Podcast: The 'Starving Artist' Mentality

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  • In this episode we discuss the origins of the "starving artist" and why it really shouldn't exist in the modern world.

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We've all heard the term before: Starving Artist. But where did it come from? And why does a career in art continue to hold this reputation?

In this episode we discuss the origins of the "starving artist" and why it really shouldn't exist in the modern world.

Where it all Started

In the 19th century a notion was born that real art comes through poverty. This was popularized by Henri Murger, who wrote Scènes de la vie de bohème, a story about the lives of artists in poverty.

It soon actually became trendy to be 'poor artist', as it was seen as making the ultimate sacrifice for what you believe in. Pursuing a life of artistic dreams instead of material possessions. Oh what a noble life!

Several famous artists like Van Gogh, cemented this by dying broke. Only gaining fame once they had died.

Fun Fact: Van Gogh only ever sold one of his paintings – and it was to his brother. Today his paintings (like this one) are valued at over $100M

Fun Fact: Van Gogh only ever sold one of his paintings – and it was to his brother. Today his paintings (like this one) are valued at over $100M

The Problem

Whilst there's nothing wrong with pursuing a life of art in lieu of material possessions. Problems arise when artists blame their poverty on their career choice.

"Yeah I'd love to get paid doing Blender, but you know how hard that is."

I've overheard blender artists practically boast about their empty bank account. About how they wish they could afford a better GPU, but since they're "just an artist" they can't.

Amazingly, you'll then hear these same people scoffing at other artists for charging a suitable rate for their services. "Sell out" is the go-to insult for any artist making money from their skills.

It's part-tall poppy syndrome, part-starving artist mentality.

Today, it's all on YOU

Back in the old days, opportunities for getting noticed, paid or even educated were limited. But in today's abundant internet society, you have everything you need right at your fingertips.

There are literally hundreds of websites dedicated to teaching you the fundamentals of marketing. All free, and all available right now.

But the reality is that reading through them all takes time, thought and effort.

And as everyone knows, it's far easier to just do nothing. Falling back on the excuse that "artists are supposed to be poor" and "the whole system is corrupt, so I'll never get paid". Or any number of bizarre excuses that one can conjure up.

Simply put: The 'starving artist' mentality is no longer relevant in today's world. If you're a starving artist, as much as you'll hate to hear this, the only problem in the equation is you.

Moving Forward

The trend of being a starving artist is one that should have been left in the 19th century, but it's lingered on till today.

Let's bury it once and for all.

It doesn't matter how poor you are, if you can read this right now, then you have the tools (ie. internet connection) to learn how to get paid for what you're good at.

But will you? Can you be bothered to take the necessary steps?

Further Reading: How to Raise Your Profile as an Artist

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What are your thoughts on the Starving Artists? Got any tips or stories to share?

Andrew Price