Can You Make Art if You Are Not an Artist?

Are you socially isolated and bored?

If you’re being a responsible member of society, you are staying home and are quite possibly bored out of your mind already. Damn this Coronavirus. If you’re like me, you also probably ate all of your quarantine snacks. (Poptarts, why you so tasty?!)

I am no stranger to staying away from people, but to all my fellow introverts, check on your extroverted friends. They probably aren’t okay. You should also convince them to pick up a new hobby–like art!

Now is the perfect time to make art and to flex your creative muscles. Whether you’ve done art in the past, consider yourself a professional, or believe you have zero creativity, you should make art.

And I know some of you might be thinking, “But I’m not an artist.”

Can you still make art?

Maybe this isn’t your career and maybe you are terribly unskilled–but you can make art, and you should make art.

Plenty of pretentious creators and art aficionados will try to convince the world that the creation of art is reserved for elite groups. That you cannot just be an artist or make art without a grand purpose or meaning. I get why. This practice drives the price of art up and inflates the value–but it also discourages a lot of people from trying to create.

I have been discouraged many times through my experiences in the art world, because I didn’t think I could live up to what an artist should be. And there was a long stretch where I did not believe I was an artist at all. During those years, I wasted too much time not creating.

Artist or not, you can and you should make art. To help any creative newbies out there, I put together a little list of Don’ts for getting started on making art.

1.DOn’t live by the rules

The art world has rules, but this is the world where you can and should break them. It’s always funny to me when creative people have rigid mindsets, because I see creativity as a fluid practice. Rearranging the things in your life to make new and surprising combinations is where creativity thrives. The moment you get stuck in your ways, is the moment creativity starts to fade.

Everything in your life can be used to make art, and art can be everything around you. You don’t have to make art a certain way. You don’t even have to use traditional supplies. Just make things.

Make sculptures with bubbles from your bubble bath. Use art stencils and cinnamon on top of your morning latte to make edible art. Fold and stack your bathroom towels in a new way. Organize your fruit bowl by color. Use tea and a watercolor brush to make earthy monochromatic paintings in a sketchbook. Fold your junk mail into origami flowers. Anything! The possibilities are endless.

There are no rules that you have to follow except to make art in anyway you can today.

2.Don’t listen to the naysayers

I’ve heard from so many people over the years that they quit making art because someone said something negative to them. That they weren’t good enough. That they would never be able to make money from art. That they were doing the wrong kind of art. That what they made wasn’t even art at all.

I know a lot of these negative comments can come from a place of good intentions, but it is amazing how quickly you can steal someone’s artistic light with a careless critique or judgment.

So I am here to tell you that those comments mean nothing. Nobody has an objective truth about your potential or what will happen in the future. If you feel the urge to create something–do it. Defy the limitations put on you and make all the art your heart desires.

3.And Don’t be your own Naysayer

Negative comments from others are bad, but negative comments from your own internal dialogue are even worse. Choose to only listen to encouraging thoughts, because they will move you forward. Positive thoughts are creative. Negative thoughts are destructive.

Now is the time to create. You can do this. You should do this. Having or not having the label of “artist” does not matter.

All that matters is that you create.


I hope you follow all of your curiosities and make the art that you want to make. If you found this post helpful, feel free to send it to anyone who needs a little encouragement today!

Now go make art and share it with me on Instagram using the hashtag #messyeverafter 🙂

Please leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. I’d love to hear from you! Make sure to sign up for my email list below to never miss a blog post. New posts are published every week. And if you’d like to see more content like this in the future, consider becoming a Patron of mine! (See details below.)


Do want to help me create more blog content? I want to keep providing content like this for free, but I need your help. If you enjoy my blog posts and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep helping artists like you. Plus, you get extra little perks!

Further Reading:

How the Coronavirus Can Fuel Your Creativity

Do your part. Stay home. Make art.

This is all I have been thinking about for the last week. Every news source is talking about Coronavirus/COVID-19 constantly. Social guidelines keep changing, and people are hoarding toilet paper and clearing grocery store shelves (why?! please stop!). We are in a very strange time–but I’ve been trying to find a silver lining.

I’m not going to pretend to be an expert and tell you why you should care about this virus. (I’ll leave that to the experts at the CDC. #flattenthecurve) This is a serious issue, I want you to stay healthy and do what the experts are advising at the moment. Mainly, don’t leave your house.

