The myth of the starving artist

A Starving Artist
, is an artist who has sacrificed material well-being in order to focus on their work. To get by, such an artist, takes up a temporary job, where the wages (s)he makes, goes towards their art projects, as they focus their attention on breaking through in the art scene.

I would like to imagine that every creative, whether a performing or visual artist, has been a Starving Artist at one time or another, because I have definitely been there. Think of these scenarios that I am definitely sure are relatable ; … one big break will make my career, or … if I just do my art, everything else will work out, or … I don’t need training, I am brilliant, or this one that has always haunted me … I shouldn’t charge too much for my work, I might lack clients.

Artists, for a long time, have bought into the notion that a ‘’true’’ artist, is a ‘’starving’’ artist, that this sort of lifestyle keeps them in touch with their creativity.Well, it is pretty hard to be creative when your stomach is growling. If you simply spent your days being artsy, and didn’t make real world considerations, then youwill not be able to get training on your art skills, buy art supplies, market yourself or feed yourself.

Another thing that most artists talk about, including myself is ‘’The Big Break is Coming’’. Basically what this means to usis, that time where we become instantly famous, rich and happy. I have come to learn the hard way that there is no such thing as an overnight success. All great achievements are made up of many small acts. What a starving artist needs to understand is the need for tenacity, perseverance, and should dispel the illusion of instant success. Many small breaks, create a sustainable career as long as you take it one step at a time.

“My family and friends say I am amazing” …. Of course they do, but, do I trust their opinion? It is great to have supporters and people who love you and what you can do, but for a sustainable career, you need the approval of people outside that circle of friends and family and who know exactly what they are talking about, like independent artists, gallery owners, art teachers and lecturers and also attending various art programs as a means of understanding your art and your options.

Times are changing, and we are at a phase where the internet is breaking down old business models. Nowadays, artists do not have to wait to be given a space to showcase their work in galleries, or exhibition halls. More people are opening websites that act as on online portfolio of their work, where they can sell their work as well… galleries are opening up online exhibition sites, that showcase and sell artists pieces globally. With all these possibilities, it is unfortunate that some ‘’starving’’ artists out there, believe that selling or displaying their work on the internet cheapens it. You really need to be found online. People will always research you, your art or your previous exhibitions, before they decide to purchase.

Effects of the Starving Artist notion.

This myth serves no purpose at all, except as real roadblocks to the careers of the artist who subscribe to them. This ‘’starving artist’’ mentality is all clients remember when they approach me as an artist. They ‘’carrot dangle’’ to the point of me saying, ‘’forget you, and by the way… go to hell ‘’ and ‘’ you are difficult to work with’’ because they are used to people dropping trousers and bending over for even something as ambiguous as EXPOSURE. Guess what … my Landlord doesn’t accept payments in EXPOSURE!!

Take this situation for instance… Currently, I have no savings. All I haveat this moment is 1000 Ksh, which I got from a previous commission…. It is NOT ROMANTIC and DEFINITELY NOT DESIRABLE… it destroys my self-esteem to where even if people wanted to prey on me, they won’t be getting my best work because I have no time, I am depressed and cannot grow. Do you still think people embrace the starving anything ideal?

Dispel the Starving Artist Myth

A great artist does not care much about happiness and luxury as he does about is art. The satisfaction and joy that comes out of creating is priceless. Art comes above everything else to us, and without this attitude, works of genius will not be created. The question that disturbs most artists, is how to get money and still give yourself completely to your art. As an artist, give yourself permission to make money. Do not pass on opportunities that allow you to grow in your career.Also, learn to protect your vision. People around you will always have something to say in an attempt to let you down. This can be demoralizing, and may cripple your efforts. AVOID THEM!!! Associate yourself with people who encourage and support you.

What about you? Which of these scenarios have you dealt with, and how did you overcome them? Is there any that I might have forgotten? Let me know in the comments below.


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