The other day I was at a social event and a woman spoke to me a bit about how she wants her husband to change careers to one less physically demanding than what he is doing now. She said he has been painting some very nice paintings, so she thinks he needs to quit what he is doing and take his paintings down to a gallery and start selling them, and make that his new career.
My mother has always told me that my facial expressions give too much away; that people always know exactly what I am thinking, just by looking at me. I'm sure, then, that at that moment, my face said quite loudly, "ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!!"
I explained a bit about the local art scene: we have a couple of galleries that have survived the economy, but both are artist-run (and financed) coops. I do not know a single local artist - including the really great and long-experienced ones - who is making a living through these coop galleries, or making enough to break even, most months. 'Selling' through these galleries is costing the artists a great deal.
There have been several recent articles from national sources lately, pointing out that even the top name artists are not being paid to exhibit; that the big museums and galleries are exhibiting art that is costing artists, rather than supporting them. DUH. I love showing my work. In fact, today I have packed up five of my large tapestries to send to an exhibit. I have several other tapestries out on exhibit, as well. None of these exhibits will benefit me, the artist. In fact, they have cost me a great deal in entry fees, shipping fees, and insurance, not to mention time, materials, and time spent photographing the work, etc. And that, of course, does not include creation time.
Occasionally I reach a point in the work where I wonder why I do it. Today, I am not sure of the answer, but I can tell you what is NOT a reason that I continue 'doing it.' I am not in it to make a living. If that were the case, I would be starving.
A couple of years ago, after teaching at a national conference, I decided to 'retire' from teaching. That teaching experience cost me about three times what I was paid. And that is in dollars, not including the time. I loved teaching. I just can't afford to do it anymore. I'm sure I will soon need to make that choice regarding exhibits, as well.
My husband will soon retire from his profession; the one that has made it possible for me to become a tapestry weaver. When that happens, I will need to reassess the cost of being an artist. Weaving tapestries is expensive. Exhibiting tapestries is very expensive. As a business, it is not a good business to be in at all, in spite of the fact that I have worked pretty hard at it for a long time.