How to Become a Happier (Fine) Artist

My big childhood dream was to become a professional fine artist – back then I had no concept of money; so, this dream came with no financial string attached.


In 2009, I made the conscious decision to pursue my dream of becoming a professional artist, but, I made one big mistake. I decided that I needed to make money off my creativity.

This added expectation was the first step toward years of feeling unhappy as an artist. Every year, after doing my annual accounting, I felt like a failure because, no matter how much time I put into my art practice, I was not achieving the financial results I had hoped for.

The rule in business says you must create a product or a service to satisfy a need in the market; yet, I believe creatives find inspiration from within. When I started painting what I thought people would want, my art fell flat and I started experiencing several artist blocks.

Then I read Big Magic by Elisabeth Gilbert whose assertions gave me permission to think that as an artist, I should not expect to make money off my creativity. If it happens, great, but my life shouldn’t revolve around that goal.  Artists should feel blessed that they have a talent and the courage to pursue their creative interests.

Elisabeth Gilbert, didn’t stop there, she also gave amazing advice on how artists can unblock their creativity. Gilbert agrees with Picasso who said that “inspiration exists, but it has to find us working,” yet, on top of carving time to be in the studio creating, she thinks that following our own curiosity, whatever that might be, is the secret for a life filled with continuous creative inspiration.

After reading Gilbert’s book, a giant weight was lifted from my shoulders. I felt free to be who I am without the pressure to make my bread and butter off my art. Although I do sell my paintings, prints, classes, etc., regularly, the amount I make every month doesn’t affect my self-worth as an artist because my attitude as shifted from a money-centered objective to the fulfillment of personal growth, which is one of my core values.

Looking back to the 7 years of painting and selling art and classes, my focus on making a living off my art was hiding the artistic and personal growth I was developing every year.

Color mixing in watercorol by Maria Rizzo.

Color mixing in watercorol by Maria Rizzo.

That’s why artists that have another job are released by financial pressures, which is a burden that can undermine their creativity.

In conclusion, I believe that to become a happier (fine) artist, you need to make a long-term commitment to yourself to always carve out time for your art with a curious, experimental and free of judgement attitude.  

As practice makes the master, I love how painter and fine art blogger, Lori McNee, answers people when asked “How long did it take to paint that?” She responds: “A lifetime, this painting took a lifetime to paint.”