Should Artists Worry About Money?

artists and money featured image

Artists and money have a fascinating relationship.

There are people who say that artists should have absolutely no connection to money in their pursuit and they should keep it as pure as humanly possible.

And there are people who are interested in art and specifically pointed toward making a living by way of their craft.

Neither one is necessarily wrong, but there’s a clear point we need to start off with.

You must love your craft completely separate from whether money is involved or not.

That is not to say that wanting money is wrong, and it is not to say that divorcing your financial interests from your creative interest is altogether right.

The truth of the matter is that we need money to live. And it is a logical follow-through that making the money you need to live off of an activity that you love is a good thing. It is very gratifying to do work that you love and feel good about!

But the best work happens from a place of love and conviction, not from a place of simple transaction.

The definition of success for an artist is a topic that I wrote at some length about a while back. You can grab the article right here if you’re interested. You’ll notice that I spent comparatively very little time on the subject of money versus definitions of things like goals, values, medium, message.

Again, this is not to denigrate the pursuit of financial solvency or to assert that money is evil!

The presence of your heart and conviction make drastic changes to the power of a message. Whether you care about something or not is what makes or breaks a creative pursuit.

The people who make good livings creating art deserve the money they get. But they in many cases did not arrive at the place of making money as the ultimate and final goal. They chose to create, and create, and continue to create, and money happened somewhere along the way as a consequence of their pursuit of a craft.

Money is an Exhausting Metric for Artists.

Another problem with artists and money is that the value an artists places on what they make may not match what the world wants to pay for the art. This can get to be a real problem over long periods of time.

It’s easy to get a lot of people to like art pieces. It can be difficult to make them pay money for art pieces. It’s guaranteed to be difficult to get poor people of any kind to part with money for anything at all. Don’t even get me started on pricing attitudes in a race-to-the-bottom market.

The more attempts you fail at selling your art, the less you’ll love your craft. This isn’t that big of a problem if your art isn’t your source of income.

It can become a massive problem if your art is your source of income and you fail at making it work. This can out and out kill your creative passion forever.

In any circumstance if you cannot confidently rely on your art to produce money, it’s better to let it grow quietly while you fund your life with something else that pays your bills and you don’t hate it.

(Sean McCabe wrote a good article about this subject a few years back.)

Between Love and Money, Choose Love.

Love cannot pay bills. This is a known fact.

But people can’t live without love. They can’t live without giving it, and they can’t live without receiving it.

The same applies in our creative pursuits. If there’s not at least some love in it, there will be no gratification for you, and you certainly won’t go far enough to find financial success.

Making money is not bad, and keeping the craft pure isn’t bad either. But if you don’t love the craft just on it’s own, it’s just flat not going to work out. Measure yourself using something else you love deeply and think absolutely nothing about getting money out of and you’ll understand.

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