by Andy Grozier

Being a full-time artist today is close to impossible. How do you stay creative while still paying the bills?

Gen Y is struggling. Jobs are hard to come by and many aren’t great when you get them. Spare a thought, though, for the struggling artist. Things may be even tougher for them. With the days of big record deals, money sodden customers, Artist in Residence’s (AIR’s) and public grants practically over, it’s a real struggle to both create and survive. In response to this climate, artists are increasingly relying on diversifying their talents, to allow themselves to enjoy their art while also putting food on the table.

However they do it: balancing a day job with their art, educating themselves towards a more stable career path or monetising their artistic flair in perhaps less than ‘pure’ ways compromises have to be made.

SURGE spoke to three artists trying to figure out how best to survive in the modern world.

California Janson is a Brighton-based illustrator. She is currently balancing film school and part-time work with her illustration.

SURGE: You have a lot going on, how are you managing?
CJ: Balancing studies, commissions and a part-time job. It’s not easy. You’ve got to put a lot of time and effort into advertising that you do commissions in order to receive orders. When I wasn’t studying [and working] I found it a lot easier to put myself out there on social media and find people who wanted to purchase my art.

SURGE: You study film but illustration seems to be your passion, how come?

CJ: I planned on working for a bit to get the income flowing and to keep illustration as a side-project. It’s a slow process, making money from art. I was definitely worried that I’d be the classic ‘struggling-artist’ if I pursued illustration.

SURGE: What gives you hope you’ll make it?

CJ: Now that I’m living in this amazing, creative city I am seeing how possible it is to make a living off of your art – that is if you put time in and love what you’re doing.


Stephanie Gibson
is a Glasgow-based photographer. She is currently working full-time alongside her photography.

SURGE: How are you managing your day job and your photography?

SG: It’s a constant balancing act, especially since I’ve been doing more work in film making in the past year or so and this has meant that every single day is accounted for and my calendar is planned months in advance.

SURGE: Photography has been your passion for a long while. Would going full time risk losing that passion?

SG: This is something I’ve wrestled with. It would have been fairly easy for me to make a decent living out of doing wedding photography alone, but I knew I didn’t want that to become just as routine as any old job and then maybe lose the interest and passion for it. I know I will always want to be earning some sort of a living from my photography but I still want to be able to get pleasure out of doing so.


Van Tastik
is an Edinburgh-based musician. He is currently a full-time one-man-band playing gigs, covers, and hosting nights of music.

SURGE: What have you learned so far from your life as a full-time artist?

VT: Living off your art means compromising, like in any other business endeavour…learning what people respond to and what they don’t respond to. It’s a lot about trial and error and chiefly about persistence. You can never give up and you have to stand up again and punch right back at it when it knocks you down.

SURGE: How are you managing the financial side of things?

VT: I’m finally now able to save some little tiny bit of money on the side for the first time in my life… Living off your art is no mean feat. It will never be like a regular job; it’s far more stressful! But despite the stresses, it’s the job I want.