Real artists don’t starve… thoughts

I’ve been reading, skimming, a book that is strengthening my approach to art. “Real artists don’t starve” by Jeff Goins. Subtitle: timeless strategies for thriving in the new creative age. (Tip: see if your local library has a copy. If you like it, buy yourself a copy)

Goins starts by talking about Rab Hatfield’s investigations into the history of Michelangelo. And how he found some interesting bits that were tangential to what he was actually looking for. (Sounds familiar?) Anywho, he learned that not only was M not a penniless, starving artist, he was by accounts a very (VERY) wealthy artist businessman. The estimates are in the neighborhood of $47 Million dollars. Nice neighborhood.

He also found that for many of the known artists, starving was not one of their virtues. A few, like Vincent VanGogh are in fact the minority (bless’em Theo!).

Rather than getting stuck in the myth of the starving artist, I found the list of principles Goins created to be really insightful and though provoking. At the risk of sharing too much, here’s the list.


Starving Artists…
Thriving Artists…
1.     Believes you must be born an artist
Knows you can be come an artist
2.     Strives to be original
Steals from his/her influences
3.     Believes he/she has enough talent
Apprentices under (a) master
4.     Is stubborn about everything
Is stubborn about the right things
5.     Waits to be noticed
Cultivates patrons
6.     Believes he/she can be creative anywhere
Goes where creative work is already happening
7.     Always works alone
Collaborates with others
8.     Does his/her work in private
Practices in public
9.     Works for free
Always works for something
10. Masters one craft
Masters many (crafts)
11. Sells out too soon
Owns his/her work
12. Despises the need for money
Makes money to make art



I find these very interesting.

I’m sure others have their own list or principles the follow. 
Steve Jobs: real artists ship. That’s a good one too.

In the rest of Jeff G’s book, he goes into depth with each of these principles and how you can adapt them to your work today. I’ll be taking some time and reviewing his ideas. 

This reminds me of another book: Show Your Work by Austin Kleon. 

What I love most about these books is how you can make this work yours. How, in this internet age, you’re not at the mercy of the ol’ guard, the galleries and others who artists “need” to sell  their work. And that’s a very good thing. It means we have access to artists who aren’t part of the machine of art, who want to follow their dreams and who do good work in an extra-ordinary way. 

It also means artists have access to direct feedback from their followers; good, bad, and ugly. I hope it means it makes us better.  And to be a follower, an appreciator doesn’t always mean the one with the biggest pocketbook. I’m not dissing the monetary patron, I’d love to have one or a hundred (LOL). But with the filters diminished, we can hear from a wider variety of people, followers, patrons, like-minded/not-likeminded – still friends.  Maybe that’s a way to grow and try to be more – today/tomorrow. And maybe that brings us all a little closer.

How can we be more open to others with whom we disagree on issues? This is a huge divergence, but a worthwhile thought. I’ll go off and think on it. I hope you’ll let me know what you think of all of this. 


next blog: I’ve been taking a series of Graphic Design classes online, MOOC style. I’ll tell you all about it. 

In gratitude and peace–



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