Real Artists Don’t Starve

Real Artists Don’t Starve

Thrive by creating art, don't just survive.

The idea of the struggling artist, barely making a living, might seem fascinating, but in reality, it’s tough. On the other hand, many hopeful artists dream of thriving through their work. These insights show how this dream can come true. The book debunks artist myths, from being a natural genius to constant self-promotion. It shares how any artist can succeed. It tells the story of a lawyer becoming an author, spending just 30 minutes daily. Also, it explains not to be discouraged by rejections. Even the story of Rowfl, almost not becoming a Muppet, is here.

All can create; true artists borrow skill.

For a long time, we’ve believed wrong ideas about being a “true” artist. We thought real artists were poor, naturally gifted, and super unique. These beliefs stopped some from trying art and using their creativity. But let’s talk about two big myths about artists: being born super talented and making only original art. You don’t need natural talent to be an artist. What matters is working hard and not giving up. Even someone with a regular job can become an artist. Think about John Grisham, who was a lawyer but became a successful writer.

He started by writing a page of his book every day for three years. Many publishers said no, but he didn’t quit. His first two books became bestsellers, and he could write full-time. You don’t have to create totally new things. It’s okay to take ideas from others like Picasso said. But it’s not copying exactly. It’s about using others’ ideas as a starting point and making them better. Like how Jim Henson made The Muppets by mixing different puppetry and humor styles.

Now, let’s learn how artists can do well and grow.

Successful artists possess humility and persistent determination.

Being an artist isn’t easy, but the idea of starving isn’t true. Tough moments and rejection come, but your stubborn side can help. If you feel drawn to art, you likely have a stubborn, rule-breaking part. Even when F. Scott Fitzgerald faced 122 rejections, he didn’t quit. 

His persistence led to success, though he later faced criticism and struggles. Being humble is also crucial. Learning from experienced artists through an apprenticeship is valuable. The myth of the know-it-all artist going broke exists, but successful artists stay humble, like Michelangelo learning from a master. Stubbornness and humility pave the way for artistic success.

Artists do well by teaming up, finding supporters.

The idea of lonely artists creating masterpieces in isolation is wrong. Real success comes from working together and creating supportive communities. Throughout history, artists have thrived in such environments. Like in post-WWI Paris, creative minds like Ezra Pound, Ernest Hemingway, and James Joyce lived near each other, inspiring greatness.

 In places like Silicon Valley, tech creators collaborate, inventing remarkable software. Look to the best artists in your field to find collaborators. In hip-hop, artists like Beyoncé and Kanye West work with many writers, not a sign of weakness but of visionary teamwork. Michelangelo directed projects with help, showing collaboration’s power. Seek patrons too; Elvis Presley’s fame was boosted by Sam Phillips’ support.

Successful artists engage and connect with audiences openly.

For artists, finding an audience is crucial. Thankfully, there are now better chances for new artists to get noticed. Marketing might seem uncomfortable, but there are natural ways to share art and gain followers. A common way is to have a blog that shows how you create. Stephanie Halligan faced debt after college but started a blog called The Empowered Dollar to help others. 

She added her own cartoons after two years and felt alive. Selling prints of her cartoons brought success. Artists can connect with their audience online. Musicians try new songs and artists share unfinished work on platforms like Bandcamp. Practicing in public helps in the improvement of an artist. Just like playing in front of an audience makes you better at guitar, connecting with an audience is a simple rule for artists.

Don't work without pay, keep art ownership.

A big mistake for artists is working for free. Sometimes, people say it’s for “exposure,” but it’s just using you. To be a successful artist, you must believe your work has value and deserves payment. Valuing your work also respects the whole art profession. Michelangelo fought for artists to be seen as important, like aristocrats. Novelist Steven Press Field says calling yourself an artist makes you one. Print business cards and charge properly.

Another thing is owning your art. Many artists regret giving away their work for money early on. Jim Henson, who made The Muppets, was smart. He refused $10,000 for Rowlf the Dog, so he could use it later. To be respected, own your work, and ask for money. This helps in the New Renaissance, as we’ll learn more about it later.

Now, diverse skilled artists thrive, not starve.

In the past, doing many things made someone seem less skilled. But during the Renaissance, well-rounded people were admired. Now, we’re in a New Renaissance. Today’s artists don’t focus on just one thing. More ways to create and share art are available, making life richer.

Mark Frauenfelder is an example. He’s an engineer, co-founded Boing Boing, and works for Wired. He’s shown his art across the US. He succeeds by following his inspirations.

Don’t stick to old ideas of starving artists. Be like a thriving artist. Learn from great artists, find masters to learn from, and don’t work for free. Earn money to make more art and keep going.

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