The Artist Stereotype
One of the most crushing ideas or mythologies for artists is that you are more “pure” if you don’t promote yourself. We have been raised on these stories, and it has seeped into the minds of many artists and has stopped them from achieving their potential. You know the phrases: “He died penniless, not knowing his contribution,” “She always struggled with money,” “He never sold a painting and died without friends.” We know the stories of Van Gogh and many others that fit those phrases. And we also know how it feels to tell your parents you want to be an artist and the instant financial concern they might have for you, not to mention your friends and other relatives! I just recently read about the story of Vivian Maier, a photographer who produced over one hundred thousand photographic images from the 1950s to the 1990s. Her images were found at a yard sale. When the buyer posted some of them on Flickr, the photo-sharing site, she became an instant celebrity because the images are beautiful. Now a book and a movie will be made about her. She died before she knew of any of this. She was also homeless for a while until two children that she was a nanny for helped her by paying for an apartment and her bills. It is an incredible story. A sad story and a poignant one. When the newspapers caught hold of this story, they ate it up. It fits the age-old myth of the artist. The newspapers commented that she was a pure artist because among other things, she seem to have no commercial interests at all when making art. How infuriating that was to read! Another nail in the coffin for artists everywhere trying to earn money! I think the way this is interpreted by many artists is to take it to heart and victimize themselves by thinking they must not earn money in order to be pure, whatever that means. (More about Maier in chapter 11.)
Please, if there is one thing you take from reading this book, it should be that those stories are not only dead, they are counterproductive and can only serve to bring you down emotionally and prevent you from moving forward. Embrace the new economy that is all around us. You are valuable, your work is valuable, and as a contributor to culture, you need to live and thrive off of your work. At the very least, you need the opportunity to thrive off of your work.
To learn more about Brainard Carey and his services for artists, or to take a class from him, click here. To join one of his free weekly webinars, click here. To download the workbook mentioned in this series, click here.