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Pursuing a Career as an Artist: The Good and the Bad

Updated on July 28, 2013

What is an artist? There are many different trades and specializations that fall under the term "artist". Photographers, fine artists, videographers, wood workers and musicians are all completely different categories, but they all share the common bond of creating something. Since there are so many different options, it would be hard to generalize a career path for all of these subjects, so instead, I'll list out some of the awesome parts of being an artist and the not so glamorous bits.

This is by no means a comprehensive list, just a few out of the many things I've dealt with growing up pursuing an art career (I still actively am pursuing one for that matter).

The ability to imagine and conceptualize ideas an thoughts are what artist thrive at.
The ability to imagine and conceptualize ideas an thoughts are what artist thrive at. | Source

The Good Parts of Being an Artist

I'll start off this look into an artist's life with all the amazing and great things I love about being an artist. Again this is by no means comprehensive, just what popped into my head first.

Freedom and Ability to Express Yourself

Being able to come home and just edit a video or draw and create a new world where I can control how everything reacts is a very freeing experience. The ability to create something that expresses who you are and how you're feeling at the time is unlike any feeling in the world.

The power to create a story and bring to life an experience that can help people through the same experiences you've been through or the ability to make someone smile and laugh and a situation that would normally be very awkward - that is what an artist is able to do. It's a powerful gift and talent that not everyone can imagine.

Having an Imagination

I've recently become aware that some people just have no imagination at all, and it's really a crushing realization. Being an artist, you have the ability to see different shapes in clouds, eyeballs in inanimate objects and you have the wonder and joy of being a child. You can create and think up crazy creatures or put together intricate plot lines that will pull at people's heartstrings and make them cry and laugh. it's a different way to view the world that helps bring light to even the saddest stories.

Always Something to Learn

This one is a little of a double edged sword, but knowing that there will always be something for you to learn and improve on gives your life more meaning. You never have to worry about reaching the point where you'll never be able to improve a painting anymore. There's no end to being an artist, it only stops when you choose to stop creating,


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Accomplishments and Competitions

Having a goal or festival that you want to enter your work into is an amazing experience. Sure there are a lot of times where your work will be rejected and you'll feel crappy about it, but the times when you do get into the gallery or festival of your choosing is such a heart warming experience. Having that feeling after working so hard on one project and watching how other people enjoy your work is such a satisfying experience. Just meeting someone who enjoys your work is fulfilling.

Networking and Enjoying the Trade

Essentially it's like being in a universal club where you can talk to anyone about art and find out what it means to them to create. It's fun to just celebrate and enjoy the process of creating with collaborations and throwing parties and screenings when your work is finally finished.


The Bad Parts of Being an Artist

Strapped for Cash

We've all heard the phrase and joked about the "starving artist", but it's well known and true for a reason. Art supplies are expensive and many artists are strapped for cash to pay rent because they're pursuing a career in art that is not always stable. Waiting around for a photograph to sell or looking for that next commission is a hard lifestyle to adapt to.


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Long Hours and Dedication

I'm not actually sure if there is a time of rest for an artist. Even when they're not working on projects, more often than not their brain will be planning the next project or will be subconsciously gathering information that will end up in some painting or movie down the road.

I actually can't imagine what it would be like without having something on the back burner to work on. Whenever I'm bored or have nothing to do, or simply need a project to escape into, there is no end to the possibilities that I've already thought "I want to create that."

On the other hand, this notion of always having projects and things to work on can be a bit daunting because there never will be enough time to complete them all.

Dissatisfaction with Your Work

As an artist, you're going to have to deal with the little voice in your head that tells you that you can do better. You're never going to be able to look at a project and feel completely satisfied with it. To your non-artist friends and family this will undoubtedly drive them crazy, but to your artist friends, they will understand the feeling.

Embrace it, at least to a certain degree. You still want to feel content and accomplished when you finished your project, but don't make the mistake of spending too much time on something and never starting another project. Know when to call it quits and move on. Instead of obsessing over making your work perfect, just make the next one better.

Unstable Job and Uncertainty

Having a career in the art industry is a rather uncertain field. If you're working as freelancer, you're never quite going to know where your next job will come from. It's better in this case to be wise with your money as you will have to make your money last from job to job.

There are of course jobs that are more stable, where you work as an employee at a company and have a regular paycheck. However, you'll have to decide whether you want to work as a team or under someone and decide whether or not you want to be in charge of what you create.

Getting a job, even a freelance job, will take a lot of time and persistence. Not everyone is going to like your style and not everyone will want to chance on new blood at their company (although some will specifically look for non experienced artists.) Getting an internship and working for free is usually one of the only roads for breaking into the industry. Be careful to not get taken advantage of and be willing to work a part-time job to support yourself.


The Journey to Becoming an Artist

Becoming an artist and establishing yourself takes many years of hard work and dedication. The years leading up to successfully landing a creative job or selling your first painting or photograph will be hard, but there are certain side jobs and steps you can take to help your journey.

Find Freelance Work or Help with Small Budget Projects

If you're just starting out as an artist, whether your fresh out of college or looking for some experience to put on your resume, you may be able to find some work doing freelance work. The best place is to start with friends and family. If you're a photographer, see if maybe someone in your family would like some photographs done. You may even be able to get them to pay a very low sum. You'll get experience and portfolio work and they'll get cheap photos.

You may also be able to assist someone (if you know a painter ask to help out with their mural or if you are a film student help out with low budget films). If you find other people who are just starting out or people who are looking to hire cheap artists and take a risk, usually you can find a break aiming for start up companies and family.

Be weary of working for too cheap and doing this for too long though. There's a certain degree of people who will try to take advantage of you, so once you have the experience start going for higher paying and stable jobs.

Start Your Own Business or Find Space in Restaurants

If you feel confident about one of your hobbies or selling some of your work yourself, setting a website could be a way to help making a name for yourself. Joining craft fairs or setting up a little display in your local art gallery may be a way to help get your name out there and help with your career. Sometimes even local restaurants will display your artwork on their walls and if anyone wants to buy it from you, they can. (The restaurant gets free art and you get free exposure.)

Teach Classes

You may be able to find schools are looking for someone to teach after school art classes or a town or city looking to get kids interested in the arts. You may have some luck teaching some classes during the summer. You'll be able to still be creative and you'll be getting some cash to help with your expenses.

This amazing Ted Talks tell you all you need to know to succeed at your career: You just need grit.

Being an Artist takes Perseverance

By far the one attribute that sets apart the people who will pursue and succeed at their careers and those who won't is perseverance. You have to want it, breathe it and fight for it, even if this means going against what all of you friends and family have to say.

The only person that needs to believe is you, and a lot of the times there will be no one who believe that you can make a career out of your work. If you don't want it more than anything, it's going to be a very, very long road that will you'll never achieve.

The best advice I can give is to not give up. Keep working on your art and believe that one day, you're going to make it.


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    • Alex Djain profile image

      Alex Djain 

      2 years ago

      Great hub! Very helpful and informative

    • AdeleCosgroveBray profile image

      Adele Cosgrove-Bray 

      2 years ago from Wirral, Cheshire, England.

      In addition to your advice, an artist could join a local art group and take part in annual exhibitions with them. Open studio tours are also a good way of placing work before an interested audience.

    • Samuel Smart profile image

      Samuel Smart 

      2 years ago from United States

      I like how being an artist is all about the individual himself/herself. Since I am an artist myself, I rely on activities I'm good at and comfortable with. I don't mind the time it would take to accomplish a project; just as long I enjoy it.

      This is a wonderful Hub and I hope it will inspire artists to achieve their goals.

    • breathing profile image


      3 years ago from Bangladesh

      Every profession in the world has its own goods and bad. It is simply like the two opposite parts of a coin. I’ll thank the hub author for bringing up both the sides so nicely with regards to the artists. Anyone looking forward to go in this profession can be heavily helped by reading this post. Also the author has given a good but brief description on how to become an artist. Perseverance is a great key to success in this profession compared to most of the renowned ones around. After all when an art is made with so much dedication, it is really a pleasant felling!

    • noellenichols profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Denver

      @Seafarer Mama, I'm so glad you enjoyed reading and found it inspiring. Good luck with your creative aspirations!

    • Seafarer Mama profile image

      Karen A Szklany 

      5 years ago from New England

      This article is pertinent to the work I am doing these days. Thank you for this very informative, encouraging and inspiring hub! Voted Up, up, up, "liked' and "pinned." ~:0)

    • noellenichols profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Denver

      That's a great idea, FlourishAnyway, thank you! I've added a section relating to freelance work, teaching classes and using local restaurants as a place for your paintings.

    • noellenichols profile imageAUTHOR


      5 years ago from Denver

      @jabelufiroz - Thanks for reading. I'm glad you found it helpful!

      @Ceres Schwarz - Thanks for the comment, it's definitely a long road to follow, but the artists who have the willpower and motivation are the ones who end up achieving success.

    • profile image

      Michelle Widmann 

      5 years ago

      This hub was really interesting, very helpful!

    • FlourishAnyway profile image


      5 years ago from USA

      Nice presentation on the plusses and minuses. Are there common outlets that artists pursue to supplement income while they are establishing themselves? Teaching, craft fairs, etc. That might be a nice add to your already excellent hub. Voted up and more.

    • Ceres Schwarz profile image

      Ceres Schwarz 

      5 years ago

      Good hub on the pros and cons of being an artist. There are a lot of advantages and disadvantages to being an artist. It can be difficult to be an artist but if one is really determined and doesn't give up, it can be well worth it.

    • jabelufiroz profile image


      5 years ago from India

      Well written hub on artist. Voted up and useful.


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