The starving artist syndrome: overcoming through action

As an emerging mixed media artist and surface designer who grew up in the Rust Belt of Pittsburgh as a Xennial, I find the hardest part in following my art entrepreneurial journey as my full-time career is the internal negative dialogue brought on by the “starving artist” syndrome. The starving artist myth has been perpetuated in so many circles for so long because the Boomer generation didn’t have the same tools we do now.

Without the internet, I could only imagine how hard it would have been for me as a single mother of teens to succeed as an artist. But, today, everything is at my fingertips.

Here are just a sampling of the income-generating activities artists today have as options:

  • ad revenue via content creation on Youtube, blogging
  • TikTok creator – the Creator Fund
  • in-person art workshops and retreats (see ===>> travel opportunities!)
  • online art workshops via Skillshare, Udemy and Teachable
  • Patreon donations
  • affiliate programs
  • sponsorships and collaborations
  • wholesale relationships with retailers and boutiques
  • galleries
  • individual art collectors
  • art fairs & festivals
  • print-on-demand products such as Redbubble, Zazzle, Spreadshirt, Teespring and Society6
    • The cute tote above is one of my abstract digital designs created in Procreate and uploaded to products on Redbubble for sale. Check out my Redbubble shop!
  • publishing how-to eBooks
  • self-publishing actual books

There are plenty of “working” artists out there that aren’t looking to necessarily be the next Van Gogh, Georgia O’Keefe or Frida Kahlo. But, they are thriving in what success looks like for them. A simple YouTube search will show you all of these successful-to-them artists. Following these artists and their journeys via social media gives me the inspiration to keep moving forward with my journey.

Exercise: Define what success in your art business looks like to you. Create a vision board of what your ideal lifestyle looks like.

If you need help figuring out the logistics of building your art business, check out some of these books from my book shelf:

  • Art, Money, Success: Finally Making A Living Doing What You Love by Maria Brophy
  • I’d Rather Be In The Studio: The Artist’s No-Excuse Guide to Self-Promotion by Alyson B. Stanfield
  • Side Hustle: From Idea to Income in 27 Days by Chris Guillebeau
  • Traffic Secrets: The Underground Playbook for Filling Your Websites and Funnels with Your Dream Customers by Russell Brunson
  • The Handmade Marketplace: How to Sell Your Crafts locally, globally, and online by Kari Chapin
  • How to Sell Your Art Online by Cory Huff
  • Show Your Work! by Austin Kleon

Also, some of the lessons I’ve learned in the corporate world carry over into my entrepreneurial journey. For example, the corporate world focuses on SMART goals. One way you can use these SMART goals is by entering them into your calendar and check them off as you complete them. Doing this gives me a sense of accomplishment and realization that I am moving forward as an artist.

Another way that artists can overcome this “starving artist” syndrome is by networking. Once you get out and socialize whether in person or online with other artists, you are no longer isolating yourself in that negative mindset. You can collaborate with other artists or venues out there. Make lists of the art clubs and galleries in your area and introduce yourself. One way in which I’m doing that is through volunteering. I’m helping update their website, specifically their gallery section. This not only gives me the opportunity to give back, but also build upon those gallery outreach efforts in my own art practice. It’s a win-win!

Look for those types of win-win situations with your art business and you’ll see your business thrive and grow. Then, you can kick that “starving artist” mindset to the curb for good!

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