I fell for the starving artist myth, hook, line and sinker.

November 24, 2008 at 2:43 pm 6 comments

I have a weird problem. It’s not even a problem really. I don’t know what I’d call it. Let me attempt to explain.

I can find opportunities galore. I don’t know why, but I just have to breathe and I get opportunities, especially related to my art. I make friends easily, and I have this rather large support system of people whom I respect and admire and who support my dreams and goals.

First off, let’s just say – how absolutely amazing is that? I am completely and totally blessed that these people are in my life. I don’t know what I did to deserve them, but it just rocks my socks that these people support me and are willing to go completely out of their way to help me out. How wonderfully awesome is that? I still can’t even believe it.

So yeah, opportunities and marvelously supportive people just seem to flow into my life, and this makes me so insanely happy.

Here’s my problem – I can never seem to monetize that. And I don’t mean that in an icky, dirty way, like how can I make money off of all these people who support me. Oh no. I don’t mean that at all.

What I mean is, with all of these opportunities that come my way, I can never quite seem to turn them into cash. It’s like I have this gigantic mental block between me and the money. (Probably pretty similar to the one between me and my ambition…food for thought I think?)

I think that a lot of artists have money blocks. Ever read the Artist’s Way? Julia Cameron goes into a lot of detail about that, and rightly so. As artists, we automatically buy into the stereotype that all artist’s are starving artists, and that’s “just the way things are.”

But what if it wasn’t?

What if our attitude towards money and art directly impacted how much money we make? What if we weren’t convinced that making money from our art would be selling out? I’m not proposing here that if we all just thought differently, we’d become millionaires. That’s a little far fetched. But what about thousand-aires? What about, making enough money on the side doing our art that we can afford to buy ourselves those little luxuries, those vacations, that beautiful easel?

What if your attitude towards money changed, and instead of thinking that it’s impossible to get, that its easy to get? Or at least easier than impossible. How would that change things?

Because the way you think about something directly impacts what you do about it. If you’ve already decided that money is impossible to make from art and that selling your art means selling out and that starving is “just the way its supposed to be”, what do you think the odds are that you’re going to be out there, meeting the right people and trying for the right opportunities? What do you think the odds are that you’re going to even notice that those opportunities are there?

They certainly aren’t odds that I’d be betting on.

And I’m not trying to judge here – I fall into this way of thinking a lot of the time all the time. But I notice that it’s definitely a trend for me – if I’m focused on what I can do, and the opportunities that are out there, and develop a money consciousness, I make more money. I sell things. I get opportunities. But if I’m focused on how hard it is, and how much it sucks, and how I’m busting my butt and nothing is ever gonna work out…well all of my good stuff just dissipates. It’s kind of a self fulfilling prophecy.

You can do what you think you can do. Nothing more, nothing less.

I often think that I can’t make a lot of money at art, or ever be successful. I often feel like I’m failing. My results reflect that a whole helluva lot. It’s obviously not something that you can change overnight. But I believe that attitude and mindset are 90% of the battle. If you can change those things, then you can probably change your whole life.

It’s definitely a work in progress though.



Entry filed under: Art, Fear, Stuff That I Can't Categorize. Tags: , , , , , .

Positivity Fridays: A New Tradition! (Because I just complain too much.) The drought is over. Finally.

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Amrita  |  November 24, 2008 at 3:17 pm

    I don’t know any artist that *wants* to be a starving artist. In my experience, the ones that are “starving” are in that position because they either don’t know how to market themselves or they find it hard to continuously swim against the tide in our culture that doesn’t place a lot of value on art.

    I do agree with you that there are underlying reasons that make some people more able to generate money from their art than others – inner confidence, the right social network, etc…

    I am a big believer in the power of positive thinking and the law of attraction. It is easier said than done sometimes! But I wish you success as you pursue your career as an artist. Thanks for sharing your perspectives.

  • 2. smlacyart  |  November 24, 2008 at 3:21 pm

    Thanks Amrita!

    I agree with you – I don’t think anyone does want to be a starving artist. I think we’re just so conditioned to think that as artists we’re supposed to and sometimes that conditioning frustrates me.

    Instead, we should be conditioned to have good business sense and learn to market ourselves.

    I’m also a strong believer in the law of attraction and positive thinking. All very much easier said than done! 🙂

  • 3. Megan Wolfe  |  November 24, 2008 at 4:32 pm

    Really interesting post, and it’s something I think about too..

    I also wonder if artists cause their own problems. No matter how professional the work that is produced, people expect it to be, essentially, given away (“paint something for my house, oh, wait, you mean I have to pay?”). Others, take advantage of artists and chip away at what we DO get paid (“we’ll show your work if you pay us $500”).

    Stuff like this I think is our fault, because not all of us throw up our hands and say “no”.

    Artists don’t have to be starving, it’s true. Some of it starts with finding the right audience. Some people just don’t buy, or are interested in buying. Some will eventually buy something, if you continue to foster your relationship with them (via newsletters, holiday cards, etc).

    But we have to be professional about it, careful about the spaces we show in, the people we deal with. Otherwise, who’s going to take us seriously when they’re ready to buy our work?

    Anyways, sorry, it’s a little bit of a tangent. 🙂 I think I eventually, sort of, came full circle, lol.

  • 4. Megan Wolfe  |  November 24, 2008 at 4:55 pm

    Hum, yeah, my post was pretty general.

    I was thinking in terms of why people have a hard time accepting artists as working professionals, and thus, actually buying when there are opportunities.

    I really did go on a big tangent though. Maybe I need more coffee.

  • 5. shelli  |  November 24, 2008 at 9:39 pm

    I love Suze Orman’s “Women and Money.” Suze has such an excellent grasp of how we approach money emotionally. I recommend her for reading. I’ve wondered, also, how much of your reticence is tied to how emotionally attached you can be to your art. I would think it would feel funny to put a price on a part of yourself. I can imagine it would be difficult to “put it out there” that way. Suze has a really good section about valuing yourself and not letting people take advantage of you.

  • 6. Learning to be me, one day at a time. « Sarah’s Blog  |  November 27, 2008 at 12:14 pm

    […] to be me, one day at a time. Jump to Comments I talked about money issues the other day. In my attempt to resolve them, I decided to borrow some money books from the […]


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