Summary of 2022

2022 has been a busy year. Here are the numbers:

  • Created 31 canvases from scratch

  • Created 42 panels from scratch

  • Framed 34 paintings from scratch

  • Painted 46 paintings

  • Sold 34 artworks - to date, there is still time!

  • Sold $22,000 worth of art

  • Gallery Fees: $7,000

  • Exhibited in 6 shows

  • Painted 2 commissions

  • Submitted to 3 grants - received none

  • Juried 1 exhibit - Minnesota State Fair Oil/Acrylic/Mixed Media Category

  • Curated 2 exhibits

  • Consulted on 1 public art project - this does not include my public art administration job at Metro Transit where I administered several projects

  • Collaborated with 3 artists

  • Had work in 3 commercial galleries

  • Wrote 10 newsletters

  • Finished building a new studio

  • Profit: Unknown. I don’t fully know my profit until I do my taxes in early February. This year had a particularly expensive item of finishing the renovation of my studio space which counts against my profit. I will guess that my total profit is less than $3,000.

This is not an uncommon scenario for artists - a lot of work and little money pocketed. They say that The Arts are big generators within the local economy. This is because artist’s never have the luxury of holding on to their money - it goes right back out into the economy to someone else. It gives one pause if one is looking to make a living creating visual art.

When I was in Edinburgh, Scotland a few years ago, I popped into an old bakery that was converted to artist’s studios. There were thirty studios in all and an exhibit space. I spent the afternoon talking with a few of the artists and asked how many of the artists in the old bakery were making a living selling art. They answered that they all were. Thirty artists in one building all making their living from art.

That doesn’t exist in the United States. It is very seldom you find one artist making a living off just their art. Most of the one’s that seem to be living off their work have a safety net. Back in the 1980’s and 90’s, when I personally knew many of the people who won the local prestigious grants, I noticed that many of them were married to a doctor, a lawyer, a banker, etc. In this country it takes money to make money, as they say.

When I was teaching undergraduate classes in the 1980’s, I would mention that the average visual artist profited $3,000 a year from their work. At the time, Jasper Johns had sold a work for $1,000,000. That sale alone represented a lot of people making nothing. I would also mention to students the statistic that 1 in every 20,000 art majors would make a living off of art. Some of the other professors weren’t happy with me sharing these statistics.

Being a visual artist in the United States is a tough act. Is it possible to make a living? Yes, but rare. Is it possible in Minnesota? Much less likely. Minnesotans love their communal arts: theater, music and even public art. But they hesitate when purchasing art for their homes. I am not an anthropologist and can’t give answers for this.

I don’t share this to be tough on Minnesotans, or because I have sour grapes, or I am jealous of other more successful artists. I share this as a reality check. If my interest is to spend at least five years of my life making a living as an artist, I need to know the actual chances of that happening. It doesn’t only take an understanding of art and how to make it, it also takes business skills, and money skills, and…and…and…

But, a new year is here. A new chance to re-think, re-plan and re-make my future as an artist. And I am an optimist that revels in the challenge. Or I am a fool. I will have to wait for 2024 to decide which.