Is Creating Art Hard Work?

I’ve long been fascinated by the mind of the artist. I wonder what makes artists tick and what drives them to create.

As a gallery owner, I get to interact with artists on a regular basis. I have the opportunity to talk with them about their work and I get to visit their studios. I’ve also read numerous biographies about artists that have allowed me to see how artists develop over the course of a lifetime.

As a non-artist, I stand in awe of the talent and creativity I see manifest in the artworks I encounter. I admire the effort that has gone into cultivating raw talent into artistic skill and the work that goes into creating.

I also know that there are a lot of misperceptions about what it means to be an artist. The popular imagination is filled with romantic notions of the lone artist striving to achieve some kind of higher existence as he or she struggles to create in the studio. Many casual art fans believe that artists live an idyllic life, doing what they love all day long every day. Some who don’t understand art believe that artists are somehow shirking a “real job.”

Recently, I’ve begun to wonder how artists see themselves and how they think about the creative process. I’m particularly interested in better understanding how artists think about the work that it takes to create, and how different artists approach this work.  I would like to explore these questions and I’m going to ask for your input through several posts. I look forward to gaining and sharing insights on the work of creating, and I hope that these insights might help you look at the work you do in new ways, and, perhaps, find ways to do make your work more satisfying.

So, let’s begin with a question.

Is Creating Art Hard Work?

We all know that it takes real work to create a piece of art, but does an artist look at this work in the same way other people look at their work? Is creating a job in the traditional way that we think of jobs?

It’s certainly different than working in a factory – doing the same thing over and over, following someone else’s design. However, I would imagine that the longer an artist has been creating, the more routine the creative process becomes.

As I began to do research for these articles, I reached out to some RedDot readers and asked them about their view of the work they are doing as artists. Their responses were enlightening. I can’t share all of the responses I received, but here are a few that are typical of the diversity of answers to the question “Is creating art hard work?”

Sometimes it is hard. However, there have been times when the ‘muse’ sat on my shoulder, whispered in my ear, and guided my hand…those few paintings or sculptures seem effortless (and they made me much happier). I still have to think about the ‘rules’ of a good work of art, the composition, color, line, shapes, etc. It is difficult to not overwork, to retain the spontaneity. It requires effort and focused concentration. It can be hard to reach that level of concentration and maintain it or even harder, reach it again when you resume working on your art.

Carroll Stone, North Port, FL

 

The short answer is yes. Now the physical act of making art is not considered in the same class as physical labour but in many cases it is. I manufacture my own canvases and panels when not working on assembled paper as a mixed media artist, and these works are generally larger than 2 x 3 feet. For example, moving a 6 x 6 foot panel on one’s own can be quite physical, as can painting with an outstretch arm, often at shoulder height or higher, or at awkward angles – as is needed with these larger works. Muscle and eye strain are common. Then there’s the abstract nature of being an artist where like any business you need to put out capital, as in raw materials, then storage in inventory, through to the sale (if it sells) including administration and finances, as well as marketing and networking to ensure your brand remains viable in both the short and long term of your copyright’s life (not necessarily your own). Twice the work for the potential of a return that is never guaranteed – this fits the description of hard work in my books.

Ben Benedict, London, ON

 

This is an interesting question, at times creating art can be difficult, especially when the artistic flow is on a down swing, some factors in being difficult can be due to a lack of incentive, maybe the project is more challenging than first thought, could be working with an unfamiliar medium for the first time. Most artists I know like to challenge themselves, otherwise they can become complacent in their work.

Josef Marion, Santa Fe, NM

 

I don’t see creating art as hard work at all although it is a process that has a number of peaks and troughs within it. The hardest part is getting around to creating art. Once I have got to my easel I can get lost in what I am creating. I guess the hard work is more around thinking about what to do with the art once it is created, e.g. keeping an inventory of work etc, deciding where and how to market my art, prepping for a show etc.

Chrissie Hawkes

 

I feel that some aspects of creating art come easier than others. Some pieces simply flow better and feel easier to complete. Others are more difficult and there isn’t an appreciable difference in the result. I do think it would be a mistake to think that it should always be easy or to give up just because it is difficult. This answer does not include the marketing and selling of art-that is pretty much always difficult (but worth it).

Angie Spears

We pretty quickly see that it’s as much a question of defining hard work as it is deciding whether creating art is hard work. I suppose that this is true of just about any profession – attitude makes a big difference. It’s important to note, however, that thinking of creative work as hard isn’t necessarily a negative thing. Many artists reported feeling a deep sense of satisfaction that comes with the labor of creating art.

What do you Think – Is Creating Hard Work?

Please take a moment to complete this quick poll. I know that the first question may be a bit difficult to answer because creating art might be both, depending on the day. If you tend to think of your artistic practice more as hard work than pleasure, pick the first option, and if you find it to be pure pleasure more often, pick the second. After you take answer the survey questions, please leave your thoughts about the nature of the work you do in the comments below.

Keep an eye out for additional posts about the nature of the work you do in the coming days, as well as a post on the results of this poll.

