Some do it and some don’t. There are some very good, excellent, artists who make a living with their art. And there are also some very good, excellent artists who don’t. There are out there some mediocre and even worst artists who do it. And some mediocre, kitsch artists who don’t. There isn’t one discernible pattern. It’s just like the relationship status of some of our friends on Facebook. It’s COMPLICATED.
Oh, well!
In the past, there where staggering examples in the art history of excellent artists, even geniuses, who were also marketing geniuses: Picasso and Salvador Dali, come to mind. They had their “misery” period (usually, at the beginning of their career) when they were yet to be famous and they literally suffered the indignities of being hungry, of living in slums or shady neighborhoods, etc. La “Ruche” (the “Beehive”) where Picasso and many other later “geniuses” like Modigliani, Braque, Kisling and Soutine and others lived, is famous. And not for the luxuries this living accommodation provided…

Picasso, by hard work, ambition, marketing talent and a good deal of sheer luck, made it. He lived most of the rest of his long life as a rich, famous artist. One as famous that, as he put it, “if he would spit on a canvas and sign it” some eager art merchant or other would pay it’s weight in gold and sold it for even more to some snob, dumb, indecently rich, “collector”…

Modigliani, in exchange, did not do it. He didn’t have the marketing gene or his addictions to alcohol and drugs were too strong? He was short in his “luck” ? Who can tell? As I said, it’s complicated. (The fascinating case of Vincent Van Gogh is very special and I will write about it in another post; this blog is called, after all, Van Gogh and I…).
Then, there are the paradoxical examples. There is Rembrandt, full of luck, genius and even an excellent marketer at the beginning of his career, when he was famous and rich, but then ended up poor and broke.

Close up of one of the last self portrait of Rembrandt

Or Pascin, who was making good money and was on his way up in June 1930, when he killed himself in a legendary and atrocious manner…

Pascin, in 1923, durant les Crazy Years in Paris when Hemingway met him

It’s complicated, as I already said it and there is practically no steady, discernible rule.(Not by me, anyway…)
Maybe “luck” (or the lack of it) is one… I’m not sure. I don’t know.
What I do know is that if the art market is so chaotic and, basically, arbitrary (give me a good marketing expert and a few hundreds of thousands of $ at least and I will make you a genius from a bum!) , to some artists, life isn’t. Making his or her living as an artist is a good thing, if you do. And it’s not a total disaster if you don’t.
Maybe it’s sounds corny but living as an artist, being an artist, it’s a reward in itself. You do it because you love it and you cannot do otherwise. You are happy while drawing or painting or writing or composing music, etc. And if you also make your living out of  it’s, finally, irrelevant.  As long as you are happy and don’t worry too much about it.
It could happen to you too, as it did for Vincent: you can become famous and rich, POST-MORTEM…which is a good thing, for your heirs…

And here I am, playing Picasso…



  1. Danu:

    Loved your ‘post!. Really did!
    It’s funny, ’cause yesterday I discussed this very same issue with a friend… This subject is complicated, I agree with you. But it also is a matter of “selling your gift to the God of money.” I guess, when an artist starts doing it, a painter for instance, gifted, not necessarily a genius, when he chooses “serial work” for the good money he can make out of it, the “death” of the creative creature that certainly characterizes an artist is about to come. Can we criticise that? Yes and no. If one has no other way of survive… there’s nothing wrong with that. The one who’s somehow destroying himself and his freedom (…) is the artist himself. But, when he / she does it, just for the good taste of money… that’s no longer art, but business. And I know some cases that succeed, ’cause they found out the “secret”, the marketing machine, the right place at the right time.
    Gifted people are rarely satisfied with their work. They look for perfection, for better and brighter ideas… They just don’t care about the time, about how long will it take to achieve this or that goal… Creativity and creation are in them, belongs to them, otherwise art wouldn’t be the sea where they swim so well, where they feel so plenty and free.
    Unfortunately the best are not always valued. Sometimes they belong to those “notable unknown” who, with luck for the descendants, will get some recognition “post mortem”. This does the artist no good: the encouragement and value were needed in life. After that, only art itself gets the benefit of his work. And this, no money can pay.
    Art can be bought, however. But that doesn’t happen with talent. Fortunately! You can have the “best” connections, you can sell “thousand” pieces of art, you can become “best-seller”, or win all the Emmys and whatever prizes for selling so well. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you’re talented and gifted. Sometimes you’re even mediocre, kitsch or trendy. Then people forget you. Well… you made a fortune, that for sure! But… even if you try and try and try… the gift in you… you won’t be able to buy. You can work hard, (so do geniuses and talented people) but it will never be enough!

    Danu, dearest, loved your “playing Picasso”!!! (I’m sorry, I couldn’t read what’s on the left side of the pic…)
    And… keep on sharing your bright ideas with us!


    • Glad you like it, C! (is “C” ok? don’t want to be indiscreet) Plenty of “signs” and “coincidences” in life…I usually pay attention to them…

  2. Yeap… C. Cel. Celeste… my name!




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