Does Your Authentic Self Include Making Art for Money

Many artists dance around the subject of making art for money.

Making money making artThere is among some, in and outside the art community, a persistent and pervasive notion that making art for money is somehow a bad thing. Really! Why? If you really look at it from within your authentic self, it likely making money from your art is an important part of the equation of being an artist — and without question of being in the art business.

What is your authentic self?

Let’s start this post with a look at what the heck is your authentic self. Here is a good description from Wikipedia: Authenticity is a technical term used in psychology as well as existentialist philosophy and aesthetics. In existentialism, authenticity is the degree to which one is true to one’s own personality, spirit, or character, despite external pressures; the conscious self is seen as coming to terms with being in a material world and with encountering external forces, pressures and influences which are very different from, and other than, itself. A lack of authenticity is considered in existentialism to be bad faith. 

True believer has never been used to describe me.

I am far from the deepest person you will find on the planet, or possibly in a random room with ten other people. So, I’m not going to be inauthentic and pretend I’m steeped in existentialist philosophy. It is more accurate to say that as with many things, I have a casual interest in philosophy, existentialism and aesthetics. I am writing this from Sedona, Arizona where interest in topics such as authentic self runs much higher than in other places. Many consider Sedona an intensely spiritual place and come here from all over the globe to experience not only its exquisite, majestic red rock beauty, but also its mysticism as exemplified by its many vortexes.

Sedona is wonderful, weird and sometimes wacky place.

Read about the vortexes on the link in the previous sentence. It gives a scholarly run down on why vortexes cannot exist from a scientific perspective, but ends with a discussion of how, as the author says, “Illumination comes not from the outside, but from within ourselves.” I would argue this is the essence of art. When we are moved by art, we are illuminated from within; it stirs us in nearly intangible ways. Great art, whether prose, visual, performing or musical has the ability to tap our inner selves, touch us in places no amount of cadaverous spelunking will ever find. Every human instinctively knows this. It is part of our DNA. We can be moved by things beyond our comprehension.

Skeptical comeuppance?

I am pretty much a skeptical pragmatic who believes if aliens were to visit the earth, they would drop down on the White House lawn, in Cambridge Square, or at half-time during the Superbowl rather than a farmer’s field. So, more than ten years ago when visiting Sedona with my wife, I went along with the idea of a vortex Jeep tour thinking it a pleasant way to see the sights and entertain myself with the knowledge that the concept of a vortex is bunk. Without boring you with details, I will just say I saw and experienced some things that day that seem inexplicable to a skeptically pragmatic mind. In other words, I gained a new perspective about things that are generally inexplicable, but real enough to more than make a skeptic wonder. Maybe what I experienced was something in me, I don’t know and never will, it was just real.

Residing in Sedona, go figure?

I will not begin to explain it, but within a few short years, I found myself moving to Sedona. In the nearly two years my wife, Mary, and I lived here, I came to meet dozens of others who had such powerfully moving experiences, and were so energized by them they were forced to change their lives and relocate here. It is locally known as “Red Rock Fever.”  I never felt compelled to follow up on my experiences like so many others I encountered did. I never felt it was Red Rock Fever that pulled Mary and me to Sedona. We have traveled here numerous times over the years and we had always felt it might be a great place to live.

Okay, I will give explaining the move to Sedona a go after all. After watching the once powerful and impactful Decor magazine and the Decor Expo tradeshows implode, which was a terrible thing to witness how a corporate buyout can take a thriving business that is good to employees and customers alike and turn it into a hellish nightmare shell of what it had been, compounding that with and some serious health scare issues, we decided to leave overcrowded, overpriced Orange County, California and try living in the higher elevation and clean air of Sedona.

What we soon found was Sedona is a much more fun place to visit than to live, especially if you are not entirely ready to give up decades of big city living. That epiphany is how we got to Phoenix. It’s plenty big, but nothing like living in urban California. Plus, it’s a short 90-minute drive to Sedona and many other wonders that make up Arizona.

Proudly making art for money.

When I talk about embracing your authentic self and making money, I am serious. If you are at odds over the fact that your are a creative source that has the unique ability to make one-of-a-kind artwork and feel you should be ashamed for wanting to make money from your efforts, then I am talking to you.

Get down and examine yourself, your career, your motives.

  • Why are you creating art?
  • What do you want to happen once the art is made?
  • What outcome from making your art would make you most happy?
  • Can you make a living doing something else and just create art for the fun of it?

It is a rare person who makes something that doesn’t want others to appreciate the work. It is a rare person who makes something that is not desirous of exchanging the work they have made for money. Let’s face it. We all need money to survive. Whether you are a trust fund baby or clipping coupons, we all need money to manage our lives. Thus, for the large majority of artists, finding effective ways to sell your art at the best prices is part of your authentic self.

Producing art on a schedule.

Embracing making art for money might further extend to how you make your art.

  • Do you agonize over your art to make it perfect? Is this really necessary?
  • Do you sabotage your productivity due to perfectionism?
  • Do you think you are trapped into only being able to create so many pieces in a given time?
  • Do you believe hiring assistants to help you create your art devalues it?

Getting yourself together in the most authentic, genuine way.

I believe if you are genuinely aligned where both your self-image and public image are in accordance that your values, beliefs, goals, actions and behavior, it  will be evident to all who know you. Part of your authentic self should have or be at work on building the confidence that your work has value and that it deserves your asking price.

