Making a living as an artist

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Making a living as an artist

From Virgil Elliott

Published before 2005


Mark,

I don't make my living solely from painting, and that's why I didn't answer before. I'm a diversified individual, good at many things for which people are willing to pay me well, one of which is painting. I've had periods of years where I did very well selling paintings, when the economy was good, but I also made money in other fields, and taught art. When the economy suffers, the art market suffers more, and I've found it prudent to keep my options open in other fields, for that reason and others. I like the autonomy that allows me to dismiss difficult portrait clients, turn down commissions for things I don't care to paint, and to paint what I want without regard for what might sell. If I have five good ideas for paintings in a year, five good paintings is all I want to paint in that year, because if I'm compelled by financial need to paint more than that, at least some of the pictures I paint will not be my best work. My best work comes when I start with good ideas. If I start with a so-so idea, the result might end up being okay, but will probably not turn out to be my best. I've been through that, and I don't want to any more. And if somebody thinks my prices are too high, I don't need to lower them just to make a sale or two, or kiss anybody's butt in any way to sell paintings. I'm happy to keep the paintings if the right buyer hasn't happened along yet.

I think if one is motivated by a desire to make money from selling art, the making money part can override the concern for utmost quality, and that is a position I prefer to avoid. In the Quality versus quantity quandary, Quality is of greater importance to me than quantity.

Virgil Elliott