The Art of Charles Sovek
Gallery Workshops Speaking of Art Biography Lessons from the Easel Feedback Home

Speaking of Art | Archives

Paying the Rent

Painting- "Laundry Day, Venice"
"Laundry Day, Venice"
7 November 2003 — Students often ask my advice about whether or not to become a full time painter. This can be a very dicey topic. On the one hand you are what you do. And if you paint full time, you'll get better and stronger and more expressive with each passing day. Provided, that is, you're painting to please yourself. If, instead, you're fulfilling quotas for a gallery that's short on waterfalls or sweating out a portrait because the sitter wants to appear 10 years younger, life can be very dreary and one's expressive juices tend to stop flowing.

So what's the answer? My best advice is to keep whatever source of income you now have and paint in your spare time. And even if you only have two, one or even part of a day a week to paint, you'll probably be a better artist than if you spent 5 days a week painting landscapes that match other people's living room furniture. But things are seldom as black and white as I'm implying. If you live near water, for example, and enjoy painting boats and harbors and find you're selling quite a few pictures, there's no esthetic harm in being represented by one or even more galleries. The trick is to maintain your personal approach and not let the gallery dictate how and what you paint. This can prove difficult if you have a family, rent, car payments and kids in school and a certain amount of income is required. Here, it's a case-by-case situation and everyone's solution will be different. For an overview, however, try to not "paint for money" so much so that your intuition and spontaneity are lost in the bargain.

Another piece of advice I give to students — and this is particularly applicable to younger, single artists — is to find work that doesn't tax your right brain. I have one student who fixes musical instruments for a living. Another types out lawyer's briefs, still another is a combination fisherman and carpenter. Each of these jobs can pay the rent, but unlike being a business executive or staff therapist at a big hospital, they usually leave some creativity for yourself.

Occasionally I have students in responsible, high stress jobs who take early retirement so they can paint. And every once in a while I get a letter from a student who traded his high paying job for a menial position with regular hours, free evenings and leisurely weekends. The bottom line is, painting, at its richest, is done best with no purpose whatsoever aside from pleasing the person making the art.

Personal expressiveness is a delicate thing. But it's all we have to mark our life with individuality. We need to treasure it and painting with unbridled inhibition, no matter how few hours a week, is the only way to catch your particular star.

Home | Gallery | Workshops | Lessons from the Easel | Biography | Feedback

 Copyright © 2016 - All Rights Reserved - Charles Sovek