Embracing Artistic Freedom
The Benefits of Part-Time Artistry
At the start of 2022 I became a full-time artist. Web3 and NFTs made that possible. It was a wild ride. However, sometime in 2023 I stopped being a full-time artist. It wasn’t a big decision. It just kind of happened.
Here’s why I think it’s not bad (and probably good) that artists aren’t full-time artists.
If you’re a full-time artist, you need to make art to put bread on the table. And if you need to make ends meet this month, you may drop the price of your art to make that happen. Maybe you sell a $10,000 piece for $2,000. Maybe you sell several pieces worth $1,000 for $100. Once you take this route, it’s difficult to go back. You devalue your art when you do this. Or you pressurise yourself to create at the same high level and sell for the same low level.
Maybe you don’t drop your prices.
Maybe you start creating art that you think is worth less—for two reasons. One, it’s easier and quicker to create. And two, you think the lower price point will attract more collectors. You wouldn’t need to wait too long for pieces to sell. You’d be right about point one. But maybe not point two. What creating pieces that are worth less does is paint you as an artist that creates pieces that are worth less. You may not be happy with these pieces. You may resent them, or creating in general. You may even enter a different market—a market that may be in a race to the bottom. You may end up creating your art just for money. It may become all about efficiency rather than creativity. You may even end up creating because you fear not being able to pay your bills.
Artists who have part-time jobs, or even full-time jobs, can focus on concepts and ideas without needing to rush. They can explore and experiment. They don’t need to stick to what’s worked in the past. They can take the time to produce the work they want to create. They don’t have the pressure of needing to make money from their art. Worrying about making ends meet is removed. While they’re not actively creating their art—while they’re working on other things—their subconscious is tinkering away. A struggling full-time artist may not allow themselves any kind of free-time for their minds to wander and tinker. Part-time artists can list their work at the price it deserves, and wait until the right collector buys it. They don’t need the sale. They’re not desperate.
We still call part-time artists “artists” because this is the thing that makes them come alive. Being a designer, art-director, illustrator, barista, barman, business-owner, doesn’t make someone any less of an artist. In fact, as a successful full-time artist, may do any of the aforementioned things as part of the creative process.
If you identity as an artist, even if you’re not a full-time artist, call yourself an artist. And if you need to take on other kinds of work—for your mental health, for your art, for your family—do it. I don’t think the world judges you as much as you judge yourself.
I left the cycle of creating art to make money and it feels great. I still consider myself an artist. It’s something I was born to be. I hope this post helps you, or someone you know.