When I quit my job to focus on my art full-time, I had a hard time finding any advice. Most people thought making a living from your art was an absurd goal — especially other artists. Here’s an example. I attended a roundtable hosted by a local artists’ association called “Making a living from your art”. Sounded promising. Four artists sat in front of us, discussing art and money. But instead of talking about making money from your art, they talked about making money in spite of your art. When asked how they made money, one person actually answers “I walk dogs” (no, she wasn’t a performance artist). After a half hour of this sort of “advice”, I finally raised my hand and asked “do any of you actually make money from your art?”. They scoffed. Literally. “What? Make money? From our art? Hrumph! We are artists.” As they went back to talking about how to scam free art supplies, I shook my head and walked out.
It’s amazing to me how many artists are afraid of business. But to me, it is just a natural part of creating art. As an artist, I am an entrepreneur creating something of value that never existed before. I can either hoard this new-found cultural wealth to myself, or I can find people who will value it. Finding this audience is just a natural conclusion to the creation of art. It shifts my art from being a solitary action into a public performance, generating new ideas and opening up new creative opportunities. For example, I found an unexpected venue for my photography as customized ketubah designs. By creating ketubot, which are a central part of the Jewish wedding tradition, I have reached an audiences I may have never found through a gallery. While some artists may be too proud to turn the fruit of their creativity into a product like this, I have found it natural and rewarding. As a ketubah, my art becomes more than just a pretty object for the wall, it becomes an integral part of people lives, a symbol of their wedding. This opportunity feeds my creativity, inspiring new ideas. In this way, a business decision not only helps me make a living, it also helps make me a better artist.
I believe that artists should think of themselves as cultural entrepreneurs. As an artist, you should asume that society should reward you for your contributions. Take your passion and creativity, and find a market for it