Tuesday, February 21, 2012

An Answer to Jeremy

In a recent post on his blog, (http://jeremyellul.blogspot.com/) friend and fellow artist Jeremy Ellul posed a couple of questions that I would like to answer. In a nut shell, in his post Living off Art - Daily Bread, he asks....1. if it is wise to abandon one's profession to become a full time artist, and 2. 'Would living off art affect the work i.e. creativity?'

So let's start with question 1. It all depends on how badly you want to become a full time artist. Any commitment to the profession depends only on what the artist is ready to give to it, nothing else. I for one, even though I studied art most of my life, my 'profession' was Interior Design. Studied and worked as an interior designer for nearly 15 years, having my own practice etc. But then, my love and passion towards my art took over and I took the plunge. The experience is similar to bungee jumping without the rope. Most artists shy away from the the jump for many reasons which are not necessarily related to the quality of their work. Family commitments, not being able to run a studio, lack of entrepreneurship skills, don't know from where to start, are only a few of an endless list why artists are afraid of the 'jump'. It is all about choices and personal commitments. Being a full-time artist, especially during the first few years brings with it a certain level of uncertainty that not all are ready to go through. But if you know the profession, or if you're ready to learn fast, it is doable. Artists have to remember one thing, the skills you need to be an architect or a doctor are not the same as those you need to run an architectural studio or a clinic. And it's the same thing with being an artist and running your own studio, being a good artist is not enough. 

And this leads me to question 2. 'Would living off art affect the work i.e. creativity?' I think all of us agree that to do a good job, an artist, among other things, needs to be creative. So we can easily ask the question in another way, would an artist living off art do a good job? Ask the same question to any other profession, would an architect living off architecture do a good job? or would an engineer living off engineering do a good job? Doing a good job and living off something are not necessarily related. Again, it only depends on the artist or the architect or the engineer or the electrician etc. Yet, in architecture, design, engineering, medicine, etc., the best work is nearly always done by the professionals and very rarely by an outsider. So is art, the best work is nearly always done by professional artists. Take all the great work in history as an example. Like most other things, (and maybe more) art requires time. The more time you can dedicate to it, the better your work. And another thing, in art, unlike many other professions, there is no room for mediocrity. Anyone dealing with international galleries knows what I'm saying. 

But let me ask another question, does doing what you want because you don't depend on it makes you a good artist? Would you be able to produce good art because you are not dependent on it? Again, these issues are not necessarily related. 

To be able to make a living off of your art, yes you need to be good at what you do but being a good artist  is not enough. And this is where most artists fail. To be able to make a living off your art, you either need a good manager (which are very hard to find) or you need managerial skills. There is no escaping this.

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