Creating Residual Income as an Artist

To keep doing my best work in the studio I also need to build residual income streams. In this post I talk about different strategies I’m using to build revenue as well as show work that I completed since my last entry.

Natalie Colleen Gates

Disclosure: Some of the Links below are affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

An artist’s need for creative downtime

Some days I wake up excited to paint. Everything I do in the studio seems to work out and I feel so lucky to make money as an artist doing something I truly love Other days the last thing I want to do is spend time in the studio.

Original Plein Air Painting:"Shenandoah Mountains in Mist" Oil on Canvas, 9" x 12"
Plein Air Painting: “Shenandoah Mountains in Mist” Oil on Canvas, 9″x12″

It would be a lot easier if I was inspired all the time, but that’s just not how it works. Sometimes when I feel uninspired I need to force myself into the studio, but other times I need a break.  I’ve found that at a certain point my work suffers when I try to keep pushing myself.

There is definitely something to be said for discipline in the studio. At the same time, I can’t crank out painting after painting. Unlike Warhol,¹ I don’t want to be a machine.

Quitting my day job put me in a position I’ve never been in before. Now I have to support myself solely as an artist which makes me feel more pressured to produce and sell art. Unfortunately, I am limited in how much I can paint without affecting my work negatively. One of my biggest goals currently is to create residual income so I can relieve the pressure I feel to constantly produce.

Residual Income

Original Oil Painting: "Miller and Rhoads" Oil on Canvas, 24"x18"
“Miller and Rhoads” Oil on Canvas, 24″ x 18″

A few years ago I was offered a job as a life, health, and annuities insurance salesman.  One of the key features that sold me on accepting that position was the idea of residual income. It seemed to me then—and still does—that residual income was the key to making it in sales. Though I liked the company I worked for I ended up not staying long. However, in retrospect it was perfect for preparing me to embark on this career as a painter. If for no other reason than the fact it taught me about residual income.

How I’m creating residual income as an artist

Making money selling art means a lot of ups and downs in income. Unfortunately, when I quit my job I had no savings, and terrible credit. I rely entirely on my income to pay bills. Obviously the pressure I feel to have a steady income is high. Fortunately, I’m creative and intelligent, and I’ve found a few ways that over time will create residual income for me as an artist.


Traditionally artists have been partially or fully supported by wealthy patrons—think the Medici family in Renaissance Florence—Paetron is a way to crowd source that patronage.

You’ve probably noticed the widget at the top of my side bar. Become a Patron!

Patrons receive incentives at each contribution level. Contribution levels for my page range from $1 a month up to $80 a month. Each level receives a block-printed thank you postcard from me (the image below is an example of one of those postcards), plus all contribution levels above $10 receive a percentage discount that is good on any original art they buy from me. The dollar amount of this discount usually works out to be higher than the actual contribution, however I am willing to take that financial hit in exchange for financial stability.

Original Linocut Print: "Lombardy Street" Linocut Print on Paper, 4" x 6"
“Lombardy Street” Linocut Print on Paper, 4″ x 6″

Prints and products

The second way that I’m hoping to create residual income is by selling open edition prints of the paintings that I have already made. Currently I am using two print on demand sites: Saatchi Art, and Threadless.

Saatchi Art is an online gallery that will print my work on art paper or stretched canvas.

Natalie Gates Threadless Artist Shop Bag Threadless is a site that will put my paintings on various articles of clothing and accessories. Personally I think the bags are cute.  Plus they are always giving me coupons to give away!



Amazon affiliate links

The primary purpose of this blog is discuss my art and artist career, therefore affiliate linking is definitely not my focus. However, when I talk about products I use or a product pertinent to what I’m writing about I’ll include a link to that product on Amazon, and if anyone makes a purchase through my link I’ll receive a small commission.

If art history is something that interests you, in this post I’ve linked to I’ll Be Your Mirror: The Selected Andy Warhol Interviews by Kenneth Goldsmith, and a book from Yale University Press about the Medici Patronage in Renaissance Florence,


Works since my last entry


¹”The reason I’m painting this way is that I want to be a machine, and I feel that whatever I do and do machine-like is what I want to do. “Andy Warhol. (qtd. in Goldsmith, Kenneth, I’ll Be Your Mirror: The Selected Andy Warhol Interviews, Da Capo Press, 2009)* Andy Warhol is actually one of my favorite artists. 

* As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.

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