Weekly question No. 25 On Taking the Plunge

Joe has made some sales and won prizes in a couple of local art competitions. And one of his works was accepted into a major juried national competition. He didn’t win but being accepted into that prestigious competition would look great on any artist’s CV. He feels that his painting is progressing well. If only he had more time. Pleasant thoughts of quitting his day job at the bank and of devoting himself full time to painting are arising. How hard could it be? he wonders.

What issues would Joe need to consider before taking such a major step?


(There are some obvious things that he’d need to consider, but also some that may not come to mind so readily. It will be interesting to see what folks come up with.)


  • Up until the bit about the bank that sounded a bit like your history Rob 🙂

    Perhaps obvious to say, but I think it would depend entirely on Joe’s current life position. 

    No family responsibilities, good savings to fall back on, then why not give it a go. After all you can always get another bank job -  probably. 

    Young family to support, early career, mortgage and other debts. Probably not feasible unless the partner is in a position to support, and is supportive. 

    Close to retirement anyway, family left home, no debts, healthy super balance, then why not chuck it all in early and give it a go. 

    And there are probably 100s of other scenarios. 

    The romantic in me would love to say, bugger it all, follow your dreams Joe, and be damned. But I suspect for most of us that’s just not practical. Unless Joe is Banksy.
  • Cheers, @Roxy. Yes, the financial situation and family responsibilities are the obvious considerations. You also mentioned the possible difficulty of getting another job if art didn't work out. I think that's important. And if one is on a career path would it be possible to pick up where one left off or would it be back to square one? I agree that if one is close retirement and has a nice super balance the decision would be made easy.  

    I can think of some other, not so obvious considerations, but I'll wait to see what others come up with before I mention them. 

    Thanks for your input, @Roxy.   :)
  • You would have to treat it like a business.  
    During that successful year did you keep track of expenses and income?  
    Do you know what your living expenses and budget requirements are?
    Do you have an idea of what you can expect in future sales?  Do you have a business plan?
    I love painting, and I love art. But I would starve and be homeless if I relied on it to feed, clothe and shelter myself and my spouse.
    Now, if you were to focus on commercial work and you have the skills you might be able to go freelance and survive but you still need to do all of the planning mentioned above.
    Whenever I do jump out of the plane I plan to continue in the fine arts market but expect only a nominal degree of income.
  • Thanks, GTO. You did a great job there of laying out the financial consideration for anyone who is not wealthy and who is thinking of taking the plunge.  :)
  • I'll get back to it when I'm done with day's @Roxy you're a true Realist  :p
  • CBGCBG -
    edited May 21
    Oddly enough I feel like I have to play devil's advocate.  The following is somewhat random and I apologize... we are not machines, and sometimes the garden most full of life rambles in the most of directions..

    Although, I do not think one can dispense with practicality and a business sense, IN life, I do not think one's life is to be lived AS a business or solely for practicality.  Practicality and business make life possible, but they are not what life IS or CAN BE.

    In the analysis of deciding a major change in life, are you starting from square one or the status quo?

    Do you really need or want a 75 inch OLED TV, or the latest top of the line electric hybid SUV?  Do you think your kids need them?  Will they grow up to be better people for having those things or seeing your wanting them?  Do you really need or want to binge watch as much Netflix as you do now... is that a higher value to you than spending time with kids, a second job, or painting?  Do you want or need to live in a house as big as you do, where you do?  Is convenience, safety, or peace more important for where you decide to live?

    What is life?  What is the pursuit of happiness? What really is your bliss?

    Pleasure? Happiness? Love? Family? Peace?
    Pride? Prestige? Status? Fame? Power? 

    What do you value? What ARE your values in life... and assuming you are raising your kids to have the right values (and assuming you have them) ... how can you provide THOSE values for your kids?

    True you must look at what can you afford to do and/or have in your life.. but more importantly you should consider what you cannot afford to not do or not have in your life... what you cannot do without in a life you want to live.

    Since you cannot have everything, of course practicality and a good business sense guide your actions as to what is possible or not.

