22 Myths About Artists: Misconceptions Debunked

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Kevin Hayler: Professional Wildlife artist, author, and traveler.

As a professional artist myself, I’m well aware of the many myths and misconceptions that surround art and artists. In this article, I’ll be examining and dispelling 22 commonly held myths about artists that simply don’t match reality

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Enough of the intro, let’s start

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1. The Starving Artist Myth

The stereotype of the starving artist suggests visual artists live in poverty and financial struggle. There was some truth to this in the past but today, with online sales and multiple income streams, many artists earn a decent living from their work.

Here are 10 ways to make money selling art:

  1. Sell art through online stores/galleries – Sites like Etsy, Saatchi Art, and Artsy provide platforms to display and sell your artwork.
  2. Take commissions – Market custom artwork services on social media and your own website.
  3. License your art for products – Upload designs to sites like Redbubble that put art on t-shirts, phone cases, and other merch.
  4. Sell printable files – Offer digital copies of artworks, coloring pages, patterns, etc. for fans to download and print.
  5. Teach online art courses – Create video lessons and tutorials and sell access on your site or teaching platforms.
  6. Share your art process on Patreon – Fans can pay to support you monthly and get behind-the-scenes content.
  7. Do freelance design/illustration work – Find clients needing artwork for ads, books, merchandise, etc.
  8. Write and publish art eBooks – Self-publish instructional ebooks on Amazon, your site, etc.
  9. Monetize a YouTube art channel – Get ad revenue and promote your website.
  10. Monetize your own website – Sell prints and digital downloads, write a blog, and run ads and affiliate links

So while the romanticized “starving artist” ideal still holds some cultural currency, the reality is that many artists find different ways to get by financially. The potential to make money is there if you are focused. Artists can make a good living, just like other professions.

This is an interesting read by Jeff Goins

Real Artists Don't Starve by Jeff Goins

The myth has it that artists are a breed apart and it’s uniquely difficult to succeed in the art world. Not true, it’s difficult, yes, but it’s difficult for most new businesses. It’s a steep learning curve and it involves many costly mistakes along the way. 

Read this. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (source), 20% of small businesses fail in the first year of trading, 30% by year two and a half before year 5. It gets worse, 70% of businesses do not survive the decade!

Artists do not uniquely fail, starting a profitable business is hard work. The hours are long, it’s solitary, and it’s insecure. It’s far easier to give up and find a conventional job.

2. The Solitary Genius Myth

The lone artistic genius is a trope. While some visual artists prefer to work alone, I can tell you that many thrive in a creative environment. Most artists would much prefer a private space within a communal setting.

Read this post: Is Being an Artist Lonely? Read The Truth

Creatives need other people with whom to bounce around ideas and get inspiration. Many artists fail, not because they are unsuccessful financially but because of the loneliness of the profession. It’s a mental health issue.

Artists are no different from anyone else. A solitary lifestyle is unhealthy

Art should be a social process. Yet the myth of the isolated genius persists and we imagine the slightly deranged artist struggling through the night, alone in his studio and in a passionate frenzy of creative genius. Yeah right. 

You know what would make the biggest difference for artists? If the government offered or built purpose-made communal workshops where artists could enjoy low rents, in a creative environment, with other like-minded people.

The arts would flourish. You don’t need an arts degree to have a creative career, you need time and space. Artists have plenty of drive and ambition but the costs of setting up shop are crushing. 

3. The Passionate Artist Myth

The temperamental, passionate artist is largely a myth. While artists are dedicated, they are generally no more prone to dramatic emotional outbursts than anyone else.

Most artists are focused on the work at hand and channel their passions through commitment, persistence, and dedication, not tantrums

“I would rather die of passion than of boredom.”

Vincent Van Gogh

The myth of the wildly passionate, moody, self-destructive artist is a powerful one, but in reality, emotional sensitivity and restraint typify most artists.

That segues nicely onto the most annoying stereotype of all – the tortured genius.

