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« The Flip Side of the "Starving Artist" Myth - Part 2 | Main | Art World Insiders: Advice for Artists About Obstacles »

The Flip Side of the "Starving Artist" Myth - Part 1

Myths and clichés are sneaky obstacles to your success.

Clichés and myths persist because they contain at least a kernel of truth. There’s just enough truth in them that some people take them at face value. They sneak into your thinking and slowly drain the energy from your best intentions.

Clichés and myths about how artists live and work are so tenacious, so deep-rooted in folklore, that even we artists may buy into one or two of these false beliefs at times.

Just as every obstacle contains the seeds of an opportunity, beyond every myth, or cliché, there is a much larger reality that you can join by looking at the facts.

I’ve written about twelve prevailing myths since 2002. This time, I’ve flipped each myth over on its back like a bug so you can help educate the public about your reality as an artist.

Myth #1: You Must Starve To Be An Artist

There is a romantic notion, perpetuated by operas like “La Bohème” by Puccini, that artists must be poor. People who believe that the “true” artist is a “starving” artist think that this lifestyle keeps them “in touch” with creativity. They wrongly equate making money with commercialism and “selling out.”

The Flip Side: You Are in Business to Make a Profit

You don’t have to starve to be a true artist. You are entitled to cover your expenses and to have some left over. The more profit you make, the better you can support yourself and your family. The more you can do that, the more time and energy you can devote to creating the artist's lifestyle that fits your circumstances.

Myth #2: Society Owes Artists a Living

Artists who believe that society owes them a living do themselves a disservice if they do not believe in their own ability to support themselves. The society in which most of us live offers many opportunities to live a life of our own choice rather than dictating what we can create and where we can exhibit. Would you want to be in the shoes of contemporary artist Ai Weiwei, harassed by the Chinese government for his work?

The Flip Side: You Are in Charge of Your Livelihood

There’s no denial here that the economy is tough. Funding for the arts has been cut; tax laws favor collectors over artists; and gallery commissions are on the rise. All of those factors are indicators that life is more challenging for all people, artists included.

Few people make a living today without considerable effort. Art collectors work hard for the money they use to buy art.  Gallery owners adjust to rising real estate costs. Art professionals extend their services and hours to make ends meet. You decide the kind of living you want and are willing to work for. You accept economic circumstances as a given, and you do what it takes to overcome any obstacles to the artist lifestyle you want in the future.

Myth #3: Artists Are Not Business People, My Dealer Will Handle Everything

I often hear artists say that they are too “right-brained” to do “left-brained” business tasks. Some imagine that getting a gallery means that they will be able to wash their hands of the business side of art; the gallery will handle every aspect of marketing and selling their work.

The Flip Side: You and the Gallery Dealer are Business Partners

Galleries are retail outlets for your art. They have exhibit space, client lists, ways to attract collectors and systems to handle sales. Dealers need your art to have a business. You need dealers for access their audience.

When you sign a deal with a gallery, you and the dealer agree to partner to sell your art. You work with your dealer to double the effectiveness of the marketing you each do. Together, you leverage your art, audience and reputation with the dealer’s display space, collectors and market.

I’ll share three more each week this month.

Which myths irritate you the most and how do you counter them? Please post your replies here or on Facebook and Twitter.

P.S. If you need an accountability partner for your art business or someone to roll up sleeves to produce art marketing materials or work on your web site, just let us know. We can help you. If you haven't already had one, start with a complimentary 15-minute conversation. Sign up here.


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