 

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63 Comments

  1. What I consider hard work is living up to my vision for a piece. Artists have their personal standards, that can be very high. I push against limitations of skill and the materials themselves trying to achieve an intangible outward expression of what I am perceiving in my mind. It can be hard. And very rewarding. But always interesting.

    1. “Focusing on creating the concept which inspired your composition is hard work but fully engaging your brain drives away all the mundane daily challenges so it is both physically taxing but stress reducing at the same time. Composition is the hard part. The sensory appeal of colors and textures is the delightful part. I usually find that I work through stages of like, doubts, re evaluation, exploration, uncertainty , culminating in satisfaction or re classification as a learning experience. One of the best ideas I learned from a workshop instructor was “not everything you is a keeper “

  2. I derive complete pleasure from being in the zone with any art I am creating whether it is part of my own body of work or a piece for commission. And, I even get enormous pleasure from the preparation that goes into creating art whether it is just the seed thoughts or drawings or asking a model to pose in ways I have envisioned. And, oddly enough, I find the creative elements involved in marketing or creating a project or even selling to be envigorating. I love being busy and thinking up ideas that I then see come to fruition. And so while it seems I find mostly all of it pleasurable, it takes a lot of emotional, physical and psychological energy to be in it enough to receive those good feelings. And this it is an intense and hard job.

  3. I consider there are two factors in my work: the physical execution of the work, which I find challenging, and then there is the job satisfaction aspect, which no matter the physical demands a project may require, it is beyond well worth it. Where I find the work the hardest is where I choose to explore new techniques, or have concepts that require my skill set to grow on a steep learning curve. Adding to this is incorporating both painting and sculptural styles, so a lot of dust, power tools and fingers crossed.

  4. Is making art hard work? In the literal sense of manual labor, I would say- not always. Carving stone, pouring bronze, shaping steel come with a yes, only because those activities overlap with what we know as manual labor.
    Painting and drawing not so much, although wrestling large canvasses can be laborious. But one must also take into account physical ability. I had to give up making my fiber panels because my back could not sustain the extended hours of suspended feet, outstretched arms and nimble fingers. Those last pieces were real tiring struggles and the focus of the labor was diverted to teh physical discomfort. I look occasionally at the sketches for the other 4 or 5 pieces that will never be produced in the way I envisioned them.

    However, physical labor is not our only or best measure. There is mental and spiritual (for want of a better word) labor that is also a major part of what artists do. This is where casual observers usually deliver the most scorn (if that’s the right word). this labor is no less exhausting than the physical. The hard part for me is when I’ve exhausted myself physically, mentally and spiritually working on a piece and I have to stop. My brain like a heavy flywheeel keeps going b y inertia. I try to keep in mind that production beyond my exhaustion is a waste of time usually.

    So, whether it’s physical, mental, spiritual, or otherwise, there is difficulty for us. The fact that art has no script, and there is no guaranteed success as each new work can go awry for any number of reasons.

  5. I think painting is hard work, because when I have been painting for a couple of hours, even, I feel tired, because during that time I am COMPLETELY focused on what I am doing and that can be exhausting. But, work is good; painting is good; Most people get some satisfaction from completing a job no matter how menial it might be. Creating a painting after putting in hard work is exhilarating. You feel good!!

  6. I do mostly derive pleasure from being an artist, but many times feel it is the hardest “mental” work I have ever done. I love that you mention it is not the shirking of a job, or how there are so many misconceptions about the “free” life we live. The pressures can be enormous and sometimes even debilitating to our feelings.

    I work hard creating the idea and also working on the painting, besides the organization of my supplies, framing the work, marketing on social media, delivering to galleries, entering shows and competitions, and teaching students! I derive lots of pleasure from each of these tasks, but I also feel pressure during any one of them at different times. Sometimes it is physical hard work… moving big pieces around, doing the framing, loading and unloading paintings – some with glass which adds to the weight and I am not even 5 feet tall! Yes, hard work, and definitely satisfaction and pleasure at doing the hard work and sometimes creating a painting that someone wants to spend their money on!

    1. I agree completing. I’m always happy when I sell, but it’s something I have to do although I never feel completely happy with my work and sometimes I set it aside and when a look at it weeks/months later I can see what’s wrong. I am always trying new ideas. Painting to me is a continues learning experience. I recently talked to an 86 year old artist and he told me artists never retire, they just die.

