How much do artists earn?

[Note: I  may earn a commission if you purchase something I’ve linked to.]

I’m not netting $50K right now, but in past years, I have earned in that vicinity. I earned the most right before my third child was born, and–if you adjust for inflation–my gross was around $180K, with maybe 3/4 of that being net income.

The bulk of my income came from three sources:

Original art

The largest part of my income came from my original work. I sold through galleries and art associations. I made the most at art association shows, especially one-day outdoor shows. My second best art association outlet was selling through banks; a local bank accepted our art (through the art assoc) for their lobby walls, and my most expensive pieces ($500+ in early 1980s) sold there. Art associations also take a lower commission than many commercial art galleries.

Writing articles & books

My second highest–and most consistent–income was from writing. I wrote & wrote & wrote… mostly how-to articles for magazines, for book publishers, for anyone who would buy. I found my markets through the annual guide, “Writers Markets.” (Always get the latest edition. Your library probably has a copy.)

I sold first rights and then reprints, and the money added up. Those twice-yearly royalty checks from books are nice!

A little here, a little there…

I also made money in peripheral ways… doing custom illustration for printers, doing graphics for convention brochures, zines, and so on. I was always finding new outlets for my creativity, and it paid off in word-of-mouth referrals. I placed no paid advertising for my art, anywhere.

Working at home

In those days, I did no teaching at all. I’m painfully shy (really) and even one-day outdoor art shows were excruciating. So, almost all of my work was done at home, with two toddlers underfoot, and I provided the sole financial support of my family.

Then I remarried, had a third (wonderful) child, and my career seemed to threaten my new husband.

20 years later, I divorced and began the rebuilding process. So far, so good!

Back on track

I have been very successful in the past, working almost entirely from home. I expect to continue in that mode.

The “starving artist” cliche isn’t your only option if you want to earn your living as a full-time artist. No two artists will follow the same path. Find what works for you.

Remember that the average toddler falls down over 300 times before learning to walk. If you try career options that result in dead ends, don’t give up. Hope that it doesn’t take you 300 tries to find your best career path, but don’t give up!

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