Results from Tuesday’s Poll – Is Creating Art More Work or Pleasure?

In my last post, Is Creating Art Hard Work?, I asked if creating is a chore. This question started a great discussion about the attitudes and approaches you take to your creative process.

I also gave readers the opportunity to participate in a simple poll where I asked if creating art is more work or pleasure. This poll is far from scientific, and the available responses don’t allow for much nuance. This was intentional. I feel it’s revealing to see how artists responded when faced with the binary choice to decide if creating is work or pleasure. I know that for most of you, creating art is a mix of work and pleasure (as any kind of work can be, depending on attitude).

I hope you find it interesting to see how your experiences and attitudes line up against those of fellow readers.

So, keeping in mind the limitations of this poll, here are the results as they currently stand. So far we’ve had 453 readers respond to the poll.

General Results

(Click on the charts to see them at full size)

 

Results Based on Whether an Artist Is Making a Living by Their Art

When I filter those responses to look at whether the respondent is making a living from their art, something interesting, though probably predictable, happens. For artists who aren’t selling their work at all, as well as for those who are selling a moderate amount of work but not relying on those sales for their primary source of income, a little over half consider creating to be hard work. The percentages are fairly similar among both groups.

For artists who rely solely on their art for income, the result is pretty dramatically different. Fully 75% consider creating to be hard work. Only a quarter feel it is more pleasure than work.

 

Results from Artists Who Are Not Selling Their Work, or Selling Very Little

 

Results from Artists Who Are Selling A Moderate Amount of Art But Don’t Rely on The Sales For Their Income

Results from Artists for Whom Sales Are Their Sole Source of Income

 

Again, these results aren’t scientific, and I suspect if I had given you a choice to say that art is both hard work and pleasure, I would have had the vast majority of you make that choice.

These results do reflect what I’ve experienced in my interactions with artists. Those artists who have decided to devote themselves full-time to their work and who rely on the sales of their art for their support approach the creative process with a different outlook.

It’s not that they aren’t deriving pleasure from the work, or that it’s an unenjoyable chore to create. Rather, I would say that they approach their studio time with a level of seriousness and determination. Most feel that they can’t afford to wait until they want to create, or for the muse to strike. Instead, they have to push themselves to get into the studio and create. They have to be productive.

In my next post we’ll explore discipline in the studio and we’ll talk about the different approaches artists take to push themselves to work harder and in more focused ways.

What do you Think?

Do the results of this poll reflect your approach to your art? Are the results surprising? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

 

 

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27 Comments

  1. This is so interesting, Jason! Thank you for sharing! I’m teaching yoga as a (highly enjoyable and fulfilling) money source whilst I plod away at marketing and making my art. My work is very yoga-centric so I have been able to combine the two quite easily (for example, holding a yoga class in an exhibition space or hanging my work in a yoga studio) and I’m finding that doing two things actually suits me very well. It seems that I fare better (mentally and spiritually) when I don’t pigeon-hole myself. I consider myself both a yoga teacher and an artist and when I do both they bring me into connection, not only with myself but with other, like minded people which essentially leads to sales!
    I can fully imagine that working full time as an artist, managing yourself and all the ‘business-y’ jobs that surround it would be exhausting and I’m happy that my life seems to be going in this duel career direction 😊

  2. I missed the poll this morning but I have to say that creating art is a little bit of both, otherwise, everyone would be doing it. Getting started with a new painting might be difficult but eventually we get to that place…the zone, when the ideas start to come together. Although most of the time it is a very satisfying place to be, it is still focused, mindful, and thought provoking work.

    1. I totally agree with you Lisa. In fact you took the words right out of my mouth! I would have been hard pressed to select one category. There is the effort and discipline that come with producing ideas and work, but once I get in “the zone” it’s a blast.

  3. Great survey Jason. After years of teaching art and hearing students say “this is difficult” or “this is frustrating”, my response has always been “everything worthwhile is hardvwork. If it’s too easy, you’re doing something wrong.” As a full time artist the actual creating is mentally and sometimes physically hard work. The fun comes when it’s finally finished.

  4. I work in a factory and that is draining and hard work. My art is more and more relaxing as I learn how to paint. I think that when I start marketing that will be terribly hard and draining work but making my art is relaxing- unless the painting is off. Time has no meaning when I am painting. And I am still learning so Im sure my painting will become easier as time goes by.

