Earning a living through art in Bangladesh

For some, blank canvases and empty pages are the gateway to a world of endless possibilities awaiting the genius of their brushstrokes. This urge to reimagine the world they reside in or create new ones emerges from doodling, watching cartoons, or drawing their “graam er drissho“.

While the practice of turning your creative endeavors into a career is frowned upon, there’s no denying that artists are here to stay. Plus, it’s now easier to get your work out to a wider audience. The existence of social media and sites such as Behance and ArtStation allows artists to create portfolios and helps to respond to requests and possible job opportunities.

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Many options have opened up to gifted artists, but the end goal for some is to sell original pieces. Whether it’s a client found through social media, an acquaintance, or a gallery exhibit, being able to sell your art for a fee is a sign that they’ve succeeded.

It is however not easy. To be able to create demand for your art, especially in a closed market, you need the right connections. It takes time to break through and connect with an unreachable circle, and convincing the same group of people to pay top dollar for your creation is a whole different game.

As a result, selling original pieces becomes an outrageous prospect for budding young creatives. What attracts attention, and therefore potential customers, are pieces from established names or widely recognized works of art.

A more feasible service offered by young artists are commissions. The question “Can you draw me?” should no longer irritate them since they can finally put a price on the matter. Portraits and caricatures enjoy large audiences and widespread demand. Such mediums can especially help those who have the ability to make pieces hyper-realistic or with very distinct styles.

Artists can diversify even more. Murals are an option for those who enjoy painting. Walk into any cafe and you can spot an ornamental concrete wall that enhances the ambiance. In recent years, office spaces and schools have also been dedicated to establishing an identity in their premises. Interior design companies work closely with artists to work on murals and sometimes even outsource the mural entirely.

Children’s book illustrations have also grown in popularity in recent years. Amar Ekushey Boi Mela has seen an increase in books aimed at toddlers. Independent publishers and authors are looking for illustrators. These books tend to have a childish appeal to the art style as they often stray from a polished look and prefer illustrations reminiscent of childish scribbles. Thus, depending on his strengths, the artist can work on commissions in which he specializes and carve out a place for himself.

Tahmeed Karim, a 22-year-old artist based in Chittagong, shares, “My first clients were my friends and classmates. Everyone recognized me as this kid who paints and draws. It helped spread the word.”

He adds, “I was going to comics, attending school events, and sharing work in online artist groups. It helped gain momentum until he eventually accumulate to form a fairly stable clientele.”

Commissioning and freelance work are options worth considering, but the underlying issue that often deters artists from pursuing them is the lack of security and its unsustainable nature. Unless there is a steady stream of orders to work on, there will be little to no revenue. As important as commissions are to an artist, working exclusively on commission takes the joy out of the process. Artists have complained of burnout, creative blocks, and just a general lack of motivation when they spend all their time working.

Moreover, the customer acquisition process is arduous in itself. Gathering a steady following requires having an online presence, accumulating recognition, and being deemed good enough amidst an abundance of content.

“When I started, the rates were embarrassing. Anyone starting out has to remember that it’s very hard to get people to pay for your art. The key to making it sustainable is being willing to work consistently,” says Tahmed. .

Nevertheless, the golden age of content is something of a jackpot for artists. TV shows, movies, video games, comics and graphic novels are all narrative mediums that require creations and this content is being produced at an unprecedented rate. From storyboarding to character design to designing the opening sequence, creating the final product requires an artist at nearly every step of the process.

Asifur Rahman, the mind behind Arts by Rats, says: “Locally, there are a handful of studios in the country with small teams. In such scenarios, artists usually work on many tasks simultaneously. At Mighty Punch Studios, I worked as a concept artist as well as a character designer while also being involved as a background artist.”

He continues, “There’s no global standard for how many artists a studio needs. Smaller studios have a smaller team with a more hands-on approach across departments, which usually gives more leeway. for individual expression.”

Eventually, everyone aspires to work for the biggest studios, but the fairy tale is a challenge. With scarce opportunities and a system that stands in the way of creative pursuits, artists cannot thrive. The opportunity to pursue an education in any art form is not only belittled, but also very limited in the educational sphere of our country.

Asifur is currently pursuing a degree in 3D Modeling, Art and Animation from the British Columbia Institute of Technology. He feels the degree gave him a clear set of guidelines and instilled some discipline in the learning curve.

“While you can find similar resources on the internet, there’s just something about being taught by an industry professional that can’t be replaced. There’s also the aspect of getting in contacting people who have experience in the field and establishing a network with such individuals goes a long way,” says Asif.

Fortune certainly smiles on the daring, but to jump, you have to at least take a look at the fall. The many barriers in the local creative arena stem from deep systemic issues that disadvantage artists. It is undeniable that young creators will inevitably see their passion for art exploited, whether through low prices or long hours of work.

Also, the appeal of commercial art is very linear. The corporate art style of saturated palettes and skewed proportions has become infamous. Such standards not only deprive artists from fully bringing out the nuances of their style, but also create restrictions that disrupt the fluidity of the art.

Asif says, “It’s highly unlikely that a studio will hire you based on your style. To get their attention, artists need to develop a portfolio tailored to the needs of that studio.”

The harsh reality is that to get even a soft grip on the industry, most artists will need to meet the needs of the industry, and even then there really is no guarantee of landing your dream job. .

However, all is not catastrophic. The local market also participates in the massive flow of content. Video game studios are popping up across the country, and established comic book studios, as well as newspaper positions as cartoonists, offer great opportunities for artists. On the other hand, those working with a more traditional medium may seek openings in art director positions. Museums, television studios, and marketing agencies all need an art director, and there are few artists as well cut as good artists.

Being passionate about art is truly magical. It is enriching and reassuring. There’s marketing yourself, knowing your market, and pricing it right – it all grows with the artist. Obstacles and obstacles are only part of the process, but there is no reason why it should not become a reality. With fundamental support and a few tweaks in the right places, the creative part of the economy will become a mainstay and perhaps even a source of pride for the country.

Abir Hossain is a failed SoundCloud rapper. Tell him you can’t find anything to rhyme oranges on fb/abir.hossain.19 either