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Friday, January 30, 2015

The Burning Question: Art for Hire vs Art For Fun

In my newsletter this week, I shared some of my most recent blog posts and posed a challenge to my readers to share some of their "Burning  Questions" around art, the artistic life, and a creative business in general. (You can join in too, if you'd like to see one of your questions answered read on here and send me a message!  I'm going to do a giveaway for one of the readers during my next newsletter!!).   I have to say, I'm loving the response so far and am super duper excited to continue on the series started last week with another question from one of my readers.  
12x16 on hardbord  Black and White Abstract Study

Art for Hire vs. Art for Fun 

....and how do they differ?

Here's today's question--and it's a 'meaty' let's get started!

Hi Jodi!  I met you at the CREATE Mixed-Media Art Retreat in 2013, and I have a piece of your artwork hanging happily in my art room!  My burning question has to do with balancing artwork created for business versus artwork created for personal pleasure.  Once you become a professional artist, do you still have opportunities to create art simply for personal pleasure, or does it pretty much always have to serve some purpose--for a show, as a demonstration, as a commission, etc.?  And how is your process affected?  Is your process different when you are creating a piece for a specific purpose, versus just messing around, having a fun, trying out a technique, etc.?

charcoal sketch created for an upcoming class  "Extreme Portraits" at Random Arts  February 28, March 1st, 

This is a great question because the root of the question is a huge struggle for many artists, especially those that have decided to work at their passion full or part time as a career choice.    What is at the root of this question?  I believe it is this:

Am I less of an artist or less artistically driven once I create for the purpose of making a living or (gasp....for the purpose of being very comfortable in my living as a full time/part time artist)?  Do I FEEL different because now there is an intention  of creating for the exchange of  money versus painting/creating just because?
more sketches for an upcoming class  "Extreme Portraits" at Random Arts  February 28, March 1st,

This is a very real struggle because for some reason,  many people do not view what artists do as worthy of making a good (great..decent..more than decent) living without loosing their soul purpose of creating. It's as if the thought of creating for a purpose is any less of value than just simply creating without definitive reason to make something.  Artist struggle with the exchange of money for what they do when they do not value what they create as worthy of the exchange.They also struggle with that exchange, when they are not creating art for sale for the purpose of making a living (ie doing it as a hobby vs doing it to pay your mortgage!).

   When you take what you once did as a hobby and turn it into a business, there is a very real chance that you will create most things in the hope that there will be an exchange of money so you can keep on doing what do.  There's a lot pressure around that fork in the road. Some of it is cultural, but most of the pressure comes intrinsically because if the exchange of money doesn't happen and you stress out about it, it can effect how you feel about yourself as an artist (your self worth).  
36 x 36  Work in progress

The stress of HAVING to make a living from your art, can take the fun of creating out of the whole mix, if you are not doing it for the right reason.  

Think about that statement for a minute.  

 Let's say you make the best chocolate chip cookies on the block and are the hit of every bake sale your kids school have, to the point people start asking you to make the cookies for Christmas or xyz holiday.
This is, for a little bit of extra money and for the joy of doing so,  you happily agree....and then it starts to snowball and you get orders not just for Christmas but for Valentine's Day, too. 

 You start to think, maybe I could do this and make more than just a little extra money, maybe this could be a part time job, after all I love to make cookies! You go through the process of buying better equipment to make you cookie making work  more efficient.  You perfect the recipe...go through the steps to make this whole venture  official and get a business going and an industrial kitchen to operate in. Boom YOU are in the cookie business.    Now that's all well and good, if YOU love making cookies, dream about making them...and can't stop thinking of all the different things you can do with your new business now that has taken other words, you truly want to do this day in and day out for the rest of your life because you are passionate about it.  Making cookies gets you excited to get out of bed in the morning!

If the point of you making cookies was just to have fun and create a batch here and there for friends, family and the occasional bake sale...then no..turning your hobby into a business is not going to make you happy and it's going to effect how you feel about what you do in a million ways.  

The stress of doing something full time that never was meant to be a business will effect you and your process significantly.

If however, you chose to go into the art business full time because you can't think of anything more in this world you'd like to do, day in and day out for the rest of your life...then doing things for a purpose should bring JOY to you....

I get excited and jump for joy every time I get a commission order!   

I LOVE going to the post office because it means I sold something and it's going out into the world.