  5. I make my living with my art. While a new project presents challenges, sometimes difficult ones, as in the illustrations I’m doing for a book, I find the entire process rewarding.
    Part of it is the realization I don’t have to do a 9 to 5, I can eat when I want, I don’t have to get dressed up in a ridiculous, uncomfortable outfit to fit some corporate idea and I can pet the dog at will..
    The other part is that I feel the inspiration for my ideas comes thru me from the Universe and it directs the skills I have honed over a lifetime of doing. This is where real magic in life resides.

  6. I missed the poll. As an artist who sells enough to cover studio and most expenses but who relies on my spouse for living expenses (and we are quite comfortable), I find creating my art to be mostly pleasure and something I can’t not do. The marketing/business side of things often begins to feel like drudgery. When I realize that is how it is affecting my life I regroup–create intentions and possibilities of sharing my passion and then I am able to shift how I feel about the marketing aspects. I find this bog and Austen Klein’s book, SHOW YOUR WORK, and his news letter to be very helpful for keeping the joy in the process.

    Sallie

  7. There is another side to this as well and that is the highs and lows, the riding on the adrenalin of a satisfying painting (or a good sale) and the deep pit of losing ones self belief. This is art at it’s absolute hardest – when you have to believe in yourself and your ideas against all odds. So this is not the hard work aspect but the emotional toll that art takes. I thin everyone has these troughs, and if you are just in it for fun, you can move onto something else; but if you are 100% committed you have to see it through.

    1. Love your reply. I am one of those who just keeps seeing it through until I am satisfied (with the accompanying risk of overworking it sometimes).

      I think this aspect of the artist’s life might be an interesting topic for Jason to approach or another poll.

      Thank you,
      Pauline Dalby

    2. Substitute “sculpture” for ‘painting’ and I agree. But while I feel the emotional toll also makes my work better.

  8. I feel like one of my kid’s favorite Bernstein bear books summarizes this poll and interpretation quite well: “is [artmaking] fun or is it hard work? Well, it is both, so I would say that [artmaking] is hard fun.” Taken from “down on the farm”. Yes, a career in art makes creating hard work, but if I have to have a job, this is the most fun and challenging work I could ask for. I believe this mix of challenge and pleasure continues to make me a better and better person and artist. Here’s to “hard fun!”

  9. Good poll and interesting results. I would love to be in the group that makes a living from their art but I am in the group that sells art but relies on other sources of income (I am retired). The poll made me think about how I did answer the poll and how I would have liked to answer the poll. To that end, since I have been following your blog for a few months, along with one other blog who is in a similar vein, I have felt more encouraged to up my game. I am a re-emerging artist and my studio practice has taken on a whole new dimension in the last 9 months. I want to check that box that I am making a living through my art!!!!

  10. Interesting! I paint & try to sell but so far my income from painting hasn’t exceeded my expenses for painting yet. I work parttime as a pharmacist which can be stressful at times and the job comes with a lot of responsibility.
    I paint (1-3 days) every week always, also -if I can- even more on holidays. It’s a choice for which I give up social activities I guess. Sometimes I have deadlines and feel some pressure & sometimes I doubt how it will work out. But mostly it’s very rewarding, addictive and makes me happy and doesn’t compare to stress of my job- painting for me is mostly a way to handle that pressure I guess.

  11. I understand you had to be very specific and break it down in a certain way but the area of having to have income from another source did not include myself working full time as well as creating and being able to sell my work. The only options you had of other income was a spouse working to support you (which mine definitely does not want to have anything with me creating and spending money on art much less supporting me so I can do it) and retired. I work full time, take care of kids and create art and do sell from time to time.

  12. My problem is that I’m . . . “constipated” as a painter. I like to create, often have several concepts percolating for everything idea I’m actually setting to canvas, and fantasize about having a full working day to devote to painting. The problem is, I have a pile of finished work that gets a lot of compliments–but not even a glance at my prices, much less a discussion about a possible purchase. How can I justify spending more money on materials and producing more paintings when I don’t have anywhere to go with what I already have? (The answer is, I put painting on the back burner and devote my time and energy on pursuits with a higher chance of drawing income.)

  13. Art is both a pleasure and work. You get all fired up with an idea so you eagerly jump into the project but then it becomes work to convey your idea clearly. I am a Stained Glass artist with no time restrictions. I hope when I retired that I would sell lots of art and be able to open my own studio with lots of customers wanting to learn. Now art is turning into work. I must push myself to create even if no one sees it. I create because it is in me I have no choice, I just love what I do.

