Are you a Real Artist If You Have A Day Job?

real artist
Andy Warhol designed window displays for large department stores in Manhattan before finally getting his art career off the ground,

How do you define being a real artist? Are you a real artist if you have a day job?

Are you a real artist if your primary source of income is not from your art?

Many artists definition of success rest solely on being able to support themselves entirely from their artistic endeavors without having to do any other work to make ends meet.

However, is this a realistic view of success?

The majority of artists will, in reality, have other work too as part of the rich pattern of their everyday life.  Andy Warhol had a day job as a window display designer for large department stores in Manhattan before his art career success.

This, contrary to what some people say is NO BAD THING!

The truth is, successful artists often have lots of strings to their bow

Just because you have another job doesn't mean you are not a “real ” or successful artist. In fact, working in other areas separate from your art can have distinct advantages…

    • Having a defined and confined time for you creative work can focus your art and make you achieve more in the shorter space of time that you have to work in. Faced with unlimited time it’s easy to take your eye off the ball and lose focus.
    • Our economy is changing In this new and shifting economic landscape, having multiple income streams is a very important survival strategy which will enable you to surf the uncertainties of the art market.
    • If you are combining raising a family with your art, you may not be able to spend 100% of your time creating but may be able to find a balance which works for you.
    • Your “day job” may provide inspiration which feeds into your art and helps to fire your creativity.

We really need to change and widen the definition of SUCCESS in the art world…

The down side…

As in all things there can be a down side…

The common problem with other strands of work, comes when the “day job” takes over and hurts your creative energy leaving you too tired to do anything else.

Many years ago, when I worked in advertising agencies, my job was pretty creative but I was expected to start at 8am and leave at 8pm or later – After a sweaty commute on a crowded subway train I had barely enough energy left to eat, let alone create. Life was pared down to a bleak cycle of getup-commute-work-commute-eat-sleep. In that situation it is really easy to make yourself ill by trying to draw out more energy than is “in the bank”

Like everything, it is important to find the balance between work and art which is sustainable and right for you. This can take a long time to get right.

If you are struggling with this balance at the moment, keep taking small steps to getting yourself into the right situation and position. Don’t give up. Creating may be difficult at the moment but if you keep fighting for it you will get there in the end…

This Post Has 8 Comments

  1. Polly Hoyt Nance

    Wow… what a great and inspirational article! i’m so glad I stumbled across this. These words perfectly express the many torn feelings I have about art and the business/work field. So, thank you so much for saying what has been tormenting me for some time now. It is so difficult to find the perfect balance but these words are great motivation for me to work at finding that balance; And you are right, you can’t put energy into art if you don’t have that energy to spare. Thank you so much for a wonderful post!

    1. Gary Bolyer Fine Art

      For many artists finding the balance can be a journey in itself. Thanks for your comments.

  2. Sonsoles Fine Art

    Gary, good topic, I also am an artist and I do have a day job. I could not do it without. You are so right about the balance issue. I am actually a scientist, working on cancer research by day, and an artist “by night”… and have never been happier. I feel my life has a beautiful balance now, and I feel truly fulfilled. However, the lack of time for painting is what I crave most. Painting is my life and I love it more every day. My dream is to be able to paint full time… some day!

    1. Gary Bolyer Fine Art

      Thanks for your comments. You say that your life has a beautiful balance and so that is a great first step. It seems to me you have a great deal of happiness right now with creating your art. Keep it up. Let us know what progress you are making. Thanks again.

  3. Jang K.H

    Thank you so much for your encourageous article with the appropriate answer to me that I for a long time have been thinking about..

  4. Chris

    Gary, I still see so many people that have preconceived ideas of what constitutes art, as much as what constitutes an artist. I think that the world should open up to totally new ideas, methods and functionalities, called for by this era. That’s why I was so encouraged to read your post today. Can’t wait to become a subscriber! I also have an art newsletter and new blog. Would you mind if I quote and credit you in a future post?

  5. Cristobal Pabon

    I am an artist I went to Pratt Institute Manhattan to learn illustration from there I started learning how to use colors and pain I always knew how to paint and I had the talent to paint and do art it’s hard to be an artist when you struggling I done to exhibits and I still continue painting I do work I am a cook I work in a corner store making Cheesesteaks in Philadelphia but I still continue doing my art hoping that I will be known and hoping that I’ll be able to sell my work it’s great being an artist I love being an artist or is not only just to make money is loving it enjoying painting and others can enjoy your artwork maybe one day I will become successful in my artwork and people will start buying my work that will be a great thing to make a living just doing art cuz I love to paint and I love doing it I’ve been doing it since the age of 16 years old I’ve been painting all my life

    1. Gary Bolyer

      Your struggle is familiar one. I’m sure many artists can relate to your journey and understand your situation. Thanks for sharing

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