Never Mind the Starving Artist Stereotype
Not so fast!
I try not to have hatred in my heart, I really do but I absolutely detest the starving artist stereotype. I get right cross when people ask me what I do for a living, I tell them confidently that I’m an artist, and they snicker and jeer or flat out ask something asinine like, “So, you’re a starving artist?” or “Did you ever think that being a professional artist would be hard?”
I know that I can’t change some people’s narrow perceptions of artists. It’s a cynical world. Just because I can’t fix them; however, doesn’t mean that I have to like them or not let myself feel any particular way about them. Try this on. My own particular viewpoint about people who think that way will certainly not make me popular but I truly do think of people who have such perceptions about all or most artists as not much more than knuckle draggers.
That’s how it is sometimes in this cynical world. They debase me; I debase them back. Strangely, that’s fair! Do they not want me to think lowly of them? Then, all they have to do is either open up their minds and pay artists and the art fields some genuine respect or just keep their mouths shut.
Can it get any worse? Sure it can. There really are some people who live a semblance of the starving artist’s life. I’m not talking about those in impoverished countries either who have a legitimate excuse. I’m referring to those who have been raised and educated in first world countries but complain about how others don’t see their vision when their vision is producing something meager or odd, not trying to market their work honestly, and spending all or most of the money that they may actually make on getting polluted. Now, these people really offend me more than the whats-it-whats-its who dare assume that I’m in the same boat. They perpetuate the stereotype.
Facts: I never once had some pie in the sky notion that it would be easy to become a professional visual artist, and sustain such a career. Like all wholesome professions it takes a lot of dedication and hard work to be an independent commercial artist. Because commercial art is in fact the world’s largest industry, it’s only a minority who don’t have to jump through hoops in this bizz. I jump through them because I fully researched my field, recognized the challenges and have always believed in the effort as much as I laud the potential outcome.
Facts: there was a time in my life that I fell on hard times but that was strictly because of the economy and the lack of opportunities that were available to me at that time; I’ll shed more light on that someday, it was not because of my pursuing art. I have never forgone financial security and material necessities or want in order to pursue art, that’s what a starving artist does. I’ve never subsisted on minimum expenses, either because art sales have been slow or because everything that I make went toward my art productions. Those are what a starving artist does.
Facts: in all my years of being an independent professional visual artist I have also worked a fulltime job that really has nothing to do with the arts but does help me and my wife to live healthy, modern, westernized lives. It’s nothing new. Not every visual artist gets to fill a permanent position in an art firm, gallery or art department within a firm. When there are only one or two openings in the visual arts fields, there are typically dozens to thousands of applicants. This means that most dedicated artists have to go it alone, and; therefore, most independent artists in the western world have to supplement their incomes because art is seldom a 9-to-5 job. Most artists are realistic, pragmatic thinkers. That’s why city sidewalks really aren’t overrun by hundreds of starving artists, despite what the whats-it-whats-its think.
Here’s what I take great pride in; being an entrepreneurial artist. I’ll never be sitting around grumbling about how life sucks after forty. I’ll never gripe as some old fart, that I should have stuck to my guns and pursued my greatest dreams when I had the chance. That’s because I’ve always been doing it, and doing it realistically. I know for a fact that there are many critics who cannot say the same.