  7. Most people responding seem to agree: yes its hard work, and yes, its very rewarding and can bring a great deal of pleasure. When I think of a traditional job, I see it as being told what to do, when to do it, and how much I’ll be paid for doing it. Making art is self-directed in both the what and when, and there is zero guarantee of financial return. To me, thats a lot harder than a traditional job. I think as artists we make work that is intensely personal, and that takes a different kind of energy than making a widget in a factory or working as a clerk. Those can be exhausting jobs, and obviously there are dangerous jobs like coal mining. But when you spend all of your creating hours essentially describing parts of yourself – well, at the end of the day its exhausting. Beyond that you run a business: getting supplies, keeping records, framing, shipping, finding galleries, or doing art shows… Yes. Its hard. And I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

  8. I find making art to be hard work and pure pleasure so it was hard to answer the first question definitively. I consider my work to be a top priority now and I work nearly every day but it isn’t always working on a piece. Sometimes I just need to focus on framing for a day or two and cleaning up my studio.
    I am very process oriented so I rarely have a plan or a sketch. I do a lot of experimentation with materials and processes and once I have that ah ha moment, I am off and running on a series. I get very excited and work hard constantly for a period of time until I burn out on the process or get tired of working with the materials or the forms. This is usually an intense period and I don’t like people around and I am often up late and up early and I feel disconnected and in a fog – but this for me is the heart of my being and I love it and it is both hard and compelling at the same time. Right now I am “in my square period” as everyone is saying because I am obsessed with squares and grids and I know I won’t be moving on very soon. I am guessing this will last at a minimum 6 months and could go on over a year.
    One of the things that I find frustrating is when people ask me how long it took me to create a particular piece. My answer is always “it took me my entire life”. A lot of an artist’s work is thinking and daydreaming. I am working when I am sitting still, I am working when I am playing with a string, I am working when I am at the hardware store looking at bins of screws and brackets and hardware cloth. I am always working. So yes it is different and I can’t turn it off nor would I want to.
    I have a BFA with an emphasis in sculpture and work in a sort of assemblage style but also work extensively with color pencils.

  9. As I work with glass it can be very physically demanding. There is often DNA in my work and I recently left fingerprints in silver leaf too. I love being in my studio and when I get in “the zone” the time just flies. My husband says he has to open a bottle of wine to lure me out sometimes.
    Marketing is the part that I find difficult, especially social media.

  10. How hard it is to create art varies according to the artist, the type of art, the particular project, and the stage of the process. Sometimes physical labor is involved, sometimes there are aesthetic and/or intellectual challenges to resolve, and sometimes there are process problems to solve. Marketing and sales are a big challenge for most artists, especially those of us who don’t live in an area with a strong art market, although such a market may mean more competition, as well.

  11. I have discussed this question with a fellow artist. Fun or work? Yes, for me it is work, but it is a fun kind of work. I like the process and the challenge. AND the wonderful feeling when a painting turns out nicely, or better than I imagined. The ones that don’t turn out beautifully, I just call practice. Since I never went to art school, I will always be a student. At age 80 that is fun. : ) Yes, marketing is the work. I am lousy at that part. And, time disappears while working on a painting. Interesting game being a watercolor artist. I tell people, “I am an artist. I pay to work.”

  12. I derive a great amount of joy and satisfaction from my art so for me this is a dream job. That being said, there are areas of the art business that to me are grueling hard work–inventory, marketing, accounting, filing taxes, etc. –all necessary to having a successful business. If I could delegate all those tasks to another person I would never come out from behind the easel!

  13. Working at a job or at self-employment can provide just as much pleasure as making art (especially to non-artists), and working at art can be just as demanding as a job or other kind of self-employment. Even as a hobby, where the maker decides entirely what he will or will not do, making art is not pure pleasure, as there are always unpleasant or difficult parts of the process. There are sometimes physical and/or mental challenges, but sometimes sitting alone for hours, pressing through a dry spot is a challenge, as well. There are days when the “muse” is nowhere to be found, but a “work of art” must be produced, anyway, just as with any other occupation. There are unpleasant people and touchy situations to be dealt with. The same is true of any job, whether active or sedentary. As a business, making art takes on even more aspects that are difficult or not fun for most artistic types. That being said, for an artistic person, making art may be the most enjoyable type of work on the planet, just as for an engineering type, designing a bridge may be the most fulfilling work he or she could do.

  14. I think that making art is the most rewarding thing I could be doing. Keeping the balance of creating and working the business is very important. If I’m spending too much time on the business I’m not feeling joyful or inspired. But if I’m spending too much time creating then I also feel out of balance. I spend 60% of my time creating and 40% working the business. By doing this I never feel like it’s hard work.

  15. I find creating very rewarding and it is not hard work at all. I love to get in the flow, open to the muse, and create. I am a fine glass artist and aspects of the creating glass is work, however, I would not consider it hard work. There is the physical component to lifting glass sheets, cutting and/or sawing glass, running the grinding equipment, and storing heavier artwork that can be considered ‘hard work’ but I see it as the process I have to go through to get to create the glass art. At times what I am thinking in my head may not be the desired result when I open the kiln, however glass is recycleable and can use it for other pieces of art. The grinding of the glass, the ‘work’ part, can be a challenge with the equipment sometimes. As I am ‘working’ the equipment the glass is transformed to a beautiful smooth surface/shape that I become in awe of it. That is what creating is all about for me.

