Norval Morriseau, “the Picasso of the North" made more money than he had probably ever dreamed yet still he ended up on the street begging of change. The starving artist life has always seemed romantic and like one of the ways to become a great artist, I am here to tell you the realities of it are harsher than you can imagine and the only ones who suffer are you and you loved ones. There is no reason to put your self through it, and that suffering does not necessarily create great art. It is time for this to change. So how can we?
Well first off let’s look at the notion of starving artist. People often associate great art to those who suffered through great disparity in order to fulfill their artistic vision. Every one has heard the stories of Morriseau, Van Gogh, Modigliani each who wallowed at the hands of the universe and others, as they struggled to create prolific work, they all died poor and some how people link the association that their poverty created their greatness. WRONG!!!! If that be the case then we take away from some of the greatest works ever created through history.
Here is a list of artist who made phenomenal work and to my knowledge never suffered. Hokusi , Leonardo Da Vinci, Picasso, Raphael, Donitello, Michelangelo, Andy Warhol, Roy Lichtenstein, Jeff Koons, Gustav Klimit, Henry Moore, Alex Coville, Riopelle, Dali, Onza Leduc. This list could go on and on, but really, you get the point. I am not trying to take away from these peoples life or say they had it easy, everyone has their struggles. These artists though did not go through endless amounts of pain and poverty to create their visions though. Some had regular commissions and only ever missed a meal cause they where busy at work.
Suffering does not equal great art. There are HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of STARVING ARTIST CREATING BAD ART!!! There are also hundreds of people suffering not creating art at all. YOU WILL STRUGGLE AS AN ARTIST. I say that because you have chosen a profession in which there are times were the gains are limited and yet you must continue to work in order to excel. That is part of being a productive and developing human being and really that is what art is about, creating works and ideas that inspire you and hopefully others into becoming more than they believed.
So now what can one do in order to make sure that suffering is limited? I hate to sound like my Dad, but SAVE YOUR MONEY. You are going to have to work, at least for some part of your life, that’s just the way it goes, instead of spending every cent save part of your money. If you have money saved when times of diversity come up you are better prepared to handle the situation. As an example for the past few years every winter I was caught with my pants down. I ended up being layed off in December, I should have known as for a number of years right around this time money always dropped through the floor. It took me years to learn and figure out (I rarely go on the system and usually got help from my father and patrons). This year when it happened I was much better prepared. I had money saved. It made the transition from winter to spring much easier. I was more productive fell less in debt, and concentrated more on my art as I saw this as an opportunity to utilize my down time in producing and creating.
So how much do I save. In Wealth Building Seminars they say to save a minimum of ten percent of your earnings. That is exactly what I had saved; I have now finished those savings. I now believe you should save between ten and twenty percent of your income as if I had a little more money saved when I start working again I would already have a base of some money to start with. If you are working at a minimum wage job in a first world country it there is no reason you can not save five dollars a day. Really that's a latte or a bag of chips and a coke.
I know right now you are saying, but I have bills to pay, you will always have bills to pay, pay yourself first. Let the some of the bills wait and really even though you still have bills to pay, you still buy that bag of chips and coke or latte right.
The same theory goes for when you sell your art work save a minimum of ten percent of your profits. More if you've you just made the jump and sold more than you ever had before. You do not have the luxury of thinking I am going to sell the same amount of work next week, next month next year. I am not saying you wont sell that much, I am saying you just do not have luxury of believing that you will.
What if I am a grant artist? I have never read a grant that says you were not eligible if you have money saved. As a matter of factly my thinking is you would be more eligible as you would be better prepared and have the means of seeing your project be a success with saved money. If you get a grant save part of that money, take it as part of your pay.
The last thing you maybe saying to yourself is I do not know how to save. Well here's a secret there is something called" Forced Savings". Forced Savings are monies you put away that you can not easily access, as in you pay a penalty to with draw the money. You will be far less likely to with draw fifty dollars if it is going to cost you twenty five dollars to access it. All of the sudden that new pen you have been looking at doesn't look so necessary. The forced savings I know of come in the form of an rrsp account, there are many others though. Ask your Bank.
Another thing discussed in wealth building books is different types of savings. One of these types is aggressive savings. This type of investment is an investment that has unlimited potential for growth, yet is also very risky. Your art is aggressive savings; it has the unlimited potential for growth. Think of all the stories where an artist struggles and struggles then BAM, one day their work is worth an insane amount of money. You should profit off that possibility. Save Ten Percent of Your Best Art Work, the stuff you know you could sell. One thousand dollars now is nothing compared to twenty thousand later. When Norval Morriseau first meet currator Jack Pollack he offered to sell his work for five dollars each, Pollack convinced him to hold on, his first show sold out and netted him three thousan dollars that is quite a difference.
In closing Norval Morriseau inspired thousands, he created a legacy that many followed, he was considered a visionary, a spiritual guru, and a commodity, it is a sad truth that such a great human ended up homeless and asking for change, in some case being judged as a bum rather than a master (which was maybe part of the legacy, most likely though the people who judged him would have never known who he truly was). Yes we can take comfort in the fact that at the end of his life he found himself surrounded by people he loved and cared about and apparently died happy. I can not find comfort in the fact he lived through what he lived. What I can do is pass this story and this knowledge on. Morriseau would want that, he would also want you to learn from his disparity. The last thing the world needs is another staving artist, what it needs now is leaders and visionaries to help humanity explode into its maximum potential.