4. The Tortured Artist Myth

The life of Vincent Van Gogh is a cliche. It’s just a story about a loser. His life was a mess, he was mentally ill, and his paintings were, and are, an acquired taste. Just because the art world declares that he was a genius doesn’t make it a fact. It’s a subjective opinion. That’s all. 

This post is related: Is Art Subjective? Is There Good and Bad Art?

I would contend that Van Gogh was a mediocre talent with a great backstory. You might disagree.

Sometimes I think if Kirk Douglas hadn’t played Van Gogh so well in ‘Lust for Life’ perhaps we wouldn’t have that tortured genius image embedded in our minds. He’s got a lot to answer for!

Anyway, dealing with inner demons is not confined to artists, is it? What nonsense, They suffer no more than anyone else does.

If you are feeling overwhelmed, has many business courses and many on maintaining personal mental health.

For starters, amateur artists, make their art for fun, it’s an enjoyable and fulfilling pastime and there is nothing tortured about that. Professional artists, on the other hand, have many more pressures to contend with, and the solitary lifestyle compounds any proclivity toward mental illness.

That said, loneliness is not an illness – not yet. It’s a situation. Maybe there’ll be a pill one day – OMG.

I point out a few realities here: What is it Like To Be an Artist? The Truth Revealed

In my opinion, suffering isn’t a requirement for great art. Who wants to suffer? I don’t believe in suffering for your art, if it was that bad, I’d do something else.

I can’t see how a tortured artist ever made better art than someone who is secure and reasonably happy. 

Anyway, who wants some depressing art on their wall? I like something beautiful. Whatever happened to beauty for beauty’s sake? Am I missing something? I must be old-fashioned. 

The myth of the mentally tormented artist will endure no doubt, while the well-adjusted artist will be side-lined. Such is an artist’s life. 

5. Artists Are Born, Not Made Myth

It makes me groan when I hear these words ” Well you’ve either got it or you haven’t”. It’s as if there is a divine provenance that dictates your path in life. What a load of tosh.

The myth of natural talent ignores the clear fact that “natural” abilities require cultivation. Like any skill, art develops through practice, practice, and more bloody practice. Endless hours of trial and error. Dedication, perseverance, and instruction matter more than innate talents.

Read any of these:

Brilliant self-taught artist prodigies do exist, but they are extremely rare. Most great artists combine an early interest in art with practice, study, and application of their craft. Hard work and expertise, more than raw talent, creates great art.

If you need more help with drawing, then I urge you to check out
Dorian Iten on Proko. His course is reasonably priced and inspiring

6. Good Art Sells Itself Myth

This is one of the most common myths out there. Art does not sell itself. The artists who suppose that their genius art will sell itself have a serious ego problem. Art sells itself? Are you kidding me? Nothing sells itself apart from food for the hungry, that’s it. 

Read these:

This useless sales myth assumes that quality and talent rise to the top, but everyone knows that much of the acclaimed art in this world is a pile of talentless crap. How can that be? It couldn’t be that the art charlatans are damn good at marketing themselves, could it?

Many skilled and brilliant artists go unrecognized because they shy away from promoting themselves. It’s that simple. You have to get out there and sell your wares, skills, and knowledge. People will only buy from people they like and know about.

This will interest you: Shy Artists: How to Succeed When You Are Introverted

Why is that such a hard concept to grasp? 

Business skills, connections, and luck also play their part. But the sad fact is brilliant art will not sell if the artist doesn’t promote it.  If it does sell, the price will be too low. Talent alone does not guarantee an artist makes a living. Good art requires active selling 

Art licensing is as close to passive income as you can get. Find out what it’s all about. This is a popular course by Alison Cole on Domestika

7. Great Artists Are Discovered Myth

Very closely related to my last point. There is a myth that great artists will shine and be discovered eventually. I have heard this said all my life “You’ll get there, one day”, fine, but where is “there”? 

  • If only the right person came along,
  • If only the right patron appeared
  • If only you were in the right gallery.

If only you had this, that, or the other, everything would fall into place. 

There’s another way – if only artists would listen. 

An artist succeeds through self-promotion, not passive discovery. You will wait a lifetime for a talent scout to find you! Success is more likely for networkers. The name of the game is to follow your dreams and make them happen.

