An Artist’s Earnings

If you’ve ever worked as a freelancer or started your own business, you know that your income can fluctuate wildly depending on how much you’re in demand, and how much work you’re doing. Dorothy, the artist behind Cat and Girl, has been tracking how much she’s been earning and tallying her dollars on beautiful charts. She also does this really cool thing called “Donation Derby” where anyone can donate $5 or more to her, and she does a drawing to show readers how she spent the money. (Thanks to Jon C. for the tip!)


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My partner is an artist and he makes about $8,000 a year. It’s pretty bleak that $8,000 is a good year for an artist. He makes carvings primarily but will also do pretty much anything you pay him. He does 1-2 group shows and 1 large solo exhibit a year of his carvings and spends the rest of the year hustling for various commissions and commercial work (record covers, t-shirt logos, etc). He works harder than anyone I know (every day, no days off) and makes a fraction of what I do.

@Deb of last year@twitter In case anyone is curious how someone can survive on $8,000/year: he always manages to make enough money for his half of the rent, pot, and black gesso. I cover the rest (bills, groceries, etc.) and every Christmas his mom buys him a new pair of black jeans and socks. All he ever wants to do is work and when he does go to shows he can usually get himself guestlisted and he doesn’t drink so our entertainment expenses are pretty low.

sockhopbop (#764)

@Deb of last year@twitter I was wondering that! (Slash how artists survive on so little in general.) Thanks for the rundown.

lalaland (#437)

@Deb of last year@twitter Thanks for that! Serious question, and I hope I’m not being offensive in any way: do you ever feel…resentful (or a term slightly below resentful) of that? I ask because I will be moving in with my boyfriend, who works freelance. As a result, I will most likely be covering most of the bills/rent. However, I worry that eventually it will start to get to me? Anyway maybe you’re just a better person than I am, and that’s something you’ve made your peace with. If so, I’d love to know how or how you deal with potential negative feelings.

As an aside, we have talked about this and neither of us are going into this blindly, but you know, negative emotions. Sometimes they happen. Thank you!

@lalaland Honestly, around the end of the month when all our bills are due and I’m tired and stressed out I do sometimes resentfully think, “Must be nice to have someone support you!” but I don’t think that very often. For one, I knew what I was getting into when I moved in with him. I mean, when I met him his idea of grocery shopping was to dumpster dive outside the large grocery chains for dented cans of beans! So it wasn’t like he just up and quit a job to stay home and watch tv all day once he found a sugar momma. And: he’s working as much as I am, he’s just not making as much money at it! He can’t work even a one-day-a week job and still do his art. Some people can but he’s not one of them. He needs to putter around the house for a couple hours tending to our garden or whatever then paint from midnight to 6 am. Getting on a bus and going to a job then trying to paint when he got home would kill him. And I would much rather he do his art and cook me dinner when I get home than do some shitty job that makes him too tired to do what he’s really, really good at doing. And I kinda feel like, if I can do this for him, why wouldn’t I? My ex covered me while I was going to school so I sort feel like I owe it to the universe to return the favour somehow?

tl;dr: He helps out in other ways (cleaning, cooking dinner) and I would rather be with, and support, someone creative than a worker drone when I make us enough money to get by.

Megano! (#124)

@Deb of last year@twitter I have totally been in the paying for everything camp and I totally felt resentful! BUT he did not make up for it by cleaning his shit up. Ever.

lalaland (#437)

@Deb of last year@twitter Thanks for that, I’ve definitely had similar “must be nice to not have a job” thoughts when I’m working late in the office and he’s puttering around, but hopefully those thoughts are normal. Most of the time, I am very happy that he’s doing something he’s passionate about (graphic design/illustrations) versus being a cube monkey, where I know he’d be miserable.

@Megano! Oh yeh that would drive me crazy. We actually made up a list once we moved in together that had things like hydro, gas, and phone bills in my column, and an equivalent number of tasks in his: dinner, lawn mowing, and bathroom cleaning. It varies, some days I mow the lawn if I skipped the gym or whatever, but I think him doing equal work in exchange for not paying bills has made our arrangement work for us.

mishaps (#65)

A. I love Cat and Girl so much.

B. Anyone who does not already own her great “Elephants Never Forget – That’s Why They Drink” T-shirt needs to go buy one right now.

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