Starving Artist – What Are Your Beliefs?

So last year I read this book on the myth of the starving artist, by Jeff Goins, along with a whole other slew of books about how to sell art online, how to sell to interior designers, etc, etc, etc. So obviously I was a little obsessed with this topic. Last year, I also signed up for a motivational course called the 100 day challenge and my goal was how could I sell some artwork? This was my frustration, my conundrum, my quest for answers last year.

I thought I had done everything right. I went to art school, got into galleries and got awards at big art shows. For me I was still dissatisfied looking at the bank account every month. I was struggling to build savings, pay for health care and pay down student loan debt, let alone afford a nice studio. Now I would justify it to myself saying well you just have to be patient you’re only X amount of years into this or I would say to myself well you shouldn’t have gone into art if you wanted to make money – you chose something you love, so you can’t have it all. Wow! I started peeling back the layers to these really weird beliefs. I don’t know where they came from. I know many of them have been repeated to me over and over again. Yet I was not satisfied and these thoughts left me feeling helpless and even angry. Which left me questioning where did these thoughts come from?

Ever since art school I have had many people who would get upset that I would try to sell my artwork, they would knock that I was sales-y and make comments that eluded to the fact that I wasn’t a true artist because I was interested in selling my work. As if selling my art myself somehow made me an impure artist. Other incidents include times when I’ve shared my work in art groups online and put the price or my website link saying available and I would get disparaging remarks about how I’m sales-y again. Really? Just for including a link to my website or putting a price on it? Obviously, you’re going to offend someone no matter what you do, but the bigger point I’m trying to make is that this underlying sentiment about art and artists is still out there and it still swallows up I don’t know how many artists every year. I discovered that even I was afraid, the one accused of being so sales-y, of even sending an email to my mailing list about available work for sale. Afraid of their judgment, afraid they would unsubscribe. So I wound up feeling like this helpless little animal shivering in the corner just hoping one day…. maybe one day soon someone will call, email, somehow magically find me and say I want to buy a painting.

I’m writing this to say if you want to make a living as an artist you need to be open to other possibilities. Our world is changing and while I know the traditional gallery route can work for many it is not the only option now and it won’t work entirely for most. I’m super grateful for all the galleries that represent me and for the sales they make, but unfortunately the sales are still sparse for me in them. At one point I had work in 8 different galleries across the country and I still was barely making a living. Many of those have closed their doors since. Perhaps you don’t need that much, but mine is the only income I have. No one else is supporting me or helping me out and I decided to fight these pre-conceived notions of the humble starving artist because I was sick of feeling helpless. I was tired of feeling self-doubt because my work wasn’t selling.

My search last year let me to many books I’ve mentioned, most of which were quite good but still didn’t give me applicable tools or the ways they were recommending just weren’t my path (like licensing my work). The search led me to purchasing various art coaches downloadable books, the 100 day challenge and phone calls with non-art related business coaches.

*note about the 100 day challenge that I wrote about last year in the spring. It yielded incredible results for me and was an excellent motivational course. This course was only $180 and I still feel it was worth every penny. However, being a general motivational course it was not geared specifically towards building an art business. So after it was over, I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t have a business plan for the future so I was back to where I was before except having found a few ideas that I could use again in the future.

I moved to Colorado searching for a stronger art community than I was in both for personal growth and business needs. I was still on this quest for how to not be a starving artist anymore, and how I could create a business plan that was sustainable which still felt totally sacrilegious as an artist (even after uncovering why the myth of the starving artist exists and reading about how wealthy Michelangelo actually was). One day in my quest for answers I stumbled on a woman named Alexis Fedor, who was being interviewed by Owen Garrett. Alexis was starting a new course called the Profit Canvas and after listening to this and many of Alexis’s podcasts my intuition said that I needed to do this. I was skeptical and nervous about the cost of the program, but I felt I really need to give this a shot. She had a 30 day money back guarantee so that made up my mind.

Now, when I decide to do something it is a firm decision. When I signed up for Alexis’s course I decided I would do everything she recommended, I would be totally open to try it all and I would give as much time to it as it called for even if that meant I wasn’t painting very much. For me there’s nothing more disempowering than having made lots of beautiful paintings and they wind up collecting dust in your studio. I also know you can’t expect all of your work to sell, but the ratio of sold to sold was unsatisfying for me. I also knew my work was good, and I’m constantly striving to get better so I knew I wasn’t selling because of low quality work…or because my prices were too high.

Alexis’s course hit everything for me: questioning those beliefs and forming new ones, finding out what I personally need and where I naturally flow in my work, finding more value in my work, discovering what my collectors needed and wanted from me, creating a revenue plan that was in alignment with what I’m already creating and adding in so many new options that are filling in the gaps…because I’m not just selling 5k paintings constantly, learning how to do marketing better and research and improving my social media marketing and email marketing. I’m reaching more people with my work and now in a variety of ways, not just through selling paintings.

I’m writing this in hopes that it may help another artist out there. I’m sure I still have much to learn, but for the first time in 6 years of my art career I feel like I’m the captain of my art business ship and I have systems in place now for continued success which makes me feel secure.

I cannot express enough gratitude to Alexis for this course!

If you are at all interested, Alexis is offering a free taste-tester course starting April 14th called the Creator’s Profit Plan and you can get in now for instant access here:

You won’t regret it.


Kelli Folsom

Oh, here’s one of my newest paintings….and you guessed it….It is for sale!!! Just go to my website to find out more. I also invite you to become part of my artistic community here.

Love in Light, Kelli

2 thoughts on “Starving Artist – What Are Your Beliefs?

  1. Thank you, Kelli, for your inspiring piece on the myth of the starving artist. Especially because it led me to your website, where there are so many “Sold” paintings WITH PRICES! Your words are spot on! I will be watching…and painting!

Leave a Reply

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

50% OFF
––– Sale Ends 9/04/2023 –––

70% OFF
––– Sale Ends 7/17/2023 –––

Father's Day Sale
~ Sale Ends 6/18/2023 ~
Free gift with every painting purchase - Spring Flowers Book
40% OFF
––– SALE ENDS 6/25/2023 –––
30 Ways to Master Still Life
FREE Gift with Every PAINTING PURCHASE: Signed Copy of Kelli's Book 30 Ways to Master Still Life Painting
Mother's Day Sale
~ Sale Ends 5/14/2023 ~
Free gift with every painting purchase - Spring Flowers Book
Kelli Folsom Luminous Fine Art

Join My Collector's Circle

SAVE 25% OFF Your First Order

Enter your email below to join my FREE Collector’s Circle Newsletter and I’ll email you a 25% OFF coupon right away!

Welcome to My Collector's Circle

I’m delighted you joined!

Please check your inbox for your 25% OFF coupon!

FREE Gift with Every Painting Purchase!
"GRATITUDE" Prayers Book

Contact Kelli Folsom Fine Art