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15 Artists Respond to the “Starving Artist” Stereotype

Does the idea of the starving artist help or hurt artists?

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Since the launch of our new artist podcast Art Bound, we’ve been continuing the real talk after hours with the Artists Network community — on our Join the Conversation page, in the Artists Weekly newsletter, and on social media. We recently continued the discussion sparked by Art Bound Episode 2: The Myth of the Starving Artist when we asked you how you whether the “starving artist” stereotype helps or hurts artists.

Stereotypes. Are they always harmful? I’m here to say yes, they are. Some blanket generalizations about types or groups of people may seem positive on the surface. But at the end of the day, any construct that causes us to assume something without empathy or critical thinking is, at the very least, misleading. At worst, it contributes to a person’s or group’s pain and disadvantaged status. That’s why I was not surprised to find that, when prompted with this question, an overwhelming number of you said, It hurts.

While some respondents noted that the idea of the starving artist might aim to reflect the struggles some artists face, the vast majority find the phrase downright damaging. Here are over a dozen artists’ thoughts on how.

Discouraged Pursuits

Hurt. It hurts us a lot. If your industry is not seen as adding to the economy, you and your fellow artists are ignored. — Dawn E

Hurts, and it’s misleading, especially for young children who want to pursue a career in the visual arts and parents who discourages their dreams because of such misconceptions. — Divina C

I think it actually hurts because it implies that there is no career path for artists. Young and talented artists often feel the need for a “real” job, and they pursue art endeavors on the side. This is what I did. I also think that it allows the general buying public permission to de-value original artwork. Buyers often expect to talk down the price of work with an artist because it is just the stereotype that artists should struggle and the work they create is not as worthy the cost as perhaps another service from a different profession. — Vicki C

I think the statement hinders the growth of young artists when they automatically think they’ll struggle financially. It leads to a lot of potential creatives to give up on their dreams. — Brooke R

Not sure if it hurts or helps, but I think it does express the struggles an artist can face. — Audrey Jane

An Antiquated Label

I think it doesn’t impact anything. It is just a cliche and everyone knows it. — Randy E

In general, labels suck. They force you into a slot that may feel good at first but eventually inhibits. — Kimberly S

Any construct hurts. Open up. — Barbara V

I think maybe neither. In life people can either rise above labeling or not, and that label in particular seems pretty antiquated. Besides, a drive to paint / sculpt / create doesn’t necessarily even mean the artist attaches thoughts of monetary gain from the experience. — Jan D

Answer to No One

I guess it’s the price we pay for answering to no one but ourselves. — Daniel T

If I really believed in everything that people told me about it, I would never be where I am today. I just don’t let people decide what is best for me. My life, my choice, and I’ve learned that I would never give up on my dreams and goals for people who don’t live my life. — Milla F

Underestimated Value

Hurts, without doubt. Art isn’t considered a ‘real job.’ [People assume] that artists are all flakes. It’s infuriating. — Tracey D

Yes, I agree it hurts. Art brings so much to people’s lives. Ever watched the calming influence when a child is given paper and crayons and then drawing colored shapes for hours? It happens all through life’s stages helping soothe troubled souls or just bringing joy. — Dawn B

Hurts. People tend to discount the talent, skill, and time to produce an art object and do not feel the need to pay the true value. — Wendy W

I think it hurts. There’s the mindset that art is just a hobby or luxury and isn’t taken as seriously as a career as things like business or other “practical” jobs. I don’t mind volunteering to create — donating my time and skills to make art. But I also want to be paid for my work. I want to be taken seriously and not seen as someone with their head in the clouds or chasing butterflies all day. I want the arts to be seen as legitimate ways to earn a living. My time and energy should be rewarded financially, and while I’m living, just as much as someone who works in an office all day. — Susan K

The Well-Fed Artist

If all this talk about starving is making you a little hangry, make sure to visit this helpful article all about developing strategies to sell your art and create that successful art business:

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One comment on “15 Artists Respond to the “Starving Artist” Stereotype

  1. Rang Rekha says:

    Well, more than hurting it actually highlights the problems facing the artists. In any field, forget all the strategies to make it work, it is the people with the right connections, strong drive to make it, most of all dame luck , for those who believe in it… who are able to become successful. While people submit without a whimper to other costs, but try to bargain when it comes to art. It is always a shoe string budget when paying to buy an art piece. It is like a brand name getting all the lime light…! This IS a running away from it. It is infuriating more than hurting.

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