Did Anyone Tell Leonardo To Focus On One Thing?


In the spirit of this blog I’ll make this short and to the point. As an artist I’ve been told to do one thing and do it well. “Mike, you should be a painter and stop spending so much time with that photography thing.” Right, I’ll just turn off the desire to make pictures! It’s hard to find time to make art in any form let alone, find time to write, photograph, and paint when I have other responsibilities to deal with.

I’d love to travel the country in my Jeep, camping, staying in hotels, visiting breweries, distilleries, vineyards, and beautiful places while making pictures and writing about it. I’ve had that dream for years. But the truth of it all is that health insurance and finding people to pay me for my art is sometimes difficult. Yes, I could rant about commercial photography rates, selling my art for what it’s worth, and the whole $250/hr & 100 billable hours per month formula – but seriously! Who earns $25,000 per month making art and traveling the world doing it? Do I need that¬†much? meh…most likely, no. And I really don’t want to explain financials and living a profitable life as a self-employed artist on this post (maybe another time).

Ask any artist, money is a real concern and clients often see the retail price and react with utter shock when they do the math in their head. What they don’t compute are the hours of slaving in the studio doing other “non-billable” mundane and less romantic “artist work” just to keep the bills paid.

Which is why I ask, “why should an artist do only one thing”? After all, Leonardo Da Vinci was a multi-tasking and multi-media artist who made a living not focusing on one thing. Shouldn’t all of this be up to the creative mind of the artist? Who said we should do one thing? I understand it is purely a focus issue and it would be easier to master one thing than to try and master a lot of things but who said anyone ever had to become a master. To the real creatives out there, the pursuit of perfection is more important than achieving the “master” of a medium because we already know we will never be able to truly master anything in the arts. It’s the journey not the destination, if you will.

Therefore, I say to you all…if an artist wants to do a lot of different things to occupy his or her mind, then so be it. And yes, if you want to make a living at this, you need to be in the $100/hr or more range for your 100 billable hours per month or you might as well work minimum wage. I’d recommend over $200/hr if you want to live comfortable and afford your insurance. Do whatever makes your creative soul happy, don’t focus on the money unless you need to live on or use it as a second income. But know this, in a big box store and everything is on sale market, you still deserve to make good money as an artist.