relevant details. This can help to avoid misunderstandings and disputes down the line.
Another challenge is finding the right clients. Private individuals and companies often have different needs and preferences, and artists must be able to cater to both. For example, private individuals may be looking for a unique piece of artwork to decorate their home, while companies may be looking for something that represents their brand or promotes their products. Artists must be able to understand these different needs and tailor their approach accordingly.
In conclusion, taking commissions as an artist can be a great opportunity, but it also comes with its own set of challenges. Artists must be able to manage client expectations, work within tight timelines and budgets, navigate legal issues, and find the right clients. With hard work and persistence, however, artists can overcome these obstacles and make a successful career out of commissioned projects.
Obstacle 3: Diversifying your skills
As I gained more experience and recognition, I started working on a number of how to draw manga books. These books were a great way for me to share my knowledge with others who were interested in learning about anime and manga. I loved helping people achieve their artistic goals and it was a great feeling to see others succeed because of my work.
After years of working in the world of anime and manga, I decided to branch out into web design and graphic design. I wanted to challenge myself and see if I could create stunning designs in a different medium. But most importantly, I needed to find new ways to boost my income and back in the early 2000s, web design became a big deal.
Being an artist can be a rewarding and fulfilling career, but it can also be challenging to make a living solely through your art. Many artists find that diversifying their skills into other fields, such as graphic design and web design, can help increase their income and provide more stability in their work.
Graphic design is a field that requires a combination of artistic ability and technical skills. Graphic designers create visual concepts, using computer software or by hand, to communicate ideas that inspire, inform, or captivate consumers. The field has grown in recent years with the rise of digital media and offers many opportunities for artists to use their creativity in new ways.
Diversifying into these fields can provide artists with a new source of income and can also help them gain regular work. Many businesses and organizations need graphic designers and web designers for various projects, and having these skills can make artists more attractive to potential clients and employers.
However, diversifying into other fields is not without its challenges. Artists may need to spend time learning new software, programming languages, and design techniques. They may also need to adapt to different design styles and processes, which can be difficult for those who are used to working in their own unique style.
Despite these challenges, diversifying into graphic design and web design can be an excellent way for artists to increase their income and stability. It can also provide them with new opportunities to showcase their creativity and reach new audiences. Whether it’s through creating unique and eye-catching designs for websites, or by developing engaging visual concepts for marketing materials, diversifying into these fields can help artists reach new heights in their careers.
In conclusion, diversifying into graphic design and web design can be a valuable step for artists looking to increase their income and stability. While it may involve a learning curve, the rewards can be significant, including new opportunities to showcase their creativity and reach new audiences. With hard work and dedication, artists can successfully expand their skill set and reach new levels of success in their careers.
Obstacle 4: The Lonely Artist
Working on my own all the time wasn’t easy. After years spent working as a web and graphic designer, I branched out to become a part-time tattoo artist. Not only did this help give my eyes a break from an entire day of staring at a screen and dealing with constant eye-strain, but I was able to get some social time with my customers face-to-face.
It was a great opportunity for me to combine my love of art with my desire to help others. I was always amazed by the transformations that people underwent when they got a tattoo and I loved being a part of that process.
One of the biggest challenges that many artists face is the loneliness that often comes with being self-employed. It’s not uncommon for artists to spend long hours working in solitude, without the social interaction and support that a traditional workplace can provide. This can lead to feelings of isolation, burnout, and decreased motivation.
However, there are ways to mitigate the loneliness of being an artist. One option is to seek out alternative forms of employment within the art industry. For example, you can work as an art educator, museum curator, or gallery manager. These jobs allow artists to be surrounded by the art world and engage with a community of like-minded individuals on a regular basis.
Another way to combat loneliness as an artist is to seek out opportunities to collaborate with other artists. This can be through group exhibitions, artist residencies, or simply by reaching out to other artists in your community and setting up regular critique or brainstorming sessions. Collaborating with others can provide a sense of community, and can also lead to new friendships, mentorship opportunities, and professional growth.
Additionally, many artists find it helpful to join professional organizations or attend art-related events and workshops. This can provide a sense of connection with others in the industry, as well as a chance to network, share ideas, and stay up-to-date with the latest developments in your field.
Finally, it’s important to maintain a strong support network outside of your work as an artist. This can include friends and family, or other groups that share your interests and values. Having people to talk to about your experiences and challenges can help to alleviate feelings of loneliness and provide a source of emotional support.
In conclusion, being an artist can be a lonely experience, but it doesn’t have to be. By exploring alternative employment options within the art industry, collaborating with other artists, joining professional organizations, and maintaining a strong support network, you can mitigate the loneliness that can come with being self-employed and find fulfilment and satisfaction in your work.
Obstacle 5: Selling your Art
Despite my success as a tattoo artist, I eventually decided that it was time to take my career to the next level. I wanted to focus more on my fine art and sell my artwork to a wider audience. I started selling my artwork and prints online and at conventions, and I was amazed by the response I received. People loved my artwork and I was quickly able to build a loyal following.
Although the art of selling was yet another new skill that needed to be learned.
Selling art as an artist can be a significant obstacle for many creative individuals. The process of promoting and marketing one’s artwork is often challenging, time-consuming, and requires a great deal of effort and persistence. In today’s competitive world, artists must find unique ways to stand out from the crowd and attract potential buyers.
One of the biggest obstacles in selling art is finding the right audience. With the rise of technology and social media, artists are now able to reach a broader audience than ever before, but they must still navigate the complex and crowded market to find their ideal customers. The challenge is to find the right platform that reaches the right people and effectively showcases the artwork. Additionally, artists must also consider the cost of promoting and marketing their work, which can be significant and may eat into their earnings.
Another obstacle in selling art is the perception of value. While art is subjective, many people may not understand or appreciate the value of an artist’s work, making it difficult for them to justify paying a high price for it. Furthermore, the prevalence of imitation and counterfeit art has led to a distrust among many buyers, making it harder for artists to sell their original works.
In addition, artists must also contend with the challenge of establishing a reputation and gaining recognition. Many established artists have spent years building a following and a name for themselves, and it can be difficult for new artists to break into the market. Even with hard work and persistence, there is no guarantee of success, and many artists may face rejection and criticism along the way.
Lastly, artists must also manage the cost of supplies and materials, which can be high. They must be able to invest in their craft and purchase the right tools and materials to produce their work, while also making sure that they do not overextend themselves financially.
In conclusion, selling art as an artist is not an easy task and requires persistence, effort, and a well-thought-out strategy. Artists must find ways to overcome obstacles, including finding the right audience, establishing a reputation and gaining recognition, and managing the cost of supplies and materials, in order to achieve success and make a living from their passion.
I didn’t waste my life
There were many times when I was filled with doubt. I was always worried that my work wasn’t good enough, that no one would appreciate it, or that I wouldn’t be able to make a living as an artist. But despite these fears, I never gave up. I continued to work hard, perfecting my craft and expanding my portfolio.
Now, years later, I am proud to say that my hard work and determination have paid off. I am now a successful artist and illustrator, selling my artwork and prints online and at conventions. I am grateful for all of the opportunities that I have had in my career, and I am proud of what I have accomplished.
My journey as an artist has been a rollercoaster of ups and downs. But through it all, I have remained true to my passion and my love of art. I am proud of who I am today and I am grateful for all of the opportunities that I have had in my career. I hope to continue to inspire others to follow their dreams, just as I did, and to never give up on what they love.