The eternal artist’s dilemma… Often romanticized,and certainly cliche, the life of a starving artist can be one fraught with discomfort, economic instability and a lack of mainstream success. Does one throw caution to the wind and pursue their creative dreams- at the possibility of dying in the gutter? Is it all worth it in the end? I think for some musicians, actors, playwrights and painters, there is no other life. They just can’t imagine not making their art and sharing their passion with the world.
Being poor though is no joke, and what may seem romantic in your 20’s doesn’t pan out to be so appealing by your 30’s. I can think of members of my own family who have tried to make it in the arts. Some have been very successful at it, some live a comfortable enough existence, while others still struggle later in life.
However, let’s face it: the people who get paid the big money usually do something hard and boring (think bankers and lawyers). Although everyone on earth hears music everyday, looks at some form of creativity expressed through posters, advertising, movies and clothing design- the people who produce it are hardly ever put on the same social hierarchy as a rich businessman, athlete or politician. Most true artists don’t make enough to pay their rent. Although there are of course some very exceptional artists do strike it rich and becomes rock stars or get their work exhibited around the world.
I think for most folks though, just getting by doing an OK job they don’t hate is often enough. Perhaps something on the periphery of the artistic world: teaching, working at a nightclub or museum- at least you’re working around creative people and environments and can feel stimulated and energized by that. A regular job can be sufficient to pay the bills and hopefully leave you enough time and energy on the side to make your crazy noise-pop, write your short stories and paint nude self-portraits in your studio.
No matter how talented, there’s always the distinct possibility that no one will care about your art- at least not enough to want to pay for it. Take poor old Vincent Van Gogh, the famous case of the Dutch painter who never sold a painting. I think only his beloved brother, Theo, ever bought something from him. Clearly an artist ahead of his time, but misunderstood and ignored during his own life. After a life of struggle and poverty, Van Gogh eventually took his own life, penniless and unknown till the end. Not much fun if you ask me… Now, his paintings are some of the most expensive in the world and an entire museum is dedicated to his work in Amsterdam. Ouch, the irony of that! Life seems to play cruel little games on some of us doesn’t it?
Personally, I’d love to be able to make a fat paycheck off of playing music, I’m just not too sure how I could ever make that happen. It’s always just seemed like something fun I could do on a Saturday night with my friends. Just a passionate outlet and stress release that happens outside of my regular job. Personally, there’s only so much of eating Top Ramen in a cold apartment that I could take, but I respect those folks who sacrifice it all for their art and refuse to compromise.
What about you: is it worth it to be poor but free do create? Or can we all have our cake and eat it too?