Sunday, 24 August 2014

Art and money - a marriage made in hell?

1. Somewhere in Devon, 2. Tranquil Life, 3. Devon Hills by Teodora Totorean - SOLD

After three years of experimenting with the idea of becoming an artist, I also started to explore what other jobs I can do to support myself but to also have enough time to create art. At this stage, although my earnings cover the expenses, I don't make a living from art just yet.

I am lucky with my husband who supports me, encourages me and is there for me no matter what, but I also want to be able to financially contribute to the household expenses. I like to think about myself as a modern, independent woman who doesn't need to rely on her husband for shopping or travelling. As my earnings at the moment vary from month to month, finding extra work is a good solution for the time being. I don’t see it as a regress but as a way to gain financial independence since having regular money means buying more art supplies, painting more and as a consequence creating several collections in order to propose them to shops, galleries and other outlets. 

What I achieved so far:
  1.  Experimenting with various techniques and themes and finding my own style;
  2. Getting in a couple of local shops and networking with artists and business owners in my area;
  3. Selling online, mainly on ArtGallery and Folksy;
  4. Generating some passive income from copyright;
  5. Taking part in group exhibitions in local art galleries: gloss-Art Gallery in Exeter, Moreton Gallery in Gloucestershire and West Country Gallery in Weston-Super-Mare. 
What I currently do besides painting:

Article Writing, Book Reviewer  

When I gave up my full-time job towards the end of 2010, I wanted to become a copywriter. I gained a Diploma in Copywriting, I had a few books published (poetry and prose) and I had some experience of writing articles and promotional materials in both English and Romanian. I thought that writing was what I wanted to do, and I thought that with practice I could become better.  The only impediment was that English was my second language and I found it hard to write at a satisfactory level, especially grammar wise therefore I constantly needed a proof reader. That was my husband, but as he had a full time job, he couldn't be there whenever I wrote something. As a consequence I couldn't work to tight deadlines and I couldn't afford to pay a professional proof reader.

As I had more time for my hobby, I started to experiment with my paintings using cheap paints and cardboard at first and gradually starting to use professional paints and canvases. Painting took over so quickly that I didn't have the time to think of any business strategy apart from finding online galleries and shops to sell my creations.  

As I left copywriting behind, I started to write articles about what I know: how to improve your fitness level when working from home, Romanian’s orphans and changing careers. Last year I enrolled in a Freelance Writing course in order to find the discipline to write regularly and to specialise in arts related articles so I could paint and write at the same time.  My biggest success was the article “Google Search” published in Leisure Painter and now I have another article accepted for publication by the same magazine. 

Cultural Champion, Romanian Interpreter, Bilingual Support

Sometimes I visit schools in Devon and I talk about Romanian culture. Last year I visited Topsham School and I talked about Ester traditions in Romania, including some activities: dying eggs, creating cards, and decorating paper plates for the eggs. I like this project (we are a team of people of various nationalities and religions) as it reminds me of the days when I was a teacher in Romania. 

As an Interpreter I offer language support to schools, NHS and Social Services. As a Bilingual Support Worker I go to schools and help Romanian children to integrate and their parents to understand the British education system. 


I am not alone in this endeavour; I just wished I had a solid plan before starting my self-employment adventure. At the same time, everything I know, I learnt as I went along so now I could share my experience with others that want to start their artistic career or exploring any other self-employment opportunities.

How can you help? 

Are you an arts lover? You can:

Are you an editor/publisher? I can:
Fell free to contact me here if you have any questions regarding my art or my blog posts. It would also help if you shared your experience in the comments below and inspire each other. Are you an artist or any creative professional? What jobs do you do to support yourself? Are you making a living from your art? How long did it take you to achieve that? Any other recommendations for aspiring artists?  


  1. You have definitely come a long way Teodora. I would like to recommend you look into Art licensing. Also check out the articles by Alan Bamberger. I sought his consultation and it was well worth it. I also believe that you need to first sort out what plans are with your art. If it is making a living as an artist or getting into museums and being taken seriously as an artist. Even though they both end up making money at some point the approach is very different. What has always helped me sell art is a compelling story behind each painting. Last year I refrained from selling any of my pieces so that I could have enough body of work to exhibit in a museum. Don't mean to ramble on. Your article resonates very well with me. I hope you continue doing what you are doing. It is a joy to look at your highly distinct artwork.

  2. Thank you for your input, very insightful, as always :). I am quite happy with all the jobs I do at the moment as variety suits me. I am happy that I have the time for my art as I find it very therapeutic and I hope I will never give it up, even though I don't make a living from it.

  3. Hi Teodora, I am from Romania as well, living in Canada. I love art too and recently started to work with fibers (knitting, crocheting, weaving) as a way to express myself. I understand what you are going through, I feel the same way - it is hard to do a living from art or making handmade products. Don't give up! I personally love your paintings, especially the ones where you incorporate the Romanian style macrame - such an interesting and clever way to use it. All the best from Canada, Georgia

    1. Thank you for your lovely comment, nice to meet you :).