I turned down the Guns N’ Roses concert I was listening to. I needed to be precise for the fine detail. I was using the smallest paintbrush I own, but it still seemed too big to get the detail I wanted. I knew I should’ve gotten a bigger canvas, but the deadlines hanging over me forced me to use only what I had. Sure, I could put some of my earlier work into my portfolio, but they don’t show the best of my abilities. My concentration broke, and an accidental mark glared up at me. No erasing, paint doesn’t work that way. I’d have to go over the section again, and undoubtedly I wouldn’t like my restoration. I set down the brush, I needed a break.
People often give me funny looks when I tell them I want to be an artist. Almost certainly, they’re thinking of the stereotypical “Starving Artist”. Being an artist is certainly an unstable job. There are no safety nets, like a union, and making it big is almost always up to fate. And making money? Don’t count on it. According to Xanadu Gallery, 68% of artists from around the world make less than $25,000 annually just from selling art. This may be because 63% of artists who took the survey have no gallery representation (37%), or are in just one gallery (26%). Obviously there’s a direct correlation to how much you make as a full time artist, with how many galleries you’re in. More publicity, more income, right?
Exit Through the gift Shop is a documentary directed by famous street artist, Banksy. It tells the story of an incredibly lucky man named Thierry Guetta. In short, Thierry happens to stumble into the blossoming world of street art, all while filming. Eventually, he comes into contact with Banksy, and tells him he’s making a documentary. False as the statement was, Thierry actually does end up making a film. It is so unwatchable, Banksy decided to try and make one himself. In the meantime, Thierry, with no experience as an artist, makes his own show with semi original works, and manages to get a massive amount of publicity. So much so, buyers begin to purchase his art before the show even opens, for tens of thousands of dollars. Planned to run for only a few days, the show “Life is Beautiful” stays open for three months. By the end, Thierry was a millionaire artist, as if overnight. Since then, he has had several more solo shows, which have all been widely successful. The moral here is that publicity can really help sell your work. It was actually pretty controversial, because Thierry has had no formal art training, it’s almost like he didn’t follow the rules.
My art teacher told me about the art economy, and how unpredictable it is. He told me about one of his friends, a fellow artist. He got lucky, once. His pieces were selling for way higher than they’d ever done, but only because the buyers were almost competing amongst themselves to see who would spend more. Like a show of wealth and power, they bought his work for thousands higher than the asking price. All seemed well, until his galleries started denying him entrance to their shows because his prices started going back to normal. They wouldn’t accept him until he spiked up his prices to the same ridiculous level they were at, which turned off possible buyers. He never sold another piece of art again, and gave up his dream, all because of a random fluke in the economy of art.
Struggle is something every artist faces, undoubtedly. But the weird thing is, being an artist is unlike any other job. It’s about a half and half split of people making art so people will buy it, and people who make art just to share their ideas and views. Art is a language, a language that everyone speaks. Maybe you see “For the Love of God”, the diamond encrusted human skull from Damien Hirst, and you just don’t get why. That’s absolutely fine, but there isn’t a single person on the planet who gets nothing from art. It makes people angry, and it makes people dream.