Everyone needs money to live. It’s a simple fact of life—unless, of course, you happen to live in a strict barter society. :) It’s also a simple fact of life that most people don’t have the luxury of earning a living through work they enjoy.
If you’re an artist, however, that does not have to be the case. There are many ways to turn an interest in art into a means of earning a living. . . even if your medium of choice is colored pencils.
Here are six ways to earn a living or supplement your income through your colored pencil art:
1. Art professional
This is not the same as being a professional artist. A professional artist is a full-time artist whose primary source of income is the sale of original art, reproductions, derivatives or other artistic endeavors.
If you’re an art professional, on the other hand, you work for someone in an employee/employer relationship. You interviewed for the job, you got the job, and you go to work every day. Your employer pays your wages and, for all intents and purposes, you are a working person. Just like the line worker, office staff, or bank teller but with one important distinction: your work involves daily creativity and—hopefully—you enjoy it more than the average, nine-to-five employee.
There are countless types of jobs to be had as an art professional. Graphic designers, advertising designers, fashion designers, even automotive designers are all included. Unlike bygone days when most such artists worked with pen, pencil, and paper, a lot of these jobs now come with a computer and high-end graphic design software attached. But that doesn’t make the process any less creative.
In some cases, the advent of computer equipment has opened up new avenues for artists. Website design and the careers attached to it provide ample opportunity for artists with an interest in that field. Someone has to design all those banners and pop-up ads, after all!
2. Art teacher
The old adage, “Those who can, do; and those who can’t, teach,” is not necessarily true. Many art teachers are also accomplished artists. Many supplement their studio income with full- or part-time jobs as art teachers in a variety of settings, from day care to senior care.
Home schooling organizations are frequently in search of qualified people to teach specialty courses such as drawing, painting, and general art, so if you’re an artist who is interested in teaching, don’t limit your search to the traditional educational avenues.
But what if you’re not interested in a traditional employer/employee setting and still want to use your art skills and talents to make a living? You’re in luck, too! Here are just a few more possibilities:
3. Freelance artist
Make yourself available (through your local community, Craigslist, etc) to create artwork designed to customer specification. You might be needed to create cover art for a new eBook, or to design wall art to hang in offices, or in model homes for sale.
Is a local charity hosting a fund raiser? Do they have a need for artwork either for auction or to promote the event? The possibilities are limited only by your imagination.
Once you’ve established a proven and consistent body of work, you will find people willing to pay you to create work to their specification. Colored pencils are well suited to this type of work either by themselves or in combination with other mediums.
4. Portrait artist
If you’re good at drawing children, pets, or larger animals, custom portraits might be the best source of income for you. High quality portrait work is always marketable, no matter what style or medium you use. Be prepared for a certain amount of “routine” portrait work, but you will also find clients who are willing to tell you what they want and give you free rein to create something truly unique and custom.
Getting started can be a lengthy process, so if you’re considering becoming a portrait artist, it’s generally best to begin by doing portraits on the side. It may also never be an extremely lucrative business, but it can be rewarding and improve your bottom line.
5. Licensing or print artist
If you have a large body of work and/or if your work has been well received, you may be a candidate for limited edition or open edition reproductions. Many online companies offer printing services to artists at reasonable rates. Specialty items such as t-shirts, mugs, and calendars can also be created and marketed in this fashion. All you have to do is upload high-quality images and they’ll do all the rest.
6. Private art tutor or workshop leader
Many artists supplement art income by sharing what they’ve learned with others. Whether it be small classes, private lessons, small groups, or large classes, you can always find a niche that fits your personality and schedule.
For many, private lessons is a great way to start. Teaching time can be tailored to the needs of individual students (and you). Depending on your skill level and teaching ability, you may be able to charge from $30 to $75 per hour for private instruction.
A small weekly group may be better if there are several people interested in learning from you. Think about starting a weekday afternoon or evening or maybe a weekend class. I led a small class once a week for nearly a year and we worked through several projects as a class as well as a few independent study-style projects. $20 per student per week may not seem like much, but as your small group grows, it adds up.
No place at home to give lessons? Check out the local gallery, community center, or even the local home-schooling organization. Many such locations will happily host a regular class or one-time workshop. Some might even be suitable locations for private lessons. Be prepared to pay for the privilege or to offer a portion of the proceeds if you aren’t asked to pay. It costs to keep these facilities open and every little bit helps.
And last but not least, don’t forget online classes! It’s very easy to conduct one-on-one online classes with one or two students. All you need is the desire to teach, reliable email, and scanning or photography equipment. Your students will also need those things, but this is a great way to start teaching if you don’t have a place to meet.
Of course these are just a few ideas—your potential is only limited by your imagination and courage. Good luck, and keep on drawing!
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