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Dave Wood

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How do I cultivate an artistic career when the financial incentive is secondary or in some cases detrimental to the principles of my values

I have made a conscious decision to make more of my passions and abilities. I am at the beginning stages of starting a family, and cannot realistically raise children and support my wife to be on my current wage. I do not wish to invest any more of myself in a career I resent purely to meet these financial pressures, I want to invest my time and energy in the things I am truly passionate about, however believe that the necessity to create for a financial gain is detrimental to the creativity itself. The saturation of creative markets with people trying to make a living out of their arts means that just creating is no longer a viable lifestyle choice, without the sacrifice of the woman I love and the family we hope to build. I do not want to abandon the fundamental principles I have about the value of art being greater than that of money, but not at the expense of my family. Compromise?

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  • Jun 18 2013: Wow! Reading this made my head explode.

    It sounds like you are trying to use your desire to follow your passion and creativity to justify not trying to make enough money to support a family.

    I believe that as an adult, you first do what you need to do to survive, be a good citizen, and make your way in life on your own. To do anything less means that you are expecting someone else to do these things for you.

    I believe that if you are married, you and your wife form an adult partnership that effectively does the same set of basic things for both of you together as a team. How the responsibilities are split up within the marriage (income, housework, chores, etc.) is up to you.

    I believe that if you bring a child into the world, you both do what is necessary for the child to survive and thrive. This includes spending time with the child and providing for the child's needs.

    Your personal choice to pursue your passion and creativity is noble and the mark of a committed artist, to the extent that your choice does not create a burden for other citizens. This means earning whatever you need to survive in a comfortable lifestyle yourself. Similarly, in your partnership with your wife, as long as between the two of you you take care of your combined needs, then all is well. Her willingness to do more than her share of the work to enable you to pursue your art is a selfless gift to you and the art. Similarly, in a family, as long as the basic needs of all members are met, no issues.

    Pursuit of your passion, after you or your family's basic needs are met, is your right. Deciding how much of your time is spent pursuing your art, financial gain or with family is also your decision.

    Compromising your art to earn the money needed to survive is your decision. You could earn money some other way.

    Choosing to not earn what you or your family needs to survive in pursuit of art is irresponsible, not some type of compromise, as it creates a burden on others.
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      • Jun 19 2013: Agreed.

        Hopefully, I was careful enough in my construction to endorse the scenario you put forward in my response. That was my intent. I fully concur with a income earning distribution such as your tinkerer had in his family and offer Kudos to the wife for taking the risk with her investment of work to support him as he was developing his new technology. So long as the basic needs of the child are met, i have no issue with this lifestyle.

        However, in my life I have met people that would say all of what was said and feel no remorse in pursing their art for their own pleasure and becoming a burden on those that love and need them. Hopefully my response isolated and illuminated this condition as being irresponsible under the guise of pursuit of an art .

        I hope Mr. Wood falls in the category of your tinkerer and not in the category of the deluded artist I described. My intent was to remove potential delusion, not judge. I could not tell which side of the fence he was on when I read the remarks.

        With a bit of good luck, perhaps he and his family will reap the benefits of family sacrifice and follow in the footsteps of the millionaire tinkerer.

        Here is to high hopes such an event occurs!
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    Jun 19 2013: if you get to do what you love, then you are lucky.

    what exactly are you worried about compromising? being commissioned to create art that meets a specific outcome? making something sub-standard in order to appeal to the broadest (and usually blandest) market?

    i'm a songwriter and have an originals band but have been playing covers (songs by other bands) in order to get paid to do what i love. certainly, it's nowhere near as rewarding and pleasurable than playing my original songs but, unfortunately, the mass of people out there only want to hear songs they have heard 10,000 times before.

    my point is, i'd rather do that than give up playing music as a job and go back to doing a square 9-5.

    a good example would be being commissioned to write radio jingles versus having the originals band accept sponsorship from McDonald's and do an ad promoting their junk food.

    one is bringing home the bacon, the other is selling out (mcdonalds is an advertising company that just happens to make burgers).

    my advice, do what you must for yourself and your family. money is vulgar but necessary. it's the mindless pursuit of profit that is abhorrent.
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    Jun 18 2013: The market is part of the boundaries that you need to be truly creative. Embrace it.
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        Jun 19 2013: "unless your goal is to make money from your art."