  16. I do consider making art hard work. That’s not to say I don’t get pleasure out of it, I do., or I wouldn’t be doing it. It’s simply that I take the work seriously, if not myself, and it’s important to me to stretch, to push myself to the next level, all of which entails hard work: reading, research, looking at other artists’ work, learning new skills, mastering new tools, developing that critical eye, etc.; plus just doing the work, putting in the time, so I can be a better artist than I was yesterday. And then, of course, there’s the hard work of marketing, networking, managing the business side of making art…

  17. Tough question to answer. I guess it depends on what the expectations are at that time. When I have no deadline or customer expectations I need to be concerned about and I’m just experimenting, I can just let art happen and I wouldn’t call it hard. At the same time, having patience in creating is definitely hard for me. I like to complete a painting and move on to another one. I’m not one who has a number of paintings in various stages at the same time. OCD…

    The most difficult type of painting for me is abstract. Even though it’s my favorite type of art to create, so many ideas and visions I have in my head don’t translate to canvas, and that is frustrating. At the same time, I have created many cool abstracts by simply venting and taking out those frustrations by smearing the paint I started with. Suddenly a new composition takes shape and I roll with that one instead.

    So I guess my answer is “creating can be hard”.

  18. None of the answers to the poll questions ring true for me. For me, creating is hard but very enjoyable work. It is not what I would call a struggle, nor is it “pure pleasure”. I try to go deep into myself for each piece, and some pieces require more tenacity than others.

    Re: income, like many artists, I have 3 jobs: creating and marketing my art, teaching, and off-and-on, part time ‘day job’ work to make sure the mortgage gets paid. There’s no spouse or pension plan to fall back on.

  19. Having to do other things when you know deep in your soul you should be creating and can’t … that is hard. Having responsibilities that overshadow your art is hard … it’s the conflict, not the creating.
    Do it anyway, you say? Who abdicates their responsibilities one refusal at a time, chipping away at the very fabric of “family?” One must arrive at an acceptable balance and it varies among artists, particularly between men and women.
    The second question asking if art is our sole source of income is incidental to the first. Since when is art purely income driven? The term “working artist” is far more important than “sole source of income.” Being retired from a public job means I have the freedom to devote my full energies to my art; it does not diminish my commitment and it is bewildering why that even matters. I’ve never stopped creating since I was a child, regardless of employment.
    I know a dozen working artists in their 70s and 80s. They feel the maturity in their work far surpasses anything they did early in their careers. Art is a lifetime pursuit, or at least it should be. You don’t retire from art.

    1. Jackie, your response could have been written by me. Especially the first paragraph. I’ve always been an artist since I could hold a pencil and scribble. But real life sometimes (ok, often) throws road blocks called “responsibilities” in our path. I find it hard having to still balance out the everyday occurrences to make our large family function, even in its chaos. Them when opportunity shows up to be in my studio, I have to change gears to find that zone again. It’s a push and pull. But I’ve always been an artist and always will be. For me, at this stage of life, it is challenging. It’s the only way I know to find myself and give voice to what lies inside of my heart.

    2. Jackie, you are fortunate to have a source of income to sustain you while you do your art. The question isn’t about retiring from making art. It is to separate those who are driven to make art from those of us who are driven to make art but must also Sell that art in order to pay the bills. If I am unable to sell what I create, I don’t get a “paycheck” even though I’ve worked hard. It is an added layer of pressure not felt by artists who have another source of funding.

      1. Maybe I should have explained myself better … “fortunate” is the result of multiple jobs, one coming off shift at 3a, being sleep deprived for years, and still creating art as job and family allowed. I see no virtue in scraping by as a self supporting artist when a second or third job can bridge lean times. That does not lessen any artist’s commitment to their calling.

  20. From the artist to the gallerist:

    I am not deriving all my income from art sales. That requires recognition of value from the public; gallerists; their customers; those who critique and review artists; and in the case of those who self-exhibit and promote, appreciation and purchases from the greater public.

    Sales begat sales. The overall odds of gallery representation are low. So, the majority of artists self represent and exhibit. With luck, a self-representing artist develops his own clientele and a string of continued sales. He must constantly review his sales and show schedule. He must also create and complete new work. Lotta hats to wear.

    I’ve been exhibiting for 12+ years now. 17 total recognitions from juried and judged exhibits. Funny how galleries dont seem to scout these exhibits for talent which matches their hatch. Maybe that’s an oversight by management. If they trust their personnel to run day to day operations, then perhaps management should be out at these outdoor exhibitions looking for talent.

    I sell nothing but originals. Most of my competition make their living selling prints. I can’t create full time until I sell well enough, at a sufficient price point, to cover expenses and make a few bucks.

    Of the over 600 pieces I’ve created, 450 or more now hang in customers homes. Maybe if I sold prints, perhaps I could cover all expenses and be one of those self-supporting artists.

    Instead, I run another business that subsidizes my art business. It’s my substitute for copies. But it goes towards getting to being able to create full time ….. Some day, maybe.

    It ain’t easy.

