7 Ridiculous Myths About Artists

Assistant Editor, Carnegie Communications

Feb   2012



Recently, I stumbled upon the book Starting Your Career as an Artist: A Guide for Painters, Sculptors, Photographers, and Other Visual Artists by Angie Wojak and Stacy Miller. Having been a dancer for many years, I find myself naturally relating to performing arts, leaving me a bit uninformed when it comes to visual arts. So I dove into the book to learn as much as I could. A section that immediately caught my eye focused on myths about artists. These myths, to some extent, can actually serve as motivation to aspiring artists, but at the same time they can create bumps in the road. The book outlines some of the top myths, and for now, I am going to address the first three.

Myth: Artists need to suffer to make good art

Starving artist or not, suffering is not the golden ticket to inspiration and producing perfection. This myth is the most common of them all and gives an artist something to strive for, but believing the myth can depress and isolate an artist from his or her work. Artists sometimes feel whatever they do isn’t good enough and they will never see a dime of pay. The art world definitely presents its financial struggles at times, but it should give the artist more reason to be in the studio every day creating their very best work in hopes for a quick turn around.

Myth: Artists are loners

Artist or writer, some would agree it is best to work alone. But this myth has a sense of isolationism to it. It implies that artists cannot be apart of a community because they think their ideas will be stolen, when really, art is kind of a one-person project. Artists have fewer distractions when working alone and find themselves getting more accomplished that way. It is important that artists do not fall victim to this myth because it could eventually become physically and emotionally harmful to completely isolate yourself from the outside world.

Myth: Artists are victims who need to be rescued

To someone who does not know much about art, they may look at a painting in a literal sense and believe the work should speak for itself with little interpretation. This myth is an artist’s worst nightmare and may create a passive attitude towards his or her work. If people can’t appreciate the art for how it’s intended, the artist may become unmotivated and hopeless. When this happens, artists need to keep in mind that they must stay involved in their work and take control where it is needed.

Myth: Artists don’t have to deal with business or money in order to succeed

Some may think that artists don’t have a care in the world when it comes to money or business, and they just create art because it is their passion. I mean, afterall, artists aren’t the highest paid people in the business world, right? This may be true, but artists are probably the most concerned group of people when it comes to money and trying to make it in life. A lack of finances can diminish an artist’s confidence, perhaps causing them to quit all together. To add to that, even the successful artists need to have a few jobs on the side to have a stable income—they aren’t just making money from their art alone! Therefore, when it comes to this myth, an artist needs to think about money, and even integrate a little business knowledge, in order to become and stay successful in the art world.

Myth: Artists are discovered

This myth portrays the idea that talent is always discovered and makes every artist recognizable. Unfortunately, not all artists are going to be the next Picasso or Monet. In fact, very few artists are discovered for their work. Unfortunately, it takes artists a long time to create a name for themselves—if they ever do. First, they must create a plethora of art to form a recognizable style, and sometimes this could take up to a few years.

Myth: Teaching is an easy way to support my art

Teaching isn’t for everyone, and if you don’t think you are suited to be a teacher, then you probably shouldn’t become one. Artists often think that teaching is an easy way to secure a job and bring in money. However, what they do not realize is they may not have any time at all to actually produce art of their own when they become a teacher. Suddenly, all their time is dedicated to creating a schedule and making up lesson plans. On the other hand, teaching can be very rewarding and create a great networking environment. If the artist realizes that making a difference in another’s life by teaching is totally worth not having the down time to create art, then yes, teaching is a great way to gain financial support. However, if you just aren’t one of those people cut out to teach others, it is best to travel another path.

Myth: Artists can only truly make it in New York or Los Angeles

It’s easy to admit when you think big time art galleries, New York City or Los Angeles may first come to mind, but that should not stop an artist from looking elsewhere. If an artist believes that these are the only two places in the world that they can become successful, they are passing up great opportunities without even knowing it. There are many art centers located all over the country, and while they might not be as well-known as some places in New York or Los Angeles, there is still equal opportunity for recognition. Plus, with technology being as up to speed as it is today, there are numerous ways for artists to showcase their work and get noticed, regardless of location.

Hopefully these myths have given you a little more insight on the truth about artists. Just like anyone else, artists have to work for their money. It may be a bit of a struggle to get there at times, but with a lot of hard work, they can become that successful artist that once seemed impossible. 

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About Victoria Scibilia

Victoria Scibilia

Victoria Scibilia is a contributing editor for Carnegie Communications.