July 2008: How to keep being an Artist without losing your soul…or your shirt.

I’ve been hearing from so many artists who say they wish they could keep painting (or sculpting or crafting) but this economy is killing their business. We’ve seen some members have to close their accounts, vowing to return when times get better. There’s no question that things are tough when what you create is a luxury, not a necessity. It doesn’t just hurt your pocketbook. It also kills your soul just a little. And then a little more.

I believe there will always be a desire for beautiful things, for art and handmade items, even when times are bad. Perhaps, especially when times are bad. We want to offer some strategies for keeping your dream alive while also keeping a roof over your head. Some may seem silly. Some may be things you’re already doing. And if you have other ideas, we’d love to hear from you.

  • Work smaller. This may be a no-brainer. But if you haven’t tried it yet, it’s worth doing. Smaller art often takes less time to create. Less materials go into it, generally. Smaller art is cheaper to ship. And you might be able to offer this work at a much lower price point. ATC’s (Artist Trading Cards) and OSWOA’s (original small works of art, a 4 x 6 format) are quite popular with both artists and buyers right now. This could be a great way for a new collector to jump in and get an original from you now, which could lead to a larger purchase in the future.
  • Offer reproductions. Even if you don’t have the leisure time to crank out new work the way you used to, you can still make a fair living selling quality reproductions of your work. Imagekind does fantastic museum-quality prints at reasonable prices. You can order your own to resell at your leisure or have customers order directly through their website. It’s a great way to keep your work out there in circulation, and again, a print purchase now could lead to the purchase of an original at a later date.
  • Make your art into something useful. Along the lines of making reproductions available, why not also make your work available as a t-shirt via Spreadshirt? Or as a mug through sites like cafe press and zazzle? And again, this is a way to keep your previous work earning you some extra income even if you’re not able to create new work right now.
  • Try a less expensive media Now, we’re not talking about downgrading to canvas board and student-grade paint. But if you work in metal, perhaps you might want to try a less-expensive alloy and use it in a creative way so it doesn’t feel like a compromise. Or maybe move to a series of drawings on gessoed paper instead of your large oils on gallery-wrapped canvas. Or take up photography. Try working with found/recycled materials. Anything to keep you creating.

What are your strategies for coping with this economy without sacrificing your art–and yourself–in the process?

Amie Gillingham
1 July 2008
Get out of the vacuum and express yourself!

In this issue:

Amie Gillingham How to keep being an Artist without losing your soul…or your shirt.
Melissa Morton EBSQ Live: July 2008: EBSQ Portfolio Best Practices
Harlan Live Studio: Needle Felting Basics: Sheep Pincushion
Amie Gillingham Featured Artist: Fabio Napoleoni
Amie Gillingham Featured Artist: Stephen Pitts