Be proactive and not reactive. Forget about passive anything. 

Artists who wait around to be “found” are likely to remain unknown. Hard work is the only proven way to success and even then it’s no guarantee. You have to push yourself into the limelight and make yourself known.

8. Artists Are Lazy Myth

Another lazy trope. I have been called lazy more times than I’ve had hot dinners. What is lazy about working 7 days a week? I have worked my butt off for years and still, I get accused of laziness. 

It goes something like this, “You know what you should do…” – I could scream. Someone, who knows ‘F’ all about selling art, dreams up an idea on the spot and tells you how to make money.

It’s as if you have been doing nothing for the last 20 years and never thought about making greeting cards or whatever ‘good idea’ they dump on you.

And what do you get when you respond negatively to their unwanted advice, “Well if you don’t want to make money”. 

It’s as if they know how much money you make, and the implication is clear. If only you weren’t so work-shy and useless, you’d crack on with their 5-second business plan immediately.

The lazy artist myth ignores the demands and responsibilities of art careers. Artists work extremely hard, just like other people. They must be disciplined, self-motivating, and reliable. None of this carefree and devil-may-care crap. 

Although there is an element of selfishness in pursuing an art career, it’s the same as for anyone else who has ambition in any field. Serious professional artists are not feckless hedonists. A successful artist has to be professional. It is an art business after all. 

9. The ‘Understanding Art’ Myth

Some myths cast artists as elitists producing art only for the monied and educated classes. Only the great and the good can understand art. While some artists focus on their pseudo-intellectual conceptual art, many more strive to serve a broader audience. 

Loading your art with obscure meaning and explaining it through art speak and impenetrable art jargon, falls flat with most people. The public isn’t interested in all that guff. It’s more about showing off to fellow artists than sharing something meaningful.

Unfortunately, higher education promotes a high-art mindset and that hurts art students when they leave the fold and try to make a living. It does, however, keep art tutors in a safe cushy job.

Let’s cut to the chase, this pretentious codswallop is meant to put the riff-raff in their place and it does what intends to do, it excludes the majority of people.

Put it another way, it excludes the majority of your potential customers, that’s commercial genius for you. Listen, I’m intimidated walking into an art gallery and I’m a professional for God’s sake.

Ever seen a full art gallery that wasn’t handing out free booze? I rest my case.

The truth is, there is precious little to understand about art. It’s not intellectual. There may be cultural references, metaphors, and allegories weaved throughout the artwork, but so what?

It doesn’t mean the artist has any greater insight into the world than anyone else. It could be, and usually is, the visual equivalent of talking out of your arse. Art is emotional, not intellectual.

10. It’s Not a Job, It’s a Vocation Myth

There is a perception that art is not real work but rather a calling that artists feel predestined to follow. Not me. The artists I know simply view art as their day job or career. I want to earn a few quid/bucks from something I’m good at. 

Perhaps I had a calling in my childhood. Even then, as I look back and put things in my life into context, I drew in my childhood because the results pleased others around me.

It became my identity, I was one of the kids that could draw better than the others. My passion was my way of being praised and accepted. It was the only way I stood out from the crowd.

My talent, such as it was, was cultivated over time. There was a kernel of talent, or let’s call it an aptitude, and I improved upon it. I left high school without a trade or qualifications. I could do one thing well, I could draw. Making it pay seemed better than working on the factory line.

Family life. A mechanical pencil drawing of a family of elephants by Kevin Hayler
‘Family Life’ by Kevin Hayler – Elephants sell very well!

So while a sense of vocation undoubtedly drives some, and I envy that sense of purpose, for many, including myself, it’s an identity and a way of making a living.

11. Successful Artists Are Lucky Myth

It’s very hard not to throw in a few cliches, so sorry, but here goes, “You make your own luck”. It’s true. Luck happens when you put yourself in a position where things can happen. Doors open all the time, it’s a matter of choice whether you decide to enter them or not. 

In that sense, there is no such thing as luck, there is only opportunity. Art is not a lottery.

