Hobby, Amateur or Professional?

Yesterday, as my husband was working on our income tax paperwork, he was complaining about how it was becoming a bit complex due to multiple revenue sources such as stock dividends, several different retirement checks and soon to be a small income from work I will be doing as a kitchen consultant at a local non-profit organization to which we both belong. I cheerfully pointed out that I hoped this year I would break even on my art work and we would need to report that income and the expenditures as well.

To this he replied, “You won’t make enough to mess around with that. You’re not a professional artist.”

Well, I beg to differ.

As Aletta de Wall, M.Ed. states in her book, My Real Job is Being an Artist: How to Produce a body of signature art and build the foundation of an art business, you are a real artist when you say you are a real artist.

Where things get fuzzy is when you go from being an amateur when you are just creating art for the sake of creating art with no intention of selling any of it; to professional (be that part time, full time, successful or not) in which you create art with the intention of getting something in return (usually money). Ms de Wall notes that there are different stages of being a professional and she labels them as Emerging, Mid-Career and Established.

I believe myself to be in the Emerging stage. And this is the time for me to buckle down and figure out what I’m doing. To that end, I’m going to make a commitment to myself to complete 20 to 30 works in pastel that help to develop my competence and style. I want people to begin to recognize my work as something different from the work of others. So, I’m going to continue my series on the Glass with Produce and see where it takes me. So far, I’ve had great fun doing them and great fortune in selling several of them. Clearly, however, I need to be prepared to replace those I sell with new works.

And that means I need to put in some dedicated hours in the studio. February was pretty much as lost cause as I needed to spend a lot of hours and energy getting the organization’s kitchen up to snuff. Thankfully, we did obtain our health department certificate and can not get the place up and running. My goal is to keep my kitchen working hours down to 20 a week. That leaves me enough time for concentrated efforts in the studio to continue building my inventory.

Perhaps, by the end of this year I’ll be ready to approach other galleries in more populated areas as I should then have enough higher quality works in inventory to be able to develop those markets.

But back to hubby and his comment. I realized I will have to get very serious in 2017 about keeping financial records. Even if I’m spending far more than I’m bringing in, I need to keep close track of it.

Ironically, just as he was dismissing the idea of my work as being less than a profession, I was contacted by someone who had seen my work and was interested in purchasing a piece. Arrangements were made to meet the next day and another sale was made. As my second sale this year (and just the two together showing an income that was 2/3rds of  all my previous sales combined last year), he has begun to actually worry that our tax return next year may well be more complicated. One more sale of this size and I’ll have matched last year’s sales. More sales than that, I may actually get close to breaking even (if I’m very frugal this year).


One thought on “Hobby, Amateur or Professional?

  1. First, congratulations, both on your sales but also on your commitment to doing what you love and seeing yourself differently! And do start, right this minute, to keep those financial records. It’s necessary for all the usual reasons but it will also reinforce your definition of yourself as “artist.”


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