Why do we struggle?
From time to time, we come across news of artworks fetching millions of dollars, leaving us wondering what sets these creations apart from our own. Intrigued, we delve into the artist’s background, examining their journey and becoming captivated by the eloquent descriptions of their work. We witness them being celebrated for their innovation, creativity, and individuality. However, amid all the admiration, one critical aspect often goes unnoticed – how did the artist sustain themselves before achieving fame and fortune? How did they cover the material costs of their art and fund exhibitions?
Every artist’s journey begins somewhere, and the prominence we see today didn’t manifest overnight. These accomplished artists had to strike a delicate balance between their creative pursuits and financial stability in the early stages of their careers.
The art world, whether in the realm of painting, sculpture, or any other creative discipline, often carries a challenging reputation when it comes to providing artists with a stable income. Many artists graduating from art colleges find themselves facing a perplexing choice between their idealized view of art and the pragmatic need for survival. Sadly, a significant number of art graduates end up in non-artistic professions where their higher degrees seem unrelated to their work. It’s striking to note that less than 10 percent of artists manage to sustain themselves solely through their artistic endeavours. This raises the question: Why do so many artists struggle?
One key factor contributing to the difficulties faced by emerging artists fresh out of colleges and universities is their conditioned mindset. Young artists are often indoctrinated with concepts like “high art” and “low art.” They are led to believe that the success of their work is tied solely to personal fulfilment rather than financial gain. Consequently, artists tend to shy away from strategies to make their work both aesthetically appealing and marketable. Many artists become entrapped in these fantasies and eventually find themselves at a loss when it comes to their artistic careers. They are so deeply entrenched in this indoctrinated mindset that they lose sight of the practical realities of the world.
This mindset, characterized by beliefs and attitudes acquired through their education, is often shaped by the teachings and guidance of their instructors. While teachers undoubtedly help students develop their creative approach, they sometimes fall short in preparing students for the financial challenges they will encounter once they leave the sheltered environment of the classroom. When individuals choose art as a profession, they must recognize that their livelihood depends on it. They should either be able to sell their artwork or be prepared to explore alternative sources of income that involves their fundamental skill. Not everyone will find employment as an art teacher, and students need to be aware of and explore the diverse possibilities available to them. Some art teachers intentionally or unintentionally often try to convince students that if they attempt to earn money through caricatures, cartoons, or illustration, their creative and innovative work will suffer. However, this is not the case, and no one should discourage budding artists from exploring different forms of art that can benefit them financially. Engaging in commissioned and commercial work that utilizes their fundamental artistic skills will not adversely affect their creative work, in contrast, financial crises certainly can.
Turning the lens specifically to Kashmir, it becomes apparent that the majority of artists here pursue non-artistic occupations, with only a few actively following their artistic passions. Artists, in general, grapple with financial instability, largely due to misconceptions about the divisions within the art world. In a region like Kashmir, where opportunities for artists are scarce, lacking galleries and substantial government or private support, there is an urgent need for a change in strategy to help art students navigate their careers effectively.
Art colleges should prioritize the development of fundamental artistic skills in students rather than inundating them with complex definitions of art. Students should understand that their primary focus is to hone their drawing and painting abilities; revolutions and innovations can come later. It is crucial for budding artists to be aware of alternative avenues they can explore to ensure financial stability if selling their paintings proves challenging. As future providers for their families, they must possess the skills necessary to meet their responsibilities. Budding artists should keep flexibility of approach and mindset to grab any opportunity that can prove helpful in the initial stage of their career.
Creating art for art’s sake is admirable, but artists must also consider art for their own sake. With high regard for their work, the glorification of artists who suffered throughout their lives, like Vincent van Gogh, is misleading. Such artists struggled to maintain their social and financial well-being, often taking on unrelated jobs and, tragically, ending their lives prematurely. Its important for an art teacher to prepare students for the worst and help them to identify opportunities that can benefit them to smoothly carry on their artistic practice. They should be encouraged to explore various avenues related to their field. In addition to teaching positions, budding artists in Kashmir should also consider commercial art forms, illustrations, caricatures, art restoration/preservation and digital works. Achieving financial stability will enable artists to continue their creative pursuits and afford opportunities to exhibit their work in galleries that can eventually provide considerable recognition and fame.