How to support yourself while studying art

Natalia/ Art Students

Some artists choose not to go to college and work on their work full time. One of the main reasons is that they are trying to discover how they want their work to look before they return to school (e.g., 3D artist and sculptor Robert Arneson). Some other famous artists, such as Andy Warhol, chose not to go beyond high school and the traditional training in art schools (supervised workshops) or art academies.

1. Learn how to create art to a high standard.

One of the many free online tutorials can be used. These are great for students and people who want to do it part-time, but there is a minimal chance that you might be discovered independently. Unless you are incredibly talented (like Rosie Posie or Elizabeth Gilbert), this probably won’t happen by studying alone, but you can always try for fun!

2. Try to create art in different mediums.

You can try painting with other materials, drawing, sculpting, and even collage (e.g., Abstract Expressionist Sol LeWitt). Learning whatever medium you want to try out can be a fun way of experimenting with different tools and becoming more creative in that area or simply getting used to using the materials you are interested in (e.g., Aimee Molloy).

3. Be worth discovering.

If you feel you have something valuable and unique to offer, do everything possible to make sure others find out about it too. You might need to get your work or yourself out there in the world before you are recognized. It might include different types of art ranges (e.g., painting, photography, or drawing), taking groups of people on tours to see your work (e.g., “The Amateurs” group showed me the art that they made). Alternatively, you can create a website if you are more comfortable with technology and being online and have a consistent place for people to find you (e.g., Aimee Molloy).

Many artists have some sort of private collection where they display their work and hold events for people who appreciate their work (e.g., James Rosenquist, who frequently closed his studio to the public for his personal use) before they go on to show it to a broader audience. While you could try something like this if you have enough money, it is unlikely that people will come and ask if they can visit your home or workspace, so all the promotion will be up to you.

4. Push yourself to be better than other artists.

Consider ways to differentiate yourself from others (e.g., David Hockney). A great way of doing this is using different art elements (e.g., Andy Warhol created sculptures and paintings). You could also focus on creating art different from what you usually make (e.g., Elizabeth Gilbert). Ultimately, this comes down to the type of art you produce.

5. Make sure all your work is on display.

As an artist, it can be frustrating when people see a piece of your work but cannot see what other work you have done (e.g., sculptor Jason deCaires Taylor is known for underwater sculptures in many places around the world). An easy solution to this would be to have a blog or website where you can have all your work on display so people can see them whenever they want (e.g., Aimee Molloy). Another solution would be to take people on a tour of your work so they can appreciate the variety you have to offer (e.g., “The Amateurs” group).

If you have a portfolio of work, you can also show it off at galleries or art centers (e.g., The Whitney Art Center). When contacting galleries, it helps if you are an artist who has created something unique so they will be more likely to show it/you off (e.g., Robert Arneson) or inspired by something in the world around us (e.g., Cy Twombly).

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