I know for a lot of us, this will be a very hard time. People are out of work, losing income, fearing for the health of friends and family, worrying about food shortages, scrambling to find child care, and wondering who is actually telling the truth about the situation.

This is intense and I can’t wait until it’s over, but creative people may as well take advantage of the positive side effects of this pandemic. I promise, they exist. While the Coronavirus and its consequences are terrible, we can try to make the best out of this situation in any way we can. As artists and creative people, that means we make things.

When life hands you chaos, make it into art.

When your feelings are too intense and you want to scream, make art.

Just stay home and make art.

Here’s why this is the perfect time to do it:

1. Use uncomfortable emotions to inspire creativity.

Everything we feel can be used as creative fuel. The more intense your emotions, the more fuel you have to make something.

People are experiencing a wide range of emotions as they confront how this virus is impacting life as we know it. Fear, anxiety, discomfort, uncertainty, confusion, anger, sadness, and so on. When these feelings aren’t channeled in constructive ways, it causes people to do things like panic-buy a pallet of canned black beans and 50 pound sacks of rice. And then people who weren’t initially panicking start to panic-buy the resources that are left out of a fear of scarcity. It just snowballs. We don’t need doomsday level prepping here!

Prepare responsibly, and then take a deep breath, and pick up a paint brush.

Emotional discomfort is the precursor to creativity. Just like panic-buying food, creating art can restore a sense of control and order to person’s life. Also, it’s less negatively disruptive to the lives of others.

Use your emotions and channel them into creativity of any kind during this troubling time. Write poetry, fiction, or blog posts to help others. Create visual works of art. Write satire to lift your mood. Even creating memes counts! A lot of great art has been created out of turmoil. Art is both medicine and self-expression when life gets complicated.

Take that uncomfortable energy inside of you and use it constructively. You’ll dampen the anxiety inside of you in the process as well as create something that may comfort others.

2.Use boredom and isolation to strengthen creative discipline.

I’ve written about this before, but I’ll talk about it again. When we allow ourselves to be distracted all the time, our brain never gets a chance to show us its full creative potential. Going out with friends, attending concerts and sporting events, running errands, shopping, and going out for coffee are easy ways to keep the brain busy. Since many gatherings have been cancelled, and a lot of us are listening to the experts and staying home, this gives us time to be bored and alone. (Obviously we still have the internet, but I’ll talk about that next.)

Consider social distancing and quarantine like an artist’s retreat!

Boredom and isolation are unpleasant, but I want to encourage you to embrace them for the sake of your art. Let your brain be silent. Sit at home and be alone without distractions. I know it sucks and I know you’d rather be doing something else (like making money or binge watching Netflix), but if you’ve ever tried to force your brain to be quiet, you know it makes all kinds of noise to fill the silence. This is where wonderful creative things can happen, but you have to embrace that boredom to get there.

Even if you just sit silently with a sketch book for 10 minutes, you can make creative progress. The discomfort only lasts a little while. Once your creativity starts flowing, the boredom fades away.

3.Occasionally unplug from the world.

It’s good to stay informed and be aware of what is happening in the world, but we really should limit how much of our attention is focused outward when chaos take over. In order to maximize the positive effects of boredom and isolation, you can’t scroll through social media and news articles every five minutes. Choose a time during the day to check in with reliable news sources and touch base with family and friends, but put your phone down after that.

Creating is hard work and distractions are an easy out. Plus, those distractions are probably pretty stressful at the moment. Personally, instead of tuning into the news and crazy stuff out there all the time, I try to focus on the external things that are within my control to keep myself from spiraling down into an anxiety cavern. I tune in, then I turn it off and make a plan for myself.

I can make art. I can write. I can share this with you guys. I can stay home to keep myself healthy, and protect others who are more vulnerable in the process.

Focus on what you can control in positive ways!


I hope that you are staying safe and are taking this issue seriously, but I also hope that you are giving yourself space to breathe and relax. We are all in this together. Wash your hands, listen to the CDC and medical professionals, help your fellow humans when you can, and be nice to those who are working hard to restock grocery stores!

Now, go get messy!

Please leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. Make sure to sign up for my email list below to never miss a blog post. New posts are published every week. And if you’d like to see more content like this in the future, consider becoming a Patron of mine! (See details below.)


Do want to help me create more blog content? I want to keep providing content like this for free, but I need your help. If you enjoy my blog posts and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep helping artists like you. Plus, you get extra little perks!

Further Reading:

How People Take Advantage of the Dreams of Artists

Are you a customer or a partner?

