Book Review: Real Artists Don’t Starve by Jeff Goins

Oh. My. God. I stumbled across this book accidentally while waiting for my Lyft ride at a FedEx in San Diego, California. It’s called Real Artists Don’t Starve by Jeff Goins. The title was very catchy and it definitely caught my attention. I didn’t end up getting it on loan at the library until a few months later but it was definitely worth the wait.

From the moment the audiobook started playing in the introduction section, it made me shiver with delight and excitement. I wanted to learn more about what Jeff Goins had to say. His initial story about Michelangelo and debunking the myth of the romanticized view of the starving artist had my full attention. I was only listening to a few paragraphs of the introduction and then had the itching desire to just BUY the book and keep it in my arsenal of business and art marketing tools. Yep, the hook was that good.

While I don’t want to give it all away, I wanted to share with you some of the highlights that made me keen on reading this entire book. In Real Artists Don’t Starve, Goins discussed the 12 Rules of the New Rennaissance, which is what ultimately got me to listen in a little closer than other books I have come across on how to make it as an artist in our contemporary world. And yes, I am ecstatic to go through some of my favorites with you today! Here’s a preview of the list:

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1. The Starving Artist believes you must be born an artist. The Thriving Artist knows you must become one.

I must admit that I have fallen into the trap of the former mindset. This idea we have about gifts or talents can be initially comforting, but at the same time, a very common pitfall. Too often, I’ve thought, well, art is in my blood and DNA, maybe that’s why I’m good? Most days, that is enough, but when there are times when I struggle with self-doubt and criticism with my artwork, I become crippled and stuck. Practice makes us better, and it ultimately leads to our self-discovery and new ideas. Now, I don’t wait for inspiration to strike me before creating a painting. Instead, I now just pick up a brush as scheduled on my daily calendar and paint away.

2. The Starving Artist strives to be original. The Thriving Artist steals from his influences.

I remember an art instructor in college telling me and my classmates that in art, everything has already been done and nothing is completely new. Everything. I was completely mortified! How was I going to stand apart from my peers, and better yet, my predecessors in the art world? Do you actually mean to say that ideas I have about painting with only one brushstroke and calling it art have already been done??? (*edit: I looked this up and yes, it has. See James Nares) Hearing this statement by Goins was thought-provoking and also very freeing. I don’t have to feel pressured to create something entirely unheard of to be recognized as an esteemed artist worthy of attention. I can turn to my inspirations and influences to create something multi-faceted, intriguing, and meaningful. I love this!

10. The Starving Artist sells out too soon. The Thriving Artist owns his work.

Yes, yes, a thousand times Y – E – S! Reading this statement gave me so much validation on my stance about selling my original paintings. Friends and patrons have constantly asked me if I am selling my original artworks, and yes, to a certain degree I am. However, I tend to keep most of my originals (at this time) because I am creating a body of work that will be important to make a collection. I’m not simply hoarding my works to myself because I can’t let go of them. I am preparing for a future endeavor that will be greater than my wildest dreams imaginable. When I set goals, I go big, but with the SMART acronym in mind–specific, measurable, achievable, realistic, and timely. And looking back at my track record and notebooks filled with yearly goals since 2013, I’ve been pretty good at keeping myself in check and following through! And finding the right patron who appreciates my work and my background as an artist/doctor has always been worth the wait.

11. The Starving Artist masters one craft. The Thriving Artist masters many.

So much this–this is me in a nutshell! I don’t believe I have ADHD, but sometimes, I do wonder whenever my creative brain just wants to do all the things all at once. Then I realize, nope, it’s just my anxiety. 😛 All that aside, I do enjoy learning for life and that goes along with art-making as well. I love picking up new art materials from the art store and figuring out how to incorporate them into my current art process. For instance, I recently learned woodburning, making digital illustrations, and creating custom templates/webpages/business cards as a freelance artist! I not only enjoy learning about how to do them, but also make an effort to learn how to do them well. Thanks to my endless blogging, tinkering on-and-off with websites and Adobe Creative Suite addiction, I can easily explore these other paths of art-making and creative processes and relate them back to my work.

12. The Starving Artist despises the need for money. The Thriving Artist makes money to make art.

Alright, as a recovering starving graduate student in the past 6 years, I have been programmed to scrimp and save for tomorrow like I’ll always be in student debt or there’s not gonna be any jobs forever. Since I became a part of the real world and working class, my idea of money has somewhat stayed the same. But you know what? Goins has a darn good point and his view on how money fits into the thriving artist’s life has changed my views on this dramatically. So much so that I have decided that this is my new mantra for 2018 and on–make money to make more art. I am fortunate to be employed and receiving a steady income while I fulfill my artistic goals on the side. This allows me the stability and ease of mind to freely make artwork without the nagging pressure of selling or producing work in order to eat, afford gas for my car, or pay my mortgage. I now see the value in seeing money, not as an endgame and ultimate reason to make art, but as a tool or resource that allows me to keep making art. By thinking about money as a means to create more art, it not only fuels your work but allows you to think bigger and better each time around. Money is ephemeral, much as we’d like it not to be so, and since it comes and goes, we should stop chasing it like those waterfalls. Instead, chase ideas, new techniques, color palettes, learn from new influences and let the creativity flow. Humans are social beings by nature, and the more you exude a deep, sincere interest in your art-making and share it with the world, the more you gain others’ interest (and also hopefully their greenbacks).

 

Overall, I appreciated all the examples of contemporary artists/entrepreneurs Goins provided throughout the book, such as Jay Z, Dr. Dre, Michael Jackson, and so on. The material was very approachable and an easy read. Each chapter was more motivating than the last, and I found myself taking notes and asking myself some questions about how each thought applied to my art-making and business plan. So, if you are at all interested in Goins’ book Real Artists Don’t Starve and his take on how to make it as a thriving artist in today’s world, this is definitely the book for you!

 


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