Balance is hardest to find in all things and particularly hard to achieve in the various aspects of art, especially, it seems, in making a living as an artist. Let's face it, it is only the few - and I am not convinced that they are the lucky ones - who are picked up and promoted by a gallery or agent. So where does that leave the multitude of others? Many have other jobs, but I am too selfish for that. When I get into the zone with a painting I don't need or want to have to break off to go wait tables or stack shelves (I served my time with that while paying my way through my education and first steps in my initial career). Breaking off to see to my animal companions, shop or cook tea for my human companion are about all my muse can tolerate.
I am lucky in that my primary subject: horses, is a good market for commissioned work and that is how my financial baseline is calculated. I now do ten commissions per year (I started in 2001 with 16) and if I fulfill my obligations there then my bills and basic costs are covered. Print and card sales (after production costs) and sales of other original paintings pay for little luxuries like new materials, supports or published editions or return to my cashflow as working capital. Even so I only turnover about half what I earned in my previous careers in Graphic Design/Illustration and five years as a Further Education teacher, but I am much happier. I mostly love and live for my work but also want to at least be able to exist on the fruits of it. If that makes me 'commercial' in the eyes of others, then I can live with that. While I used to bristle at the description I now take it as a compliment to my business practice rather than a slur against my art practice.
So why 'one for the earning and one for the learning'? It is my paraphrasing of an interview I once read where an actor said he decided early in his career that there was a difference between the films that he wanted to make and the films that paid the bills, pledging to himself that he would alternate between the two. That actor was Clint Eastwood, and I have since read that Sandra Bullock adopted the same philosophy. Hopefully my 'commerciality' won't ever take me as far as 'Every Which Way But Loose' but the overall approach gives me a better perspective and attitude to the work I have to do as opposed to the work I want to do. Occasionally my own work reaps a good reward and occasionally a commission advances my technique or expression, and like Mr Eastwood I get to look at (and ride) beautiful horses!