This issue has come up frequently in my experiences in the art world. It is too easy to take advantage of an artist’s dream to make it big. Creative people are romantics. We can get swept up in the “go big or go home” and “you have to spend money to make money” approaches to being successful as artists. It takes courage and a willingness to take risks to be an artist, which means we are prime candidates for businesses to make money off us and our dreams.

As you navigate the art world, you will come across a lot of opportunities to further your art career. You may find opportunities organically, make your own opportunities, or likely people will seek you out and sell you an opportunity. An opportunity looks different for every artist. Maybe you want exposure, a larger following, art sales, gallery shows, commissioned work, money, etc..

Whatever your goal, there are business that will try to help you reach it. The question is: are you their customer, their partner, or both? Not all opportunities are created equal and the ones easily presented to you might not be in your best interest.

What intentions lie behind an opportunity?

Anytime I get an email, DM, or any sort of correspondence that includes an opportunity for me to make money or gain exposure for my art, I ask two questions: How will this benefit the person presenting the opportunity? And how will this benefit me?

And then I assess the person I’m working with to see which of these three categories they fit into:

  1. People who mainly support the arts and artists.
  2. People who support the arts, but also see an opportunity for themselves.
  3. People who are mainly looking out for their own interests.

I try my best to avoid people in the third group and I want to share with you how you might encounter these people. Naturally, every business is trying to make money. The issue I have is when businesses rely on an artist’s dreams to blind them and push them into making bad financial decisions. Instead of offering a one-to-one exchange of money for goods and services, a lot of business will sell you an intangible hope for future success.

You pay ‘x’ and maybe you get ‘y’.

You work for free and maybe you’ll get money in return in the future.

You create art for free and just get “exposure”.

In these situations, the business you’re working with will always get a benefit from the opportunity they present, and you just might. Here are some of the situations where you can run into this:

1. Art publications That Charge Submission Fees

Online and print art publications are inspiring and wonderful for those who are featured in the content and for readers. Though, when these publications source new content by hosting open calls for art that have a fee attached to it–I get real peeved off.

Yes, businesses need to make money. The people sifting through art submissions need to be paid for their work, but I do not agree with artists paying for opportunities like this. Sure, it’s often just $20-$35 for an entry fee, but that fee does not guarantee you get anything in return. If you are not selected for publication, that money is gone.

If you are okay with seeing that fee as a donation to support the publication you’re applying to, then by all means, submit all you want. Just don’t believe the facade that this publication primarily has your best interest in mind. They are first and foremost, getting a boost in revenue from hundreds of artists submitting material. Second, they are building hype around their brand by running calls for art, which gains them new followers and readers. Third, they are making someone else (you) work to create content for their business and making you pay to submit it.

You are their customer. It’s great exposure for you if you are part of the small percentage of artists chosen for print, but they will always benefit from the system, where you only have a small chance. Some people might say it’s better to just play the game and pay these fees, and that’s fine if you do, but I say put your money towards something that guarantees a return.

2. Group art shows that charge submission or jury fees

This is a very similar situation to the one above. A group art show is a great way to get exposure and mingle with the arts community. An organization creates a group show for artists, advertises a call for art, and charges a jury fee that the artists need to pay for their work to be considered for the show. A jury fee does not guarantee you a spot in the show, and nor should it, but this means that you get no return on your investment if you aren’t chosen for the show. And even if you are chosen to display your work, there is no guarantee that your work will sell, so you might just be paying for exposure.

It’s such a common practice that I don’t even know if most people question it, but fees like this can be a huge obstacle for struggling creators who don’t even have enough money for art supplies. A $20 jury fee might not sound like a lot, but it would be put to better use at Blick.

A lot of the organizations that I have seen do this are local arts boards hosting shows in community spaces. Like county or state run programs that are supposed to help artists thrive. Unfortunately, these programs are publicly funded, and likely underfunded, so they have to get their money somehow–but getting it from artists hoping to find success is not the best option in my opinion. Creativity doesn’t discriminate when it comes to income, and opportunities like this for creative success shouldn’t either.

If these programs want to bring in more cash, they should form relationships with other businesses who are willing to sponsor these events. Being a patron of the arts looks damn good for a business (and it’s probably a tax write off…). For the galleries that engage in this practice, fees on top of commissions don’t give me confidence that the gallery knows their market enough to consistently sell the work they show in their space.

