I am in debt for about $140,000. This is actually down from a high of $240,000 incurred in the development of a digital panoramic camera during the 90's. The camera works great. The business plan it was created for…not so much. Even though the camera was created for commercial purposes, I immediately began using it for the creation of art.
My wife and I own a company which has sustained us and two or more employees since 1990. Our services defy general categorization, but could be described as helping artists. Photography, publishing, web design, and software development has provided a broad base which has kept us afloat while other more narrowly focused photography businesses have gone under. The portion of my income from my own art has been steadily increasing over the years. The investment made for the development of the camera in the 1990's has allowed me to create a niche in the art world. I join a growing group of artists/scientists throughout the world.
My artistic practice has developed over the years to include public art. This is a viable way for artists to make a living, but only if they are willing to navigate the treacherous waters of contracts, insurance, committees, art boards, extreme bureaucracy and a fair amount of risk, both financial and artistic. I am 52 years old. Having been in debt for most of my adult life, I feel that debt has played an important role in the education of my world view. Debt both keeps you down, and keeps you moving. The more comfort you have, the less risk you take. Debt has made doing business difficult (an advertising budget would have been nice), but it has also created a motivation...a determination to overcome.