Elizabeth Dawson, Contributor
Last night I was bemoaning the existence of the starving artist. For those who know me well, this is a common complaint and I am sure I sound like a broken record playing the same scratchy tune. I am also an artist but as I encounter my own kind in the world of business, it baffles me why romanticizing starvation and poverty is a winning strategy. So when I was playing that scratchy tune for my loved ones to listen to for the umpteenth time, I realized something about myself… I am an entrepreneur who happens to be an artist and not an artist dabbling in the world of business. I have some advice for my fellow creatives, entrepreneurs and starving artists: starving isn’t sexy.
I know that TV shows, plays and movies love the idea of impoverished artists struggling to create art at the expense of financial security and creating “art for the sake of art” alone. This idea normalizes the inability to support one’s self and artists have embraced this stereotype. I mean without this stereotype, we wouldn’t have Rent! I know all throughout our art history lessons, we have heard about Van Gogh and his ear-munching mania and Edgar Alan Poe and his infamous death knell but the only death knell I hear around here is for your career. I understand that creating this idea has helped Hollywood but it is not helping you, my fellow artists. It is not aiding in you in selling art or for marketing yourself in a winning way so please do us all a favor and step away from the stereotype.
So how do we usher in an age where we stop romanticizing poverty? We start treating your art as an actual business. So, repeat after me: “I am a f*cking entrepreneur.” And now that you have had that self-empowering mantra, you then prepare and plan for your career like you are fortune 500 company, well… because you are. Please follow these helpful hints to rock your art career in a big, bad way:
- First conquer branding: Come up with your colors, mood, look and narrative that you will sell to the world and implement it. And that narrative had better have nothing to do with ramen noodles and homelessness. I don’t care if you are actually eating ramen noodles, the world needs to never know about it. You are successful, sexy and creative and you need to own it.
- You will also need consistency, planning and follow-through. Big business, galleries and the general public have no use for your flighty ass. Finish a project before you start another. I understand creative ADHD. I fight it all the time. Find some discipline, rock your career like a Virgo and get it done and get it done on-time.
- Promote yourself like Picasso. Picasso was the master of self-promotion. No other artist in the 20th century, not even Dali or Warhol, could hold a flame to Picasso’s shameless self-promotion and we all know his name now for his efforts. Take a lesson from history and put yourself out there and do not fear rejection. Get used to wearing rejection like a warm, fuzzy sweater you wear on cold, rainy days. You will be rejected and you will keep on living. The art world needs to know your name before they accept you. They need to know you are financially viable and not one of those starving artist types.
These tips certainly aren’t the answer to everything but it is a good cursory start to kicking that stereotype to the curb and starting to own your career and its subsequent success. I will quietly step-down from my soap box and tell you to rock on self-promoter and make the art world your b*tch!