3. Art Contests With Submission Fees

By now, you’re probably sensing that I hate submission fees. If you see an art contest that asks you for money in order to submit, just ignore it. It’s gambling that requires more work. You are the one subsidizing whatever prize is at the end of the rainbow. The organizers are the ones benefiting here. Not the majority of the artists submitting to the contest.

Plus, it’s not really a fair contest if income excludes talented creators from participating. Just a thought…

4.Poorly run Craft fairs/Art events

Back in Minnesota, I participated in a few craft fairs to try and sell my art and jewelry. A promoter I worked with organized events around central Minnesota almost every weekend of the year. Booth fees started as low as $75, so it was a great entry level event to get into–but I was lucky to make my show fee every time I did one of these events. Mainly, because they were poorly curated and marketed.

Vendor curation is important. When event coordinators let anyone buy a booth at a show, quality suffers and the event attracts a different audience. If you are a handmade vendor sandwiched between Scentsy, Mary Kay, Norwex, and cheap jewelry wholesaler tables–you’re in the wrong place and clearly the event coordinators are not concerned about exposure for the arts. They just want your show fee.

Though, I do not consider event organizers as a whole to be taking advantage of artists. There are many successful art events that have developed a reputation for showing high quality creators and they draw in an audience that appreciates fine art. You may have to pay a huge booth fee, but you are paying for reputation, marketing, and the organization of an entire event that draws a paying crowd. It can be worth it, but do your research before you buy a booth at a show. If it’s a yearly event, attend one of the events before you apply. Ask the vendors how they like the show and how the crowd behaves. Also, if there isn’t a jury process for applications, be wary of the quality of vendors that you’ll be displaying with.

Oh, and I want to touch on a popular world wide event coordinator that makes a profit off of artists by making them sell $400+ in tickets to friends and family in exchange for a booth at their show. I don’t want to say the name, but you know who they are you’ve encountered them. I’ve never been to one, and maybe some people make money–but to me the whole thing seems shady. They promise 1000+ people will attend the event, but if tickets are being sold to friends and family of all of the artists participating–will there really be dedicated buyers attending?

When you think of networking potential, these events can be beneficial for you–but before you ask your friends and family to buy a $22 ticket to see your art I’d suggest just attending one of these shows first to see what it’s all about. If you’ve already participated in this show, please let me know your experience in the comments.

Personally, I feel like investing in a good widely known summer art fair would be more beneficial.

5. Retail spaces that charge you to show your work

Think about any store you visit. Target, a grocery store, H&M, etc.. All of these stores have to pay overhead costs to run the physical location and pay for the products in their store. They don’t make money until customers come in and buy the products. The risk is all on the retailer.

Now, think about consignment stores. They have the overhead costs of keeping the lights on, but they source their products from people like you. They won’t pay you for your products until they sell–but when they make money, you make money. It’s a fair arrangement and it means they will be highly motivated to advertise your work. It’s low risk for you.

Then there are retailers who are really quite savvy business owners, but are clearly not keeping an artist’s interests in mind. These businesses have a physical location and charge an artist to “rent” the space to display their work. Sometimes these locations will let the artist take all of the profit from sales (which means they don’t care if anyone actually buys your work), and sometimes they will take a percentage of the sale as well your “rent” money (which means they are a little more motivated to get bodies in the door.) The arrangement is higher risk for you and low risk for them.

Businesses like this have found a way to 1) not pay for the inventory they stock in their store 2) make money directly from their product creators through rent 3) outsource some of their advertising to all of the creators they are collecting rent from and 4) pay their overhead costs without ever opening their doors. Businesses like this can keep the doors locked and still make money, because you my friend are their customer. As long as there are artists with dreams of succeeding, they will be able to fill their walls with merchandise that doesn’t need to sell to keep the lights on. I’m not saying you should automatically say no. I just want you to be cautious.

Now, I have to admit that this is a really smart business setup. They are still technically providing a service to you, but you are their customer and not their partner. They already have your money and there’s no guarantee your items will sell.

I have gotten a couple of emails from international galleries that work with this model. You pay ‘X’ amount to rent the walls, but keep all the profit if art sells. And that’s a big if. I trust the galleries who will take 50% commission from my sales more than I trust those who just want a fee upfront.

6. businesses whose primary revenue source isn’t art

There are many art friendly businesses that will host artist’s work in their locations. My favorite ones do this for free, because bringing in new artists can only benefit them. Artists bring in friends and family, and rotating art keeps the decor interesting and prevents a business from needing to buy art for their walls.