  21. Quite honestly… I think this is a non sense question. It isn’t a question of whether it is hard work or pleasure… artist, or creative people do what they do because that is how they are hard wired. And like other professions, it is a path of choice. You can’t compare how hard an artist thinks their work is, compared to the seriously physical or mentally demanding professions there are out there. It isn’t rocket science…and it isn’t typically as physically demanding or ungratifying as a job such garbage pickup. In fact, it irritates me to hear how some artists reply that their chosen line of work is hard…because they put together their own canvases, or carrying a 6×6′ canvas is cumbersome… or what ever…. To me, it goes to the core of how some artists regard themselves as a special “protected” group that needs to be held to an exceptional standard. For many, they believe they are entitled to public and government support because they are “artists”. It reminds me of that nitwit Nancy Pelosie talking about free medical coverage so that artists wouldn’t have to worry about paying for health care. After all, artists are a fragile and sensitive group that requires being “taken care of”… I would venture to say that the most successful artists are business savvy and are not the least bit needy…

    And to take it a step further…. I would say that many artists are just a bunch of narcissists…. they believe that they are sacrificing “for their art” and should be judged as so. Many are self-absorbed and have “devoted ” their lives to their art, even at the expense of being present for family or friends. Well,…. l I’m sorry…but no one requested that you choose this occupation or path….and if it proves to be so demanding with little reward… then, don’t let the door hit you on the way out to reality… and deal with what the rest of the world has to deal with.

    When I hear of artists complain that they can’t sell their work or get into a gallery…then maybe it’s time to take responsibility for your choices and get into a profession where you can support yourself. It isn’t incumbent upon society or government to support selected groups of people when there is no interest or demand in their product. There is no reason why the laws of supply and demand should make an exception to artists.

    So when you ask the question “is creating art hard work”….Maybe the better question would be ” Are your efforts worth the time and money you invest into it to make you a successful enough contributor to society without being a burden to it….”

  22. Until you asked the question, I never thought about if my art is hard work, or pure pleasure, or anything else. For me, it’s something I’m driven to do and seems as natural as breathing. Everything I see around me every day, looks to me like part of it needs to be put on canvas. Some of the time, when everything is going just as I envisioned it, it’s pure pleasure. Other times, when I start the same project over and over, trying to get it right, it’s hard work. I work in colored pencils, of which about half are on canvas, mainly because they are perceived as more valuable to the public and more unusual and eye-catching in galleries and shows.

  23. I was just trying to explain the artist’s life to a friend who was envious of my having been a full-time artist all my life. I think I can speak from a unique position of having been, and still am, earning much of my living by creating art. I am not an art star who sells all my art for hundreds of thousands of dollars (although I have done a few public commissions that exceeded $100, 00, however, I am an active working artist who has learned to be flexible and look for a varied number of opportunities. I am now in my 70’s and still creating art, entering shows and pursuing new ways to market my work. Money still fluctuates and there are dry periods and periods of minor affluence. Some artists might say I sold out turning to teaching for income or doing commercial work, but I feel the same skills are used in all artistic pursuits.
    As an overview, I spent my formative years as the class artist, went to art college, and graduate school and made a living from many forms of art . . . graphic design, illustration, painting, public commissions and teaching college art. I can’t remember any period of time in my life when art wasn’t my central pursuit. I could not always sell my work and found other avenues in art to generate income . . .but always through art . . and never loosing sight of my own vision and goals. sometimes we have to be our own patrons, but I am always driven to create. Many of my other artistic paths have nurtured my personal vision too.
    To answer your question, is art work? Sometimes it is, but mostly the act of creating is a challenge that I want to meet. My whole focus is on a solution to my artistic challenges. Some time is spent just musing, or sketching or busy work like cleaning my studio, but during this time you are still trying to find a solution. And, if you are a successful artist, there is always a deadline involved, whether self-imposed or from a client. But when I look back, I can’t think of many times when I didn’t want to be creating, unlike a 9-5 job which requires you to be on the job even when you wish you were anywhere else. I never had that feeling. There are times when it is pure joy and it all just flows but most of the time it is a well practiced routine that each artist perfects over the years. Sometimes when creating three dimensional installations it can be grueling and your muscles ache, but as you see it come together, it is always satisfying. Because, as I have found, the act of doing something over and over is what leads to a result . . .not waiting for the muse to strike. that’s a romantic vision that most working artists I know do not live.
    Artists are people who must take a risk, who must get used to economic insecurity, who often notice things other’s don’t and who still want to create no matter what. I don’t know why I need to create but I always have had to make “marks” or “things” to express myself. It is more than something I do, it is who I am.

  24. I said it was more a pleasure. Physically yes I suppose it is quite demanding but I paint every single day so I don’t tend to notice. Nor do I find I struggle to get back into it. It’s habit now. I imagine this is the same with all kinds of professions. They do it every day so just don’t think about it. When I’m in my zone I think of little else. However the mental strain as others have mentioned is incredible. It’s not the work itself it’s the rest of the time. When you have time to sit and think. The weight of that can be crushing. I also have to work extreme hours and still be a good mum to my children. So being tired can certainly be classed as hard (typically I get 5 hrs sleep or less). I don’t know many employees that have the same loyalty to their job as many artists do.

