From history we see that most of the great artists received little to no acclaim during their lifetime. This has led to the romantic notion of the starving artist that continues his art regardless. In today’s world, this notion is impractical – you can earn a living as an artist, you just need to be willing to work at it.
The first step, of course, is to get your work out there. Find an artists’ group to join and get feedback from them. You will benefit from their experience, advice and encouragement. It is highly likely that the group will arrange exhibitions on a regular basis and will also be able to tell you about art contests you could enter.
Once you have the support of a group, make some decisions. Are you going to stick to one particular style or try a range of styles? What medium will you use? Build up your portfolio and build an online website to showcase it.
If you really want to earn a living as an artist, you need to make this a serious marketing exercise. Make sure the website is easy to navigate, showcases your best work and makes it easy for people to buy your work or contact you.
Of course, to earn a living as an artist, you will have to explore other means of generating an income from your art aside from selling the originals. There are several ways to easily commercialise your work. This is what a friend of mine did. Her husband is a brilliant artist but wasn’t selling much of the fine art. It seemed impossible for him to earn a living as an artist.
My friend came up with a marketing plan. They resized his work and had a whole lot of bookmarks, postcards and greeting cards printed. She then approached various stationers, retailers, etc and placed the work there on consignment. She followed up and saw what was selling and ensured a steady supply. They also had prints made on canvas. They attended art fairs and flea markets. They joined up with the local chamber of business and networked in order to sell more art. They set up a website. Basically, it has grown into a successful business and Brian is now able to earn a living as an artist. Why? They have the high end fine art, the affordable prints and the inexpensive postcards.
Ensure that your art is accessible to the general public when starting out. Have high end items but realise that you are probably initially going to make more money from your more reasonably priced prints and lower end items. Treat it as a business venture and you will soon earn a living as an artist.