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Starving for Affection: The Nasty Business of Art

starving artist business

Welcome again, my friends, to another dashing dive into the depths of deplorable life choices.

I’m your host, CXC staff writer Chris Hendricks, and today we’ll be talking about everyone’s favorite Green Goblin (and no, I’m not talking about James Franco), talking about money. Either way, money and art don’t always mix for reasons unbeknownst to some but knownst to every brave person who finds themselves saying, “Pay me for stuff you’ve never seen before.” I thought this might be a good opportunity to do some exploring in the realm of real-life monopoly.

As an artist myself who has picked joyful starvation over responsible monotony, I thought I might be able to provide some insight into the herculean maze that is the artistic hustle. Let’s role the dice together, shall we? I’m not an expert, but I haven’t been to jail yet.

First, lets everyone take care of something. If you have the space, and your alone (or at least completely lacking in shame), then rise with me and yell that thing you’ve wanted to yell for years now. Ready? We’ll do it together. 3… 2…. 1… go. “Why the hell doesn’t anyone buy our s***?!”

Feel better? Now let’s get down to business.

Assuming you’ve chosen to cross the business bridge, don’t mistake a stroll over the abyss for a quick trip. Regardless of how long it takes, the steps are as sturdy as the emotions we carry with us. Turning something you love into something that covers the wage gap left behind when sanity quits working, is your classic “genie in a bottle” story. You’d be amazed how our emotional state can influence whether that genie is Robin Williams or Jafar on his final power trip.

Sorry for all the metaphors. Sometimes I get paid to put them on paper, and money is confusing sometimes, so they help. My point is there’s no need to be careful what you wish for unless you’re truly afraid to begin with. Either you believe your art is undeniably worth dollars, or you don’t.

If you can’t embrace the worth of your own stuff, you can’t expect the world to embrace it either.

Start thinking “This is going to work” somewhere in your head, or guess what? It won’t. Once you believe your art is really worth something, proving it is where the fun really begins. An easy place to start is taking some of your savings and putting your own money where your mouth is. If you believe your masterpiece is worth someone else’s paycheck, then you won’t have a hard time giving it your own. Take a class, hire a coach, or trade in your old Crayola collection for some serious art supplies. It’s a quick-action step that tells this universe of ours that you mean well…and you mean business.

So you’ve got an honest desire, and now you’ve got the tools.

Congratulations kings and queens of creation! One more step and you’ve reached Mediterranean Avenue, but you still can’t afford it (and it’s the cheapest property). Screw you, Monopoly guy. Nothing says I’m going to be poor forever like the phrase “waiting for inspiration.” Waiting belongs to Greek statues and the restaurant industry. You, my friends, are seekers.

In the beginning good art is like bad tequila. She’s desperate for a good chaser.

I’ve also found that it’s a good idea to define oneself with the skill that drives one’s passion. For example, if you love to draw and you want to make money, then you should call yourself an illustrator. If you love to write, call yourself a writer. Take that definition and put yourself in any position possible to use it. I, for one, will write anything I can, including but not limited to songs, stories, blogs, poems, musicals, and even the occasional instruction manual on how to make money from art while living in a van down by the river. Art is the original pimp of the world and I will happily whore myself out for the sake of freedom.

Now we’re getting somewhere, hopefully.

So what if, in spite of all your hard work, people keep saying no? Well now, welcome to the dirty underworld of this sometimes-pretentious paradise. Welcome to the realm of the critic. These are defining moments for artists and creators that happen time and time again. In my view, what happens in these moments determines whether you really have what it takes to make money with your craft, but not necessarily the way you might think. The truth is, being told “no” is a luxury.

As artists it’s our responsibility to determine the difference between haters and heralds of wisdom.

There are absolutely people out there who don’t want you to succeed. There are people who just don’t understand you. Sometimes though, the truth really does hurt. You can swallow your pride and be flexible, ignore it and keep going, or quit. Luckily, only one of those three options means game over. If you’re stubborn enough to keep playing, you can’t lose.

Here’s the harsh reality. Most of the world wants you to lose, especially when it comes to giving away money if you win. We live in a consumer-driven Internet age where people are bombarded with attention-hungry mayhem during most seconds of their day if they own a smart phone. I know it sucks to not be supported as a new artist, but it’s a simple case of hating a game you chose to play in the first place. It’s going to be harder for people to gravitate toward something new because people like routine. It’s one less thing for people to worry about.

Artists need to stay in the arena long enough for the audience to trust them. You have to be the hero of your own creation.

Fighting for your brand of awesome is like wrestling waves over and over again. The only way to win is to keep coming up for air. Hating on the average consumer is not going to help you breathe any easier, and at least you’re close to the boardwalk at this point. Soon enough you’ll run the place. In all honesty, you don’t have to prove anything to anyone. My apologies for sounding like an afterschool special, but as always these are suggestions. The proof isn’t necessarily in the art itself, but the joy you generate when you make it. It’s funny how energy works sometimes. Often times, joy has it’s own gravitational pull and you’d be amazed who shows up in your orbit when you realize you’ve been worth it all along.

What we do have is each other, and that’s a force to be reckoned with.

We have a duty to be good Samaritans, especially in the Indie realm. New art will rise much faster as a community. The days of the Hemingway loner vibe are few in the new world. I realize it’s weird to view this new monopoly as more of a D&D team experience—complete with Funyuns and Mountain Dew—but that’s where we are now. The business world you live in is one big dungeon master. Lucky for you, we’re the “all here” and “all creative.” Together we have the tools we need to win the game.

Ultimately, art as a business is hard because the prize means getting paid for being you. Next to love, I don’t know anything more worth the fight.


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