  25. The toughest thing about being an artist is staying an artist! Tenacity and the ability to stick to something even when the success of a creative work is not guaranteed, is something that workers in any profession would find daunting. However, it can be an everyday occurrence in an artists’ world. There is the misconception by some people that artists do not work as hard for a living and are just having fun creating what we want – I am sometimes quite pleased by that as it means I must make it look easy. One of the things I joke about with my fellow art comrades is the amount of muscles I have to use to lug around materials and canvases that are sometimes bigger than I am. Not to mention the materials I carry in my backpack for a lovely day of Plein air painting. At the end of a long day though, when my eyes are burning and my hand is seizing up, I still find joy in the process and sometimes in the results. I would not trade this for any other job in the world and consider myself a fortunate traveler indeed.

  26. Jason, you said something about the creation of artwork becoming “routine.” Yes, it does feel like that sometimes, overall, because, because for me, it is my job! But, when what I am creating becomes SPECIFICALLY routine as in CREATIVELY routine, that is when I get bored and switch things up, add a new process, or look to deepen in my inspiration. I think this is the mark of all good artists – we do not do well with boredom and doing the same thing day after day. I just saw the Gauguin exhibit in Chicago, and it is a thoughough example of what it feels like to be an artist. Gauguin switched things up for himself, never becoming stagnant. He left us a large body of work in many mediums, showing massive artistic growth from the beginning to the end of his life. I could totally relate.

  27. The actual selling of the art is the hardest part for me. I struggle with pricing because I live in a relatively small town but I am also somewhat shy which makes it hard to reach out. I actually think it would be much easier for me to sell someone else’s work because I could separate myself emotionally from the piece.

  28. An interesting question with no obvious or easy answers. Creating artwork can be arduous, physically and mentally tiring, frustrating when it’s not going well, but sublime when you’re in the zone and incredibly satisfying when you’re happy with the finished work. I don’t mind the business side of creating, keeping track of everything, entering shows, shipping, marketing, etc. It’s time consuming, but not what I would call hard work. Working in isolation so much of the time, I enjoy feedback and interaction with others through social media. My work sells and I’m delighted when it does, but I don’t usually make enough in a year to cover my costs. I persevere anyway because I love what I do. I feel I’m creating works of lasting beauty and it gives me cause to be excited to wake up every morning.

  29. Making art is challenging work. I watched my grandfather go off to work on the railroad outdoors in the hot sun, wind, rain, and snow. That is hard work. His nickname was “Happy”! He whistled as he walked to work each day.

    I watched my father create and maintain a lovely drugstore for over 40 years. He was a pharmacist and was mildly derisive of a colleague who filled prescriptions while seated. He opened the store at 8:30 A.M. Monday through Saturday and closed it at 9:00 P.M. After that he did his book work and checked merchandise into the store. I vividly remember the ONE family meal we had that he was not interrupted by a phone call from a customer with a request or question. I watched as he willingly went to the store at any hour, day or night to fill a prescription for a customer in need. He did it all cheerfully. That is hard work.

    That is the work that paid for my lovely studio where after visiting and looking at my paintings one day he said to me, “I don’t know how you do it, but I am glad you do!” That was and is the best reward I have ever received for painting.

  30. All the Comments were interesting and some, extremely so. A central thread ran through them – that an artist has to create no matter what. I like to repeat to myself what good old Michelangelo was reported to have said about creating, that it was “DIVINE DISCONTENT.

  31. This is a bit of a loaded question maybe. Creating art, creating of any sort is hard work. Creating also is very fulfilling and satisfying. If your work is formulaic, then it’s no longer very creative and can be quite easy. If you challenge yourself, it can be the most demanding endeavor and possibly draining work. That said, I sometimes leave working on a painting, calm yet energized.
    Like Jason, I am enmeshed in art every day all day. I have a frame shop. The front half of the sales floor has become my personal gallery display space and studio.My easel is set up in my front window for any walking by to watch the progress on the current painting. It’s a little awkward when I’m in the zone and someone walks in wanting to have a custom frame designed. Big shift in gears. Yet there is a bit of cross over from creating a painting to framing others work.

  32. It’s hard work for me but a pleasure to do, my work is labor intensive. I do have a friend who makes her art in a couple of hours and she is making big bucks for her art, so it probably depends on your media, I would think…..

  33. “Hard” and “work” – these are the words on which the narrative hinges.Where does “hard” begin and stop? Creation itself is not hard. It is often instantaneous. The “work” part is different. Execution is a trip. A journey, full of problem-solving. The specific problem-solving is part of the journey. Fun but demanding. Using skill, talent and experience. The hardest “work” may be the non-art part of being an artist. Marketing, advertising, back-office. The real “work” as conventionally conceived may be maintaining the artistic life and productivity, in spite of the rest of life’s demands and responsibilities. It is hard work to maintain and live the life of an artist – the being an artist is not in itself hard work. I would bet that most artists who give themselves license to do their art, are happy with their choice, in spite of their income. In the best of all possible worlds, we would all have patrons, and just produce our art to our hearts content.
    However, art necessarily demands an audience, so it can not be produced in a vacuum. Art cannot exist without some kind of an appreciating market or receptor. The hardest part is coordinating the art with the market. Yet the truly creative artist must remain a bit aloof from the market so that the demands of the market do not coerce repetition and cliche, and squelch originality and the creative impulse.

