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Why do Artists think they have to be Poor?

One of the great myths that have been dumped on the heads of Artists all over the world is that you are not a real Artist if you profit from your work. I have met a number of Artists over the years that have been more successful than you could imagine. The one thing they have never believed in is the stereotypes that society has dumped on Artists in general. The reason that Artists like Picasso, Dali, Warhol, Chagall, Rubens and many many more were successful was the fact that they also promoted themselves extremely well.

The one thing I hear mostly from Artists is:

“I wish I could make a living out of what I do”.

The thing about that statement, for most of these people, is that they do nothing, or do not do the right things, to help promote their careers in the first place. Whether you think it or not, the world needs Art as part of the psychological makeup of our society. Unfortunately the majority of our world is left brain orientated. These are mostly the people that buy Art due to the fact that their left brains have difficulty in creating it. The bottom line is you still need to get on and create your work. This is not a 9 to 5 job, it exists in you 24 hours a day and that is the dedication that must be shown if you expect to make a living from your work.

So you’re not good enough hey! That’s right, you need to be rejected by mainstream society before anyone will ever think you have been a dedicated Artist; poor, pushed aside and generally spat on, one of life’s complete rejects.

BALONY! If you believe any of these myths you will end up being a part of the myth in the end.

One of the hardest things that Artists have to deal with in their careers is criticism of their work and sometimes even of themselves, particularly when their subject matter deals with the uncomfortable realities of life. I know and understand this perfectly due to the nature of some of my own work that deals with a number of touchy subjects in our world, religious beliefs being one of them. Remember that criticism will mostly come from those that will be purchasing your work.

I have had people over the years comment on what I do, sometimes good, sometimes bad. In the end it is just water off a ducks back. In saying that, there are people that may have good information to give you about your work, so listen to all and try not to take derogatory comments to heart. Remember you are only looking for the folks that like your work in the end. They are the ones that will take it into their homes.

Rejection can also come from places that you most want to be a part of: Galleries, investors etc. Listen to their comments; you may end up going to a number of galleries and if you have done something wrong with one gallery they may tell you what you need to do next time you approach another gallery to get things right. Once you eventually get into a gallery the criticism that you went through to get there will simply fade away in the end. Yes it does take time, but the Artist that succeeds is the one that persists.

Some great books that can help:

  1. Handling Rejection – Grant Morris
  2. What no one ever told you about starting your own business – Jan Normal (This one contains interviews with over a hundred entrepreneurs)

Understanding success…

The fact that you have decided to be an Artist and make a living out of your skills means that you have also become your own boss and the only limitations you have for your work and your career are the ones you place on yourself.

As a young man many people around me said that making a living out of Art was almost impossible. Of course all of these people had never even painted let alone sold Artwork at all. They were simply people that new nothing about the industry but just had an opinion that was self-reflective of who they were.

Create your own goals and ideals; you’re better off shooting an arrow at the moon and missing, than throwing a rock at an eagle and hitting it. Aim high in life and don’t fall into other people’s negative belief systems. They may have failed; they just want you sitting in their hole with them.

Also remember this is about what you need out of your Art and your life, not what others think you should expect. That is their determination, not yours.


The one thing that I have said to my children as they go through their lives is the phrase, ‘never give up, never give in!’ Your life and your Art career are going to be based on many knock backs and emotional and financial hard times. If success was easy we would all be successful. To come out on top in your field you must have discipline and commitment to your Art and your goals. It is a winding journey where not only your ideas can change, but also your Art.

I have been a professional Artist for 30 years and I am just finishing my apprenticeship. If you think you can make it after five years you will be disappointed when that time comes. This is your passion. The time involved is the time of your life and it will be that as well, if you are committed to the journey. What else would you choose to do? Is working in a job that will always just be that, a job, something that you dream of doing for the rest of your life? How horrible to stand somewhere, doing something that you don’t really want to do and knowing that this place is where you may be for the rest of your life. It is your life. Take it and mould into the one that you dream about at night.

I have found that simply starting to climb the mountain helps me to see clearer with all of the things around me. You must be prepared to take some small risks when you first start your career and even when you are an established Artist. If people and clients and the Art public do not see you around or in the media, they will forget you quickly. Create your budget and do as many media related things as you can with that money, you are your own Master now, and so believing in your own writing and publicity is a must to get you where you need to go.

My TV series Colour in your life is one of those next steps in an Artists career. I applaud the Artists that have had the courage to be a part of telling the rest of the world who they are through the medium of TV. They are already reaping the rewards for what they have done. Portfolios, brochures, books and other promotional tools are all important in the development of your image as an Artist.

Some things to consider…

Don’t walk away from the job you have. Make slow changes to the move towards your Art career.
Remember you are a businessperson now, not just an Artist, so all of the things in business, bookkeeping, taxes, etc must be a part of your career.
Problems will pop up from time to time, take each one as they come, and focus on the solution and not the problem.
Mixing with other Art groups and Artists can be a good thing as it will enable you to net work ideas and situations you may not be aware of. Regardless of how helpful you may or may not think your family can be, make them aware of what you are doing anyway. You never know; someone around you may take a greater interest than you think. Remember, only your own fear stands in your way.
Passion is not worth anything without discipline and commitment. Most people you met in life will just be passionate Dreamers, not passionate doers.

Some thing I have learnt over the years…

Exposure is marketing. If you think you are going to be able to sell your work without marketing and promoting what you do, then you are living in La La Land. I have known many Artists over the years, all with varying styles and approaches to their work. Regardless of each individual Artists approach and techniques many of these men and women have become very successful at what they love doing: creating Art. One thing I have noticed with Artists who become successful, and I have used many of these principles myself, is that they are prepared to step outside their comfort zones and do things that generally might make some people uncomfortable.

Research is very important. The more information you gain on your particular Art style, the better you will be able to guide your career in the right direction. For example, there is no point in going to a realist gallery if your work is Abstract. Do as much research on those galleries before you ever think of approaching them. It can save a hell of a lot of time and potential rejection as well.

If you want your Art career to be successful you have to take control of it. It is your responsibility in the end. Make sure you are as diligent as possible in making the time to do your work. There must be no excuses of any sort if you are to create your future work and vision.

The legal side of your business…

Make sure you get EVERYTHING in writing. The amount of Artists I have spoken to over the years who have been ripped off or lied to in some manner by someone representing their work is enormous. ‘He seemed like a nice guy at the time and I didn’t think he would do the wrong thing by me’, are phrases I have heard time and time again. Find a Lawyer in your area that knows something about Arts Law. You may never have to use them, but knowing the dogs of war are there will keep everyone you’re dealing with in line as well. If you are about to take on a commission make sure you get at least 50% deposit from the client and make sure you write an agreement that gives you Artistic License.

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