Thursday, March 22, 2012

Artists and Money

We have all been looking at our finances, what with tax time and new fiscal years and all that other left-brain stuff. I have made my living as a freelance artist for nearly my entire adult life, and have been forced to learn various left brain things, from having a spreadsheet to getting my estimated payments in on time.

It's tempting to call myself an "artiste" and too "flakey" or "above it all" to take care of that kind of housework. Financial management is also scary because it's outside my comfort zone.

I think there are myths about artists which make us seem crazier than we are. The artists who also happen to be womanizers, or alcoholics, or mentally ill, are the ones who get the attention of media personnel who are trying to get published. It's a vicious cycle: these artists get more attention because their stories are titillating. The writers want thier own work to sell, so they write about titillating artists.
And when that written piece sells, the artistic community looks even wilder than it did before.

The reality is that most successful artists, in order to BE successful, have to be disciplined. Artists cannot afford to be paying interest on credit card debt.They have to put the liquor down. They have to get their love lives under control. And they have to manage thier money.

How can anyone paint if they can't afford the supplies? How can they paint if thier home is always in turmoil? How can they paint if thier hands are controlled by alcohol or drugs?

When I was single, it became clear that there was no where to turn except to God's narrow gate. Any other option would have destroyed my ability to work. And God has a lot to say about money management. Now I'm married to a man who has a talent for seeing numeric patterns, and a master's degree in accounting... but my own discipline about money is still MY responsibility.

We're both fans of Dave Ramsey, and right now we're participating in the taping of his new series on financial management. He is not shy about telling his own story, and he emphasises again and again how important it is to read what God has to say about it in Proverbs as well as other old and new testament passages. He has helped millions of people get control of their finances. It's exciting to see him in action.

It's also good to look at our own financial snapshot and see that we have been doing some things right. Care and conservatism in your money management will get you, an artist, through even a recession like the one we are climbing out of now.


  1. I love the manner in which you bring logic and common sense philosophy by asking questions. Jesus did that with His, "What would it gain...", "Who among you...", and so forth. It's a great tool to offer the option of thinking. Maybe we should offer a campaign of questions to Congress.
    I blame most, if not all, modern woes of the art world on Van Gogh and Monet--mostly Van Gogh. He was nuts, poor, common and Seattle grunge. It gave all future artists a license to be sloppy, nutty and only use two colors of paint and call it "genius". There might be someone out there who disagrees. That's okay.
    Part of what does make an artist as they are is the ability to be our own guides and take on the establishment. I love the fact you mention money management because discipline, where it's practice and continuing to learn or saving money, is sorely missing in art today.

  2. I agree, too many creative young people get the wrong idea from all the hype.

  3. Great article, Gayle! I'm late to the party, as usual, but I always manage to arrive quietly. I'm only noticed when I'm gone. :) Discipline, I think, is THE number one reason why beginning artists won't create the sketch, set up the palette, pick up the brush. The whole process of painting is a systematic one. Without some kind of controlled environment in place, the L-Mode will not shut up enough for R-Mode to get a chance to talk. When the temperature in the studio isn't right, when there's food instead of just a cup of tea, when there isn't a palette set up, when Little Joey doesn't know that it's Mommy's (or Daddy's in my case) time to play (or work), when our financial affairs are not in order, it's IMPOSSIBLE to devote ourselves to creating art. L-Mode SHOULD routinely be used, but it should be left at the door of the studio.