Free Shipping USA on Orders $75 or More
Free Shipping USA on Orders $75 or More
Cart 0

Why are starving artists hungry?

Squatch Girl original art tees

I’ve been an art collector for many decades and appreciator of artistic skills and talent all my life. I have a very creative brain but drawing ‘stick people’ is about as gifted in the fine arts as I will ever be.
I think it’s truly sad that many very #talented artists are not adequately rewarded for their unique abilities and gifts. I detest the “#starvingartist” stereotype! Worse, is the common belief that art gains value only after the death of the creator. That just doesn’t seem like a sustainable model!
At #SquatchGirl, we’re trying to change some paradigms and help artists enjoy the rewards of their talent while they are alive and still creating! (see our featured artists at
One side of the conversation is about how artists value themselves. The easier changed perspective of the situation of it how we, the beneficiaries of artists’ passion and toil, value their work.
I love the wisdom and the wit of this blog by artist, Maynard Breese, #DigitalArtist, Entrepreneur and Busy Man! His message gave me a lot to think about.

Colorfully yours,
Squatch Girl

Reposted with permission of the author, Maynard Breese
Original post at

"You are so lucky to be able to make a living as an artist..."
Of all the things that I hear when I am at an art show, the variation of "you are so lucky to be able to just be an artist" is the most annoying. Not because I hear it a lot. Not because I don't understand what they are meaning; I used to have a J.O.B. and put in my time with the corporate world.

It's because they don't understand what the hidden meaning is of what they are saying. The implication is that I don't WORK. That I just somehow magically have work pop onto a canvas, and then it magically sets itself up, and then people just give me love and money. Sorry to destroy the romantic notion, but if you are going to make a living as an artist...none of those things will happen.

Creating art is work. Sure, it's not "digging ditches or fixing fences work", but it's just as hard mentally as any office job, and it's probably more emotionally taxing. When I filled out and filed paperwork at my job, that was it. When I create a piece of work now, I am putting a part of me up for everyone to view and judge. Some of my pieces I love, and it's tough to have people glance at them and whisper to their friends, "that's really weird". Even better, you have to be prepared for people to not only hate your work, but to feel the desire to tell you that they hate your work. I did a charity event once, where I had donated two pieces for auction, and also committed 20% of all sales to the charity. This guy came out, looking at the various artists that were showing. He came over to my area, and asked, "well, what the hell do we have here?" I explained that I was a digital painter, etc. His response? "OOOOHHHH .... so, shit art." Yeah. That's what he said. Even if your boss says something like that about the report that you filed, it's not the same as something that you put some of yourself into.

Or, you get the people who, at an #artwalk in the middle of a dirty dusty street, feel the need to make themselves look uber #art collectors, with the "Oh, these are prints? Well, I only buy ORIGINALS". This said while they have earbuds for an MP3 hanging around their necks. When I ask if they are listening to the "original master recording" of that song, they always say no. When I ask if they read a lot, but only the original handwritten manuscripts, they always say no. But, for some reason, they think that when it comes to #VisualArt, only the original will do for them, not that they are actually willing to pay for it. I had a friend once, who, when confronted with the "only buy originals" statement, had this exchange with the "patron":

artist: So, do you like the piece?
patron: Yeah, totally love it. I just only buy originals.
artist: I can get you the original, but you understand it costs more than a $50 print?
patron: Of course. How much is it?
artist: $2,000.

patron: What?! Why so much?  It didn't cost that much to make!
artist: actually, it costs less than this print did to make.  But, I ONLY sell my originals to REAL collectors, not posers.

Now, if you collect originals, I am not calling you a poser.  My point is, don't say how lucky I am to make a living as an artist, and then in a backhanded sort of way, imply that I can't duplicate my efforts so that I CAN make a living as an artist.  Imagine doing YOUR job, but only getting paid once for it.  Unless you did something at work in a completely different way, or did a completely different job, and then you would get paid one time only for that, as well.  That would rather suck, wouldn't it?  But, that is exactly what "I only buy originals" implies you want the visual artist to do... make money just once off of their work.

Then, once the piece is created, it has to be seen.  And, despite what the tech people want you to think, you are NOT going to get rich selling artwork on the internet.  You have to work it.  You are going to do shows that you pay $300 for, travel hours, spend hours at, and sell $20.  Even on the shows where you make money, you are still going to invest a lot of time setting up your booth, standing in it, and tearing it down.  When I go to first Friday in Vegas, as an example, I leave my home around 7 AM Friday morning, get to Vegas around 2, take a quick shower to wash the travel off me, then head down to the show site to set up, where I will be until midnight when it's time to tear down and pack up everything in my tent by myself, then back to the hotel by 1:15 AM Saturday, so that I can eat a cheeseburger alone in my room, hit the sheets by 2, and be up by 7 AM so that I can drive back home.  

You also need to work on getting your pieces into static locations, ranging from coffee shops to galleries.  And you have to check in to maintain inventory and collect on sales, because many places will sell your work, then neglect to tell you until you stop in.  

The one thing that you WON'T have to do is worry about the "museum pixie" kicking in your door so that it can view your artwork that is hidden away in your closet, and then declaring you the "next big thing".  I know artists who won't do shows, won't promote their work, won't seek out places to hang, and then complain that they aren't selling any work.  Or, better still, that "nobody understands them".  Please.  It's not that nobody understands you, it's that nobody sees you.  If you want to be "lucky enough" to earn a living as an artist, you need to get off what you are sitting on, and you need to get to work, and you need to treat it like a job with you being a big old ass of a boss.  Or, the worst thing is, when I hear an artist that says they don't want to make any money from their work, because it "degrades" it.  What a load of crap.  ALL the original old masters were paid artists, working for a living, and they damn sure had NO problem getting paid for their work.  YOU are degrading your own work when you sell it for no profit.  Look, if you feel you have to "suffer" for your art, and starving yourself is the way you want to accomplish it, then you won't be an artist for long.  You will be hungry, broke, and homeless, but you won't be an artist.

So, bottom line, I understand what you are meaning when you say "you are so lucky to make a living as an artist."  You are saying how great it must be to not have a corporate job (or paid vacations or health coverage or a 401K ... but I guess in today's economy, a lot of you don't have those anymore, either), and to be able to get paid to express myself, etc.  But, please, understand that from the working artist's perspective, "luck" has VERY VERY little to do with it.  It's a bit of pain, a bit of sacrifice, a bit of creativity, a lot of hard work, and, yes...a little bit of luck.  

Maynard Breese and

Older Post

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published