I love going to the studio and creating work for a gallery--it means I'm in a GALLERY! whooohoo!

I am thrilled when I am working on a class and already know I have people signed up waiting for that special day when I am teaching it.

When I check my email and see I have an order I say a prayer of gratitude, someone wants my work!!! Another reason to do a cartwheel!!

...I hear from a customer or a student that received my work or took my class and tell me how it's impacted their life/home/artistic journey...I  feel like it's another sign I'm on the right path.

Here's the thing guys. Working for yourself as an artist is no different then working for yourself in any small business (in the beginning and for most small businesses that is).    Is that shocking?

Here's the truth about being an artist full time:

*You are it.  You are the only one that can do YOUR art. That's a lot of pressure.

*It's a lot of hours.  Non stop hours to be sure.

*You have to not only create art, you need to sell your art. Market it.  Make a name for yourself in countless ways.

*The business comes in waves.   There will be times of plenty and times of pretty much crickets.  

*There is nothing greater than seeing a blank canvas develop into something amazing.

*There is nothing more frustrating then staring at a blank canvas and hoping your muse shows up!

*It's hard to balance studio time vs. business and marketing time.

*It's hard to balance personal time vs. business time...especially if you work from home.

*You have to treat your art business as is if (because it IS) it is a true business. 

*You will have deadlines to meet.  What business doesn't???

*You are held accountable for your actions, work and commitments.  Any time you have customers, or others that are counting on you for something (product or service), you are held accountable...and if you don't have those yet, you are still accountable to yourself and your dreams/goals/aspirations.

*Learning what to say yes to and what to say no to is a struggle. This perhaps is one of the biggest things that causes frustration to many artists (or really any business person) because if you are doing something that is not inline with your ultimate goal, you can find yourself wasting a lot of time and energy on the wrong projects and not enough time on the right ones.

*Your 'play' time is your work time. You are are always trying out new things (or should be), honing your skills and practicing.   

*Pricing your work to match the market, the value of it,  and your 'credentials' plays a crucial role in your success.  Understanding how to price your work plays a huge role in your success.

*You need goals and even a loose business plan in your creative business otherwise you will be 'floating' on the waves of your success and your not so successful accomplishments. 

*If you love what you do and are passionate about it,  you will feel so much empowerment by doing what you do for a living.   IF it was truly meant to be a full time/part time career choice.

*There will be days that you just don't want to do anything and need a break. That doesn't mean that you are less of an artist if you want to walk away for awhile.  It means you are tired. It means you need to refill your well. It means you are no different than any one on this earth, artist or otherwise.

30x30  Waiting For You

This topic brings up so many things that I could expand on further, but I hope I at least addressed the hot buttons for you.       The main thing I want you to walk away with is this:

Before you jump in and decide to turn your hobby into a profession,  be sure that is what you really want to do.   Understand WHY you want to do it.  If the answer is, I can't imagine myself doing anything else for the rest of my life...then make it be so!!  But, also understand--it is a business and you must treat it as a business just as if you were opening up a cookie store, a computer programming consulting business, real estate office, interior design business,  restaurant or retail shop (just to name a few).  You need to do it right and not feel bad AT ALL for asking for compensation for what you do.  You also need to take care of yourself and fill that well when it runs dry..because in the end,  even if you are in it to win can't go on forever without taking a break and resting, relaxing and enjoying life, too....just like anyone :)

Do YOU have a Burning Question that you'd like to see addressed or discussed?   Check out my newsletter HERE for instructions  (or reply to on this post in a comment!).

Until we meet again,



More abstract art in the shop:

20 x 24 
Letting Go and Not Looking Back

Special:  Use code  15foryou in my etsy shop at check out and save 15.00 off any purchase of 85.00 or more.  Good now through 2/1/15.


Amy Birch said...

What a great post. Thank you.:)

Andria said...

Awesome, Jodi! Thank you for answering my question so comprehensively.

It's funny...I almost have the opposite sense of what you talk about at the beginning: It's not that I would ever think that a professional artist's work is not worthy of compensation. I worry, as a "hobbyist," that everyone must wonder, "Why on earth are you bothering with all this when you aren't making any money from it?" Not that those opinions matter, or could stop me from creating, but my mind "goes there" as I am doing my thing.

I think your cookie comparison is very apt, and I appreciate your list of all the considerations a person should take into account if considering art as a profession/business.