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Mind Your Business: Selling Out or Copping Out

In this month's "Mind Your Business," Mark Simon debunks some common ideas about what it means to be an artist

Mark Simon. All images courtesy of Mark Simon.

Art is a creative endeavor.

Art is beauty in the eye of the beholder.

Art is style meets function.

Art is expression.

Art is business.

Whoa. Can I be a real artist and say that it's a business?

Hell, yes.

Am I "selling out" by making money from my art?

Hell, no.

We've all heard some artists bitch about not wanting to "sell out" by having to do anything artistic outside their own petty lives. They prefer to work some menial or non-creative job. Then they complain about being a starving artist. You might be one.

If this sounds like you, get over yourself. Not wanting to be "forced" into creating art for others is copping out, not selling out. Working on a timeline? That's life. Get used to it and stop being so damn lazy.

No one is saying you can't be creative when working on a commercial project. In fact, that's what clients want. They just want it on time.

Art is a business. It's a good business. It's also a rewarding business. Yet, it's still expressive. Plus, dare I say it? It's fun.

Who's more of an artist? An advertising creative director by day who continues to create at night? Or someone who works at a fast-food restaurant by day and complains that no one takes his art seriously at night. Who's creating more? Who's happier with his choices?

Whose art is likely to progress more? Someone who practices a craft, in some fashion, all day long? Or someone who only gets to it when they get tired of playing Halo 3?

Being an artist for a living helps us be more creative in every part of our lives. Art embellishes our lives. It takes artists to give style to function. Architecture doesn't have to be artistic. It can just be functional and boring. But, when an artist brings something else to the designs, whether it's homes, chairs or toasters, we all benefit.

Working as an artist makes us happier people. We're happier and our families and friends around us are happier. Feeling that you have to suffer for your art is just a bunch of crap.

The Thriving Artist: Make Over $100,000 per Year as an Artist. Cover art by Mark Simon and Travis Blaise.

Earlier this year I spoke with a man who had been a highly paid attorney for over 30 years. He hated his life. He was an artist at heart, but denied his calling to get a "real job." When I met him, he had just quit his practice to pursue his art. He said it was the first time in 30 years he was truly happy. His wife agreed that he was a much different person. A better person.

He spent 30 years of hating what he did and being generally miserable the entire time. He was so busy with his "career" that he didn't have time for his art. Don't let this happen to you. Don't wake up in 30 years and realize that you wasted your life. Let your career be an extension of your artistic leanings.

I remember when I was working in advertising. One of the gigs that came across my desk was to draw truck tires. Did drawing those tires mean I was selling out? How in the hell does drawing truck tires mean you sold out?

I was spending my day drawing. I got paid to perfect my craft. Whether it's a truck tire or the Mona Lisa, it's art and I got to create every day.

Pretending that your artistic integrity won't allow you to "draw truck tires" is just an excuse. A lame excuse.

If you're an artist who prefers to say "Would you like fries with that?", that doesn't make you a real artist. It makes you lazy!

Mark Simon is co-founder of and owns Animatics & Storyboards, Inc. His Thriving Artist: Make Over $100,000 Per Year as an Artist three CD audio set offers insider secrets for artists who want to achieve greater success. Lean how to earn 25% more money without doing more work, about three career mistakes most artists make, negotiating and much more. Mark may be reached at