Eric Quintero writes: I am considering moving back into the art field after many years of doing other things.  However, the “starving artist” story has long been in the back of my head.

I just want to know.  Was it difficult for you to make money at first?  And how much could one realistically earn yearly assuming that one could produce the level of quality art that you produce?

I’ve made a video talking about pricing artwork

and one on how I make my living as an artist which might help your current situation.

The term “starving artist” is there for a reason. It is seriously hard to get to the point where you can support yourself on your work. One of the hardest parts is not having a stable income all the time. We never know when something will sell. We are also one of the first affected by the economy. As producers of luxury items, when people are broke, they don’t buy art. I was doing quite well selling paintings on ebay before 2002.

I don’t bring this up to discourage you, but to be realistic. Now, that said, it is TOTALLY possible to make a decent living as an artist as long as you’re willing to work your butt off. You have to have self-discipline like no one else in your work habits. Just being a great artist isn’t enough. You have to learn business and marketing. Those two things are actually more important in most cases than the art itself. You have to find that way that makes you different from the next artist, what will make someone choose to buy from you. I know so many amazing AMAZING artists who struggle financially far more than artists with less skill or experience simply because they don’t know how to sell their work.

My biggest tip I can give to someone who wants to make a living from their art is to not quit your day job. It SUCKS having to stress out about not being able to pay your bills every month. Get your business going strong before you quit that day job. This way you will have the money for your art supplies and your bills. It takes time to build a fan base of buyers. It is something that almost never happens overnight. If you feel you don’t have time to do both art and your day job, keep in mind that even if you were working full time just with art, chances are you would work the same hours as two jobs anyway because as artists we have to work both the business side just as hard (if not harder) than in actually creating the art.  At least this way one of your jobs keeps you fed while you build up the art job.

I can’t actually answer how much someone could make yearly because that all depends on the connections they make and how good they are at the business side. The possibilities are endless, but it  takes a lot of work and usually a lot of trial and error during which time you may be making next to nothing. There were several years that I fell well below the poverty line as I built up my business. It was worth it to me in the end, but I didn’t take the easiest road to get here, and almost all of that can be blamed on my belief that if I painted pretty things people would flock to my website and throw money at me. Until I started to realize that this is a real business and that I am actually an entrepreneur, not just an artist,  I didn’t get far financially.