Thinking Out Loud

September 14, 2017

Practical Advice for the Aspiring Actor, Poet, Playwright, Singer, Songwriter

Good news for the aspiring artist: You don’t have to starve. Furthermore, Jeff Goins believe there are four financial paths an artist can follow, with poverty and starvation being simply one option!

Real Artists Don’t Starve isn’t the usual type of book we cover here. Because I review books for HarperCollins Christian Publishing, it’s offered through their distribution system. I asked for a copy so I could read it for my son — an aspiring actor and writer — and then pass the copy on to him.

Author Jeff Goins is someone I ran into years ago in the Christian blog world, and he himself got some early mentoring from Michael Hyatt, former CEO of Thomas Nelson. Some of you will recognize his name from the cover of the 2015 NIV Bible for Men, hence the inclusion here, but for the most part, he’s followed the trail to writing business and marketing titles, albeit from a Christian perspective. His catalog includes The In Between (Moody Press, 2013), The Art of Work (Thomas Nelson, 2015) and now Real Artists Don’t Starve: Timeless Strategies for Surviving in the New Creative Age.

The book is divided into three sections, (a) developing the right mind-set, (b) approaching and understanding the market, and (c) the thorny issue of money; getting paid. In each are four chapters and overall the book is well-crafted reading.

Goins relies heavily on both anecdotal accounts from artists alive and well and historical biographies of artists from past centuries, the latter mostly from the visual arts. (I would have liked more composers in the mix, but that’s my only criticism.) Some of this was accomplished through regular research, but he also was able to obtain a number of face-to-face interviews to give this project much original content.

So what’s his advice?

Some of it flies in the face of what the non-artist might conclude. Be original? Goins says it’s okay to steal, though he does qualify that. Be good at one thing? Goins says you need a diversified portfolio. Be generous just to get your art out there? Goins tells artists never to give their art away for free. Find a Patron? (Or Patreon, but he doesn’t say that!) Goins suggests it’s a great way to go, but you might have to be your own patron, at least at the start, earning income through regular work that supports you and your art.

In other words, this is realistic. But he also says that there are steps you can take so you don’t starve.

Unable to wait to send my son the book, I sent him a few excerpts:

Starving Artists wait for their Big Breaks.
Thriving Artists become apprentices in their crafts. (p.40)

[on Zach Prichard]  But let’s not misinterpret what happened here: talent did not do this; tenacity did. If you want to see your work succeed, you must be stubborn. You must be willing to keep going, even in the face of adversity. On the surface, stubbornness may look like a liability, but in creative work, it can be an asset.  (p. 65)

Once we have mastered our mind-sets, we must tackle the market. Here, we cross the threshold from being creative to doing creative work. This is the place where we become professionals and learn how this works in the real world. This is where we network and advertise our talents to the masses. And if we do this well, people will not just pay attention, they will also pay us. (p. 69)

All creative works need influencers who will vouch for them to an audience who doesn’t know them yet. But it is not enough to meet a patron; you must cultivate one… If you are going to create work that matters, you are going to need an advocate — a person who sees your potential and believes in your work. (p. 75)

We hold in our minds a certain picture of a professional artist as a lone creator, some solitary genius who executes a vision all by himself, slaving away at the work with only his thoughts and brilliance to keep him company. But this is a gross misunderstanding of how real artists get their work done. As creativity researcher Keith Sawyer says, “You can’t be creative alone. Isolated individuals are not creative. That’s not how creativity happens.” (p. 110)

Those are all from the first half. I don’t want to give too much away here. But the book is full of many, many nuggets of wisdom like this. And yes, I did finish the book, all 232 pages, even re-reading some sections at the beginning after turning the last page. (Sidebar: The way the bibliography was set up — almost conversationally — was absolutely brilliant.)

To be clear to regular readers here, this isn’t “Devotions for Artists.” Jeff Goins is a Christian writer, but the book is published under the Nelson Books imprint. Again, it doesn’t conform to my usual reading habits, but it was interesting and edgy enough to keep me turning pages. Reading it through my son’s eyes made a lot of difference as well.

 

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June 20, 2016

Profile: Artist James Ruddle

James Ruddle Henderson Bridge

Henderson MuralThis one has an interesting story. It started with our oldest son, who moved into a townhouse complex about two blocks from where he had been living before, at Tyndale University. As we got to know the area we noticed a very large mural under a railway bridge, and on one occasion, walking to get some pizza, we took some pictures. My youngest son tried to match the pose of one figure — he missed the whole leg crossing thing — but put it on his Facebook page. (The picture at the top only shows half of it, the rest wraps around the corner.)

But it just so happened he was standing next to the name of the artist who had painted the mural; no small feat considering the size of the thing. One of his friends posted, “James Ruddle is an awesome Christian artist! Love his work.”

It was like someone activated the push-button starter on the journalist in me. I was determined to know more. So I checked out JamesRuddle.com and clicking on ‘Community Projects’ found the story of how the bridge mural was painted over six days.

Then I clicked on ‘Christian Art,’ which was, after all, the object of my search, only to discover we’ve encountered him before here on the blog, just not by name. He was the artistic director for the centerpiece of “The Gospel” a video we featured here to highlight the performing arts efforts of a local church east of Toronto, C4; which also became an art installation in the main lobby of the church.

C4 Church - Gospel Video Cross

The video bears another look, so…

His Wikipedia page also caught my interest, describing the time he spent 72 hours in a box to paint the walls and ceiling of the McMaster University Student Center. A story on a large triptych in a local church describes his unusual technique which blends both art and welding skills.

James is definitely a one-of-a-kind artist. You can follow his various projects on Twitter @jamesruddle and on his YouTube channel, The James Show (where you can see his blowtorch technique in action) and at Deviant Art (where you can see his latest project, portraits of the Royal Family.)


It’s amazing how your story can partially overlap on someone else’s journey. Two of the churches mentioned in links in this piece — Carruther’s Creek (aka C4) and Forest Brook Community Church — are both located in the eastern part of the Greater Toronto Area, and are both churches that until recently we would get to visit every summer. We attended C4 for two years, and were married in the church for which Forest Brook is a ‘daughter-church.’ (They didn’t speak of ‘plants’ back then, but rather used the more interesting term, ‘hiving off.’) If you know someone who lives in Scarborough, Pickering, Ajax, Whitby or doesn’t mind driving a distance; we recommend both churches.

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