  14. This is interesting….. I enjoy the process, but there is work involved in creating: An interesting thing happened to me the other day. My latest had not been getting any attention for over a week. I would look at at, in it’s nearly finished state. But, I could not bring myself to work on it….I just did not feel up to the task. Finally, I made myself set to work on it…. And the joy of creating “kicked in”. Thus, I completed the painting.
    I do not believe in the “inspiration” has to be there…. This episode taught me we make our own inspiration, by getting involved in the process. And this is not the first time this has occurred in my lengthy painting career.
    I would think artists who make all their living from producing art cannot wait for “inspiration”…..Yes, it becomes like a job, but at least an enjoyable one!

  15. I am 70 years old and began painting when I was 16. In than span of 50+ years my “art work” fully supported me for about 8 years…(1979-1981) when I was an illustrator for a Supermarket chain …(1983-89) when I designed and manufactured a home decor product.
    Between 1989 and today there have been very few days when I was not painting something, whether it be a design onto a table or mirror frame for a furniture builder or a whimsical floral onto a scarf.
    Currently my painting time is split between commissioned pieces (portraits of pets and/or humans) and my own inspirations. Commissioned work is hard and sometimes grueling, but so rewarding when I see the smile on the client’s face. Working on my own creations are my easy days in the studio. As an artist I have never been at a loss for ideas and possibilities to explore through painting. The biggest challenge has always been time and money to pursue my own inspirations.

  16. Really not surprise to me. If you are creating art for yourself or for enjoyment it would be more fun less work.

    If you look at it as a business, then you are of course concerned about so much more than making a nice piece of art. You are concerned with quality , presentation, marketing, working on a cohesive body of work. ( ok, some of us vary slightly on that one. Wink)

    It throws all those business elements in with the joy of creating. And yes that can make it hard work. Not counting the physical aspects of producing large paintings or sculptures.

    Good poll. It showed what I would have guessed, but it is fun to see it in laid out like that.

  17. So this poll seems to reinforce a lot of what we already know. Most artists are not making a living on their artwork but must find alternative sources of income. The other thing that this poll tells us is that like anything we do to earn a living we have to work hard at it to have success. In the end it is the satisfaction and joy we get from making art that compensates for all the other hours of hard work earning a living.

  18. I didn’t answer the poll because I had trouble with the wording. I don’t find the creating of the art the hard part. For me, the hard work comes in making the time to do the art. I can’t spend just an hour here or there in the darkroom – I need good solid big blocks of time. So it’s hard work to get everything else done and out of the way in order to have the time for me. When I want to work on Mordançage, I need a day that the weather is just right because it’s mostly an outdoor thing (stinky and kinda nasty chemicals).

  19. Satisfaction with creating apparently has a direct correlation with making a living with our art. Jason, you gave great clarity to that evaluation in your survey. How could any artist not be happy with creating if you’re selling consistently at a level to make your living?
    “Job satisfaction” in general is recognition for one’s ability with appropriate compensation. Compared to other disciplines, artists can’t fit into that window; first, art is not a job. Too often we earn low compensation for high education and skill level. By “education,” I mean either formal schooling or your own course of study. In too many cases you’re barely making minimum wage. I refuse to.
    It’s easy to measure the marketing instinct of a CEO or the ability of an athlete in stats … but the expertise of artists is so vague there is no concrete market value. Therein is the problem.
    So what is my skill worth, and what may it be worth fifty years from now, if anything? Will my work be appreciated in a private collection or sold at a thrift store? There is a peculiar thing called serendipity that may make all the difference.

  20. Sorry I missed the poll this morning but I do agree with Cyd Rust opinion. Art is a business and most times hard work. The creative part is the enjoyable time about 10% the rest is work!!! As an Artist I want to create not spend time on the business end.

  21. Thanks, Jason, for this survey —
    very informative and enlightening.

    I’m retired from two former careers. Now, I paint almost daily from my Home Studio. It is hard work — sometimes enjoyable and at other times it’s more like — just work. No matter, either way, I always discover something new about myself as an Artist.
    I often reflect on comment I read on “Red Dot Blog” — and that is — that an Artists should NOT wait for INSPIRATION to create; but, instead, go into the Studio often and ‘JUST START WORKING’.

    Keeping this attitude helps me — a lot.
    Lee

  22. Well HEY! I must have missed the survey, but I definitely have an opinion on this one!
    HARD WORK….and I LOVE IT….most of the time. The only bummers are when I have to create multiples for money. I tend to lose interest in repeating the same process. My medium of metal is a bit demanding as well, so I work with the most enthusiasm when I’m mixing it up.

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