Do you feel tortured by your own talent? Do you happen to be in love with a medium of art that appeals to only a few? Do you hate to compromise and feel like if you’re not doing exactly what you want to be doing at any given minute that you are wasting your life? Do you think that a lot of popular artists are “sell-outs?” Are you and your stomach always grumbling? Then, hello, Starving Artist.

Poor, poor you. Always broke and misunderstood. A purist who stands for something that no one else cares about. The sole torchbearer of a fiery light the burns for no one to see because you’re outside and it’s daytime and the sun is blaring. But it’s noble what you do, right?

Nah, not really. Maybe it was in the Romanticism era of the 18th and early-19th centuries when Starving Artists had zero options and were immortalized in literature, opera, and paintings as the tragic heroes of the art world. Those brilliant bohemians who couldn’t afford food or medicine and who will surely go mad while selling nothing upheld the values of what it truly means to be a great artist!

Modern artists just don’t have it as bad as these poverty-stricken historical icons, though. The barriers to entry into the art world can be harsh, but there are too many ways around them these days to take the Starving Artist archetype seriously. The modern Starving Artist is, more often than not, a person who just won’t get a job.

Starving Artist Superpowers

  • Talented
  • Entitled
  • Prententious and has better taste than anyone else
  • Principled to the point of being rigid and judgemental
  • Too proud to do menial work

A Happy Starving Artist
Though it would seem that getting a gig would make the Starving Artist happy, it actually makes the Starving Artist miserable. He or she will quickly find many things unbearably wrong with the work, the client, the whole situation. Because this type is not happy working and not happy not working, there is no such thing as a happy Starving Artist.

Famous Starving Artists
The four starving artists featured in La bohème by Puccini and Leoncavallo (later adapted to the musical Rent); the poet depicted in the painting “The Poor Poet” by Carl Spitweg; Vincent van Gogh; Taylor Mead

Starving Artists Entourage
The Starving Artist needs a benefactor and will look for one in these types and more: Prince, Princess, Angel, Lover, Class Leader, and Diva.

Starving Artist in Love
Love with an independently wealthy person (or at least someone with enough means to support the Starving Artist) is the best scenario for this type. The Starving Artist is usually attractive, charming, and wounded. He or she will appeal to the nurturing side of potential sweeties. People who like to help others and crave a bit of drama, beauty, and excitement in their lives are the ones most attracted to the Starving Artist. Even though the Starving Artist is essentially using his or her partner as a means of support, the partner is getting something out of it too, which the Starving Artist won’t be slow to point out.

Starving Artist Challenge
The internet and social media are making it harder and harder for the Starving Artist to pull off the act. Artists of all kinds no longer have to wait to be chosen by publishers, record companies, casting directors, agents, etc. They can post what they do online and make something happen for themselves. Therefore, there are fewer excuses and a lot less sympathy available for the broke bohemians.

How to Play It
The old spiritual song that goes, “God bless the child that’s got his own….” definitely applies to the Starving Artist. Any measure of independence that can be mustered is a step in the right direction. But mostly, the Starving Artist needs to get a job. And if that job is not what the Starving Artist wants to be doing, so what! That’s life. The Starving Artist needs to suck it up (then possibly turn the experience into art).

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