When you have such confidence, you can be humble, yet proud and never made to feel you are anything, but an authentic artist whose work deserves respect for its unique creativity and a fair price for another to own it. Being your authentic self to me simply comes down to saying what you do and doing what you say. So, go out there and make fine art, the finest art you can, and make excellent business, too. Make it so you make a living you deserve from making your art.

Some links in the post may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, we only recommend products or services we believe will add value to our readers.

11 Great Ideas to Cure Writer’s Block

Here is a guest post from Alyson Stanfield.

Discover easy ways to create content your prospects want to know from my friend, and every artist’s friend, Alyson Stanfield, the Art Biz Coach.  Check out her powerhouse Art Biz Makeover workshop in November by CLICKING HERE. I will be back next week with new art marketing ideas, and more. — Barney

Learn to get over your writer’s block with these practical content creation ideas.

When you try to sell your art in the virtual space, you are no longer just an artist. You are also a content creator.

This realization is daunting to many artists, which you’ll discover by paying attention. Newsletters are started with a bang and gradually disappear, blogs are neglected or even abandoned altogether, and social media is just…well, just a conundrum.

What do you share when the online world is already full of noise?


Here’s what you do: Remember that people are expecting to hear from you. They friended you, liked you, signed up for your newsletter or blog, or followed you because they want to hear your point of view. Live up to those expectations.

Still, I know that there are times when it’s difficult to come up with subject matter.

When the well has run dry and you have no idea what to write about, return to this list for some quick prompts.

Contextualizing Your Art

Your goal is always to keep the focus on your work when creating content, so don’t stray too far.

1. Discuss your art technique or medium.

Not all art techniques and media are interesting, so how could you make yours more interesting? Unless your audience is filled with experts, you should write as if no one has ever heard of what you do.

2. Expand on your subjects.

If your subject is the landscape, write about the history of the place, the people who have lived there, the native wildlife, or any related controversies.

Feature anything related to your niche market. I often ask my clients and students to mind map their niche market, which increases their content potential exponentially.

If you make garden sculpture, write about fictional gardens and historical gardens. Give garden tips and share other items that might be found in a garden alongside your sculpture.

I am fascinated with Belinda Chlouber’s blogging and illustrations related to her recent cochlear implant.
I am fascinated with Belinda Chlouber’s blogging and illustrations related to her recent cochlear implant.

3. Review an art exhibition.

Visit a new exhibition of art and write about what it has in common with your own. It’s a valuable exercise to place your art in the context of other art, and it’s a service to art viewers.

While you’re at it…write a rebuttal to an art review in the newspaper or on a blog.

Voicing strong or contrary opinions can be scary, but they are what people remember. We don’t usually stick around for limp blogs or wimpy articles.

4. Explore the history of a color, art medium, subject matter, or technique.

This will help you stand out because very few artists take the time to research these aspects of their art. It can only benefit you to know the tradition of what you do.

Margret Short does this very well on her blog, which has had an emphasis on exploring pigments. See this post about iron oxide.

5. Tout a recent award or honor you received.

If you don’t tout your accomplishments, who will? But don’t just say, “I won this award!” Talk about why the recognition is important. What does it mean to you? If you can’t do this, it’s probably not worth mentioning.

I love how Lisa Call did this.

Don’t forget to announce new gallery representation. Again, don’t just announce it. Say why this gallery is a good fit for you, why you respect it, and mention the achievements of the other artists in the stable.

Throw in recent purchases and commissions for more social proof.

John T. Unger tweets his buyers' names. Cool!
John T. Unger tweets his buyers’ names. Cool!

Connecting with Community

6. Confront themes around art education.

Write about your favorite art teacher and why he or she meant so much to your creative development. What did you learn from her? Conversely, you might write about where your education was lacking and how art teachers could improve the curriculum.

If you dare get into politics, and I think you should, argue on behalf of more art in the school curriculum.

7. Reveal why you donated artwork to a charity auction or nonprofit.

It’s presumed that you support any nonprofit that you donate your art to. Why? What are they doing that you believe in? How can your readers help support the cause?

Include your donated piece and how it can be purchased.

8. Take a stand on public funding of the arts.

If your state or city has debated a public arts program, it’s likely that there was some controversy in the beginning. Present the facts and take a stand. Research public arts programs in other communities and any controversy around them or any positive impact they’ve had on their communities.

Alternatively, explore the public art in your area and write about what does and doesn’t work for you. Don’t cheat! You can’t write art reviews from digital images online. You must visit the work in person.

9. Interview a local curator or collector.

A great way to meet people is to reach out to the people in your art community for a feature on your blog or in your newsletter. Read how E. Brady Robinson started photographing desks of arts leaders in Washington, D.C.

Repurposing Social Media Updates

10. Compile the top resources or quotes you tweeted or found on Twitter.

The downside to tweeting and retweeting is that those updates usually disappear into the ethers immediately after you’ve shared them. Curate a list of your best tweets to share with your fans.

11. Recount funny or insightful comments from your Facebook business page.

The chances are good that you’re the only person who reads all of the comments on your business page, and that there are probably some gems there that you could turn into a post or article.

There are so many more topics that could be fodder for your writing and social media updates. I suggest brainstorming a list, starting with these 11 ideas, and continually updating it. With this consistent habit, you’ll find that you have more to share than you have time for.

Alyson B. Stanfield is an art business coach and the author of I’d Rather Be in the Studio: The Artist’s Guide to Self-Promotion. She is hosting Art Biz Makeover, a 2.5-day live event in Colorado November 5-7, where you can network and pick up other tips for expanding your photography business. See for details

Some links in the post may be “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, we will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, we only recommend products or services we believe will add value to our readers.

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