    Can I get by with 6 hours sleep a night?  Can I use cheaper painting materials (at least in the beginning).  Am I spending enough quality time with my kids... do I need to cut down on TV, on frivolous expenses... maybe I don't need to drink expensive Scotch.. or maybe I should reduce my drinking entirely...  what do I want to BE and how do I want to LIVE when I "grow up" (have I decided to stop growing?...)... should I start working towards that NOW?

    IMHO I think the first step is to consider life as a whole, as infinitely precious and delicately fragile, as your one treasured only true possession... all you truly value and want in that life, you and your family if you have one, and what kind of balance, personal and familial balance you would want... 

    being careful to ignore the false idols and empty ideals, all those externalities which are not conducive to you or your families' flourishing... and stand firm against any lack of self-esteem and learned helplessness

    but reign in or ensure that ideal fits within your means, and what is possible... but only limited by reality and not your fears or insecurities

    guide your ideal for a life full of what you truly value by the practical limits of your finite resources and time, but always guided by what you deem most important and precious in your only one life.

    I think in the end if Joe really really wants to give it a try to make art work for him, he will make it work.  He will succeed to the level of his ability, and he will have to be happy with that, or if its not enough, he will have learned and will move on.  But having tried... he will have fulfilled his promise and joy in pursuing life, whereas if he really wanted to but never tried, he will have failed himself. 

  • edited May 21
    Wow! Thanks, @CBG.There's a lot to think about there.

    I agree that if Joe is committed to painting, if he is aware of the likely hardships but honestly intends to give it his best then, all else being equal, he should give it a shot. Regrets over what we didn't do with our lives are as bad as failure.  :)
  • I think Joe would need to be prepared to make a huge sacrifice regarding income and professional status, possibly even social acceptance by some. Assuming he would be giving up things like a 6 figure income with great benefits, bonuses, vacations, seniority benefits, client perks, professional camaraderie and respect, etc., is much different than say someone who has nothing or much less to lose.  

    I don't know too much about the art world, but it seems to me that there isn't much of a market these days for fine art. But if Joe were willing and able to make that sacrifice, and that sacrifice hopefully didn't conflict with previous commitments he made to others that would 'hurt' them in some way, then I say go all in. 
    If Joe had some success with his art while having all of the above in his professional life, he should be very grateful for his good fortune of having his cake and eating it too!

    Regrets and failure are a part of everyone's life. Being able to recognize and learn from them keeps us honest and keeps us from becoming conceited.
  • edited May 22
    Thanks, @whunt.  You make some good points, some of which had not been mentioned thus far. For example, as well as a possible/likely reduction in income there is the loss of camaraderie with professional colleagues. Artists most often work alone. That can be hard. 
  • edited May 24
    Joe doesn't yet have the evidence he can make a living. Sell some paintings first. If he doesn't have big responsibilities to others, he can try it out and he's the only one affected. If he wants to be more cautious because of family or mortgage - then first test the market. Set a goal over a year to paint sufficient paintings to put on an exhibition or sell. Work out how long each painting takes, what people are prepared to pay now. Building a name and increasing value of each painting can happen, but count the cost now.
    Even smarter, talk to artists who have done this as well. Find out where to market and sell your paintings. Think about who you are as an artist because the bigger money goes to artists not individual paintings that catch the eye. Reputation is sometimes bigger than talent. A lot of talent is underpaid, and other is overpaid.
  • Thanks for your response, @Abstraction:)

    That all sounds like good advice. Do everything possible to figure out whether it can work and, if so, what you need to do to make it work, before taking the plunge. 

    I agree with you about the big money going to reputation rather than paintings. 
  • @Abstraction The comment about "who you are as an artist because the bigger money goes to artists not individual paintings.", is very interesting.

    There is the idea of marketing your "self" and that requires a sort of "branding". 

    That brings up the question of how much of that is artificial vs real?  The modern philosopher Byung-Chul Han talks about how the digital image and social media has created a self that is both the creator and the commodity.  And ironically isolated our self from others.  He talks about achievement because we "should" turning into achievement because we "can" and that this need to achieve strengthens a self that is more isolated, more centered on the self.