It’s up to every one of us to capitalize on the breaks that come our way. That is life. It’s important not to dismiss our every achievement as merely luck, you have to take advantage of happenstance for it to be a lucky break.

Neither should we define ourselves by our bad luck.

Yeah, shit happens in life, get used to it, that’s not going to change. Bad luck is a setback, it’s deflating, demotivating, and a challenge. Believe me, it’s rarely a defeat. 

I’ll give you an example of misfortune. I decided to be an artist even though I had the bad luck of being colorblind. I cut my cloth accordingly. I found a niche in pencil drawing instead. Am I frustrated that I can’t mix color? Yes of course but it didn’t stop me from finding another way.

Read these posts:

Perceptions of luck differ between people. Ask yourself, are you in control of your life or a victim of circumstance? It makes a difference how you look at things.

12. Art Is Relaxing Myth

It may be relaxing for you, but it’s not for me. I’m a professional and a perfectionist. That’s a recipe for stress if ever there was one.

'Leaps and bounds' A pencil draeing by Kevin Hayler
‘Leaps and bounds’ A Pencil Drawing by Kevin Hayler

There is a general perception that the act of making art is in itself inherently calming and meditative. Speaking personally, creating art is a mental effort and bloody tiring. My art, and I’m not alone in this, requires intense focus, time, and problem-solving. It’s not relaxing

Then there are the external everyday worries that impact your life. It’s not easy to relax when you are selling art to pay the rent or feed the family. That is a real pressure.

Art is relaxing for artists when it’s a hobby. I often envy amateur artists who use art to escape everyday life. They have more fun than me. I haven’t enjoyed art that way since I was at school. Sad really. 

Ironically, the relaxing effects of art are more likely to be experienced by the viewers than by the artists themselves. For professional creators, art is demanding work. 

13. It’s Easy for Talented Artist’s Myth

Yeah right. That’s another casual misconception I hear over and over again. Any skill looks easy after 40 years of practice! 

A common myth exists that artists have it easy because they can simply draw whatever they like when they feel like it. Not only that, artists know what to make, how to make it, and never make mistakes. And it goes on.

Good artists do not need to plan or compose their art because let’s face it, real artists make art instinctively, it just appears. 

This is a commonly held belief. No effort is required!

 “It must be great doing something you love”.

The truth is so different. Endless struggle, insane concentration, insecurity, deadlines, and imposter syndrome. Battles are going on and all the public appreciates are the results.

They think you are in a semi-meditative state, when in fact you are battling to rescue your work before trashing it and starting again. 

Then there are the commissions to consider. Professional artists must work on art commissions and projects they’re not passionate about.

Need money? Read these:

I defy any artist to get inspired and passionate about painting someone’s dead pet. Faking interest isn’t easy, and the worry that you will disappoint your customer when it’s finished isn’t easy either. There is a lot of emotional baggage attached to commission work.

14. The Exhibiting Myth

Some myths suggest that artists must exhibit in art galleries to be considered successful, I get asked this question regularly, “Where do you exhibit?”

That’s said while I’m exhibiting my art on my market stall. In other words, they assume I’m failing. I often get a reassuring pep talk “You should be in a gallery”.

There is an acceptance, even in the age of the internet that legitimate artists are represented by an agent or art gallery. It goes almost unquestioned. Why? Youtubers will make more money than most artists represented in a gallery.

There are so many ways to cash in these days that art galleries are not even on the radar for most people. If they want a picture they’ll look online first. 

Galleries take 50% of the rewards so to be valuable they must generate a substantial amount of extra business. This is rarely the case. Exhibitors typically have a flurry of sales on opening night and next to nothing for the rest of the exhibition. 

Art galleries are useful as long as all your eggs aren’t in their basket. Gallery owners are running a business and naturally, they want to protect their trade. Most gallery owners will want some form of exclusivity. Be careful what you agree to. 

Exhibiting is not necessary for a successful art career. Those days are over.

15. Art Is Its Own Reward Myth

Speak for yourself. I’ll take the money thanks. I want to be financially rewarded first.

