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Why Waste Your Time on Art?

Updated on April 23, 2015
I created this cover art for a prog rock album.
I created this cover art for a prog rock album. | Source

Is art a waste of time because it won't make you rich?

"Why do you waste your time on art? You can't make a living on it, you know."

Really, someone said that to me recently and it wasn't the first time, not by a long shot. If you are an artist of any type, you may have been asked a question of this sort at some time. Usually, I'm dumbfounded by the "Why waste your time on art?" question at least partly because it's often sprung as an "intervention" or at a "gotcha!" moment by someone who really ought to have more tact.

However, the last time I was asked why I waste my time on art, I was prepared because I'd recently witnessed the same person ask a similar question of a friend who is an amazing artist.

It occurred to me that some artists may take this question seriously and that they might just decide to stop creating art because of it. So I wanted to share and expand upon my response to the question and statement pair of, "Why do you waste your time on art?" plus "You can't make a living on art."

"You Can't Make a Living on Art"

First of all, let's examine the statement. Actually, one can make a living as an artist. It isn't easy and most artists do not make a living as artists, but some do. If you doubt that artists can make a living on art, look around yourself. Whether you are at home or in the office you'll see a whole bunch of things designed by artists, everything from desks to lamps to drinking glasses. At the grocery store you will see shelves filled with commercial art making groceries more appealing through clever packaging and images. On the road you'll pass automobiles whose appearance was designed by artists while listening to music written by artists, sung by artists, and performed on instruments by artists. The buildings you use every day were designed by artists who are also architects. Almost every man-made object you use or touch was created, designed, or influenced by the work of an artist.

You've also perhaps heard of the professionals known as hair-dressers, florists, interior designers, fashion designers, cake decorators, and landscapers. A quick look at the yellow pages will show you how common they are and the business listings for them show that, clearly, these folks are making a living on art.

There are also the folks who sell paintings, drawings, sculptures, handicrafts, and other types of art. Maybe you need go no further than your own home or office to see proof that artists can earn a living. See those framed things hanging on the wall, that poster on your teenager's bedroom door? That's artwork and somebody paid somebody to use it.

Is the Creation of Art a Waste of Time?

Is creating art a waste of time?

tiny pod woman by Kylyssa Shay, image greatly enlarged
tiny pod woman by Kylyssa Shay, image greatly enlarged

Most Artists Create Art Because They Enjoy It

While art surrounds us and there are plenty of artists who make a living on art the statement "You can't make a living on art" is not only false, it's completely irrelevant.

While many artists dream of making it big, most artists create art because they enjoy creating art or because they want or need to create art. Art is the passion of the artist made physical. It is the result of urges and desires it fulfills all on its own.

Combining the "Why do you waste your time on art?" question with the "You can't make a living on art." statement is kind of nonsensical and weird. Substitute the words "making love" for "art" in the question and the statement. "Why do you waste your time on making love? You can't make a living on making love." While one can make a living making love, it's irrelevant to the average person's love life. People are going to keep on making love without pay and artists are going to keep on making art whether they get paid for it or not.

Rich Sleeping by Kylyssa Shay
Rich Sleeping by Kylyssa Shay

"Why Do You Waste Your Time on Art?"

First of all, art is not a waste of time any more than any other therapeutic or enjoyable activity is. Not only do artists enjoy creating art they often create things that other people get to enjoy, too.

For me, art is a release which is far cheaper than therapy. Whether writing, sculpting, painting, drawing, photographing, singing, playing an instrument, or dancing an artist is expressing emotions in a very healthy way. Being autistic, it's difficult for me to communicate with spoken words. I could have muttered something like, "You are beautiful to me when you are sleeping" to my partner, but instead, I think I said something much more meaningful by giving him a drawing I made of him sleeping to show him how beautiful I think he is.

Creating art also beats the heck out of sitting in front of a television.

Is It Worthwhile to Create Art if It Doesn't Earn You Money?

Is it worthwhile to create art just because you enjoy it and love to do it or must you earn money?

Of course, I think that creating art is a healthy and fun way to spend my time, even when I don't earn a penny from it. The fact that I make a living with my art (previously as a florist, currently as a freelance writer) is just icing on the cake.

Is creating art worthwhile if you don't make any money off it?

Do You Create Art for Your Own Enjoyment or for Money?

Do you create art for your own enjoyment or for money?

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