The concept of the “starving artist” has long been romanticized in the art world, as if an artist’s work should be separated from the dirty notion of money. However, the truth is, creatives must sustain themselves financially, like everyone else. This is where the term “sellout” comes into play. It is often used by critics to deride artists who have become financially successful as if somehow the pursuit of money has corrupted their artistic integrity.
A Flawed Concept
However, this notion is deeply flawed. Creatives must be able to support themselves financially to continue producing their work. This is where the concept of the “sellout” should be replaced by the idea of the “successful creative”. Artists should not be judged solely on their financial success but also on the quality of their work. I’ve written on the topic before and you can find an introduction to Starving Artist Romanticism here.
The idea of being a “sellout” stems from the belief that artists should be struggling and that their work should be pure and untainted by commercial success. However, this belief can be dangerous as it can lead to the stigmatization of artists who have made a living from their work. It can also create a culture where artists feel guilty for wanting to be financially successful.
It is important to note that financial success does not always equate to artistic success. Many artists have been financially successful but have produced mediocre work. Conversely, many artists have produced brilliant work, but have struggled financially. This is why it is important to judge artists based on the quality of their work, rather than their financial success.
Furthermore, becoming financially successful as an artist requires hard work, dedication, and talent. It is not an easy road. Artists must be willing to put in the work to create something that resonates with audiences. They must also be willing to take risks and try new things.
Moving Past Starving Artist Romanticism
Creatives should not be ashamed of wanting financial success. They should be proud of their accomplishments and the work they have produced. The idea of the “starving artist” should be replaced with the notion of the “successful creative” – someone who has been able to create work that resonates with audiences and has been able to sustain themselves financially.
This whole way of thinking also leads to the devaluing of artists’ work, as potential buyers think that they should not have to pay much or that the act of creating the art is easy. By promoting the idea that all artists should not seek money, a culture is created where art loses value to the potential buyer. They should not have to pay more because the artist should not want more. The artist should be poor. The artist should be struggling. This is all compounded further by the raise of AI programs that can quickly create imitations of art (written or visual) for a low cost.
In conclusion, it is time to move past the romanticized notion of the “starving artist”. Artists should not be judged solely on their financial success but also on the quality of their work. Becoming financially successful as an artist requires hard work, dedication, and talent. Artists should be proud of their accomplishments and the work they have produced. The idea of the “successful creative” should replace the notion of the “sellout”. The creative community should endeavour to reach success and earning money is a valid way to do that. By adopting such an approach, value can be added to their work as potential buyers are brought into the idea that artists deserve to be paid fairly.
If you want to help shed the idea of the “starving artist”, you might want to consider helping me out by buying me a pizza! All money goes towards supporting this site and my writing and photography.