Why art is a profession, and should be treated as such


I’ve been at the artist thing since 1999, and it’s been great. Sure, it has ups and downs, like any other profession, but I still like creating.

But I want to back up just a bit, and look at that word, “profession”.

Merriam-Webster’s defines the word as, “a calling requiring specialized knowledge and often long and intensive academic preparation” and ” a principal calling, vocation, or employment”. At least, in regard to what we’re talking about here, since I’m not professing any sins at the moment (wait until later tonight).

Art, and in many ways anything that is creative including writing, design, and animation, is often seen as something you’re doing as a hobby. To be fair, there are lots of creators that are perfectly happy keeping their creations as a hobby. They aren’t looking for any money, it’s just something that fulfills them. Which is great, and is a bit outside of the scope of this article.

But many other creators, especially those that want to be published, are in a different situation. I am among this group, the people who certainly have a need to create, but do so from the aspect that they would like their creations to help pay the bills. It’s where we go back to that word, “profession”.

Whatever your profession is, the expectation at the end of the day is that you would receive payment for your work. A plumber comes to your house to fix your pipes. Hopefully he does, you pay him for his service, and you jump in the shower (you might wait for him to leave, unless this is “Logjammin'”). You take your car to a mechanic, he fixes the issue, you pay him and drive off. Your doctor cracks your dislocated finger back in place. You wince, pay the secretary, spend 4 hours trying to discuss payments with them (even if you don’t need them), and drive off.

These are all professions, and they require that same “specialized knowledge and often long and intensive academic preparation” to do their profession proud.

The problem is that the creative arts aren’t seen always as professions. Every day I see artists offered nothing for their services, or some token meant to sound like that hand of god has touched them for their work. Authors are asked to write copy for someone, and expected to be ecstatic with the penny offered for their efforts. Designers get asked all the time to create items for clients, only to hear things like, “everyone will see this, the exposure is great” and other crap.

So, let’s look at that word profession again, and see if we can work some things out.


  • a calling requiring specialized knowledge”: Most definitely, I have to have intricate knowledge of anatomy, color ranges, printing press methods and paper stocks, book construction, software such as Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator (even InDesign), grammar, design layout and structure, and more things than I have time to type here (work is calling).
  • “often long and intensive academic preparation”: I have years spent learning the crafts that I work with, both from official, paid academic standpoints to personal development using tutorials, websites, books, and in-person discussion. I’ve spend thousands of dollars and decades of time to know the vast amounts that I do.

  • a principal calling, vocation, or employment”: I have two children and a wife at home. I also have a mortgage, a more or less willingness to pay for things like heat, electricity, internet, gas for the car, and other things that help me live. I have a car payment, groceries, insurance for just about everything, and once in awhile I like to buy a comic book. I can’t do any of these thing without some kind of money coming in, so I consider my creations “employment”.

I think what needs to change is the the attitude of the world towards creators. Art, writing, design, and any of the things that fall under creation should be considered a profession, as shown above, and treated as such.

So, when you are looking to ask someone to create art for you, or write you something, and especially for design, you need to treat them with the same respect you would any business. Pay them to do their work, and pay them at a good rate equal (above is fine too) with the going average.

Sure, you might whine and say, “but dude, how the hell do I know what a fair price is?”

Only one word fits this problem. Google.

How exactly do you think creators know what to charge? Pull it out of their ass with an extra hanky for you to cry in? Well, not usually. Creators do exactly what everyone else does when they have a question, they google it. It’s so stupidly easy, it’s one reason why we really hate those people who use that “I don’t know” line.

Here, I’ll show you. I just searched for “how much does an illustrator charge”.


That maybe took 5 seconds to get an answer. It might have taken less, since I typed it so slowly.

You have no excuse to treat professionals, like creators, as if you are doing them a favor. So, do your homework, ask questions even of the creator. But at the end of the day, art is a profession, and it’s high time that it’s treated as such.


Posted in Russ's Art Blog.