Commercialism or Vision – What should an artist choose?

Professional Artists need to sell their work.


But deciding go professional creates a dilemma for the artist…

©2012 - Cathy Read - The Perfect Relationship! - Mixed Media - 46x61cm
©2012 - Cathy Read - The Perfect Relationship! - Mixed Media on canvas- 46x61cm

Commercialism vs Vision.

Do you paint what sells or what you love?

Some artists paint work for the market but don’t really enjoy creating the art they do. Are you in danger of the commercial side taking over and hindering progress with the work you love? Does it matter if you confuse collectors by following your passion to produce different work as well?

In an ideal world, you do both.

The primary goal is sell the art you love to create. Marketing efforts should be finding collectors who like the work you love to create. Painting what you think sells has additional drawbacks – what sells one week, might not the next!

But it isn’t an easy road. Especially early in a career. Realism sets in with the need to generate funds.

Commercial options become tempting.

Which is why some artists paint for the market. Is it wrong to do that? I don’t think so. If it enables you to fund your vision or you love what you’re doing.

I’ve received many portrait and caricature commissions and thoroughly enjoyed the process.

But there’s an expectation with any commission. The commissioner dictates how the painting will look. It is, after all, their picture. They’re paying for it and usually know what they want.

Any ideas you might have can be rejected and you have to argue the case for including them.

Unless you’re very strong willed or very established there is always likely to be some compromise in a commission.

Teaching is another option.

It’s an accepted way of supplementing an artists income. With many successful artists still teaching because it inspires them!

But be wary if you do!

You could become so absorbed in teaching you forget your own dreams? Or, more likely, become too tired to pursue them.

Teaching is important, I don’t deny it! And if it’s your primary goal, then fine. But if you want to continue as an artist remember your vision. And keep moving towards it.

And I haven’t even started with grants, competitions and patronage!

But they’re worthy of a whole post in themselves?

So find a way to follow your passion.

There’s no right way to fund yourself. But there is a way that will work for you.

Now, did I miss anything out?


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2 Replies to “Commercialism or Vision – What should an artist choose?”

  1. I think with the phrase “You could become so absorbed in teaching you forget your own dreams? Or, more likely, become too tired to pursue them.” you could substitute any job an artist does in order to pay the bills. It’s hard to be who you are and have the strength to fight for it.

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