Written in response to yet another marketing and business solution to the difficulty artists have in making a living.
When you describe something as needing a cure you have already accepted that there is a problem. I understand the sense in which you are claiming it, that IF a person is attempting to make a living there are things which can obstruct this. The problem, what I am accepting as a problem, is that for many people making a living from art is not a simple issue, and that some aspects of it are fundamentally conflicting.
It is not simply the case that being an artist is like other jobs. For some it obviously is. But for many others we make art specifically to bring certain things forward in the world, and getting paid to do so is not always easily reconciled with fidelity to one’s artistic vision. There is an inherent contradiction between doing what you want to do and doing something that others want from you.
Not that they can’t sometimes align, merely that they are not the same thing necessarily and following one path can lead us farther away from the other. Its the difference between being intrinsically motivated and extrinsically motivated. When we do something because its the right thing to do in itself, as making art is for many of us, then its a different proposition from doing something for the sake of an audience. Expressing one’s self is NOT the same as communicating.
“We who draw do so not only to make something visible to others, but also to accompany something invisible to its incalculable destination.”
If its a problem reconciling these two points of view, then assuming it gets solved through marketing and business sense is both naive and misleading. It assumes, for one, that the problem is solved on the side of the extrinsic connection to the audience. The people for whom the disconnect between making art and selling art is most evident often care much less about the selling part and are more focused on making what they believe to be the intrinsic mission of their creative lives. They may not want to be starving, but they DO want to make the art they make.
A dislike of starving is not even related to an artist’s motivation except circumstantially. They do not even scale together except by coincidence. And so when you say, “success was largely dependent on how successful those (business & marketing) areas were doing and not so much their abilities as an artist” you have spelled out precisely why the extrinsic factors are so repugnant. Some people would rather be the artist they understand themselves to be than ‘successful’.
To the extent that we actually care about being the best we can be as artists, and knowing that ‘success’ may have nothing to do with that, is it any wonder that many artists would prefer to be ‘starving’ than sell themselves out for the occasional crusts of bread? The less time spent perfecting your artistic craft the more you indicate a conflicting priority, and the less entitled you are to even claim your art as a priority. You can’t magically do both well at once. You can’t necessarily have your cake and eat it too.
Extrinsic and intrinsic motivations are fundamentally at odds. And as such, to the extent this conflict is seen as a problem it is a psychological problem. We feel the tension. We are pulled in two opposing ways, a sort of schizophrenia of ideals. And if this is a problem, perhaps we need to understand that the ‘cure’ may just be worse than the disease. Proposing clumsy solutions is not answering the problem. There may be no cure if the two ideals cannot be reconciled without unacceptable damage. Sometimes, even, the proposed ‘cure’ is death. You have to die as an artist to be reborn with a successful career.
I found this book cover in a search of images for ‘starving artist’. Disgusting and self serving, isn’t it? The title might as well have been “How to prostitute yourself as an artist”. Anyone who says there is something wrong with you for being a ‘starving artist’ understands very well what it means to be ‘successful’ but does not understand what it means to be an artist.
Make beauty real!