The Noble Starving Artist

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 6.03% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)


As usual, I think things are a little more complex than that.
The Noble Starving Artist is certainly used by those who profit from creative exploitation – and for that, I’ll point you towards Yog’s Law, which is “Money flows towards the writer.”
But the people I’ve known most who hammered on the Noble Starving Artists were, sadly, unsuccessful artists. Note that I do not say failed artists; were you to ask me at any time between 1987 and say, 2010, I would have characterized myself as unsuccessful. Most artists have a period where they’re unsuccessful, which is usually a good sign: it means they have taste, and they’re not living up to their own taste. In time, with effort, hopefully you’ll get closer to your own values. And usually, “Getting closer to your own values” has a strong(ish) correlation with “getting people to hand you cash for your efforts.”
Unfortunately, a lot of those guys who were traversing the wastelands felt really embarrassed by that lack of success. You can’t not be successful in America, man; that’s the main sin. And so rather than go “Yeah, I’m not doing well, I wish I was better off,” they wrapped that lack of success around their shoulders.  People who were successful had sold out.  They must have wanted to make money.  In fact, people who optimized their artistic transactions to make money were sellouts, too!
You could only really do art if you were suffering for it financially.  Like, purely by coincidence, the art they were making now was doing.
And look, that’s bullshit.  There’s nothing wrong with trying to earn cash for your art.  That gives you more time to make art, more cash to pay doctors’ bills so you can stay healthy, better equipment for you to make art with.  If you can make some cash for doing what you love, then do it.
Unfortunately, I don’t often see the content purchasers making claims about the wonderfulness of starving.  (They usually talk about how it’s about exposure, as if this free shit you give away so they can make money off of you will somehow chain into money pouring through your windows.)  For me, at least, it’s other artists who tell me about the nobility of starving.  Usually because it’s a lot easier on their egos, saying this is what they were aiming for.
Honestly, though, I don’t care who does it.  Shit needs to stop regardless of sourcing.  If you’re an artist, make buck.  Don’t compromise your vision – but when you find someone who likes whatever the fuck it is you do, negotiate like a fiend, and value yourself.
Art’s all about personality.  Nobody else can make the art you do.
Value that.

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