  34. Thank you for opening up this question.

    It is really important how “hard work” is defined, because the attitude is so vital to the positive or negative context of the word.

    As a sculptor, potter and draftswoman I enjoy what I do too much to say it’s painstaking no matter the difficulty the work. Some things may require a higher skill level than others, none the less I choose to work hard on it.

    Hard work may simply be determined by the level of dedication the creator chooses to execute. Diligence is key more often than not.

    That being said, processes can be and often are strenuous. Welding and manipulating metal for a few hours is tiring. Hammering on a stone until you can’t feel your bicep crazy things to your body. Throwing is hypnotic and time flies. Staring at a drawing terrified of the bravery needed for a following mark can be exhausting mentally, emotionally and physically (especially at three in the morning).

    Part of the hard work includes the knowledge of tools. Our understanding of how we personally react to a tool takes a while and requires finite attention. We do that whether we recognise it or not.

    We can’t forget the years of effort and education leading us to where we are now, and where we someday will be.

    Networking is also vital. Yes a lot of artists like to work alone. That does not dismiss our need for an artistic community of our own. We talk to each other through the creative process. It’s hard and exciting to find a group that helps us grow and that we can contribute to.

    I would say creating art is hard work. We determine the positive or negative connotation of the phrase ourselves, but….

    ….. If it were easy,
    No one would give up after 10 years old.

    P.S.
    Invite everyone to try art. It’s a beautiful catalyst to show what we lock inside or want to communicate. I’ve found solace in creating and strength when I thought I had none. Tell them to be patient.
    We may work hard on art, but I think it works harder on us.

    P.P.S.
    Thank you again. That was fun.

  35. How fascinating to hear how other artists have responded to this question. I was introduced to watercolors several years ago. This painting medium spoke to me so clearly and strongly within my heart space. I just love creating and follow what is divinely channeled through me. This has opened up so many other doors in my spiritual life path and energy work with an expansion I never expected. My strength isn’t in the business side to promote what I do, therein lies the hard work for me. I am most grateful to sell my artwork (originals, cards, prints, etc.) at fairs, through friends and referrals. At this point in my life, after retiring, my passions are coming alive and touching others on deeper levels that help them move forward in their life journey. To reach those on a soul level where words are not needed, fills my being with enrichment and purpose in raising vibrations in endless ways.

  36. When I worked as a chemist, at the end of the week I received respect for the work I completed as well as a paycheck. Whether or not I enjoyed my work was totally irrelevant. That a question like this is asked really highlights the routine way in which artists work is devalued. It’s just wrong. If you are producing work for someone else’s benefit, you deserve recompense….no matter what kind of work you do.

  37. I am a jewelry artist. While creating, like so many of you, I get into a zone and time goes past without me noticing. It is a joy. I sometimes forget to eat or sleep. I do custom work for people who want a remembrance piece or a special gift for retirement, graduation or for a bridal party. The time pressure and the wish to create the PERFECT piece for them causes stress… but all jobs/careers have stress.
    The perceptions of others about artists sometimes makes our job hard. But someone once told me that what others think about me is none of my business.
    I love what I do. I am a retired visual arts educator. I began teaching as a way to pay the bills while I created, but it became important to impart the love of art to my students and they taught me as much as I every taught them. As with creating, the money from teaching didn’t matter as much as the process of seeing students develop a passion for creating.
    Now I feel so fortunate to have my pension as well as income from my art. I am now a part owner of a boutique store that sells only local art and handmade items. We also have classes in a small studio in the store. We carry the work of thirty artists, a few of which are past students. It’s all rewarding.
    Any small business owner will tell you that it’s long hours and you have to do all of the supply purchasing, PR, social media, books and selling. This is both for my own jewelry business and the store. Obviously we must have a passion for what we do in order to do it. That is why I answered that art is a joy despite the hard work. Make no mistake. It IS a job. But it’s amazingly rewarding.

  38. I find it is hard work that feels good. I can look back on the day and realize that I spent ten hours working on something, often standing. And, I can work on something for a week, weeks, or more!, day after day, and then cover over it and begin again. My standards are high for myself, being my own boss! I need to catch ideas when they come, so, I’m always on call. Pay can be sporadic and costs can dominate income. Doesn’t sound so fun, does it? It’s almost like I have no say in the matter… I’m an artist. But in the end, I’ve given birth to something new and want to do it all over again.

