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Starving Artists

Money in hand in the form of many large bills
Money in hand in the form of many large bills

Why do some artists become venerated during their own lifetime and others remain starving artists only to find fame and fortune for their artwork after they die?  Let’s look at two examples.

Pablo Picasso was a very successful artist during his own lifetime, and he started styles of art that others then copied.  Picasso painted for 75 years and produced an estimated 50,000 works of art.  That averages out to approximately 2 per day.  Obviously he did not start out famous and successful, but he kept working at it until he achieved his goal. But other artists, equally productive with exquisite artworks have fallen short to one degree or another.

Vincent van Gogh, for example, produced approximately 2,000 works of art in his lifetime, which was cut short at the age of 37. His paintings now sell for millions of dollars, yet in his own lifetime he may have sold none at all (it is disputed whether his brother Theo sold one or two of Vincent’s paintings while Vincent was still alive – at any rate, not more than two sold in his lifetime). For the short time he painted, he was very productive. So was Picasso.  Van Gogh’s art was the future and is appreciated by millions of people today.  So is Picasso’s.  Paintings by either artist sell for unbelievable amounts of money today.

So what is the difference?  One was a very successful and revered painter.  The other was a starving artist. The difference was basically marketing.

Van Gogh’s brother, Theo, showed a few people a few of Van Gogh’s paintings.  His paintings were not allowed to be displayed by the art establishment of the time. In reality, almost nobody even saw Van Gogh’s paintings during his lifetime.

Picasso started out just as penniless as Van Gogh, and throughout the biography of his early years his fortune had its ups and downs.  But Picasso basically made himself into a successful artist by “networking.” He made connections, courted patrons, made friendships with art dealers and pushed his work into galleries.  In other words, he ensured that people saw his artwork.

Both artists started as starving artists.  Both artists produced outstanding works of art in abundance. Both artists are famous today and their artwork is loved by many people.  But in their own lifetimes only the one who marketed his art was a successful artist.

That’s an eye opener!  You may have heard the joke:

  1. What does an artist (dancer, musician, etc.) say when he steps up to the microphone?
  1. “Would you like fries with that?”

You do not have to take a job at a fast food place to become successful in your chosen creative field.  You do have to market yourself and your art.

Artists these days have it much easier than Van Gogh or Picasso.  There are weekend art shows all over the country and the world actually, and one can be seen and sell art at these.  The internet offers a vast array of resources a creative person can use to launch oneself into a successful artistic career.  The internet and art websites are not an end-all, but they sure can help get your work in the public eye.  And not just visual artists – musicians, actors, dancers, poets, writers – all can benefit from sites on the internet. It’s going to take some work, and it’s going to take a little courage to put yourself out there, but many successful artists who enjoy making a living in a creative field can attest to the fact that it can be done.

“Getting lucky” or “getting discovered” so rarely happens that it can be crossed off your list.  You have to work at promoting your art and yourself.  By all means accept any help offered, and cultivate the people who have helped you (including keeping careful records of contact information of your customers).  But it’s rare that a “lucky break” will turn you into a success unless you did the work to create that lucky break.

Enjoy yourself and your work.  Be creative, and be enthusiastic.  You will attract people who love your work.

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Outstandingly Clever Artists

Indie Artists Club has Outstandingly Clever ArtistsIndie Artists Club is a new group on the web that is promoting outstandingly clever artists. These are artists who are not only clever enough to produce outstanding works of art, but additionally they are clever enough to promote their art into a method of supporting themselves.

Almost everyone is an artist in some way. No matter what one does as a “job,” there is an artist of some kind lurking inside. Creativity is just native to human beings. A few never tap into their creativity, but most people have a pastime of some sort which allows them to create. It may be making furniture or quilting or even creating an image for oneself – clothes and make-up and hair. Many people participate in the recognized fields of arts – painting, sculpture, photography, writing, etc. – but do it only as a hobby, not a profession.

To confirm the native desire to create, you need only look at children’s art. Kids make the most wonderfully creative art. Children display an urge to create as soon as they can hold a crayon. They sing. They dance. As they mature, the creative sparks get snuffed out, and only a few brave ones continue to a point where artistic pursuits are their main means of support. How creative sparks get snuffed out is a subject for another article, but suffice it to say that it takes a person with some guts to follow an artistic career, to be able to endure and slough off the rejection one receives in such fields.  Several of the artists on Indie Artists Club mention starting to draw, paint, create at the age of two.

Even when children grow up to major in art or music in college, you find the graduates doing all kinds of other jobs rather than working in their chosen field. You find brilliant pianists working as administrative assistants in the computer science department of some university. Or painters of high quality art serving fries at a fast food restaurant. These are people who can actually read music to the point where you can put a sheet of music they have never heard before in front of them and they can just play it perfectly. Or people who can sing in an opera. Or people who can paint a life-like portrait. And on. They all got crushed when they graduated, rejected from their chosen field, and so relegated their lifelong goals to a “hobby.”

A few brave ones press on, maybe not immediately, but at a later time in life. These are the ones I call outstandingly clever. First, their art is outstandingly clever, in that they have created artworks worth a living wage. Second, the artist is outstandingly clever because they are putting themselves out there, barring their innermost creativity, for the world to see, and they do not give up – they make themselves successful. Brave souls all.

As an example, Frank P. Devine is an artist on the website. He works in two mediums – carving wood and painting. He mentions at the beginning of his article that he has always been an artist. At the beginning of his career, he designed and painted cars during the day, and worked on his fine art at night. You sometimes have to take another job for a time while you build your own business. Getting an artistic job was an outstandingly clever move on his part.

Another artist on the website is Robin Beaman. Robin had one career on the stage in New York City. When she felt she was done with that, she went to Los Angeles and started almost a second career acting in television shows and on the stage. Now she says:

“So now I’ve taken to helping with art others produce. I still keep my creative hand in by writing now and then (mainly short stories and blogs), but I’ve found that I especially enjoy helping others polish up their written work by proofreading and editing in order to make their works shine as the bright gems they are.

“Because of my reading knowledge, I find myself getting engrossed and involved with the story I’m editing, so that when I edit something, it isn’t just a ‘job’; it’s because I’m interested and wish this story to succeed.   I mean, with the teamwork that develops between us, I can see this story really take off. It starts to live and breathe for me and I can’t wait to see what’s going to happen next. It is important to me that the author’s story is the best it can possibly be.”

There is plenty of great information and advice from outstandingly clever artists on the indie artists website.   And some great art to view!