The romantic view is that artists should be motivated purely by passion, not money, but most artists need an income to support themselves and their passion. Wanting a fair return for a hard day’s work does not diminish your dedication to your art.

I would argue it does quite the opposite.

There is nothing more de-motivating than to be paid in praise. I want the cash thanks. Ultimately, that’s the only approval that matters. Anyone can throw around compliments, we can all do that, but it costs nothing.

I want my admirers to buy my art. That’s the bottom line, I’m a professional, not a hobbyist. If an admirer is happy to part with their hard-earned cash to hang my art in their home, that’s a compliment I can relate to. 

It’s not mercenary, I sell my art prints for a few bucks/quid, not for 100s. I need sales, not just to pay the bills, but as a positive affirmation that my pictures are worth having. That’s essential. It keeps me motivated. 

Read this related post: How to Motivate Yourself to Draw and Make Art: 11 Kickass Ways

Art as its own reward is largely an ideal, not the day-to-day reality.

16. Artists Don’t Know How To Do Business Myth

The myth of the naive artist unfamiliar with commercial practicalities may have some truth for fine artists. Recent graduates are cast out without any real-world experience of the art world. They are channeled into the gallery funnel. Only a handful will succeed.

Most visual creatives, working commercially. understand business. Their livelihoods depend on it. Full-time artists must know how to manage their time, prioritize tasks, and keep records, and tax accounts.

On top of that, they have to promote themselves, find the time to plan and create new art, and then sell them.

If you can make it in the art business, you can make it in almost anywhere. Do you want to make a start? Read my guide.

Selling art made simple banner

Sure, some artists are hopeless at business, just like most of the population. Most people work for a company and haven’t got the will, or ability, to work for themselves. That’s just the way it is. Most people are followers, not leaders.

17. Higher Prices Mean Higher Quality Myth

A common myth is that the best art inevitably commands the highest prices. Not a bit of it.  

The price of art is influenced by many factors, such as:

  • The artist’s reputation and collectability,
  • The rarity of the work,
  • The medium,
  • The size of the art,
  • Where it’s being sold,
  • The subjective preferences of buyers

At the top end, art becomes a commodity to be traded or bought as an investment. It’s all hype and manipulation. No formula states what a piece of art is worth. 

It’s worth as much as you can get for it, and worth nothing. Only the buyer knows what they are prepared to pay. They decide what they will give you.

It comes as a cruel shock to learn that artistic skills are secondary considerations in the art market. A well-known celebrity will command high prices because they are on the TV. No artistic merit is required. 

There are galleries in my hometown selling amateur crap painted by rock stars that sell for thousands. And they are only prints! 

A piece of art sold outside on a street market will be devalued in the minds of most buyers. That same painting hung in an expensive-looking frame and hung under spotlights in an art gallery, will command a far higher price. Same picture, different context. 

These post will help:

Of course, it has to command twice the price to cover the 50% gallery commission, but my point is, that higher prices are very hard to get in a cheaper setting.

Expensive art is not necessarily better art, the price does not reflect the quality.

18. Exposure Leads to Art Sales Myth

It depends on the exposure. Much of the so-called exposure is useless. I’ve donated many prints to charity auctions over the years, and I’ve never had any new sales as a consequence. Don’t get me wrong, I would donate to them anyway, but I have no expectations of gaining anything.

I was contacted by a TV production company once to ask for permission to use one of my prints on the set of a new show. The multi-million-pound company didn’t offer any cash, they offered exposure! Whoopee-do. I said it was OK but now I ignore these ‘exposure’ opportunities.

Social media can also suck your time without much more to show for it other than ‘likes’. Even so used wisely social media is effective.

Read these:

Get to Grips with your Art business with Katy on Domestika

Another black hole it’s easy to fall into is believing that art competitions and juried shows are going to advance your art career. Very few of the ‘exposure’ events live up to the hype. They will suck your time, energy, and wallet.

My own experience was a lesson learned. I submitted some of my best work to the BBC Wildlife Art competition. Naturally, I assumed that it would be prestigious. I was in the finals and discovered that it was little more than cheap copy for the magazine.

