If you read “Real Artists Don’t Starve” expecting it to give you a blueprint on exactly what to do, you will be disappointed. That is not the point of a book like this.
The premise behind Real Artists Don’t Starve is that each person has their own creative journey and you need motivation to turn your passion into something sustainable. You cannot create a blueprint for something like this.
Every person’s creative outlet is different, every person comes from a different background which is going to influence how they tackle the concepts, this is how creativity is supposed to work. To expect someone to take a concept like this and say “Here’s exactly how you do this” is disingenuous.
Keeping this in mind, let’s get to the review.
Real Artists Don’t Starve is broken up into three themes, with four chapters to highlight each theme. These are mindset, market and money, and each chapter within the theme is meant to highlight a related point.
While there are many examples throughout the book to highlight these points, the running example is Michelangelo. Because Michelangelo believed he had come from a noble family, he used this belief to fuel his endeavors. By believing that his work was a way to bring honor back to his family name, he gave himself the push to create his best work and demand honorable recognition for what he did.
This belief also led him to always strive to be better and learn more so that he could distinguish himself and his family. Michelangelo didn’t set out to be a master of every craft imaginable, but he did explore new crafts as he continued his work, and he set out to become a master in every craft he explored.
I think this is an important distinction to remember. No one can become a master of every craft in their industry. You need to choose the ones that can further promote your work and seek to become a master, or at least proficient, at the crafts you adopt.
The section on mindset goes into the need to continue to learn and perfect your craft. A big point throughout this section is accepting that others have come before you and you need to be willing to learn from them and build off the work they have done.
Everything created is adopted from something before. He uses the example of Jim Henson, who used the combination of variety shows and puppet shows to create something unique and engaging all his own. He didn’t create something new, he adopted ideas from others and made them his own.
This section also went into the need to be stubborn about sticking to your vision and seeing your work through. While you always want to be adaptable in the steps that get you where you want to be, you want to be firm in the vision at the end.
The section on the market encourages the reader to understand that you shouldn’t try to go it alone. There are connections that can be made where artists can find encouragement, instruction, and the ability to get their work seen. You need to be willing to network and make the connections that will get your work noticed and allow you to continue in it.
The market section encourages you to be ready and willing to be noticed and, more importantly, to have your work noticed. It is about dispelling the idea that the best work is done in isolation.
While the market section encourages you to practice your craft in the public eye so it can get noticed, the money section makes the distinction between the practice and the final products. When it comes to creating your unique work for others, you must learn to place value on that work and require payment.
The money section also encourages you to take ownership of your work rather than trusting an industry to look out for what’s best for you. Part of taking ownership is diversifying your work so it can stand out. This means learning new crafts, engaging new ideas, and expanding on the vision.
This book is meant to motivate you, to let you see the potential that is available to the artist and craftsmen. There are examples sprinkled throughout that give you a glimpse into how others made these principles work for them, but the whole point is that each person has a unique perspective and unique circumstances. You must learn how to apply the principles to where you are.
That is the beauty of creativity; there is no set way to apply these principles. We are each adding our point of view to the work that has come before us.
If you want a how-to book that says exactly what you must do at each step, this is not the book for you. If you want guiding principles to help you open your mind to the possibilities and give you motivation to find your unique way to make your mark in your craft, this book will be helpful.
I would recommend this book to anyone starting out with a new craft, anyone scared to put themselves out there, and anyone struggling to get their work noticed.