There’s a reason “starving artist” became a clichéd phrase. I read a murder mystery once where one of the (many) deaths was an up-and-coming artist. The motive: Kill the artist, destroy 80%-90% of his work, and own the rest, which will naturally skyrocket in value. How can you be an artist, stay alive, and and live a reasonably comfortable, stable, life?
Obviously, some people make it work. There is the work-many-jobs option. And there are the lucky/talented/hard-working ones who “make it.” But it seems a bit like kids who are stellar high school athletes and believe they can make it in the pro leagues, not quite recognizing the statistical improbabilities. We just see the ones who make it, we don’t see the thousands who don’t. (Apparently, this is also similar to drug dealers–the difference between the low-level neighborhood street corner pushers who aspire to be the head kingpin. They’re never going to make it, but the allure of the perceived lifestyle is too attractive. I want to say Malcolm Gladwell, or someone like that, wrote something about this.)
Anyway. Entering the world of e-commerce and POD sites (e.g., TeePublic, RedBubble) or those for small businesses (e.g., Etsy), it is abundantly clear that they are flush with really talented people. It’s also clear that people who started early and became well-established have a huuuuuge leg up on everyone else. (I’m looking at you, shops with 10,000+ purchases.) I’m trying anyway, but what do you do? Again, per my “I want an Intern” post, I’m not all that interested in the self-promotion activities that seem to be required. At first, I (naively) thought it would just be a matter of posting to Instagram–hey, that I can handle. Oh, foolish, foolish, past self.
Putting on my MBA hat, I figure it basically comes down to solving one or both of two issues. 1) Per above, finding the right way to reach the people who would like what I make. 2) Figuring out who I can most easily reach (preferably that others are not) and make what they like. The latter would be called “selling out” by some. Or “practical” by others. I imagine in some artistic circles “commercial” is a dirty word. I’m not so highbrow. But, that also isn’t what I love about art, because it’s not expressing me and my vision.
Recently, I was working “on spec” on some graphic designs for some corporate swag. It’s a great opportunity, and perhaps one path to pursue over the long-term as something a little stable. But oh, it did not satisfy my creative needs. And as someone pointed out (intentionally ungrammatically), “thems that pays the bills gets to decide.” But it was a little bit painful to have to execute on someone else’s choices when I thought something else would be better. I think there has to be a high ratio of time spent on truly creative art versus “commercial” art to make up for it.
So. Where does that leave me? Us? Pretty much where I was at the start of this post. I’m still trying different things to see what might work in this overly saturated market. Trying to find out if my actual interests might overlap with a hidden empty niche. Trying to figure out how to reach what is apparently my demographic, according to Instagram—hey ladies, roughly ages 25-40!. And continuing my art class, to make things, and just keep going…
While I’m doing this, if you’d like to help me out and like what you see on my website or Instagram (@frommytwohands), please share it with your friends and family (or strangers, for that matter). You could consider the pieces of mine that you see examples–I’m truly very happy to make custom pieces, especially of my alphabet collection given the personal nature of initials and then design preferences.
Oh and follows, I could really use some of those if you are so inclined, particularly on IG…. thank you!