You can’t make a living as an artist

You can’t make a living as an artist.

That was the refrain that we heard, growing up and making decisions about what school to go to and what to study in the 80’s.

Because the starving artist was so engrained in everyone’s mindset.

So we went to study a “real career”, that was unsatisfying, only to find out that yes, you can totally make a living as an artist.

Not only am I doing it as writer, but my son is doing it as classical musician. There are two professional orchestras in Sydney. He has gigs with both of them. And he just got a job teaching students at a private school.

His university (Sydney Conservatorium, attached to Sydney University) is very low-key. Basically, his degree is a four-year excuse to practice lots and to meet lots of people.

My daughter’s degree in Physiotherapy was highly prescriptive. At the end, she got accreditation and there were prescribed jobs she could apply for. Not much creativity required.

My son has had to make his own career. He’s played in almost every amateur band or orchestra in this area, often paying membership fees. He’s helped out for free many times before he started getting paid gigs. He got those gigs only because *he* went out and looked for them, and he went to as many auditions as possible, and learned new things where that was necessary (like, play the oboe). There is NO prescribed career path in his field and *everything* has to come from the student.

The student who succeeds is the one who doesn’t give up. It’s the one who is competent, but who comes on time and does the work. Yo, you may be brilliant, but if you’re a shit to work with and you are often late, forgeddaboutid.

And you know, that’s like writing. And other types of freelancing. All the drive has to come from YOU.

It seems to me that there was a whole generation who took a much more passive approach to employment. You worked for da man, and da man looked after you until you retired. That was the reality they knew. So they told us no, you can’t make a living from art. Because no one is going to pay for it.

Thing is, art is much more than the stuff we see hanging in galleries, and people spend more on art every day. Art in various forms is everywhere–the written word, audio-visual, music, web design, books, leaflets, furniture, street signs, tv, radio, clothing, the list goes on and on.

Of course you can make a living doing art, but you have to go out and find your own career, because no one is going to tell you how to do it.

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