The Serving Artist
“The Starving Artist” - the modern day stereotype, or rather the widely accepted “norm”, applied to those who choose or strive to do art for a living. Be it a songwriter, a novelist, a painter, these are the brave souls who choose to do something they love in exchange for a subpar living standard.
Maybe their apartment is tiny so the rent can be low, or maybe they adhere to a ramen diet to stay within a tight budget; whatever the route may be, art is the goal and pinching pennies is their route.
Or maybe their currencies are time and social life. Maybe this particular artist has a day job to permit the possibility of art. Could be the desk awaits 9-5, while the guitar awaits 6-10 and the weekends. Still, art is the goal, and something starves to fill art’s appetite.
As a professional Singer/Songwriter, I stand in opposition to the adjective “starving”. In fact, my hope is that “The Starving Artist” will transform to memory and then into myth.
We face a chicken/egg problem here. If artists reach for the paintbrush embracing they will have to starve through their hues, will that be a self-fulfilling prophecy? Will they resign to that reality subconsciously? Or, would some future Picassos be deterred from ever holding a brush?
At this point, has society doomed artists to starving, just by our joint belief?
What if we did the opposite? What if we saw the commitment to art as a role society needs, contributing to the well-being of humanity? What if we didn’t warn artists in their pursuit, but encouraged them on their path?
For this to be a reality, society needs to once again see art as valuable, and the practice of art as meaningful.
Right now, it’s seen with an air of skepticism; in the eyes of many, those who spend their time on art are frivolously wasting their days. They may be told to “get a real job” (whatever that means) and to start building for the future.
I understand. I confess I’ve thought this about myself and about others. Yes, this thought can stem from self-doubt and insecurity, but it can also come from the programming I’ve received as I’ve grown up. The demands of life are too much and the chances of success in music too slim that rolling that dice is irresponsible.
However, never mind the fact that success is self-determined (a separate writing piece altogether), or that you can have a career in art without being on the radio or making headlines (yet another topic for a different journal entry), let’s not forget that art matters.
Art gives meaning. Art gives beauty. Art gives purpose. It gives joy, and it gives connection, to the small details we seek and the vast grandeur we can’t comprehend.
I could start to list examples to prove this point, but you already have your growing collection of art that has reached your heart and prodded your mind.
In whatever form it takes, art is a fabric that weaves us together, both individually and collectively, and without it, we unravel.We need creation and expression, we need art in order to survive and thrive.
Ironic then, isn’t it, that those who nourish us are the ones who starve?
Let’s remember this as we step back in our day, as we look at the beautiful, artistic world around us. And perhaps if we see artists for what they are, as those giving us something we crucially need, we can change the joint belief and make “The Serving Artist” the new norm. And, in the process, better fill their plates too.