Canaries in Coalmines on Roller Coasters – Artists and Income.
I’ve been meaning to do a post about the ups and downs of making money as an artist. The girls are napping and I have a few stolen moments to write, so blog I will. I had thought better of writing about this particular topic while my income was on a lengthy downswing – one should not opine on such things whilst suffering the slings and arrows of perceived outrageous fortune. Downswings come and hopefully, go.
The art biz is the best way to make money if you enjoy the feeling of being on a roller coaster for most of your professional life. It is economic schizophrenia writ large. One moment you are soaring on golden, self-congratulatory wings made of paint and then you are suddenly looking for dented cans of tuna and feeling genuine excitement about finding a whole bin of them.
Since the big downturn of 2008ish – when I noticed my income was halved as luxury purchases became common for only a more rarefied economic strata of people – most artists I know have been hustling evermore to secure good sales and find new clients.
There are art fairs which cost a few thousand for a decent booth size and there are art fairs that cost a few hundred for a space to set up your tent and shuck your wares. These fairs, large and small are one thing to take on when you are without children (they can be fun, especially if you sell well or they can be rainy, sparsely attended muddy messes that prove to unworthy of your own attendance) but are daunting to say the least with a brood at home.
You can try and get into a good gallery and hope that your work catches fire with their clientele, but galleries are closing left and right and many of any import are not taking on new artists unless you are a proven commodity. I do have many contemporaries who fit that bill and seem to do very well, but I suspect that even in the best galleries there is an increase of bustle in their hustle. Even if you do get in, often their stable is so crowded that your paintings are lost in the mix, but ya know, big ups to all my friends whose work manages to shine through the artistic conflation that is a gallery and become the cream of the crop.
Yup, the artists are always the canary in the coalmine of economics. Although good art is always made in austere times, the artists are not always paid well for it, if they are paid at all. I gotta say here that I feel insanely lucky to have been on this roller coaster at all. I have had some great years and some not so great years, but I have not held a job since ’97… knock on freakin’ wood… It is hard to feel hard done by when that fact comes into perspective. But now that I have three children (wha?!?) the downturns seem more ominous and hold more potential for self-inflicted psychodrama. I am not known for my prolonged states of zen-like calm so while it is fun to ride a roller coaster, it is occasionally crazy-making to think that the well being of your family depends on you keeping the ride going and ensuring that somehow the up slopes get longer and longer.
So, I am again thankful for people who love art and even more thankful for people who buy art, especially now when the canaries are singing.
Thanks for reading,
p.s. Included in this post are a recently delivered piece and a piece that is 90% done.
p.p.s. Canadian landscape, oil paintings, artist… These are the meta words that I failed to insert into the above text but will now aid in having better placement in the SEO search-scape. Heh.