5 Things People Ask Me When I Tell Them I Work as an Artist

Oil paint palette

My palette with freshly-mixed oil paint.

When I meet people for the first time, they normally ask what I do for a living.  Here are the top five questions I get when I tell them I’m an artist.

1. But what do you really do?
I’m tempted to say that I sell drugs on the side, but that wouldn’t go over well.  Despite the starving artist myth, it is possible for an artist to make a living.  Being an artist is a real job.  I sell paintings and prints online, in galleries, at gift shops.  I am also a distributor for a custom stickers manufacturer, and occasionally I do graphic design.

2. What kind of art do you do… what do you paint?
I’m an oil painter, because I like the bright vivid colors of this medium and it’s most durable.  As for subject matter, I sell a lot of still-life paintings of beer, but I also paint trees, landscapes, bicycles, antique autos, but the sky is the limit and sometimes I paint that too.

3. How much money do you make?
I can’t believe people ask me this, but they do… a lot.  I would never ask anyone that.  I make enough to pay the bills, but when I’m dead, I’ll make a lot more.  But seriously, I understand why people are curious.  Everyone wishes s/he could be an artist (because people don’t know how much work it takes).

4. Where do you sell your art?
I sell paintings and prints at art shows, in galleries, brew pubs, coffee shops, cafés, gift shops, and from my online shop on Etsy.com.  My wife works as my business/marketing manager, and helps me with networking online and in person.  I have upcoming shows at The Maury Pottery Sale in December, two shows at the Loft at Midnight Sun Brewing Company in January and in June, a show at Tap Root Public House in August, and a show at Modern Dwellers Chocolate Lounge in October 2014.

5. Do you make ends meet?
From what I’ve heard, many Americans can’t make ends meet (yet they still drive fancy cars, and live in huge houses).  We used to substitute teach to make ends meet, but realized that that was counter-productive to our long-term art business vision.  So we quit subbing last January and have been working on the art business full time, and yes, we have been able to pay the bills.  My wife also trades stocks and gets a couple tour guiding gigs each summer, but most of our revenue comes from selling my art.  We wake up and get to work early each day and sometimes we work on weekends as well.  Being your own boss takes a lot of discipline, but if we want to make money we have to do the work.  A major key is to keep overhead low.  My wife and I live in a small condo, drive an old truck, rarely go out to eat, and tend to spend money on quality experiences rather than material possessions.

Phew, that was a mouthful, and that’s why I get a little tongue tied when people fire all these questions at me one after the other.


3 thoughts on “5 Things People Ask Me When I Tell Them I Work as an Artist

  1. Suzie Liles

    Nice post. I find the same thing. I own the Eugene Textile Center and people ask me how it’s doing and my only response is ” I am paying the bills”. They don’t need to know all my business doings. I don’t ask them how things are in their checkbook.

  2. Pingback: Reblog: 5 Things… by Scott Clendaniel | Rochester Artisans

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