There are other businesses that will take a commission from the artist. If the location is handling art sales for you and advertising your work, then taking a 10-20% commission isn’t unreasonable, but if a business that doesn’t specialize in selling art tries to take 30% or more from an artist if their work sells, this is where the business is beginning to take advantage of the artist. I have even seen a food and beverage business work a minimum base fee into a contract where if the artist didn’t make any sales, they would still need to pay the location a minimum fee to display on the walls.

As an artist, you are an asset to businesses. Yes, they are giving you wall space to show your art, but they will always get the better end of the deal. They get increased exposure, foot traffic, and business from your friends and family. As well as free decor for a set time, and positive branding for supporting the arts. When they start taking more money from you, then they are tipping the scales even further in their direction. It’s smart business, but it’s not in your best interest. If you encounter a place like this, try to talk to other artists that have displayed in the same location. If they don’t have a reputation for selling art off the walls, then do not give them money up front.

7. Companies THAT OFFER YOU FREE PRODUCTS With Strings Attached

If you develop a social following online, businesses might reach out to you to form a partnership. Some businesses will send you free products without asking for anything in return, but others will send you products and expect you to give them a plug on your social media platforms. If you are happy with free products, then great! Take all you can get! But when a company asks you to review their product, post and tag them on social media, dedicate a video to their product, or try to control the content you create in any way–this isn’t working in your favor anymore.

Bottom line, if you are doing any sort of marketing for a company, your time is worth more than free product. Don’t be afraid to do what I do. When a company reaches out to me, I tell them they can send me products, but if they want a guarantee that I will post about their products, then we will have to discuss additional compensation. Whether that be money, or more free products, it doesn’t matter. The goal is just to establish your boundaries and avoid them taking advantage of your excitement to be chosen to represent their brand.

Oh, and if a company reaches out to you with a promo code for you to get a percentage off their products and potentially earn a commission off referred sales–just run. These companies want your money and free advertising. You’d need a massive and engaged following to generate meaningful commissions.

8. Art sharing Accounts and Bot Services

Ever get a comment on your Instagram post like “Great work! DM us if you want to be featured!” and then when you message them, they copy and past a price list for post costs? I can’t even count how many times I’ve seen that. I wrote a whole blog post on it.

Art sharing accounts are everywhere. They aren’t all the same, but 95% of the time, I say don’t pay for an account to share your art posts or videos. There are plenty of accounts that will do it for free and get you more exposure.

You may also hear from people trying to help you gain followers by offering bot services that will automatically like and follow other accounts, or you can even buy followers for your accounts. Avoid these services! They don’t care about helping you grow your following to make art sales. They want to collect your money and they will inflate your social accounts with meaningless likes and followers that likely won’t to translate to real sales in return. Having 100k or even 1m followers means nothing if they are all bot accounts that won’t engage with you.


This list isn’t complete (I didn’t even touch on overpriced art schools!), but you get the idea. I held off writing this post for a while, because I didn’t want it to sound like everyone is trying to screw over artists, but when you are desperate to reach a dream, it’s easy to make illogical decisions and fall for a sketchy sales pitch.

I’m not saying to avoid all of the situations I outlined above. There’s always potential for exposure, sales, and networking at any event you do or any opportunity that you find. Sometimes you do in fact have to spend money to make money. Sometimes working for free will give you great experience while you are figuring out who you are as an artist. Crappy craft fairs can be great experience for first time sellers and can give you practice interacting with your audience. There’s more to be gained than money from everything you experience in the art world, but when money is precious, I want you to avoid squandering it.

I want you to be aware of how you may not benefit from whatever you’re paying for. I know it feels good when opportunities knock on your door, but sometimes the universe isn’t rewarding you with a gift. Sometimes, that knock at your door is the sound of a paper shredder that you can throw your money into.

My main point is don’t let your dreams blind you. Always evaluate the pros and cons of an opportunity and don’t be afraid to declare your worth. You deserve more than exposure for the work you do, and new opportunities will always present themselves.

Thanks for reading!

Please leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. Make sure to sign up for my email list below to never miss a blog post. New posts are published every Tuesday (…sometimes Wednesday). And if you’d like to see more content like this in the future, consider becoming a Patron of mine! (See details below.)


Do want to help me create more blog content? I want to keep providing content like this for free, but I need your help. If you enjoy my blog posts and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep helping artists like you. Plus, you get extra little perks!

Further Reading: