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  1. #1
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    How many people actually make it as artists?

    What I'm asking, I guess, is... how many people are actually able to make a decent living off of art? It seems like artists are either getting commissions by the bucketload or struggling to get just a few. I would love to be an artist. I could never be a whole person without art. But I just don't know if it would be realistic for me to try and build a career off of it, because if I were to be perfectly honest with myself, I don't know if I have the capability or the talent to even try without fooling myself. When did you guys start getting commissions? I heard that one seventeen year old here is already working. Are you guys able to support yourselves doing what you do?
    I'm sorry if this is a shitty thread (I really don't want to be that person who wastes everyone's time with a crap thread)... but I'm actually very worried and I trust that you guys are the best people to ask. And I'm sick of floundering back and forth between careers because I don't know if it's cowardly to think that I couldn't or stupid to think that I could. Please humor me this one time and I promise I'll never post such a sucky thread again.
    eat-drink-fuck-draw-sleep. repeat.
    Every critique helps me improve! Have a look at my sketchbook, it won't take long.

    It is well with me only when I have a chisel in my hand.
    -Michelangelo


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  4. #2
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    Can you be more specific? I think people might be able to answer your question if ask, say, how many people make it to a professional level after (four?) years of schooling (and how many drop-out or fail to find work)? Or how many people fail to make it to a professional level and give up after serious amounts of study?

    And self-doubt is something that plagues most artists. It sounds like you have a bad case of it.

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    I don't think there's any way to satisfactorily answer your questions. Making a living as an artist is hard. Most people who study art end up earning a living doing something else. On the other hand, it's obviously possible to earn a living creating art. I realize this is deeply discomforting, but the only way to find out if you, personally, can make it is to try. The most reassuring thing I can say is that if you work very hard, and are willing to make creative concessions to the needs of the market, finding employment is a fairly safe bet.

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    I did a book cover when I was 16 or 17. Afterwards, the author asked me to let him know if I ever had "any openings in your studio for writers," because I seemed like I was a "true professional". That was a bizarre experience.

    No one cares how young or old you are if they like your work. There's no time limit on becoming an artist. If you feel you need to improve to get clients, then do so. Don't expect the feeling of "need to improve" to go away once you have clients or a company job, though. I think it just gets worse, haha.

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  8. #5
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    Every single one who never gives up.

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  10. #6
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    I make my living from the sale of my work and a little bit of teaching, I teach a one week workshop three times a year on average. I make enough that I bought my house and I pay my partner to help me run the business and I have been working professionally now for twenty years; at first it was games art with some gallery sales on the side, now it is gallery paintings with a couple of game projects a year on the side.

    The biggest thing I see with people now is they rely on tech to be good for them, they can't draw or paint in any professional way without it and then they wonder why they can't get work. Hell, most of them can't even price their work or know how to price it.

    There is a ton of work out there especially in house for skilled people but you have to have the skills and most are too lazy to do it right. So they flounder from one mediocre project to the next and never improe their skills. They think its all about connections and B.S.ing your way to a job when it is really about the portfolio, period.
    Last edited by dpaint; May 29th, 2011 at 10:08 AM.

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  12. #7
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    How many people actually make their living as musicians?
    How many people actually make their living as actors?
    How many people actually make their living as writers?
    How many people actually make their living as dancers?

    Answer: more than you think.

    Any creative field is like a pyramid. There are a very few people at the top and a huge amount of people at the bottom. You know about the people at the top because everybody knows about them (movie stars, best selling authors, etc), and you know about the people at the bottom because everybody knows them (wannabes or never-weres, "actors" who are really waiters, etc), but there's a lot of room in the middle.

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  14. #8
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    You know I've often felt the same as the OP. I studied illustration but my course was hampered by personal and financial issues that have since been worked out, but I've been left feeling like I've missed out on a good opportunity. Then I remember that we are always learning and I just need to keep on plugging away at it and hopefully something will happen, but if it doesn't at least I'll know I tried...anyway life it too short to worry so much, somedays I think I would make a better writer than an artist or even a musician I might even try my hand at those too.

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  16. #9
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    Who cares how many people make it? What do they have to do with you? "Making it" is dependent upon you, not them.
    The Sketchbook of Naj and Stu!:
    SKETCHBOOK

    And of course go check out the SB of DefiledVisions

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  18. #10
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    Thanks for replying, everyone. I just had this... breakdown I guess last night after a couple years of indecision and I was feeling sort of paranoid that I'd end up living in a cardboard box if I tried to make a living as an artist. But the one consistent thing in everyone's answer is that hard work is key, and I can sure as hell do that. I've still got two more years until college, so at least I've got that time to improve. I'm going to go for it, and I'm going to work so hard my eyes will fall out.
    eat-drink-fuck-draw-sleep. repeat.
    Every critique helps me improve! Have a look at my sketchbook, it won't take long.

    It is well with me only when I have a chisel in my hand.
    -Michelangelo

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    Believe in yourself then you can "make it".

  20. #12
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    Many will enter, few will win...
    Make a sketchbook happy, feed it a tip to improve!

    http://conceptart.org/forums/showthread.php?t=85628

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  22. #13
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    hahahahaha thanks made my day
    eat-drink-fuck-draw-sleep. repeat.
    Every critique helps me improve! Have a look at my sketchbook, it won't take long.

    It is well with me only when I have a chisel in my hand.
    -Michelangelo

  23. #14
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    "Art" is a big ol' tent. One of my teachers in art school said she made crazy money for a while working for a textiles firm. They made really, really expensive tapestry-type fabric and her job was to watch cloth come off the loom, spot any imperfections and fix them with a hand dye kit as the fabric rolled.

    Actually, that story always struck me as wildly improbable, but she was a highly respected art teacher and not a drooling moron, so what do I know? Point is, there are lots of different jobs that require artistic ability.

    Some have disappeared during my career (paste-up artist) and others have appeared out of nowhere (3D modeling). On the other hand, you might be better off doing something else for money and keeping your art separate and apart from the icky demands of commerce and mortgage payments.

    You may well end up some place you aren't even imagining right now.
    I was once on the receiving end of a critique so savagely nasty, I marched straight out of class to the office and changed my major (sketchbook).

  24. #15
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    How many have made it?

    2.

    God, & Frank Frazetta...BECAUSE FRAZETTA IS GOD!
    "Everything must serve the idea. The means used to convey the idea should be the simplest and clear. Just what is required. No extra images. To me this is a universal principle of art. Saying as much as possible with a minimum of means."
    -John Huston, Director

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  26. #16
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    You want it? take it
    -We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.

    -Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon 'em.

    My SKETCHbook
    http://jeeso.deviantart.com/

  27. #17
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    I'm going to.
    eat-drink-fuck-draw-sleep. repeat.
    Every critique helps me improve! Have a look at my sketchbook, it won't take long.

    It is well with me only when I have a chisel in my hand.
    -Michelangelo

  28. #18
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    It also helps if you expand your definition of "artist" (and no, I don't mean to the point where we call everyone an artist becaus it makes them feel good). I'm talking about visual artists with solid professional careers. When you consider that virtually everything manufactured, marketed and sold to us starts by being designed and visualized by "artists" it opens thing up considerably.

    This is something I wrote up awhile back, actually for the parents of young students who wanted to become artists: Visual Arts Careers
    What would Caravaggio do?
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  30. #19
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    Head on over to Deviantart and I'm sure you could start make money right now doing commissions if you wanted to. You just gotta know what sells.

    http://browse.deviantart.com/manga/?...et=72#/d2wnbx8
    Sketchbook: There and Back again Updated- 7/04/12

  31. #20
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    ^

    Arrrghhhhhh, Why did I click the link!!!????

    *sobs*
    "A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."
    Lao-tzu, Chinese philosopher (604 BC - 531 BC)

    My SketchBook.

  32. #21
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    What did I just look at?!

  33. #22
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    Quote Originally Posted by MatthewHD View Post
    Head on over to Deviantart and I'm sure you could start make money right now doing commissions if you wanted to. You just gotta know what sells.

    http://browse.deviantart.com/manga/?...et=72#/d2wnbx8
    Wow.. that's just BEYOND the spectrum of crap itself...

  34. #23
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    You suceed as an artist because you create art.

    Its those people with money who should care whether you get an income.

    The artist should only care about his work and his inspiration. His experience of life, as artists are the most sensitive of people and can feel the essence of life.

    So to answer your question, if money is your thing then make sure to focus on creations that sell.

    But to be honest not caring about money is much better because you are then the true artist rather than the practitioner due to expressing yourself rather than expressing your client.

  35. #24
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    It has nothing to do with innate talent. It's like any other skilled career. You do the study, you do the work, you do the research, you do the marketing, and if you keep at it and don't flake out, you can probably make a living at it. The key words here are "YOU" and "DO". An art career doesn't happen to you, you have to make it happen.

    Also, as was mentioned, visual art is a really broad field, there's room for many skill levels and approaches. That's where "research" comes in. Start looking around you at all the things that use visual art in some way, and you'll discover markets you never even knew existed, some of them fairly beginner-friendly. And look around for small or local opportunities - I was doing itty-bitty jobs for local businesses in my town from maybe age 14 through college. It got me a bit of early experience working for people, which never hurts. I also exhibited in some small local group shows and art fairs between the ages of 16 - 19 and got the thrill of actually selling a few things (ooh, look Ma! I sold some art!) Which would be something to try if you want to attempt the fine art route... (Personally I ended up enjoying the commercial jobs more, so I went that way instead.)

    The artist should only care about his work and his inspiration. His experience of life, as artists are the most sensitive of people and can feel the essence of life.
    BALDERDASH. Excuse me, but WHAT is wrong with wanting to actually make a living doing what you love!? I see this "true artists shouldn't care about filthy lucre" twaddle crop up all the time, and it makes me want to bitch-slap people... Do people ever say "true athletes should play for free because they love to play" or "true actors should do movies for free because they love acting"...? Why the hell should it be different for artists? Is someone giving me a giant trust fund so I can eat and pay the rent while I make all this free art? I don't think so. Until I get free money, I'm going to insist on being paid for my work, thank you very much.

    /Rant
    Last edited by QueenGwenevere; May 30th, 2011 at 11:11 AM. Reason: Noticed post above, ranting ensued...

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  37. #25
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    I'm glad you did that QG because I agree and mine wasn't as warm and fuzzy of a response.

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  39. #26
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    Actually, I should have just linked Harlan Ellison again:

    http://conceptart.org/forums/showthread.php?t=111628

    Says it all, really... Somebody should sticky that sucker.

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  41. #27
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rist View Post
    Its those people with money who should care whether you get an income.
    Bullshit. The person who cares the most about what you do is YOU. You can't hand off the responsibility for yourself and your best interests to other people. If you're not engaged in your own welfare then you will be taken advantage of.

    It's just as irresponsible to advise artists to only look at their self-expression as it is to advise girls to only look to cooking and looking pretty because a man will then marry them and take care of them forever. It's not going to happen, or if it does it's not going to happen the way you imagined it. Take responsibility. Don't pass it on. Be a fucking adult because nobody else is going to be one for you.
    *** Sketchbook * Landscapes * Portfolio * Store***

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  43. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rist View Post
    You suceed as an artist because you create art.

    Its those people with money who should care whether you get an income.

    The artist should only care about his work and his inspiration. His experience of life, as artists are the most sensitive of people and can feel the essence of life.

    So to answer your question, if money is your thing then make sure to focus on creations that sell.

    But to be honest not caring about money is much better because you are then the true artist rather than the practitioner due to expressing yourself rather than expressing your client.
    I'd love to make art for the rest of my life. The question is whether or not I need to do something else to keep from starving (which would inhibit me from making art).
    eat-drink-fuck-draw-sleep. repeat.
    Every critique helps me improve! Have a look at my sketchbook, it won't take long.

    It is well with me only when I have a chisel in my hand.
    -Michelangelo

  44. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by SDNolan View Post
    I'd love to make art for the rest of my life. The question is whether or not I need to do something else to keep from starving (which would inhibit me from making art).
    The way you do it is you set up your life in such a way that you can achieve your goal and then work to make it happen. Work and make a living with something that allows you to paint and draw like a security guard, receptionist etc. Don't get married and start a family or saddle yourself with too much debt before you have a successful career going. Why? Because it makes it nearly impossible to succeed that way. Knuckle down and put in the hours to get good enough to get work and then you can relax a little and enjoy life more so you don't have to do art 24/7 unless you want to.

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  46. #30
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    Pray to Frazetta, he will show you the way!

    *rapture not included, no was money exchanged during the course of your belief, legal lender FDIC
    "Everything must serve the idea. The means used to convey the idea should be the simplest and clear. Just what is required. No extra images. To me this is a universal principle of art. Saying as much as possible with a minimum of means."
    -John Huston, Director

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