How to make a living as an artist

Last night, my housemate Sean and I were discussing the difficulty of making a living as an artist. Sean has authority on the subject as a recently-graduated Visual Arts major who is also a soon-to-be-gainfully-employed firefighter for the city of Anchorage. I have authority because I have a job painting faces at carnivals–which is the funnest way to make money that I know of. Next up, the Girdwood Forest Fair!!!


Proof of my gainful employment!

We came up with three strategies to both eat and make art as an adult:

1. Live Humbly and Make Lots of Art

Sean and I both romanticize the benefits of living in a small cabin in the Alaskan woods, making lots of art, and supporting a humble lifestyle. (Perhaps this should be called the Hippie Method: think Rockwell Kent and Abby Wentworth, both of Seward Alaska.)

2. Get an Art Job

Art teachers, graphic designers, art professors…all seem to be able to live in a world immersed in art–although my high school teachers say this leaves little time for their own art-making. This was the advice I received from the wonderful and prolific painter Dot Bardarson, who for many years owned Bardarson’s Studio in Seward, as well as Jennifer Headtke of the Ranting Raven, also in Seward.

3. Get a Job and Pretend to Make Art

This seems to be the path that Sean is headed down as a firefighter. I’ve been working at least 30 to 40 additional hours a week face painting, drawing for the Seward Pheonix Log, and preparing for my 1st Friday Show at the Resurrect Art Coffee House in Seward. This makes me a very boring person. This is also the route recommended in Steal Like an Artist, Austin Kleon’s book which I read while waiting in line for my files to upload and be printed at Kinkos.

Sometimes this is very encouraging (I am so excited about the Forest Fair!!!!!) and I got a recent commission from a local newspaper yesterday, as mentioned–see more proof below:


My first newspaper illustration commission–hopefully more to come. Read the story by Doug Capra in the Seward Pheonix Log next week!

These small successes keep me going, especially as the rent in my apartment in Anchorage is slightly higher than that of a backwoods cabin and my sheet metal job is a bit dull at the moment. However, when all else fails I can always be inspired by the numerous artists around me, especially this Ted Talk I listened to recently, which makes me regain my faith of people’s brilliance.

2 thoughts on “How to make a living as an artist

  1. Interesting topic! Here are some thoughts of mine: Read books on entrepreneurship. If you’re doing what everyone else is doing (not that you are) you’ll never do anything great. (Great stuff will bring in $$$) Find a way to support yourself and bring in some $ while you experiment and find it. Break the rules! – Good luck

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