Should I quit being an artist?


When an artist is asking themself “Should I quit being an artist” they already know the answer, and the answer is usually “No!”. They do not want to quit, they are looking for reasons to continue and that is what I will give you here.

What an artist is looking for when asking this question is some re-assurance they are not chasing some crazy dream and they hear the voice of family and friends play over and over in their heads “why do you want to be a starving artist anyway? Find a real job, or become a graphic designer at least!”.

Well-meaning family and friends are only looking after your interests and rightly they do not want you to starve or heaven forbid, look to them for some financial help.

I have asked myself this question many many times and I did quit for quite a long time.

I think my longest period of producing not a single piece of art was 10 years.

That is quite a long time.

Deep inside though, I still see myself as an artist and an artist can’t just quit being an artist. They just give up on making a living as an artist.

That is what I did.

I got a normal job and became a Sunday painter.. And then a never painter.

At one point I even said that being an artist is pointless.

Why would an artist want to quit being an artist?

The main reason we want to quit being an artist is because we are either not earning enough to work full time, or we are just not feeling it.

90% of us want quit because we are not able to support ourselves.

Which is why some will work part time, some will find full time jobs and work as an artist on the weekends or nights.

Some will take art related jobs and hope that helps.

Very rarely does one find a rich benefactor that will allow them to work as a full time artist.

Accept that life will be hard and live within your means of learn to hustle like mad.

This is not an easy life we chose. 

Keep reading as I have some useful tips for you. Trust me, I have quit more times being an artist than most.

What motivates an artist?

Artists are a vain lot, we became artists as we grew addicted to the adulation and praise we received from family and friends and then strangers. Like comedians who become hooked after making strangers laugh, artists become hooked when people stare into their creations and feel something within.

We need to motivate ourselves and that is hard to do when we are either not creating art, or we are creating sub-standard art.

If we are not creating art then that is easily fixed. 

Follow my tips below on how to plan your work.

If you are creating sub-standard art then work on getting better and to do that you need to either study more, practice more or find a niche that suits your abilities.

Trust me, as a colorblind artist with sore thumbs and wrists I know what I can and can’t do and I now work within my limitations.

Stop forcing yourself to be a famous artist.

The main issue many artists feel like they are failures is because they all wanted to become the millionaire artist with a New York City studio with rich clients. 

My personal dream was to live in Italy or France and somehow find a way to fund a lifestyle where I drove an expensive car, drank wine while I sketched a lover in the nude with the views of Paris out the window.

I had no plan, all I had was wishful thinking and a dream.

I ended up in I.T. And while I felt it was soul destroying and I was a sell-out, a career in I.T. Did a few things for me.

It funded that expensive car.

I got to drink wine and travel to Paris with my wife, she still won’t pose nude for me though.

It also trained me to break down endless problems into manageable tasks that can be delivered on a weekly basis.

You see, the main reason you want to quit being an artists is because you feel like you’re getting nowhere.

To start getting somewhere you need to start delivering and delivering on a regular basis so that you can develop that art muscle and get better and more resilient.

Forget being famous and start working like a machine designed to pump out art works.

Part of being that machine is to follow a process that works. In current software development terminology that process is called being Agile. 

I have also seen a few people write about the Agile Artist and I tend to agree.

The main crux is to make a schedule and agree to a sprint where you will commit to deliver a body of work at the end of that sprint.

So let’s use an example of how I used to paint and how that would look like using an Agile delivery methodology:

Old Days

I would buy a canvas, make some sketches, start painting and then paint, paint some more, do nothing for a week, come back to the painting, not like what I did and start again. Then I would paint some more, rework the painting and keep repeating these tasks until I became bored of the artwork and throw it away or put it to the back of the room.

Agile Method

Commit to producing a finished artwork in 4 weeks.

Week 1 – commit to have all preliminary sketches completed

Week 2 – each day I would commit to have a series of activities completed. So that would be Day 1 – lay primer, underpaint. Day 2 – do another task, Day 3 etc etc until by day 7 I had completed all tasks so that I could start Week 3 which would be add finishing touches to painting.

Week 4 – do some minor updates and by end of week 4 I would declare the painting Done!

If your main issue is not being able to complete large scale works then start small and work your way up. 

I know an artist on instagram who produces art on Post-It notes and does so daily.

Another works only from sketch books.

Another does large paintings with lots of details but he commits to 12 paintings a year (he has a 1 month constraint for each work).

Remove the romanticism of art and become a professional

One thing most people have is a romantic idea of being an artist. Someone with a muse who drives them, an artist in pain, some mental illness, someone with passion.. The list goes on and on.

I feel for that too. I remember as a kid watching the 1998 film Great Expectations with Ethan Hawke and Gwyneth Paltrow and just related to Ethan’s character Finn. A damaged artist who secretly loved the girl of his youth.

I then tried being famous but had no idea how or what to do.

I sold a stack of artworks to some very prominent people and that didn’t work either.

The internet came along and I got quite good at selling art and making money but I didn’t get famous.

Thank god for that because the last thing I want now is fame.

I made good money as an artist but made more not as an artist.

But I have been able to fund an artists lifestyle now, sadly too late really.

It doesn’t mean it needs to be too late for you.

Treat art like a project with a plan, produce work on a regular basis.

Promote your work daily on Instagram.

Attend art shows and enter art shows.

Create a following online on Instagram – that seems to be the easiest path to finding 1000 true fans.

From there you can become Insta famous and from there you can find a nice niche to make a regular income as an artist.

Keep producing, keep promoting and keep selling but never ever quit being an artist.

Joseph Colella

I'm an avid artist and I love to share everything I know about art and all the new art related tips i've recently learned. Get Your WastedTalentInc Merch at Redbubble https://rdbl.co/2OkI0CM

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