The image that comes to mind all to easily when I think of an artist is the
image of the hippie painter who has no skills and can't sell anything living
in a loft on money that was rented with money that didn't come from their
paintings, and lives a life-style that personally I consider to be not all
that moral. Is really just unemployed and pretends they aren't because they
happen to paint, and doesn't care about improving their work (or at least
their salesmanship) enough to actually sell it.
I've already openly disagreed with the idea of subsidizing art, for any
number of reasons. Here's another reason, an artist who knows that the quality
of their work (or at least the quality of their salesmanship) doesn't matter
isn't likely to start doing better quality work (or at least better quality
salesmanship). The artist who's work isn't selling is likely to change
something (even if it's just their method of selling their artwork). The
artist who knows that they have to meet the bottom line is going to do
something different than the artist who doesn't need to meet the bottom line.
Contrary to everything you might think, or everything that comes to mind, and
contrary to the way the arts may seem to many people it is an industry, an gallery
owner runs a business, so does the independent artist. If the artwork doesn't sell
the art supplies can't be paid for and the artist goes out of business. At least
that's what happens when an artist has to meet a bottom line. The same thing
happens in every industry where the bottom line is treated like it doesn't matter
the quality of the work goes down (that work includes the salesmanship).
Here's the image that doesn't come to mind nearly as readily at the word “artist”
a person who creates beautiful things that of quality. The person who knows they
have a bottom line and a dead line to meet. The person who treats what they are
doing like a business. The person who comes up with the logos and the graphics
that show up on t-shirts and all sort of other personal effects that we all both
love and take for granted at the same time. The person who cares about the quality
of their work and thus has to ask themselves how they can improve it even if it is
selling. The person who has some success to their name and deserves it, and knows
that if that success lasts only as long as their bottom line is met.
Take note of the difference between those descriptions. When a person has to meet
a bottom line they do things very differently than when they don't. In the story
of the artist and the bottom line I won't ask you which kind of artist you want to
be because the first kind of artist should be ashamed (not that they will be), but
the second kind of artist the kind who's art might actually make the bottom line
and pay the bills they've got something to be proud of. But here's the question I
will ask which when you buy your artwork doesn't the quality of what your purchasing
So the bottom line is that having to meet a bottom line matters in all industry’s
and the arts is no exception.