        ... yes... and make a living doing something you love. There is no shame in that.
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        Jun 19 2013: Don't do art FOR money, that's idiotic and quite opposite to what I'm saying!
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        Jun 19 2013: You don't get it. I'm saying your motivation to do art shouldn't be money, or that's all you'll probably end up doing. But art should be an encounter of you and society. And figuring out how to sell is often a good way of figuring out your public.
        South Park is a very creative show, and most of that is directly derived from being aired on national TV, as episodes such as Cartoon Wars so well demonstrate.
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        Jun 19 2013: Meeting the market demand is what Tschaikovsky and Michelangelo did.
        They didn't sell out. They were creative about it.
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        Jun 19 2013: Everybody knows that Michelangelo had all kinds of constraints, and God knows the Catholic church is the client from hell. The whole point of seeing the Sistine Chapel is to marvel at the painter's ability to do great art even when asked to do a decorative paintjob on a ceiling illustrating lame mythology.
        By the way, how is this not a definition of creativity? Having little options but doing something great anyway.
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        Jun 19 2013: Seems to me you're being quite creative trying to deny that money, or any constraint, can enhance creativity. I don't think it's worth it. It's just too obvious to debate... I could spend hours listing works of art to prove my point.
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        Jun 19 2013: Nothing is what Michelangelo would've done without the church.
        Drawings on the beach for his kids, perchance.
  • Jun 18 2013: One has to set their priorities on what is most important to themselves. What is more important pure art or wife and family? They are not mutually exclusive, but one may have to make compromises to excel at each. What happens when you want to fund an art project and your child needs braces for their teeth? You have a responsibility to your child to give them every advantage you can. You don't have to give them a $50k wedding, but there are some basics above food and shelter..their extracurricular educational needs--music, sports, dance lessons.

    If you want to produce totally pure art do not consider a family. If you are willing to produce some commercial art and some pure art -- it maybe feasible.

    One other question to ask yourself on the commercial/pure art divide---what if I produce a piece for me, but no one else likes it --is it that what I want? or do I want produce art that people love, cherish and see the my intellectual ability in? If you want people to love your work, you kind of have to think of your customer as you create--it is not altogether pure, but it isn't altogether not if you like it too (a slight compromise).

    Another way to look at it--do you want to be Andy Warhol or Thomas Kinkade? or some unknown artist?
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    Jun 18 2013: Think in terms of goals instead of principles
    • Jun 18 2013: I have set myself goals as an artist, and am achieving them, but need to identify the next step, realistic and achievable goals that will allow me to make the most of personal and creative development without sacrificing fundamental principles that are the crux of that development.
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        Jun 18 2013: Yes that is what you need to do.

        But you are the only one who can answer that question.
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    Jun 20 2013: There is no easy answer here I know although I cannot help but feel many good points were brought-up here, many I agree with and make perfect sense to me. I suggest before bringing a child into the world, you both make a decision whether or not starting a family is an option for you two at this stage in the game or ever...
    • Jun 20 2013: I agree the question is complex, and the answer ultimately lies with me and my lady. The fact is that we both know we want to raise a family, not right away, but at sum point, hence the dilemma. I have for most of my life stuck vehemently to my principles, and find myself at a point now where those principles could stand in the way of the life we hope for. This has so far been a forum for insight, which is exactly what I was looking for.
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        Jun 20 2013: It's good to see others reach-out for insight when they feel they need it. Whatever it is that you both decide I wish you all the happiness & success in the world!
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    Jun 20 2013: NO COMPROMISE and Believe me you have limitless energy.

