If you want to be an artist, be an artist.

Photo by gustavo centurion on Unsplash

NOT a teacher, a blogger, or a marketer, or an entrepreneur!

Okay. There. I said it.

Someone will be offended.

Someone will throw out the term: artrepreneurship. Or easier: entrepreneurship, and argue with that classic tagline: Good artists don’t starve.

Hey, I agree. Good artists shouldn’t starve.

But that has nothing to do with running your art like a business, chasing after the market, spending your energy on making money and self-branding.

NOTHING.

And this is not only about painting, but artists by the general definition. This even includes writers, to be honest.

Now, let me clarify something.

Should an artist, regardless of his or her field, promote his or her works?

Absolutely.

Whoever tells you the opposite will be nothing but either a hypocrite, who has succeeded in self-marketing as an artist yet refused for others to succeed in the same way, or a jealous loser, who did not know the proper way of self-marketing, and thus threw dirt on the topic.

Photo by Martino Pietropoli on Unsplash

But ask yourself that question:

Did you become an artist because there is something you must create.

Or because you’ve always been a creative and would like to make some money of this “skill” of yours?

Or simply because you saw a business opportunity in producing what you make?

So…

If you fall into the latter two categories, this post was not written for you.

Don’t be upset, don’t be offended, I simply don’t consider you an artist. I think you are an artistic entrepreneur, or a creative entrepreneur.

Because believe it or not:

There are many people in this world still takes being an artist serious enough that they spend more time learning and sharpening their skills, instead of writing blogs and going to wine parties and being wooed by neighbors and communities.

But if you are swinging between these three categories, take my advice:

If you want to be an artist, be a fucking artist.

The meaning of “good artists don’t starve.”

It is easy to misinterpret the famous saying “good artists don’t starve.” As artist, we all wish a life that is care-free and allows us to create as much as we want.

But that does not mean selling art and make millions of it.

It also does not mean self-branding and promote yourself like crazy by writing blogs, going to networking events, and desperately try to increase your exposure.

Why?

Because most good artists have struggled in life to be financially secure. Good artists don’t starve because they have established a good system that fund their art, either through patron-ship, grants, side income, or art sales.

In short: good artists have proven themselves worthy of community and public funding.

Photo by Evie Shaffer on Unsplash

Here are some facts:

  • Many traditional artists spend days, weeks if not months on a piece of work, and I’m not saying digital art is any easier.
  • Writers could spend years working on a novel, and could be making zero short work publications throughout these years.
  • Many artists have side jobs, such as teaching, or gallery assistant, or other line of work they feel qualified to do.
  • Many artists rely heavily on grants and residencies, with or without professional education.

This leads us to a simple conclusion:

Good artists don’t starve because they have starved in their early stages, struggled throughout their life, and finally matured to a point where they safely further their skills.

Photo by Henrik Dønnestad on Unsplash

An artist’s pursuit.

What makes someone a good artist, and what makes the rest sloppy, self-indulgent, money-grabbing, mediocre business people in disguise as artists?

The easiest, most direct response will be: artists have a very unique pursuit.

It doesn’t matter if you want to make a difference, or inform the public, or make your voice heard.

Those are just fancy words.

Artists keep creating because there is something we want to show the world, and we want to show it in the best way. I still feel reluctant calling myself an artist because I know my techniques are naive and they are insufficient to convey the message I hear in my heart.

But that’s okay.

Because I’m learning.

Do I want to “support my family with my art” or “make money as an artist?”

Sure I do.

But I’m still spending 80% of my available time on painting, learning and developing. I’m forcing myself out of my comfort zone — and no, sorry. I’m not saying out of your comfort “introverted artist” zone and go networking and stuff like that.

I’m saying out of your creation comfort zone.

I’m saying looking at other people’s wonderful work and admit to yourself okay I’m not good enough. Or learning from the masters and admit my proportion is wrong. Or staring at sculpture photographs and thinking how I can bring that space and dimension into a 2D surface.

Photo by Igor Miske on Unsplash

Some final words

Okay, I’m going to be honest now.

I’m in many art groups on facebook. And I’ve blocked over 80% of the members.

You know what happened after that?

The mediocre, “you’re-so-talented” things (sorry not calling them art) disappeared.

The “how do you deal with ppl who said you weren’t an artist” poor-me posts vanished.

My feed became more pleasant than ever and I can finally breathe and relax and comfortably share my work with real artist and real future artists.

And I bet you probably have a ton of stuff to say, including, very likely, some verbal assault against myself.

But you know what? I’m so sick of the abuse of the term “artist.” If you want to be an artist, for god’s sake, be a fucking artist!

Quit talking. Quit asking for attention. Quit begging for money.

Be a better artist!