Case Study: How to Be a Starving Artist

A dichotomy in the pursuit of art is between being a starving artist and selling out. Know now that to be a starving artist is a choice and to “sell-out” is the goal. The starving artists pick on the artists whom make it their livelihood by saying they “sold-out”. That the purpose of creating art is not for monetary value, but for the purpose of creating the art itself. Let’s look at how a famous starving artists settled within this dichotomy and you can decide where you want to be.

How To be a Starving Artist: Featuring Vincent van Gogh

You have the choice to be misunderstood. Vincent van Gogh made that choice by not communicating with the people around him that cared about what he was creating. He locked himself away and painted everyday; creating over 2,100 paintings in his short life time of 37 years.

Total Paintings Sold While Alive: 1

At least he sold something, but damn that must have hurt his ego. There’s a good chance you’ve made more money from your art than van Gogh made from his.

If you want to make a living doing what you love, you have to fulfill two separate factors:

  1. Creating something that people would be interested in
  2. Communicate what you’ve created with those people

Van Gogh excelled at the first part of that equation. He was able to capture emotion in his art that still resonates to this day. He changed the course of art’s history with ground breaking techniques not seen before him.

However, he utterly failed on the later half of the equation. No one knew of him or what he was creating; let alone the people interested in purchasing his art. Thus, he chose to be a starving artist.

Vincent van Gogh Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear

If you want to be like van Gogh and die with unappreciated works, follow his path.

  1. Lock yourself away in your home
  2. Cut off all communication to the outside world
  3. Focus solely on creating what you love to do
  4. Tell no one
  5. Go insane, broke, and starve

If this path sounds familiar or appealing, know fully well that you might create a legacy but unfortunately won’t be around to accept it. If you want to be appreciated for your life’s work and make a living doing so, don’t forget to communicate it with those that would care.

I can’t say for certain why van Gogh never really attempted to get his art seen as I am not an art historian nor a psychologist; and surprisingly I did not know him. But from my observation it seems that van Gogh would have rather faced his inner demons every day on that blank canvas than open up his art to the world of criticism.

His fear of judgement, fear of rejection, and fear of failure kept him from becoming his true self. He left behind an unfinished life of creating and kept the world from seeing the highest development in his creative productions.

I empathize with him. It can be scary and intimidating sharing your soul’s work with the world. But if you are going to create, you have two options: Share your creations, or wonder what if.

 

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