BUSINESS OR HOBBY?
Yes, I use the term art business – whilst I love what I do, it is my main source of income. I love that my art has taken over from what was my day job, which has now faded into fairly distant memory. People are often surprised by this, perhaps believing the starving artist myth!
I have been asked numerous times how long a painting takes. It depends on the size and complexity, but the short answer is 40 years of painting and drawing so far! Some people ask whether I can make a living by painting, stopping short of asking how much do artists earn.
Painting is only a small part of the equation for an artist – we also need to develop skills in marketing, social media posts, planning displays for shows and exhibitions and setting them up, talking to customers, building online shops, updating websites, buying supplies and developing products, processing sales, negotiating commissions, keeping accounts etc . It’s not for the faint-hearted! How much would you expect to be paid for all this?
Artists like to experiment and I’ve tried plenty of new things over the years. These include products that simply don’t work because they take too long and/or they’re too expensive to make. I’ve run competitions to win a free pet portrait, and others for a free art print. I make donations to wildlife conservation projects from my art and gift sales. I also run an Etsy shop, a Contrado shop and a Redbubble shop alongside my website, and I always have loads of other ideas.
I’ve exhibited several times during the Surrey Artists’ Open Studios (SAOS) at my art studio in Merstham, Surrey. In reality, many artists don’t have a grand studio, as you’ll know if you visited some of us. I’m fortunate to have my own small art room at home. During Open Studios half of my dining room and the conservatory also get converted to gallery space. Weather permitting, I like to paint colourful animal paintings on my easel in the garden.
It’s always lovely to meet people who come to see what I’ve been painting and to have a chat. For some, they will have picked me out of the SAOS brochure and made a special trip, perhaps visiting other studios in Surrey during the day as well. There are always local people who notice my bright orange sign and pop in to see what it’s all about, and family and friends who come along to support my one-person art business. Most art and gifts on display are for sale, and it’s another source of income for a busy artist.
Update 2022: I’m not taking part in the Surrey Artists’ Open Studios this year. You can see my colourful art and gifts online instead.
Another aspect of being a self-employed artist is that there isn’t anyone else to run your business when there are problems, and no holiday pay or sick leave (though on the plus side, I never have to ask anyone for time off either!).
Sadly I’ve had to close my Open Studio unexpectedly on one occasion as a family crisis will always come first. In these cases, I always do my best to notify people through appropriate channels. This includes email, social media, notes on my door, plus messages to anyone waiting for an order to arrive. Fortunately most people are very understanding of any changes as long as you explain.
Oh and to answer the question, how much do artists earn? Mostly more than the paper boy and less than the top UK business earners, just like most of you. But feel free to buy my colourful animal art while it’s still affordable!