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Molly Crabapple on Thriving as an Artist in the Internet Age

Posted by Rebecca Blake on February 04, 2015

Artist and writer Molly Crabapple is no stranger to controversy, having co-founded the burlesque life-drawing class Dr Sketchy’s Anti-Art School, creating large-scale works on the financial collapse for a crowd-funded exhibit, The Shell Game, and reporting in words and illustration on topics such as Guantanamo Bay for Vice. She also has come into her own as a creator during the Internet age, an era constant and rapid change in the ways artists grow their careers. It’s not surprising that she was asked to share her thoughts on achieving creative success in that rough-and-tumble environment.

In “Molly Crapapple’s rules for creative success in the Internet Age” Crabapple offers some pithy and realistic advice for artists.  She addresses the pitfalls of comparing one’s success to others, advising creators to take a close look at the trajectory of well known artists’ careers, and pointing out that her own success was not the result of a “big break.” Much of her advice is the kind of common sense your mother would pass on (but expressed in refreshingly frank language): don’t be a jerk, treat your fans with respect, don’t be lazy, move past rejection.

It’s when she addresses the financial aspects of working as a creator that Crabapple hits hard. She particularly advises against working for free – either by creating original work for contests, or for clients with money – pointing out those who do so are gutting the market for other artists. Some of her strongest language is reserved for online platforms that encourage artists to post work: “They're just using you to build their own thing, and they'll discard you when they sell the company a few years later.”

She summarizes by encouraging artists to be idealistic about their art even while being cynical of the business of art. As she wrote, “Nothing will save us but ourselves and each other.”

Illustration © Molly Crabapple. Used with permission.

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