We didn’t even get a cup of tea for turning up. Total contempt

If you want to know my thoughts, read this: Art Competitions and Juried Shows: Are They Worth The Effort?

As an artist, one of the most effective ways to market yourself and your work is through direct publicity like interviews and features. Getting coverage in magazines, podcasts, or webinars lets you present your art and expertise in a focused, favorable way to new audiences.

These platforms allow you to share your passion and story more authentically.

When leveraged properly, this kind of publicity can significantly expand your reach. The key is to view media appearances as marketing tools and actively direct the new exposure to your website and onto your mailing list.

Have links and other calls-to-action ready to include so that interested viewers can easily find more of your work.

It’s crucial to be selective. Securing coverage in a major publication sounds prestigious but may not connect you with art buyers, not if it’s the wrong readership. Do your research. 

19. You Need to Go to Art School Myth

“Where did you train? It’s often the first question I’m asked. It doesn’t occur to people that you can be self-taught.

In my experience of meeting many disillusioned art students over the years, the very last thing most art colleges will do is train anyone, great if you want to study art history, bloody useless if you want to learn how to paint watercolors. 

If you want to hone your skills, you are better off taking local art classes or doing an online course. I won’t rant about art education and expensive art degrees, I’ve already done that, suffice it to say that I think art colleges have a different agenda.

Read these:

If you want to learn traditional technical skills, look elsewhere, you’ll learn more and pay less.

20. Your Art Must Be Unique Myth

There is a famous quote attributed to Picasso, “Good artists borrow great artists steal”. In other words, forget about originality. All you can hope for is to develop your own style based on the artists that have influenced you. We all do it. 

Most artists try to emulate their favorite artists and fail but in the process, but find their own way of doing things. A unique style evolves over time. 

Very few people are capable of inventing anything new, and of those that can, only a fraction of those inventions will gain traction. Most good ideas are doomed to failure.

The best way to find success in your art career is to go with the flow and make recognizable art, in a relatable way. I’ll give you an extreme example.

Have you ever seen those guys who roll out a giant canvas painting on the street? They kneel down, paint with pastels, and put out a hat for coins. The guys who make money copy an old master, they don’t do their own work.

The same goes for busking musicians  The guys who do well sing covers, not their own material. 

No one is interested in anything new. They respond to the familiar. The general public is very conservative in their tastes and what they consider to be talented. You push the boundaries of art at your financial peril.

I’m not suggesting for one moment that you should mass produce pastiches of other artists work, that’s not going to get you very far, nor is it fun. I am suggesting, however, that the most successful artists recognize what kind of art sells and do their own versions. 

'Tiger in the Grass' A Pencil Drawing by Kevin Hayler
‘Tiger in the Grass’ A Pencil Drawing by Kevin Hayler

This drawing of a tiger was a rework of an earlier drawing I did of a lion in a very similar composition. It sold well so I knew a tiger would sell too. If I did a domestic cat in the same way, that would sell as well.

Read this for more info: What Kind of Art Sells Best? The Popular Subjects Revealed

Why try to create a market with something new and unknown, when you can follow a trend with proven sales? Think about it. You wouldn’t bring a product to market in any other business without doing your homework first. 

21. Good Artists Draw Out of Their Imagination Myth

A myth exists that great artists draw from their imagination and vision. In truth, even exceptional artists rely heavily on external sources like models, photographic references, and preparatory sketches. 

These posts relate to this topic:

Pure imagination provides only the initial concept. Realizing a fully rendered artwork requires lengthy observation, drafting, and developing the initial idea. Even the most skilled artists can’t produce advanced realistic art from their mind’s eye, not without visual references. 

I suspect that onlookers see a wonderful artist constructing an amazing drawing out of thin air and assume that it is a mysterious and innate talent.

They don’t realize that the artist is almost certainly using muscle memory and tried and tested techniques to redraw things they have drawn many times before.

There are techniques that artists use to construct a drawing from scratch. Graphic comic artists know anatomy, proportions, and perspective so well that they can draw convincing figures seemingly out of their heads. It takes years of practice to get that good.