    I've struggled with the idea of branding myself as an artist. How would you even go about forming a "brand"?

    I see it more of something that happens because of choices made as we live life.  I see it as karma.
    Almost as if in every action we take, we are becoming who we are, and that is based on the accumulation of actions taken.  I think we don't really know who, or what, we are until we have lived it out.  In a way we are constantly "becoming".

    I do see all the social media, tick tock, etc. as the desire to become.  And this is where I think Byung-Chul Han has got it right.  I do think the camera is aimed in the wrong direction.  It should be pointed outward instead of toward our self. 

    I am still developing my thoughts on this subject.  I've chosen to create paintings that show the beauty of seeing without getting into a social or political message.  

    When I was about eight years old I was on a family vacation and we stopped on a park that was located on an island.  While exploring the park I saw a man sitting on a bench making drawings of the things around him.  I sat next to him and asked what he was drawing.  He said that he was drawing the homeless guys that lived in the park.  He told me how they would pick up cigarette butts and take the remaining tobacco and roll them up into cigarettes to smoke.  While looking at his drawings he asked me what I thought the most important question in life is.  I said I didn't know.  And he answered, "The most important question is the question Why?".  

    I am still, after all these years, trying to answer that question.
  • edited May 25
    @GTO, I like what you said about it being a process of "constantly becoming". That is so true. It is for me, anyway. I think that when I tire of becoming, of growing, I will be tired of life.

    And what you said about social media rings true, too. There are people whose whole lives seem to play out on Facebook and the like. There doesn't seem to be any real interaction with others there and the focus seems to be entirely on self and how people want others to perceive them.  But it's not real and it's isolating. I don't think it's healthy individually, or for society to be made up of billions of self-obsessed but isolated individuals living in their echo chambers of make-believe, with millions of "friends" and where self-validation depends entirely on how many "likes" one gets. I find the whole thing utterly strange.

    Anyway, thanks for your thoughtful contribution.  :)

  • @tassieguy Technology and social media has distorted our discourse.   We can now ask ourselves…Was Rembrandt painting “selfies”?
    Of course I don’t believe that, but it shows just how banal discourse has become.
  • @tassieguy   Ithink the idea of branding is part of the pressure of the “liking” you mention.  It is art and culture being consumed by commerce. 
  • edited May 25
    “If only he had more time’

    Ah, something I often think about.

    If I put myself in Joe`s shoes I guess I would be asking myself would my enjoyment of art, which I presently do in spare time and at my own pace, be as appealing to me if I made it into a business.

    Do I actually want to spend a considerable amount of time pushing and promoting myself and or find a gallery to do so, for a hefty wad.

    I have no interest in competing.

    And of course it is massively competitive out  there.

    Though having deadlines, which commissions and gallery showings bring, is a good way to push and stretch yourself which improves your art.

    I retire in just under 5 years so I will definitely have more time to paint then.

    I think Joe needs to consider many things but mainly he should ask himself what he truly wants.

  • edited May 25
    Cheers, @MichaelD. Yes, I think that's right. If Joe takes the plunge it must be for the right reasons. The thought of getting rich and famous is not one of those. Even with self promotion and a gallery behind you it's hard to make any sort of living as a painter. So art must be for its own sake and driven by an overwhelming need to express what is inside oneself. If that is not the case then other considerations and responsibilities will stand in the way. Unless Joe is prepared to sacrifice financially, and in many other ways, it's not a good idea, IMHO, for him to take the plunge. However, as others have pointed out, the obstacles would be greatly lessened if he were already financially comfortable or close to retirement anyway.

     I would never have had the courage to take the plunge. My childhood imbued me with a deep and abiding fear of poverty. So if joe is like me he won't go full time until he retires. Except if he's driven, despite everything else, by an overwhelming need to express himself in art like VVG. Otherwise, he should stay at the bank and paint part-time. There's no shame in that.  :)
  • edited May 27

    Thanks, @Roxy, @GTO, @KaustavM, @CBG, @whunt, @Abstrction and @MichaelD for your  responses to Weekly Question No. 25 about Joe throwing in his job and going full time as an artist.

