Can Artist Make Money from Thier Art?

Last week I talked about some common stereotypes about artists, such as all artists wear berets, starve and live in attics, etc.  And another misnomer about art, according to the McDonald’s advertisement I had mentioned, is that art is all about play, and is just for kids. And yet another stereotype describes two extremes of the artist type as the brilliant artist failure or the artist celebrity, according to the author, Emily Browne, of the article, Ten Things About Being an Artist that Teachers Won’t Tell You, (2013).

The celebrity artist type makes it big with a gallery opening and becomes rich and famous, or perhaps just famous. The brilliant failure is unable to break into the art world despite their talent and only gains recognition for their artwork after they are dead… A well-known artist, Van Goh, is a good case in point of this type. He struggled to find an audience who liked his work and only sold two paintings during his lifetime. Now his work is famous and very well known.Source:

The former stereotype of the famous artist, was featured in the BBC television documentary series, What do Artists Do All Day? (2014).This show featured artists who are well known in the United Kingdom such as, Jack Vettriano, whose celebrated painting, The Singing Butler, sold for something like 750 pounds sterling at Sotheby’s Gallery in 2004. Source:  But what about the artists who haven’t made it big but aren’t necessarily starving either, or flakey or mentally ill or driven by emotions? How do these artists make money from their art? I know I have wondered about this question myself regarding other artists. Lately, I have wondered what types of avenues I might pursue to make money from my artwork and have begun researching what people have to say about making money from artwork by reading articles online about this subject.

One article entitled, How Do Artists Make Money? , written by Valerie Atkisson in 2008 on the website,, listed a few traditional methods to the path of earning money from your art. These methods include: 1.) Showing your art at Commercial Art Galleries, 2.) Displaying your artwork at a nonprofit Galleries, 3.) Hosting an art show at your studio, 4.) Selling Your Artwork online, 5.) Creating custom art for clients, 6.) Obtaining a public art commission, 7.) Applying for an art grant, 8.) Securing an Art Residency, 9.) Teaching art at a secondary school, college, or as a guest artist. Source:

For the sake of space, I will only be discussing the first two methods of making money from your art, but I will follow up with the other methods listed in my future blog posts. The trouble with the first two methods is that no sales are guaranteed and artists might end up just taking home the work that they exhibited. Not to mention that the competition for art shows is fierce, and rejection is a common theme among artists, which can be demoralizing for sensitive egos. It can also be expensive to pay for art submission fees if an artist is applying for juried shows which require application fees.  In addition, according to Atkisson, (2008), most commercial galleries take a 40%-50% commission to sell artists works, which the artist and gallery owner decide with a contract. So, with that in mind, artists need to take that factor into consideration so they can price their work accordingly and actually make a profit if the work sells.

In addition, regarding the next method of making income, which involves using not for profit galleries, many of these galleries “do not represent artists or enter into relationships with them.” Source: It is also important to note that although some commercial galleries do offer to advertise for art shows, the art world has changed, and the way artists make sales has also changed, particularly with the advent of the Internet and Social Media sites like Facebook, Instagram,

and Twitter. It is no longer enough to follow the traditional method of letting galleries do all of an artist’s marketing or to find an influential patron of the arts to fund artists as was the case in the patronage system in European countries or museums and galleries today.  Source:

In the current art world, artists need to do a lot of self-promotion for their work to gain followers and collectors through social media sites such as Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. Also, because of the stiff competition for gallery shows, the artist must also look for non-traditional venues to showcase their work, whether it be online selling, hosting open studio venues, or showing their artwork at non-traditional art venues, such as coffee shops.  This can be especially useful for emerging artists, who may not have a gallery that represents their work yet. However, all of these methods of making money from art are a gamble, especially the art show venues. Furthermore, to make them effective, the artist must develop marketing, technological, and business skills to keep up to date with current trends in the art world.  I myself did not learn any of these skills until I graduated from McDaniel College in 2005 with a degree in Art. To keep pace with the emerging technology I have taken classes in Photoshop, In Design and Illustrator, which have taught me how to edit my photos professionally and how to make marketing materials such as flyers to advertise my custom art pet portraits. I also try to keep up with the art world trends by reading articles and blogs about artists and business skills. The art business coach, Allyson Stanfield is an excellent resource for artists who want to learn more art marketing skills. For more tips on how to market you as an artist, go to the following link: Good luck!


Author: artofschmidt

Jodie's focus is on oil painting, mixed media, and soft pastels.

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