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Artists, Money, and Envy

Posted by Rebecca Blake on January 26, 2015

Colleen DoranWhen the San Francisco Gate reported that author Danielle Steele’s assistant embezzled $400,000 from her accounts, many comments to the article relished the author’s financial woes. The rancor of comments led cartoonist/writer Colleen Doran to muse on the conflicted relationship artists have with money. It’s a situation made toxic by low expectations, envy, and hackneyed stereotypes.

In Art and Money, Doran describes her pursuit of financial stability as a bid for freedom to pursue her art — a habit of fiscal prudence she shares with F. Scott Fitzgerald. Yet artists who are financially successful are met with scornful envy. Doran writes:

“What sick mixed messages this ambivalence about material success sends to creators. They are constantly told they are fools for being artists, doing work for the love. Then they are told they are fools for doing art for money. They are fools for not managing money well. Then they are told that artists are constitutionally incapable of handling money because they are foolish artists.”

(Fitzgerald is spared this abuse because he died practically destitute, although because of his wife’s overwhelming medical bills, rather than any artistic financial ineptitude.)

The point of Doran’s article is one that she repeatedly makes: knowing how to manage money can make the difference between being a full-time artist, or one held back by juggling thankless part-time jobs. Buying into the stereotype of the starving artist, and denigrating those who are successful only holds artists back from realizing their goals as creators and successful business owners.

Photo of Colleen Doran used with permission.

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