    You need both, people and passion ,people you love and passion you want to pursue. One facilitates the other.

    Earn for people you love.

    Live for life you love.
  • Jun 20 2013: This is what they mean when they say "suffer for your art". Sorry, it's not really helpful but it seems to sum up your predicament.
    • Jun 20 2013: This is true, but I am determined to find the solution. It's about drawing a line between self righteous principles and fundamental values, without wholly compromising my either my art or my family. Discussions such as this are helping me find that line!
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        Jun 20 2013: What have you considered doing to address the matter? What ideas does your partner have?
        • Jun 20 2013: We are getting married in a months time so that is the focus for us right now. She is totally supportive of my artistic endeavours, whether I treat as a pastime or pursue it further, but believes my skill is wasted hung on just our walls. The reason I have begun this discussion is is in view to getting myself going post wedding.
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    Jun 19 2013: You get a job that helps your art
    • Jun 19 2013: How is that in any way helpful or constructive?
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    Jun 19 2013: you can have it all, Dave... but what is your art saying? The theory of how you get the support of the universe,is that you are to be useful to it...this sounds weird and not logical to our annilitical mind..but the universe is theoretically sentient and if your offering is meaningful and useful your projects will be supported.So what is your art about? tHERE are many projects that remain undone,theatre,sculpture,paintings...voices worth witnessing that would be worth financial support...so in regards to your passion it is doable. Here is an example of a compromise...I am a hairdresser ...I do art on the side,,,I hang it in my salon...it is part of the enviornment and anyone who loves art sees it as a cue to speak out on this topic..I get offers for shows,gallery offers and other artist hanging stuff on my walls...plus I do stuff for my clients that involves my craft skills...so Im never far away from this skill set..Any workplace (not all) will love art on the walls,dont worry..if you have something to offer and put it where we can see it...someone will cherish the effort
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    Jun 19 2013: i recommend to stop sleeping. sleeping wastes 30% of your time. stop it, and you have the necessary extra.
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    Jun 19 2013: David, what sort of creativity do you have that you think you will have to compromise? Here in the States, we have "performance artists" who have been able to make a living getting on stage and rolling around in oh I don't know for sure but rather obnoxious substances. Or cutting themselves and rolling in their own blood. I doubt you're more extreme than them? and, if they can make a living I would think you could too.
  • Jun 19 2013: Thank you to everyone tht has contributed so far, the discussion, advice and information, regardless of whether I agree with it or not, is helpful, as I have been struggling to find a decent forum for logical discourse. The only instance where I feel the need to clarify is in the conflict between family and art. The two for me are not independent, my artistic development and progression is intrinsically dependent on the incredible woman who supports and motivates me, the shared desire to build a family and a value set of love, passion,honesty and integrity we have built together, my relationship basically forms, or at least re-affirms the very foundations of my artistic viewpoint.The dilemma lies in the conflict between these strong values and the necessity to forgoe some of them in order to create a modern, viable business. The focus on driving towards being able to cultivate financial integrity at the expense of artistic. I am aware that to discount financial stability for principles seems counter-intuitive, and is probably foolish, hence the personal debate, however I would always rather give a painting to someone who is investing something of themselves in the art than be paid by someone who isn't.
    Cheers again guys, your viewpoints are all helping me work through the problems.
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      Jun 19 2013: I don't understand what you mean when you say "discounting financial stability for principles seems counter-intuitive." Many people choose to work for a lower wage in order to do something that is important to them. Further, many people would prefer to do full-time whatever is their passion and wish there was some way their financial needs would be met through that.

      You are not suggesting these positions are somehow counter-intuitive, are you? I would say they are very common.
      • Jun 19 2013: You have to take what I am saying in context. Logically, is it not reasonable for me to paint for no money but refuse to pursue financial gain on principle, hence counter-intuitive. I am attempting to try and make the most of my enthusiasm and ability for art without compromising my principles to a point where I would start to contradict the things I believe in.
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          Jun 19 2013: It seems totally intuitive that someone would want to paint without regard for payment for it and also not want to seek financial gain on principle. It is a common interest, I think, among artists.

