The Economics of Being An Artist

Economist Thomas Sowell defines “Economics” as “… the use of resources (or goods) which have alternative values.” We refer to much of those goods as Commodities.

The most recklessly used commodity isn’t oil, water or even food coloring. It is something we all have and regardless what science fiction conjures up, we can never renew it. That commodity is Time.

Though society has become hyper vigilante on the “saving the environment” it continues to dispose of time on thoughtless behavior. Think of your daily life right now. If you were to be on your deathbed with only minutes to live, would you regret missing this evenings edition of TMZ? How often have you sat in front of the TV or computer, not to “decompress” ( a useful action) but to just occupy your attention or avoid boredom. Are you really getting something out of the experience? Would some other activity be a more profitable and rewarding use of this resource?

And it’s not only our own Time we squander, other peoples Time is taken without thought. Sometimes innocently, “Do you have the time?” Others not so much. Like when we ask a salesman to show us all the features of the latest TV model on the showroom floor, only to return home and buy it at a discount on Amazon. That salesman will not only not get a commission, they will never have that time back. Though that might have been a good investment of your time, you have stolen somebody else’s without giving it a second thought.

What is interesting is that we do innately understand this. After all, we charge for the amount of time along with prices are controlled by supply and demand, it is often in direct relation to the Time we spent acquiring the skills. This is why a doctor makes more money than a fast food counter person.

Artists use time to not only develop their skills, but in the very act of creating, an enjoyable experience and thus not a, “waste of time.” What can make the practice a waste or an inefficient use of your time, is to draw without focus. So…

  • –  When dealing with a teacher or class, focus on a specific problem or skill to develop. Sure you will have some benefit from just moving your pencil, but that benefit may be so miniscule as to only be measured on a quantum level. When asking questions, consider why you even have the question. Doing so will often direct your focus on what really needs to be addressed.
  • –  When dealing with a client, extract as much information out of them as you can, forcing them to “paint a picture” with their words so as to leave as little up to chance. Yes they are looking for your creativity but if you draw with sharp edges and in their mind are thinking rounded corners, you just wasted both of your Time.

    When Time is spent, there is no refund, no return and can never be recreated. Do you really want to waste it on unfocused practice or a toothpaste commercial? Especially when you could have been spent it on something you would really rather do… like watching TMZ.