This Post is by Lori Woodward Simons, Regular contributing writer for
FineArtViews. Find out how you can be a guest author.
Let's just suppose for a moment that you have been granted to make a million dollars next year working at whatever you want.
Now there are a couple of strings attached to this statement: One is that you would have to work hard at it, and two - it could only be one thing.
Now, please don't pick the question apart -- it's hypothetical, and I have a good reason for presenting it -- to help you discover what is your true motivation for making the artwork that you do.
I've observed that some successful artists have built their careers with income
as their highest motivator, while denying themselves the pleasure of doing what they love to do. I personally know a few portrait artists who enjoy the income but not the process. A couple of them even feel trapped. But I also know some portraitists who adore their careers, so an artist's satisfaction really depends on where his or her motivation lies.
We artists, who are currently emerging, are in a great place because we are yet free to chose our aesthetic paths. How wonderful it would be if we could make a decent living at something we love doing rather than just for the money.
So... if I were offered a guarantee that I would make a million dollars in 2009 doing whatever I wish to do - as long as it were one thing, and I worked very hard at it, what would that one thing be? How I answer this question will make all the difference in how much I enjoy my career and life in the long run.
For those of us who consider ourselves to be Fine Artists
, and not Commercial artists
- taking time to think about the answer might determine where we are along the "fine" or "commercial" continuum. After all, doesn't the very definition of "fine artist" mean one who follows their heart, paints for themselves. develops their work according to their own vision rather than at the request of a potential buyer or art director? I'm not at all saying there is anything wrong with being a commercial art - my father was a commercial artist, as was my grandfather, and they made very good money at it. However, don't most of us here - reading this now want to be successful as Fine artists?
Too often, we artists get confused about what to focus on because of our need to make money. I know I do. In the back of my mind, I'm always wondering about some would-be collector, putting myself into their shoes,(even though these people are figments of my imagination) and speculating as to why or why not they'd want to buy the painting I'm working on. In economic downturns, some of us have a tendency to fall into more of a commercial mindset - trying to guess at what is sure to sell.
There is one thing that I have observed about art collectors - especially those who take it seriously. They buy artwork that is beautiful - no matter the subject.
The subject matter is often secondary to the fact that it is exquisitely made. I've never heard any collector say, "I only buy paintings that match my sofa", or "I don't buy landscapes unless they have flowers in them".
So next time someone advises you by saying, "If you'd just put some flowers in your landscapes, I know they'd sell faster" - first determine if putting flowers in your painting is what you
want to see there. Andrew Wyeth never listened to anyone but his internal artistic voice. He didn't even paint like his father. How much guts did that take? He gained a wide following by painting his friends - who were homely and eccentric. He revealed his heart in his paintings. If he made a great living doing that, then what is holding us back from being our true artistic selves?
Getting back to the original question: You're guaranteed to make a million at anything you work at for the next year. How would you answer? Of course, I can't answer for you, but this I can say - loving what you do will get you through the tough, dry times - because being able to solve difficult problems - is a bitter, but essential part of the recipe for success
. You can and should expect there to be times when you feel like giving up... even when you love your job.
If you're just doing it for the money alone, you may continue to succeed, but at what price? It is so much more satisfying (and healthy) to succeed at doing what you love.