          It is entirely a consistent position from a logical standpoint but not practical unless there is an outside source of support.
      • Jun 19 2013: You are arguing semantics whilst totally ignoring the actual question posed. This is frustrating.
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          Jun 19 2013: Sorry. I only want to convey that your question and interest is one shared by many, many people- of wanting to do what they love, regardless of remuneration but also needing to earn money to live on.
      • Jun 19 2013: That's ok, I appreciate what you are saying, and you are right.
    • Jun 19 2013: If what you create is of value--someone will pay you for it. It is ok to give your work away to someone who appreciates it, but can't afford it. Frank Lloyd Wright did it for a small house. Many artists did it for the Vogels in NYC ( a postman and a librarian), yet the sold their other works for high prices to ones who could afford it. By selling to the collectors, they could afford to give to the lovers of their work.

      No one should ever sell themselves short. If you are a professional artist you should be compensated for it and you should ask fair market price for your work-and not feel compromised by it. By being compensated , you can create more, better creative things. You can afford to change genres of art if you wish. Compensation actually gives you more creative freedom and choices in your art.

      to read up on the Vogels go here:

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Herbert_and_Dorothy_Vogel

      a great 60 minutes piece on them
      http://www.cbsnews.com/video/watch/?id=7380067n

      Their Blog:
      http://herbanddorothy.com/blog
  • Jun 19 2013: This is now just a qauestion of time. The former Beatle Best was a postman, but he also still did some drumming.
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    Jun 18 2013: One more thought, you may have not written down your goals in detail. A widely known tool for reaching goals is to write them down. For your own sake don't discount this until you have tried it or fall into the trap of "my problems are so big that no one but superman could possibly solve them.

    What can you do to solve this problem?

    A neighbor of mine has raised a family and supported them as an artist. Give him a call he is very affable.

    http://www.fineartstudio.org/illustration.html
  • Jun 18 2013: What will happen in your life is your doing. Nothing else.
    No need to query your value system, It belongs to you. You made it what it is.
    If you feel guilty taking benefits away from your wife and children, either stop, or ignore the guilt.
    You are the one responsible, live with it.
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    Jun 18 2013: Question: Could you pursue your artistic career without worrying about remuneration for your work while pursuing other activities that do pay? That leaves your art untainted but allows you to support your family. Many great creative people have launched themselves this way.

    If you want to earn adequate money through your art alone to support your family, you probably do need to look into how to make money through your art.

    Because there are maybe hundreds of thousands of people in your position of wanting to make a living of art without worrying about making a living of art, you will find lots of resources online about best strategies for making a living through your art or dealing with this quandary.

    These resources are of different types. There are sites offered by people who may or may not really be artists but make a living giving advice on how to do this, though how well their advice works for artists, or other artists, is not clear. I wouldn't pay someone for advice on this who doesn't have a clear track record.

    The best resources I have seen in this area are: 1) The website Wetcanvas. There artists in every area form a community of practice in which they discuss technique, give feedback on works-in-progress, but also discuss issues related to creativity or questions such as the one you pose. Working artists who do make a living through it offer their perspectives. 2) Lateral Action. Mark McGuinness is a poet who used to be a management consultant. He offers a free 6 month online course called Creative Pathfinder that covers such topics. Importantly, he does not then or during follow you to try to sell you anything. But you could also look at his blog archives for perspective on your question.

    I have no commercial affiliation with either of these resources.
    • Jun 18 2013: Thanks for the sites, I will have a more in depth look. In the past that has been a viable solution, working whatever job whilst maintaining creative development independently. I do however feel as though the time an energy required to really progress up the pay scale to a place that is feasible to feed a family is energy that could, and currently is, focused on my creative endeavours.
      Thanks again for the ideas.