| The Starving Artist Myth |

Chances are you’ve encountered it before – in movies, jokes, anecdotes – the concept of the “starving artist.”

Many of us have consciously or unconsciously borne the burden of  this pervasive myth in our society.

I have heard of countless creative people who were dissuaded from following their dreams because of fear of not being able to make enough money.

But that need not be a reason to give up entirely on something you cherish.

The truth is, of the hundreds of artists I know personally or count as dear friends, the majority DO have some other form of income. Most of them are doing something in the arts: teaching, arts administration, curating, design, illustration, working in or owning galleries, art preparator, framing. They are so many ways to make a living in the arts.

But let’s set the record straight: they are not starving. They own homes, go on vacations, send their children to college and STILL manage to make art, even if it is not their full-time income.

And then there are artists who make a handsome income off of their art. That’s a possibility as well.

Just last week I was at Anthony Meier Fine Arts in San Francisco looking at an exhibition of one of my favorite artists. Everyone of the five pieces sold before the show opened. My friend casually asked what the prices had been. “Between $500,000 and $1,000,000.” was the reply.

So definitely some artists are doing more than thriving.

The reason I bring this up is to just check our habits of thought and thinking around this issue.

Have you ever caught your self thinking thoughts of lack or limitation?

I was inspired by a passage from Lynne Twist’s book The Soul of Money: Reclaiming the Wealth of Our Inner Resources.

Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

Responses to “The Starving Artist Myth”

  1. Anna Chavez

    Hello,I just started painting and I have a few paintings that I’m very proud of but I don’t know how to price them! I don’t want it to be too expensive but I don’t want to short change myself please help me how do I go about pricing my artwork!
    Anna C

    Reply
    • Michele Theberge

      Dear Anna, Sorry didn’t see this before! Great question and one worthy of a complete post on it’s own so all can benefit from the answer. I will keep it in mind for a future topic.

      Reply
  2. tunie

    I never have but my mother did tell me not to focus on art because it’s not something people make money doing. I then proceeded to see and meet many many people making really good livings from producing their own artwork full time – everything from full time graphic designers (old housemate) to multi-million dollar sculptor (previous landlord), to my current best friend who makes a solid living (between 5-10k p/mo) from selling her paintings in the gallery down the road from her house…I think the universe is trying to tell me something?

    Reply
    • Michele Theberge

      Wow! Powerful examples in your life. This shows me you are very close (energetically) to this type of success yourself or it would not show up in your life!

      Reply
  3. Kim

    WOW! Absolutely love this post! I happen to be a HUGE believer in the Law of Attraction and this post, every word, coincides with it. I’ve thought about selling photographs online for years, but never have taken the time to learn how to do so. I have an extremely creative mind and am always coming up with ideas for all sorts of things. I believe I’ll execute something great, so in the meantime, I decided to paint my dream home and yacht. Since I don’t know how to paint great clouds, I went online to search for how, which is how I found this site. What a great book that I will look at purchasing, because you made me realize that those are my exact thoughts in the mornings, creating more lack. I am also reading, “Excuse Me Your Life Is Waiting” by Lynn Grabhorn, GREAT book as well. She pointed out so many things and teaches you how to rid lacking thoughts. I’m glad I think my art is priceless! LOL Even though it’s only my 3rd ever, and I’ve never had a lesson, I know it will come out great and I’m sure the offers would be huge. But no one can have it cause it’s a painting of MY DREAM! Be careful with what words you use. When I write emails, I often back up what I was “going to say” and replace it with the outcome I’d like or just keeping it positive. I’ve even done it on this post a few times. Start trying to just be aware. Happy reading and thinking to you all!

    Reply
    • Michele Theberge

      Kim – thanks for writing and for your energy and enthusiasm which vibrates right off the page! Thanks for sharing the book recommendation with the mindful artist community. I haven’t read that one. And your mindfulness about what you write is inspiring! Being sure to change words into what you want rather than what you don’t want. A book that influenced my highly in my early 20s was “Creating Money: Keys to Abundance” by Sanaya Roman and Duane Packer. It’s written the most loving expansive tone. I taught a class on it some years ago. It’s full of exercises to help people envision what they want to create and move through blocks and it points out in a loving gentle way that having abundance isn’t taking from others and it’s the belief in lack is the cause of greed, wars, environmental destruction. I did a drawing of my ideal house some 22 years ago and manifested my first home purchase when I was 29 years old. It was such an exhilarating feeling to close on that house despite the fact that I was an artist working only part time as an art teacher. Dreams can come true! I looked back at the drawing later and was shocked how close the drawing was to my new “reality”.

      Reply
    • Michele Theberge

      Dear Kim, Thanks so much for sharing! You energy and enthusiasm just vibrates off the page!

      Reply
  4. max

    .

    thanks for information.

    Reply
  5. Yew Chee Kam

    …as we work on that inner part, the outer world will begin to reflect that back to us…
    I totally agree with this statement. I was on the low and maybe flat on the ground for sometime, if not six feet under. But it’s not the end of the world. I feel that whatever people thinks about me is not important but what I think of me at the end of the day matters most. If everyone says nice things to me all the time…it will just mask the reality of my weaknesses and I won’t even know that I need to improve. So I took my time to mourn, and then try to change my perceptions, and then try to improve myself. I feel that when I’ve started to change, the environment arounds me changes as well. Not all may be accepting, but not all are rejecting as well. Some will see my new self, shattering the rumors that spread like wildfire awhile ago, and I must thank those people who critiqued me in the first place.
    Thank you for sharing…

    Reply
    • Michele Theberge

      Yew Chee – I am sorry I somehow missed this thoughtful post of yours or I would have responded sooner! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and your story. I have that same experience. Those difficult experiences are usually the ones that cause me to grow the most. All my best to you!

      Reply
  6. Linda Friday

    I had a mother who said those very words to me about being a “starving artist.” in spite of the fact that I was offered an internship with Pacific Outdoor Advertising when I was 16 (neither of us knew or understood the lucrative world of graphic design)., she told me i couldn’t do it. My creative being morphed into other interests over the years, leading me to paste-up and graphic design work when I was in college, and later “creating” a job for myself as an art specialist at a couple of local elementary schools (NO degree of ANY kind). In 2008, because of the downturn of the economy, I began teaching myself the Adobe Creative Suite whilst unemployed to be able to move back into the design work I had done decades earlier as a college student–back then with an Exacto, T-square and a wax-roller. I then got a job as the staff graphic designer for a non-profit and honed my skills on the job, ultimately creating all the print collateral and learning to design and code websites. Three years ago I left them and started working exclusively as a freelance graphic designer–now making more per hour than I ever have in my life. I will be 63 in May. I am JUST starting to put brush to canvas all these years later because I can’t afford to retire, but have a burning desire to FINALLY realize that long-ago dream of being a full-fledged and PROFITABLE artist. It is never too late to learn or BECOME what your heart wants you to become. Wonderful and thoughtful post.

    Reply
    • Michele Theberge

      Linda – I so appreciate your sharing your story. Truly inspirational! And sadly one I have heard over and over again. I am wishing you tremendous success in your next steps! I remember wax rollers from laying out my high school newspaper. By the time I stepped in to graphic design (briefly) after college mac computers were just coming in. But we still had to paginate everything by hand with those press type letters! When editors changes would come in, my job was to move each tiny page number to the next page. Funny how things used to be! Enjoy your painting!

      Reply

Leave a Reply