22. Artists Are Eccentric Myth

Eccentric or a pain in the rear? It’s a fine line. In my experience, there are two common types of artists, doers and talkers. 

The talkers dress the part and love to talk about the art they haven’t quite got around to making. Or worse still, they drone on endlessly about expressing their artistic inner vision and presenting it to the unsuspecting world. It’s all about ego, image, and self-identifying as an artist – darling.

I think, in my amateur psychologist way, that the dress sense is compensation for what is lacking in their artwork. It’s a sign of insecurity. Some might think it’s eccentric, others might call it pretentious twaddle. 

The other type is the working artist. They look like everyone else. They get on with things and have nothing to prove. They are simply trying to earn a living.

There is no place for oddballs and quirky eccentrics when money is at stake. Would you commission an artist who was socially unhinged? Nor would I.

In my experience, the best artists are always unassuming and conventional types. A uniform isn’t required.

While I’m sure there are some professional eccentric artists out there, most are actually quite down-to-earth, stable, and able to function normally in society. We have to be level-headed to turn our art into a viable career.

The Confused Social Status of Artists

I’d like to finish this post off with a word or two about the unique places artists have in society. 

On the one hand, artists are written off as figures of fun and, if not held in mild contempt. They are not taken seriously at all. The cliche suggests that artists are playing at life.

On the other hand, artists are accepted across the classes and able to cross social barriers. It’s OK to be Bohemian, broke, and defy social conventions – within reason. 

People are interested in artists, it’s not boring. When I describe my job, people listen. 

The messages are mixed:

  • Artists are elevated beyond their worth]while simultaneously being ridiculed unfairly. 
  • People envy artists while writing them off as losers.
  • They admire the art and resent paying for it

So many contradictions. You have social status with no social standing, how does that work? 

When people ask me what I do for a living, I tell people I am a wildlife illustrator. I don’t say I’m a wildlife artist in person, why? Because “artist” is a loaded term. It comes with baggage and it’s impossible to shake it off.

Likewise, I’m freelance, not self-employed, which implies I’m a white-collar worker and not a blue-collar worker. Should it matter? No. Does it matter? Yes. It mattered when I was trying to rent a property.

The overriding assumption people make about artists is that you are hard up and unable to make it in the real world. That myth is so strong it overrides what people see in front of their own eyes. 

Brighton Market stall in Brighton on a busy summers day

Read this: How to Sell Art on The Street: By a Street Artist

I’ve spent over 20 years selling my art from a street stall, in the same place, every day, all summer long, I serve adults who bought my prints when they were kids!

And yet people come up to me, after seeing me there for decades, and still ask me what I do for a living. Says it all.

Myths About Artists: Final Thoughts

These myths surrounding artists often contain partial truths, but ultimately, they present a distorted picture. Most artists defy these simplistic stereotypes and go about their work professionally. They face the same real-world responsibilities as everyone else.

While the notion of the struggling, eccentric genius makes for a compelling story, it reduces an artist down to a caricature.  The truth is far more complex than the popular myths suggest.

How do you deal with being stereotyped? It’s difficult. It’s both a blessing and a curse. I enjoy the attention, and to be honest, playing up to the romantic image helps with sales. In that sense, I have only myself to blame. 

Being pitied and patted on the back, and frankly, patronized, is tiresome. What can you do? Grin and bear it I suppose. In the meantime, I’ll carry on making money.

If you like the way I draw and want to try things for yourself, this is my basic kit.

This is how I made a living for over 20 years. You can too, simply copy what I did – No hidden secrets

Selling art made simple digital guide for starting a small art business

If You Want to Sell Your Art

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22 Myths about artists that you must ignore
The artist and Author Kevin Hayler

Hi, I’m Kevin Hayler
I’ve been selling my wildlife art and traveling the world for over 20 years, and if that sounds too good to be true, I’ve done it all without social media, art school, or galleries!
I can show you how to do it. You’ll find a wealth of info on my site, about selling art, drawing tips, lifestyle, reviews, travel, my portfolio, and more. Enjoy

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