Stop being a starving artist

I remember growing up seeing TV ads for the Starving Artist art shows. I remember always wondering why the artists…

I remember growing up seeing TV ads for the Starving Artist art shows. I remember always wondering why the artists were starving. If they weren’t any good why not just get a job?

At its core though i think the starving artist show is a exaggerated example of a problem that we have with art. Our society by in large has dismissed artists who don’t make their living making art.

Let me start by saying I’ve been guilty of this more than most. I’ve taken countless artistic endeavors and attempted to monetize them. In these attempts, I have come to realize that the act of trying to make money in an artistic expression can kill it before it gets off the ground. Nevertheless this demand of our culture seems to be relentless.

Consider this. There was a time when music was created and shared primarily on front porches and in local pubs. What have we done to this communal art form? We’ve turned it into an industry focused on big money and big personalities. Music today is ruled by the likes of American Idol where the focus is on “making it” instead of making music.

This is just one small example of a gigantic lie that we have been telling ourselves. I want to dispel this myth right now. Your art doesn’t need to support you for it to be valid and valuable. Your band doesn’t need to sell a million records, your photography doesn’t need to earn you a living wage, your blog doesn’t need to have every major corporation clamoring for content deals. Let your art be art.

It is in this place of letting art be a real expression of your humanity that something special can happen. This is what makes art so powerful, it allows us to take our inner life and pull it out in an expression external to ourselves. So often this myth that our art needs to to make us money and support us kills the critical part of art. Art ceases to be an expression of who we truly are and morphs into marketing.

So what can we tangibly do to battle the myth that our art needs to support us? The simple step that I have taken is to start making things without a plan. This blog is an example. It might mean making music in your living room with friends. It might mean taking a hike and making photos for the pure enjoyment of the expression. It might mean painting a painting that you will keep in your house and never sell. It might mean writing poems and sharing them in notes to your friends. Whatever allows you to disconnect your art from supporting you will ultimately make you a better artist.

And what about making money? We all need money. To borrow something I once heard, “Well if you don’t already have a career, Starbucks has great benefits.” Find a way to make some money that gives you space for your art. It may not be the most exciting way of making money, but it will make your art come alive. And who knows, maybe somewhere down the line your art will start supporting you. But, learning to be content with your art being art will be a radically fulfilling decision.

Photo By Freeimages\Julia Eisenberg

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February 11, 2016 @ 12:37 pm Trackback URL

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