The Artist Pay Project is a series exploring how artists in the U.S. survive and thrive amid a cost of living crisis.
This Artist $napshot tells the story of a 23-year-old multi-faceted artist who makes about $1,515 a month.
Art Practice: Modeling, photography, costume making, painting and sometimes dancing
Location: Chicago, IL
Pronouns: She/ Her
My monthly income is roughly $1,515.
How much of your income is from your art practice?
From my art practice, I make anywhere between $100-$200 dollars a month.
Where does the rest of your income come from?
I work part time as a beauty consultant and a hair color consultant. For this day job I make anywhere between $1000-$1400 a month.
How much did you make from recent gig work related to your art practice?
-The last show I performed, I took home $50.
-The last painting I sold, I took home $45.
-The last set of photos that I took, edited and sold I took home $30.
How do you price your work?
Paintings depend on how large the painting is. For example, a small painting I would charge roughly $45, medium, $60 and large, $100.
Photos I sell in sets, usually between three to five and would cost anywhere between $15 to $40 depending what the subject matter is.
Videos I sell in singles. One video would cost between $30 to $70 depending on the length and subject matter.
I live in a 3-bedroom house with three other people. Our rent per month is $1630, out of that amount I pay $350. We also pay utilities and internet, which comes out to roughly $320 and of that I pay about $80 per month.
What are your major monthly expenses?
On of my largest expenses would be taking care of my pets which comes out to roughly $220 per month. Another would be costume making for photo shoots and shows which would be anywhere from $50 to $120. The third would be transportation, I spend between $80 to $150.
Do you have any expenses related to your art practice?
Art supplies for my paintings would be about $10 to $50 every other month or so. I try to use what I can around the house and limit product waste to save money.
My costumes for shows and photo shoots can cost any between $50 to $120. With costumes I try to thrift as much as I can, rhinestone my own pieces and I’m learning to sew as well so I can save more money.
Larger financial picture
Do you have any financial support from outside sources?
Sometimes I do receive money from my father on holidays or when he can spare a few dollars. I have friends who will provide me with supplies or clothing to help with my art/ costume making from time to time. My partner will help me out with cash if I didn’t make a lot of money that month, anywhere between $5 to $50 here and there.
Have you received any grants to support your art?
Do you have health insurance?
Yes, I pay for my own health insurance. I do receive some help from the state of Illinois with some of my bill.
Do you have any debt?
I have roughly $2,500 in medical debt.
Do you have any savings?
I have $9,000 in my savings due to a lawsuit I won. Without this I would have nothing.
Did you pursue higher education?
I would like to go to school at some point, however I do not have the funds at this time.
Responses edited lightly for length and clarity.
How do you feel about your financial security as an artist?
I feel like I have enough. I have a house, I can buy food and everything, but I'd always like to have a little bit of extra to buy other things or for events.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced when it comes to making a living as an artist?
I just moved, I'm new to the area that I live in. So just trying to find either people, or clients, or things like that.
What methods have you been using to find clients?
Before, it was all online using hashtags or trying to use different songs that are trending, or things that are trending to get reach. But now I've been doing things in real life too, where I go to different events that have people who do the same type of art that I do, or have the same style of living that I have. And I find more people that way, more friends and more acquaintances. And they give me knowledge on how they get intel as well.
You're pretty young — I’m curious if it has gotten easier or harder over time to do your art and make a living?
It changes depending on my situation, because my situation hasn't been always rock solid. It hasn't always been like I'm doing the same thing, or have the same availability, or the same drive — it's changed. I'd say at times it's gotten harder, because the older I get, the more bills there are, or more things to pay attention to, like my body, or my energy level. So overall, it's probably gotten a little bit harder, but I wouldn't say by too much.
What resources would help you the most making a living and being able to make your art at the same time?
Discount facilities would be nice — where I could find costume pieces or fine art supplies at a discounted rate that aren't so expensive as buying at full price. And then, maybe classes to learn different abilities, like how to sew, or how to do different things. I have friends right now who help me with that, but having classes available to teach you skills would probably be really helpful too. And then what I've been doing, which is meeting with other people and just sharing our knowledge, the craft.
Do you have any thoughts about how you're paid for your art or your performances? What does fair or livable pay look like for you?
I'm still learning prices, what to charge for different art. I have a specific friend who has been around a long time doing a lot of different things. And she's helpful with what I should charge because I don't know — you're not really sure sometimes, especially being as young as I am. I just haven't been doing it that long. So other people's knowledge is really helpful on what you should be charging.
How do you decide what to charge people? Where do you get those numbers from for yourself?
A lot of the times I'll look through the internet and see on Etsy or different websites where people sell stuff, on eBay, and see what roughly other people charge. But then also calculating the amount of time that I took to do it, the amount that it costs for supplies. That's kind of how I calculate it.
Do you think that pay transparency can help artists and if so, how?
I definitely think that it helps. Because I’m young and I haven't been doing this that long, it's really nice to be able to see what other people are charging. And honestly to see what other people are going through also, because sometimes you do feel alone, especially if, like me — I just went to a new place and I'm just now starting to find people here. You feel alone at times and you're not sure if other people are going through the same thing that you are.
Read more about the Artist Pay Project.