I was reading about Frans Hals the other day, a remarkable portrait painter from the 1600s.
I got the feeling he was torn between money and passion. On one hand, he needed to satisfy the needs of the wealthy individuals he painted. They paid the bills after all.
On the other hand, he was an artist and wanted to explore, test, create, and push the boundaries of painting. You could see him try and satisfy this need in his later work, which is fresher and less rendered. But there was only so far he could go without upsetting his patrons.
This is a familiar story for us artists. We are always trying to balance competing interests. Time, money, passion, integrity, family, friends, fulfillment.
Perhaps you love landscape painting, but landscape paintings aren't selling. Perhaps you’re struggling to steal time from your demanding corporate job to paint. Perhaps you had early success and sold a bunch of paintings, but now you feel trapped to that success, painting the same thing in the same way over and over again.
What’s the solution here? How do we balance these interests without going insane?
I think the answer is figuring out what to compromise and what to stand iron firm on. You will almost always need to compromise on something. Even if you were flush with money and fame, you would still suffer the daily battle against time and need to compromise some of life's joys.
If creative integrity is important to you, then you may need to compromise financial stability in the short term. Think of Vincent van Gogh. He stayed true to his vision through poverty and turmoil. Though I’m sure he would have preferred to experience the fruits of his eventual success.
If you want to make a living from your art, you may need to sacrifice your creative integrity and sleep. It might call for you to do portrait commissions even if you don’t enjoy them.
If you work a demanding job but want to paint, you may need to compromise your mornings, nights, and weekends to practice. That’s what I did for a few years. It was hard but fulfilling and needed to be done.
There’s no single answer. It’s all based on your situation, preferences, and what you want to do with your life. But it’s worth thinking about. Especially with a new year coming up.
Anyway, thanks for reading and wishing you a happy holiday.
For more painting tips, check out my 21 Easy Ways to Improve Your Paintings ebook.