    As well as the obvious financial and family issues Joe would need to consider if he is not already wealthy, a number of other issues were raised:

    -          There is the issue of how hard it would be for him to get another job if art didn’t work out

    -          Could he pick up his career at the bank where he left off or would he be back to square one?

    -          Then there is the issue of lack of camaraderie and support from colleagues. Artists work alone. That can be hard.

                  In addition, we could add that:

    -          The hours artists work can be grueling with little, if any, reward. No paid vacation, sick leave, employer financed health insurance or superannuation. The artist is on her/his own. No on cares.


                  The  consensus seems to be  that if joe in not financially secure already, he should take the plunge only if none of the above is more important to him than art. But only Joe could know that.


    Thanks again to all who responded. I won’t post a Weekly Question No. 26 until next week because @CBG has come up with a great topic for discussion already. See here: Beginner struggles and frustrations... and requests for advice. OPEN THREAD — Draw Mix Paint Forum

    Thanks, @CBG :)

  • Sorry, just wanted to add something that I thought of after reading really good heart felt comments...perhaps the immense, sometimes torturous effort to create art and the bearing of all you can muster to express deep personal feeling through your art, is the polar opposite of branding, merchandising & marketing.

    The artist wants to escape from the fake, unreal, and overly bubbly take on life that we have grown accustomed to through media. In today's society, it seems, at times, that we are schooled to portray ourselves as more than we know we actually are, and we are considered weak if we show empathy and kindness towards others that are struggling.

    Can it be the artist's responsibility too somehow depict the reality of our times? Is that why the artist struggles with how, what to paint? 

    I know this has nothing to do with making money to support yourself as an artist like Joe was thinking,  but it has to do with having a feeling so strong that reality of the situation gets murky. 
  • Thanks, @whunt. No problem with coming in late. Folks can add responses to Weekly Questions anytime even though there are later ones. I'm glad you added more to the thread.

    I think you're right about art being a way to get in touch with a reality that is deeper, truer than that of "marketing and merchandising". And you're ight that for some artists, social commentary, how they feel about what they see in the world, is a prime motivator in their work. The role of the artist as social commentator has a long history.
  • PaulBPaulB mod

    Joe should probably spend a year before taking the plunge, truly tracking his expenses, including everything. This will give Joe a good estimate for future burn rate. While doing this, Joe should also cut out unnecessary expenses, minimize costs, etc, to reduce the burn rate and extend those savings.

    Joe doesn't need to make a living selling art, not yet, he just needs to realize that every painting sold extends those savings a little longer.

    Joe could make some realistic and achievable milestones. Include leading indicators like number of social media posts that push sales, number of completed works etc. Joe could commit to submitting to a certain number of shows, or producing a certain number of works, or getting into a gallery. Making the milestones small and progressive will show real progress.

    Joe should look into local community support, grants, and residencies, all of which help. Joe might teach or give group lessons to earn a little cash. Joe might sell prints and cards as well as originals.

    Joe should have a plan B, such as get a job, or move somewhere cheaper/smaller.

    Joe should focus on relationships with existing and potential customers. Talk to them. Document and post his story, his struggle. Stay in touch.

    If Joe watches tv, or plays games, perhaps he should stop and focus for a while.
  • edited May 29
    That's all damned good, practical advice, @PaulB. Taking a year to prepare before taking the plunge is eminently sensible and something no one else thought of. If he's saved enough and done all the groundwork during that year then, when he does quit the bank, he'd be less worried about how to survive, more able to focus on painting, and more likely to make a success of being a full time artist.

    Thanks for your contribution.  :)  
  • Why plunge? Wade out instead.

    Reduce your hours, go part time etc. Shift the balance of your life towards art as life allows.

    You WILL make mistakes, being solvent allows you to learn and move on.

    I've had 17 years as self employed car trimmer but the first 5 included many temp jobs.
  • Thanks, @heartofengland

    Yes, one doesn't have to put all one's eggs in one basket and go full time. And making sure one is solvent before diving in gives one breathing space.  :)
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