Far too often young people are encouraged to make careers in art. The result has been a glut of starving artists in a marketplace that cannot accommodate them.
Today, composer Jan Swafford sums it up as well as I have seen it summed up. Concluding an article on artist colonies like Yaddo and MacDowell—if you don’t know what they are, Swafford’s article explains—he writes:
“Artists generally refer to their work as a job, but the reality is that few artists of any kind make a living at it. Most of us are not pretentious enough to speak of it as a calling, but that's what it amounts to. We do it because there's nothing we'd rather do, because we're good at it, because we're wired up that way. There are far too many artists in the world, far more than the market can bear. The reason is that art is one of the greatest things in the world to do. In a perverse but typical corollary, the gods have decreed that art will therefore be one of the worst professions in the world to get by in.”