So here’s the question….
How does an artist make a living? I have sold many paintings, drawings, works of art over the years… I have exhibited in many galleries, both group exhibitions and solo, but I have never made what you would call a ‘living’ from my art. I have had fairly creative jobs but nothing that has trained me up for a proper career.

I have just graduated with a Masters Degree in Fine Art… years of work… for what? To be taken more seriously as an artist? For self fulfilment? Just for the sheer pleasure of learning? Self indulgent? Certainly not to kick start an art career!

I am in a very privileged position not to have to work right now and have just ditched a job as a personal carer looking after the elderly and terminally ill as I found it very difficult and couldn’t ‘leave the job at the door’ when I came home. I don’t want to do anything – but make art. I am totally disillusioned by it all. Doesn’t everyone have the right to job satisfaction?

With encouragement from my profs at the University where I did my MA, I am currently working on a PhD proposal and considering going down the academic route – but EVEN THAT carries absolutely no guarantee that I will get a job or earn a living after completing my PhD. Very different for somebody in the sciences, health or financial fields.

Art? What’s it worth?


  • Cindy Schnackel
    Cindy Schnackelover 2 years ago

    I doubt I could’ve made a living with just my personal art right out of college. I had no idea how to market myself and, even now decades later, self marketing is a chore. So, in college and for a long time after, I worked for employers, painting theater sets, murals, trade show displays, faux finishes for the interior design trade, etc. I was using my skills and education and making a steady paycheck in my chosen field. But my personal art was always something I did in my spare time, and I only showed or sold it occasionally. Nowadays I focus on my personal art and find I can learn how to market it, but the effort to market is tiring. If I had to completely support myself now at my age, I’d have to either put much more effort into self marketing and/or get at least part time work in this field again. The economy here in the US right now is making it tough to make a living at a lot of things, not just art!

    An art degree has benefits but no degree is a guarantee of anything. In the USA, one usually has to have a Masters degree in art to be able to teach art. I am glad I got my Bachelors degree in art, because it opened a lot of doors in getting jobs in arts industries, and the overall college experience was worthwhile. I think one has to look at education as one of the few things you can invest in that can never be lost or taken away from you no matter what. Tuition in the US now is so high now though, I don’t know how anyone can afford it. It was cheap when I went.

  • Thanks for your comment Cindy. Yes, it’s a problem everywhere with today’s worldwide recession.. I am certainly stuck in a hole career-wise and I can only hope there is something good out there for me eventually! :)

    – Katie Grubb

  • Marti   Schmidt
    Marti Schmidtabout 1 month ago

    i fell upon this Journal post quite by accident! and it was so ironic, cause it’s been my question for this entire year!! i have been a "professional " artist for almost 30years, wow, and still have a difficult time keeping the cash flow going…I’ve tried every avenue of marketing, and still even after all this time and nice group of collectors, I still am struggling. I guess my advice or should I say comment,is that I wouldn’t do anything else. Being an Artist is the hard road. I have travel to many countries, meet with artists, and everyone I meet, has the same question, art, what’s it worth?
    more than money can buy! and I say, keep getting on, do the work, fill your heart with the joy and keep you day gig!
    All the best

  • Hi Marti
    Thanks for your comments. Yes, it’s a tough gig! 2 years on and I am still struggling to make money from art – however I do teach privately and sell a bit of my work occasionally, and I have a fantastic studio now – so things are very good in the grand scheme of things!! All artists – from all corners of the world are struggling – as you say – it’s the nature of the beast! Thanks for dropping by and best of luck to you too!! Kt

    – Katie Grubb