Primary Navigation

071. Rethink: The Artist Formerly Known as Starving

There’s that scene in the film Moulin Rouge! where you get a glimpse into the broken down apartment and living conditions of a group of artists who are scraping by in Paris at the start of the twentieth century. There is something oddly romantic about how the artists are relying on each other and scraping by because of their art.

This week, Ryan and Garreth sit down to talk about the often-heard phrase of the starving artist. We have beaten this idiom into the psyche of our current culture so well, but where did it come from? What does it mean? And why do we feel so compelled to use it? No one likes to starve, but artists and designers love to measure their worth by this small phrase. Maybe we don’t have to.

Support us on Patreon!
You’ve all been a great audience and we want to give you more: more content, more types of shows, and more in-depth talks with more of your favorite artists and designers. Check out the great incentives we have for our patrons, because even $1.00 a month can make a huge difference. Check out more at

Four Horsemen & the Apocalypse!
After a pandemic hiatus, Shockoe Artspace has a new exhibition! We have four phenomenal artists who are making some amazing work that will be shown from October to February. For more information, be sure to check out the Shockoe Artspace website.

Stream our documentary The Builder!
Our award-winning film centers on the art scene in Richmond, Virginia, with a focus on Oregon Hill native and contractor Don Childress, who–to the surprise of many–has an incredible contemporary art collection. This collection includes work from Francisco Clemente, Ron Johnson, and Bill Fisher to name just a few. Check out more on Vimeo!


  1. Hi Ryan and Garreth,

    Great episode and insights about the “starving artist” trope, one that has annoyed me to no end for a long time. At 56, I would guess that I’m a “mid-career” painter who has been pretty successful at having what I consider a thriving art practice. By thriving, I mean that I have always have had time to paint, while having a day job (retail) that didn’t entail mental exhaustion. Almost every life choice I’ve made has revolved around maintaining my studio work. While cash can be low at times, I’ve never believed in being a starving artist, even as a high school student, that ideal seemed a bit cartoonish to me. Simply put, if I have some food, shelter, can pay bills (or pay towards balances) and a place to paint, it’s all good!

    I grew up pretty poor and things were always tight, but I suppose that a matter of perspective kept me from thinking I was ever ‘starving’, which I wasn’t. Later, as a college student, I still didn’t believe in the trope. I learned about some of the realities of being an artist early on, but never took on a poverty mindset in order to prove my artistic authenticity. When I talk to younger artists, I always strive to let them know that they create their own realities as creative people. I talk about setting attainable goals and expectations and most importantly, leaning to be flexible; maybe making that 12 foot painting might have to wait until you have the space, so you make smaller paintings, you might have to consider different mediums because of cost or other factors or any number of things that require some deviation from your dream path as an artist.

    All of this is to say that I’m so glad that you guys spoke about the “starving artist” myth in a candid manner and thanks for putting the message out there. Keep up the good work!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *