Alaskan Artist - Elise Tomlinson
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03/29/2010: "Tax Time - An artist reflects on the state of their business"

Every year around this time I'm forced to acknowledge the often grim realities of how very far away I am from making a living as an artist. When I tally up all the money I've spent on paint, brushes, canvas, frames etc. and compare it to my cut of sales (after the galleries take their 40% commission) I realize that I'm not breaking even, let alone making a livable profit.

My accountant mentions the dreaded "hobbies" word every now and again, it's how the IRS differentiates between people who are making serious efforts towards their art careers and those who simply have an enjoyable past time. The second group of folks aren't able to write off "business" expenses.

How can I prove I'm a *real* artist, if making money is the only indication of seriousness, or success?

Year 2009 in Artistic Review:

I had 2 solo art exhibits and sold 9 originals plus a large commissioned painting.

I had prints available at my shows for the first time ever and sold quite a few of them (by my standards!) I currently have reproduction prints available online and in two stores in Juneau.

One of my images was chosen for the cover of the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council's program cover (used for all their events for an entire year).

I spend (on average) about 15-20 hours a week working either in my studio, in PhotoShop, or taking photos for new paintings (plus countless hours thinking about what I want to paint...which is *real* work...believe me!).

There are a few other recent positive developments. For one thing, one of my paintings was accepted for publication in this year's Tidal Echoes, the "literary and artistic voice of Southeast Alaska" (according to artist Ray Troll).

I also just got a call this morning from one of our English creative writing professors, Ernestine Hayes, (author of the award winning Blonde Indian: An Alaska Native Memoir about collaborating with her on a new course she's developing for the fall called "Ekphrastic Writing" which entails creative writing students writing responses to visual art (including mine).

Plus I have another show coming up in June and I've been putting in a lot of time on it. I started two new paintings over the weekend, one of them I'm *really* excited about.

So why do the “numbers” alone make me feel so deflated?

Replies: 3 Comments

on Tuesday, March 30th, Kasia said

It is just the carzy world we are all living in..numbers, numbers, numbers...Yuk! Don't worry, you will get to that point where they do n ot matter any more. :)

on Tuesday, March 30th, dad said

Correct me if I'm wrong but if you report income on your art and are establish artist you get to deduct your expence. however they do look out for people that are using a hobbie for a write off.

on Tuesday, March 30th, Elise said

Hi Kasia, well, I'm still waiting for that day to arrive, wish me luck!

And dad, you are correct. I deduct expenses now because I am a "professional artist".