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An Artist's Dilemma

Updated on April 27, 2011

I knew an artist who was part of a group called the "Starving artists". He would come to us many times, pushing his oil paintings so he could feed his family. I thought of him as very gifted, but sadly, as good as he was, he barely made money to survive. So, there is this dilemma that artists face. How do we balance our passion and business practicality?

Do we just paint, or do we paint to sell? Of course art is big business, and this we know based on news what's what, and who is selling for how much in the global and local art market scene. I have sold some of my work, and i have had mixed feelings about it. As an artist i would rather spend my time finding inspiration, by looking for subjects of interest to paint. I need quiet moments, perhaps a nature stroll to be able to produce work. The satisfaction of the whole creative process, from conception to the final outcome is more than sufficient. I feel content that i have expressed myself, be it in whimsical childishness, or with deeper conviction, requires no ones' approval. I feel this my license as an artist, to have such freedom.

I feel blessed to come so far, yet i know there's so much more to this art journey that i am able to see. I have a handful of die hard fans, my husband, daughter and community who celebrate who i am. My heart is filled with gratitude for everyone.

I want to continue to evolve, and learn more. I have great appreciaition for my fellow artists, especially those i work closely with, such as the ones in my art class. I am learning so much from them, not some technique, but why they are artists. I feel very privileged to be a student to a wonderful man, Joe Dowson, one of Hawaii's beloved artist. I don't just admire his work, as incredible as they are. I love the artist who at 86 is a treasury of wisdom, wit and charm.

The artist takes a risk in some ways. He paints because he has a passion for what he's doing, then he faces a dilemma. After 'birthing' his creation, what to do. he must ask himself, why did i spend so much time, effort, pouring myself, my soul, toiling for hours, days, and years, to give it away for a price?

Painting vs Selling

There are many famous artists who actually experienced the same fate of waiting, even changing careers. The fact is, many renowned and so called Masters did not live to see their impact in the world, nor their millions worth. It may be a totally different ballgame now, thanks to technology. We see a universe, a huge platform, producing a new breed of electronic artists. Who knows where we will find the next Masters. I have a feeling, they are right in our midst!


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    • IslandVoice profile imageAUTHOR

      Sylvia Van Velzer 

      7 years ago from Hawaii

      Thanks grinnin!

    • grinnin1 profile image


      7 years ago from st louis,mo

      I love what you write about your students and how it is so much more than technique, but actually seeing someone follow their creative path. Thanks for a great hub.

    • IslandVoice profile imageAUTHOR

      Sylvia Van Velzer 

      9 years ago from Hawaii

      You are most welcome Mike. Thanks for your input and for visiting. Best to you!

    • Mike Lickteig profile image

      Mike Lickteig 

      9 years ago from Lawrence KS USA

      I am a painter and illustrator, and have struggled all my life with the practical and philosophical issues involved in making a living as an artist. I wrote a blog comparing visual art with music, and the questions are valid: because music can be mass produced and still be considered valid, musical creators have a better chance of making a living than visual artists.

      Thanks for your insight, your optimism, and your encouragement.

    • IslandVoice profile imageAUTHOR

      Sylvia Van Velzer 

      10 years ago from Hawaii

      Hi dreamsville,

      Thank you for your comment and encouragement. Photography is a wonderful medium, and if you are passionate about it, then follow your heart. It will take you as far as you want to go. Keep me posted on your dream.

    • profile image


      10 years ago

      I have always loved photos, paintings, and digital artwork. I used to sketch during my teenage days but never really pursued it. I have always had a good singing voice and so singing became my real career. I sang here and there, five star hotels and I'm married and have a 5month old daughter, I thought photography would be another good path to take. Whether we started early or late in life, I believe that once you're born with the gift, it will always haunt you. Keep loving it, and never stop believing in yourself. God rewards those who nourish the talent He gave.

    • profile image


      10 years ago


    • IslandVoice profile imageAUTHOR

      Sylvia Van Velzer 

      10 years ago from Hawaii

      Thanks again FK! Signage is good business and you are right, the computer made it a lot easier to make. I'm still a student in art, just because i want to have a better appreciation of it, and maybe learn techniques i can apply to mine. I will post more of my work, maybe create a gallery. Thanks for the imput!

    • Florida Keys profile image

      Florida Keys 

      10 years ago from Jewfish Key Florida

      I make my living making signs, but only got into the business after the computerized programs made it possible. I can't draw or paint...but I have good layout skills and can run the heck out of the computer. Love the Photoshop programs and such. Was a photographer early on and now photoshop does in a click what I never was able to do in the darkroom. Good luck...oh, and post larger photos of your work in your hub. May be some art lovers in here.


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