Many artists are poor. The idea of the starving, struggling artist is as true today as it was for generations of artists before us, except for a lucky few like Pollock and Picasso.
It’s a painful irony that iconic artists such as Modigliani, who was born poor and died broke, now has artworks like Nude Sitting on a Divan selling for nearly US $70 million.
It’ll come as no surprise then that the average income for a visual artist is around $50 a day. That’s only $12 a day more than being on welfare.
And this leaves us with two choices, to eke out a living pursuing our art – or to get an ‘other’ job and squeeze in our art around that. It’s a nasty double-edged sword to try to swallow.
One option gives us endless time to pursue our creative drive but no money, the other gives us money and no time to pursue our art.
My background is in the ‘glamorous’ world of advertising. For many agencies that I worked for, the Mad Men days never died; creatives would clock off at Friday lunch time and drink in the weekend, parties were a whirlwind of debauched hedonism and the idea was king; storytelling was the new black.
But we were worshipping a false god. We pumped creativity into an ever-hungry media plan that was never satiated. Our creativity wasn’t doing good, it was selling mobile phone plans or frozen fish or automobiles. We prostituted our imaginations and after work our art had no chance of squeezing into that void.
This is the nub of the problem. If we pursue art, we go hungry. If we pursue money, our art starves.
And so I find myself yo-yoing, working the other job, then taking a break to pursue art, working the other job, taking a break to pursue art.
The big danger here is that the other job is sneaky, it can distract you from your art, make you think that deadlines and meetings and false goals are more important than your self-expression.
If you’re not careful, if you’re not ever-conscious of the gentle pull of your day job, you’ll find yourself out beyond the breakers, unable to swim against the current and suddenly the space that represented your true self, your art, is dry and abandoned, a husk beyond resuscitation.
I’d love to know how you juggle it. How do you earn an income and fuel your art practise. Let me know if you have any secrets!