Many misconceptions about artists come from those who haven’t had the opportunity to see an art business first hand. Artist’s aren’t lazy, we actually do everything in our power to bury those annoying starving artist stereotypes. The worst part? Small talk with strangers always ends with pity stares as soon as, “I’m an artist” is muttered. The fuck? I didn’t crawl out of quarantine for this bullshit.
In some cases the assumptions about us are flattering like thinking we are constantly full of ideas and overflowing with creative energy. That would be fucking amazing but it’s hella not true. Let’s dissect these assumptions and be real behind the scenes of what a full time career as an artist looks like.
“ART IS JUST A HOBBY, NOT A CAREER”
Those who say art isn’t a career may be correct, it's more than that. It’s more than putting in 40 hours a week. It’s taking your passion and making it your livelihood. It’s spending almost every waking hour of the day either designing products, thinking of new ideas, collaborating on projects, attending meetings, and then marketing those products. Creating art isn’t simply our job, it's our way of life.
Not only do people take their artistic passions and make a business out of it, large companies hire artistic minds all the time. Almost every successful business has a creative design department or position targeted towards utilizing art work to promote their product or service. As an artist working for yourself is not your only option. Let the statistics speak for us and show how important art is too many businesses.
“ARTISTS DON’T WORK AS HARD AS OTHER PEOPLE AND HAVE A LOT OF FREE TIME”
Most small business owners work long hours—us included and we don’t clock out of our job’s, we’re lucky to even take breaks. More often than not, full time artists are required to manage all accounting, marketing, web design, production, writing, hiring, customer service, and even photography before actually creating art.
Do we love our jobs? Hell yes. Is it easy and always fun? Hell no! Making kickass designs is only the surface level of what happens when working as an artist. We work just as hard, if not harder than people do at their 9-5 jobs. We don’t get to sit around with our thumbs up our asses and draw, but I’m sure that would be fun too.
“ARTISTS ONLY WORK WHEN THEY FEEL INSPIRED”
If artist’s only worked when inspired, we’d starve to death. We would get nothing done and constantly stare at a mental roadblock like watching paint dry prohibiting us from crossing into a stream of fantastic ideas. Perhaps we would even slowly become one with our sofas and start identifying as a couch potato or the coach itself.
Inspiration usually strikes while working, forcing yourself into a creative mindset is where inspiration flows with abundance. This routine of breaking down mental barriers promotes the motivation artists need to keep creating even when inspiration is lacking. Being a full time artist can be staining on your mental health, it takes a lot of discipline, and of course weed helps too.
“ARTISTS USE CHEAP MATERIALS, THEN DRIVE UP THE PRICE OF THEIR WORK”
Many people believe that making art is cheap and should be cheap to buy. One of the common myths about artists is that we charge way higher than the wholesale value or retail price for our products. This is in fact a big misconception especially for artists that are just starting out that end up making barely min wage from their work.
I can’t speak for every artist out there, but let me tell you, our shit ain’t cheap. 60% of our profits cover printing and material costs, plus the cost of eco-friendly print on demand which is MUCH more expensive then wastefully buying apparel in bulk. Not to mention artists like to eat and pay our rent on time, so we have to budget that in too. The same people who say you can’t make a living as an artist are the same people who undervalue our work and don’t want to pay us fairly.
“ARTISTS DON’T DEAL WITH THE BUSINESS SIDE OF THINGS”
As artists, we pursue this career because we love creating art, but sadly only a small percentage of our time and energy goes to this part of our job. We spend the majority of our time managing finances, promoting products, working with clients, and handling customer service. Plus most small businesses are run solo putting all these vital to-do’s on one person's shoulders.
An art-based business is still a business, and comes with all the responsibilities of one. Just because we love making art doesn't mean that's all we do. Our time and efforts are stretched to meet all of the demands of our brand.
WHAT CAN WE DO NOW?
So, how do we combat these art myth misconceptions? First we can show people our process to give them a better understanding of the efforts we put into running a successful business. We can be more transparent with backend costs of production involving price of materials and vendors. It doesn’t have to be a big secret.
You’ll never make everyone happy, but this could be a good start to getting some fucking respect. Next time someone dismisses your art career, send them this article. I’ll set them straight and help you get some well deserved reverence.
If you’re an artist, what misconceptions bother you the most? If you’re not an artist, what misconceptions pop up about your career piss you off? If you’re just a casual reader, what misconceptions did you believe before you read this article? We would love to open up a dialog about all of the above.