Artist Erin Sowards, a student enrolled in The MAKING Art Making MONEY Semester, shared that my program has helped her realize that she does not want to run a business selling her art. My response?
“That’s great news! You have just saved yourself a huge amount of time and frustration.”
A student officially graduates only after they have earned back their tuition investment, at a minimum, through the sale of their art during their final “Prototype Project.”
This goal holds students accountable; it tests their offerings, and it confirms their grasp of the principles. The results of a student’s final project can:
• kickstart their fine art enterprises
• test their commitment to sell their art
• or affirm that making art would be better left as a hobby
I asked Erin to share her insights as an artist.
What were your challenges as an artist?
– It was definitely focus, lack of focus.
I was kind of all over the place, trying lots of different mediums, and not really sure what medium that I wanted to focus on.
Comparing myself to others, and thinking I needed to be this side or the other. I was confused about why I made art, and I wanted to turn it into a business because I was unhappy with what I was doing for a living.
So, I thought it was like an escape route, which was not a good idea.
Is your art your hobby or your business?
– So, I talk a lot about approaching your art as a hobby, and we’re approaching your art as a business.
Really, those are the two choices. What happens, though, is you say the word hobby to a lot of artists, they get very deeply offended.
Instead of just looking at the actual definition of the word hobby, which is something that you do for your own pleasure, enrichment, or whatever, your own benefit, basically, with really no aim beyond your own benefit, and so there is nothing wrong with that. That’s a beautiful thing.
More people did that, probably be a better planet to live on.
The other option is to do it for other people’s benefit. That said, even if you are doing it for other people’s benefit, you still, if you’re an artist, you are still your first customer.
You still have to please yourself. You’re gonna sell a piece of art that you’re not proud of, typically.
So, Erin said I came to realize that my relationship to art is more for me personally, thus putting it in a realm of hobby.
I was trying too hard to make it into a business because I was unhappy and unfulfilled in other areas of my life.
I learned that you show up in the class how you show up in life. That is so true.
So, I tell my students the way they’re showing up to my program is just a direct reflection of how they’re showing up to their lives.
So, Erin was paying attention, and she says that was very valuable.
It really did also value what I learned in the courses so far, and I figured out that why I make art in the first place, which was a question that had bothered me for a long time, I fell like I’ve been able to answer some big questions for myself. So, thanks, Erin.
I feel my creativity adds a new value to me as a personal tool. So, that’s made me feel better as well.
I guess I wonder what I should do about the course if I feel this way.
Unsure about earning your living as an artist?
You’re gonna continue to make art anyway, right?
– [Erin] Yes.
– That’s a given. That’s in your DNA. My point is, if you don’t want to run a business, you really should not run a business.
– What part of the program involves is prototype series, which is a reflection of your four part code. So, instead of making it for some outside target market, why not make it for yourself?
– Yeah, I think that’s a good idea. I kept trying to figure it out with my mind, like with my linear brain, you know, and it just wasn’t working. Now that you said that, it makes me feel good. I think I could probably do something for myself using your four-part code. I just didn’t realize that I could do that.
– Of course you can.
– I kept thinking business, business, you know, and it was like a conflict that I couldn’t figure out.
– Well, that’s exactly what you said, it’s a conflict. So, the reason why I make a big distinction between creating art for others for sale verses creating art for yourself as a hobby, is because when you don’t make those clear distinctions, and you don’t have those clear boundaries, you feel all conflicted, and life’s too short to feel all conflicted. If you make art for yourself, and you don’t really care about selling it or being in business, good for you.
– Thank you.
What if you were your customer?
– When I started making art again after not making art for well over a decade, actually, it’s probably longer than that, that I didn’t make any art at all after graduating from art school, the first art I made was definitely for myself. I was using art as my own therapy to deal with really debilitating anxiety. I figured it was a way to quiet my mind. It wasn’t until later that I thought to sell it, and I realized I enjoyed that process. So, it was a couple things, if you change, you can always change your mind, Erin, if you want to, or you can say no, forget it. This is what I want to do, and own it, and be proud of it.
– Well, I will now.
– Yeah, I mean, why shouldn’t you be your best and only customer?
What is your intention as an artist?
– I think art’s really complicated, and I think people are really complicated, and I think people have all different kinds of reasons for why they want to make art and sell art.
I think it is something you have to be clear about what your intention is, because I think art’s about intention.
If you’re not clear, then your art’s not clear.
– Because if your intention is not matching up with your values, and the way you’re really feeling right now, it is hell on earth.
– Definitely, it doesn’t work.
– Especially, as artists, what do we do? We’re so sensitive, so we feel everything.
– Exactly, yeah, I do.
– Yeah, well, most artists do. I mean, that’s how you get to be an artist. You actually have to be a sensitive individual.
You have to be able to feel, and perceive, and process, and express, right? So, we can get really, hmm.
Why do you want to earn a living as an artist?
So, the art establishment tells us that unless we’re a full-time artist, we’re not legitimate artists. But, that’s BS.
– Totally, yup.
– You have an option. You can decide to make this your full-time endeavor, you can make it your part-time endeavor, you can make it your weekend endeavor, you could decide to sell it, you could not decide to sell it. You get to also, you can do what you’re doing, and change your mind at any point. What you said was be clear on your intention.
– Right? Also, the student’s final project can do one of three things. So, my students can kick-start their fine art enterprise, or, in this case, decide, so that’s one option. The other option is, the other result is it tests my students’ commitment to sell their art. They might realize, uh, dang, this is a lot of work. It wasn’t really what, it wasn’t as easy as I thought it was going to be, or, maybe I don’t like it, or, I like it so much, I’m going to quit my job, and go the other way. Then last, it can just be, which is where I think Erin is at, at least right now, is it can affirm that making art would be better left as a hobby, better left for your own pleasure, and your own enrichment. I just think you are the best customer, and I think that’s exactly the place to be.
If you are unsure about earning your living as an artist, should you apply?
– It really helps you clarify why you make art. You get to delve into yourself, understand your intentions. There’s a lot of good business stuff, and the code to join was another thing that really helped me, going through the process. I definitely, I would recommend it to any artist that is serious about turning that into a business, if that’s what they really wanted.
– Right. And, even though you have decided not to turn it into a business, let’s say there’s another artist, would it still benefit them, even if they were gonna turn it into a business, what do you think?
– I think it would benefit anybody, really. I mean, anybody who wants to do any creative enterprise. There’s so much value to understanding yourself, especially if you’re gonna be making art.
– Because art is an expression of you.
– Yeah, definitely.
– Nobody else.
– Yeah, I mean, you’re the one doing it. It is from you.
– You know why you’re doing it. Otherwise, you kind of, you’re lost. I’m saying if you’re lost, this is definitely something that you should do, if you’re serious about it.
– I just want you to own your power, own your creative integrity, and be happy, and be productive. That’s my goal.
– That’s awesome. You’ve actually helped me a lot. So, I’m really grateful.