Tuesday, April 19, 2011


I'm realizing that this little art thing I do isn't very lucrative.
at all.

I realized that awhile ago but it didn't really sink in until this morning, when I woke up at 6 am, that I made a profit of $5,000 last year. I understand that might be a lot to some, and that I should be grateful for being in the black, but honestly I am not happy.

I started to think back on all the hard work I've put into my work. The hours spent, the dates with friends that I skipped, the days off that I've missed.

Is it worth it? Is all that really worth it? I love making art, please don't misunderstand that, but I just don't know if it's worth my time and effort to sell it the way I do anymore.

It makes me sad and it makes me feel a bit hopeless.
I feel lost.

I feel like I'm asking myself some hard questions and getting hard answers back.
Is it possible for a single person, who pays her own bills and rent, to be a full time artist?
Is it even possible to make a living wage doing art without totally selling one self out to Target, to tee-shirts, to images on mouse pads?

I'm starting to think no, but maybe other people have some insight into this? I don't know. I, again, feel very lost and not very hopeful...

I'm sure I'll figure it out. I'm processing a lot of things right now, but I'm hopeful that it will work itself out in the end.

On another note, I will be raising the prices of my original illustrations by quite a bit on Thursday. If you see an illustration you like, or have had your eye on one for awhile, I highly recommend purchasing it now before the price increase! :)

It's a beautiful day in Portland, and I'm going to go enjoy it with my favorite friend, Chloe.


Sara*P said...

I'm not an artist so I have no advice but I hope you find some answers that make you happy. I own one of your originals and feel so very lucky. Your work is wonderful. xo

Kelly Kilmer said...

I know how you feel. I am also an artist who teaches art at small venues. I live paycheck to paycheck and it is a struggle. I'm in panic mode at the moment and trying to think of new ways to make some money to pay the bills, put food on the table and keep a roof over our heads.
I know that life is always one big roller coaster ride. Art to me is on the same level as breathing. It's a must do. I've been teaching art and making money from it for over 13 years now. Some years are better than others. I have never made more than below minimum wage from it even though I work my rear off.
It's the making art, teaching it and seeing how my students translate it that makes it all worthwhile to me. I try to remember that in times like these.

Stephanie Fizer Coleman said...

You're awesome, don't quit! I quit my day job 4 years ago to put all of my time and energy into my art career. It's been tough at times, especially in the beginning and especially regarding money but if you can fight through it and think of new venues/ways to sell your work you'll absolutely succeed in the end.
Your work is really fantastic!
For me, I've found that it's helpful to have money coming in from all sorts of places: my Etsy shop, personal commissions, freelance work, licensing deals, etc. That way when one is slow, I still have income from other sources.
I hope I'm not coming off all preachy or anything, I just think that your work is awesome and that you should definitely continue to share it!
Best of luck to you :)

Esther said...

Dear Michelle, it is sad coming to that realisation. I went there the end of last year. This year, I'm giving my art away, here there and everywhere. I also upped my prices in defiance, of course it didn't help sales but certainly gave me a feeling of self worth.

Your work is creative as you, be happy in the fact that you can and do!

nacherluver said...

I'm so sorry to hear you're feeling this way. I just love your art. I am a great admirer and hope you come out of this funk even stronger on the other side. It is good you reached out to others and I am curious to see even more wise advice given here than I have already read.
Good luck!

Elizabeth Bauman said...

I totally struggle with all these same thoughts and how to make it all work. I continually question staying with Etsy (I suspect my days there are numbered), wanting to change the direction of my work but fearing the result, and not knowing the best course to take for it all.

Whatever you do, just don't stop doing it altogether. That would be such a shame! Your work is lovely. :)

Sleepandhersisters said...

It can be really hard... but I think as Stephanie said it helps to have your finger in a lot of pies... I have 9 galleries around New Zealand that I supply my work to and etsy and felt (NZ etsy) I also have a day job working in an art school. I put my art work on my own jewellery and do markets. Sometimes I think why do I bother... I bother because I wouldn't want to be doing anything else. Love what you do Michele... xxx

o'reilly ink said...

Don't feel bad for saying what you feel. I couldn't have said it better. It IS hard. It's very, very hard. I also try to have money coming in from various things, freelance, Etsy, wholesale/consignment, etc...
But even all that put together isn't nearly enough to pay my bills, rent, car payment, student loans, and so on..
I think we all feel for ya. Big hugs from over here in Columbus, Ohio. Keep art in your life, no matter where you feel you need to go. I've always loved your work. :)

Sweet Mess said...

I like to read your blog because of your honesty about things like this. I don't have any answers really... I am in a similar place. A friend of mine recently was in awe that I had 250 sales on Etsy and was implying that I was really making it. I guess it is all a matter of perspective, but when you are trying to live off it, 250 sales or $5,000 is not cutting it.

I wonder if there is some other creative way you can make 5,000 a year and then spend all of the time you dedicate to your art soley on stuff that is %100 exactly what you want to be working on without any thoughts of trying to make money from it? Of course, where do you fit in the time to make that much extra a year, AND still have time for your art, AND your life... It is always tricky.

I would hate to see you disappear from the art world as I find your work unique and inspiring.

M.M.E. said...

I also just went through this but after the tears (I actually broke down), I found the courage to say that I didn't care and was going to push on anyway. As long as I bring in enough money each month to cover food and the rent, I consider that a blessing. I think an important is multiple revenue streams and thinking of ways to get your art in front of more people. Contact artsy magazines, both online and print, contact top blogs, see if local shops will carry your work. Contact galleries or boutiques that have weekly or monthly 'art walks'. It IS possible to make a living at art but you have to open your mind to all of the possibilities. For me, as an art and English major, I'm now working as an associate editor for a creative company AND running my art business. So perhaps you can find another artsy job to stabilize your income until your fame is high enough to support you full-time. But your art is gorgeous so PLEASE don't give up.

Sophie said...

I know exactly how you feel! I moved back from NY where I used to work as a webdesigner to my home country Brazil to open my open stationery business. I wanted to create my own artful stuff and make a living of it but after 8 months of no income I had to get a fulltime job... Still trying to figure out how to make money doing what we love!

Sarah said...

I feel this way all the time.. Especially with my parents who are very very sure that I can't make a living out of art. Nonetheless, I've decided to take a Fine Art Degree (I'm still a student awaiting uni admission). I get that very strong feeling that it something so much that I want to do, and I am not going to live without it. I just want to devote all my heart and soul to it, all of it. Yet some friends, acqquantainces, family members and relatives put us down. And myself too, for I have countless moments of self doubt and I worry heck a lot about it. What am I going to do in future? I try to hold on the hope that it will somehow work out, but I know that's just self-delusion.
But in the end, I really don't want to give it up. Though that occassional thought comes to mind but I'm just convinced I want to take Art and that pulls me through, somehow. Yes It's artistic development at a price but nothing like money can bring you what artmaking, makes out of you.