  39. Hello, Jason. I know I’m late to the party, but I hope you’ll read this anyway, as you figure prominently in my answer. Seven months ago, I would have answered that creating art was not hard work (very intense, but not hard); I fit in the second category – spouse brings in more money than I do, but it is a business for me. Then six months ago, I took a whole lot of your words to heart and set myself a 30 day Facebook challenge to paint an apple a day. My goals were to develop my personal painting “voice” further, improve my composition skills, paint faster and better, increase my output level to about 70 paintings per year, learn to post online regularly and well, and–above all–to develop the Habit of Painting Every Day.
    My goals came about directly from reading your blogs and your book. The experience was so incredible that I embarked on a second 12- week challenge when An Apple a Day was over to ensure that I really did develop a daily studio habit. (And to keep painting Apples.) I called it The Big Apple Challenge. I cannot tell you how much I and my paintings, including my figure and floral work, have grown as a result. Thank you so much for setting me to your bow, drawing back the bowstring, and launching me on my way.

    Seven months later, my answer to your poll has changed dramatically. I have discovered that the more I paint, the bigger the challenges I set for myself and the harder I must work to meet them. When I paint Apples, they appear as Applescapes, scenes from Appleworld, or Apstracts. Every four or five paintings, one seems almost to paint itself. The rest of them I sweat bullets over. Neither the ease nor the sweat factor are good predictors of how successful a piece is, but you know, it doesn’t matter. I am deeply happy, satisfied, and excited in a way I have never been before, and I am growing hugely.

    So thank you again.
    Oh, and Jason— the ideas? They never run out. The more I paint, the more ideas there are. I’m having trouble keeping my website gallery up to date!
    Take care, and God bless.

  40. For me, making art is mentally exhausting; not that I don’t enjoy making art. I do. There are constant decisions to be made, in a conscious, or subconscious level. Then there is what I call “The Tailspin”. This is the phase most artists call the ugly phase, and all art pieces go through it, like an awkward teenager who blossoms into a poised, and beautiful adult. I call it The Tailspin, because it feels like a death spiral, and I experience serious doubts if I can bring it out. Working through this is the most difficult phase, even though on an intellectual level, I know it’s just a normal stage. My emotional side, though, goes through full blown panic. The work is on the cusp of being a complete failure, or a resounding success (to me). It’s the phase where I’m in the most danger of giving it up altogether. Walk away, deep breaths, or even a shower (my preference) will put things back into perspective, and I can’t wait to get back to it. I’m probably the cleanest artist on the planet. 🙂

  41. When you are in the creative zone, art is not hard work. Some of the work is physically hard, like the cutting, forming, and welding large sheets of metal or carving stone or wood. Or matting and framing. Stretching canvas. Some days the hard part is internal with the self doubt and dealing with others’ doubt. The schlepping, storage, office/accounting/promotion/etc. are hard.

  42. There is no end to the creative ideas. That part is easy. The difficulty first comes in realizing those ideas. I like to work large. My work is often 3Dimensional, and sometimes sonic interactive. That means I might have to build something, or solder and wire up electronics, record sound, sew metal mesh, or head out to find and cut some dead branches, or go to a lumber yard. All of this can be labor intensive. I only have an assistant if I am under a deadline and need to have panels gessoed or need help to install. I try to keep work in pieces or components that I can manage to lift on my own and assemble into a final larger piece. This blog popped up in my feed on a morning when I have to load a fragile, 9ft tall piece, with all of the support materials, into a rented cargo van ($), and drive for at least 2 hours in rush hour traffic to deliver and install it. Funny timing on seeing this. The planning for the transporting and installing is hard work. There is packing and unpacking. Organizing and having backup parts gathered…just in case. Checking your check list. As others have commented there is all the rest of it, lifting, carrying, hauling, storage, keeping track of everything, promotion, networking, maintaining a website and social media sites. All of that is hard work. The creating is a very satisfying hard work though. To realize an idea. To see something finally born out of that hard work, is incredibly gratifying…and then…you start right back up with the next idea. Back to work. Time for me to go pick up the cargo van.

  43. I find Art everyday a necessity for myself, as in life, there are good days and bad.
    I find it to be difficult physically because my work is my size and I must stand on step stool for a few days to reach the top. The process is as important as the work.
    The hard part is seeing the work in my head finished knowing I have two days of real work left. I have had real jobs in my life ,never as difficult as what I have put myself through to achieve my goal..
    I luv it. I luv to work hard and have the work kick ass visually .
    Art hard as it may be is balanced by the results and the audience that appreciates it.
    Can’t live a happy life without it.

  44. Creating a piece of art is a lot of work. It’s focused work, thoughtful but all of that at the same time is joyful. If you are lucky you go into your right brain and somehow if the stars line up it all comes together as something you can be proud of. Sometimes they don’t come out as you saw it in your head, and sometimes you have to start again after you figure out what went wrong. But that is joyful as well. I am just now creating a way for me to eke out a living as an artist by selling my own art. Even if it works out well I will never work another day in my life. It’s the dream I have always had for myself. If not now, when?

  45. To me, making art can be described using just about any adjective, any metaphor, any simile. I’ve felt so very many ways about making art.

  46. Its a hard work. I remember how I felt dizzy doing my art piece for a long period of time, forgetting my meals and snacks because my nerve dont want to stop. The inspiration and flow of creativity in me keeps myself working even Im tired.

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