Real Artists Don’t Starve: Book Review

Jeff Goins wrote this book to dispel the myth that artists are destined to have difficulty making a living with their art. Which is good news! Let’s see how he does it.

The author developed 12 principles for what he has termed the thriving artist or the rules of the new renaissance. The principles are explained within three divisions of the book, mindset, marketing and money. The subtitle for the book is “Timeless strategies for thriving in the new creative age.”

This book is very dependent on “ case studies”, as the author explaines, of artists and how they have made a living with their art. The first case study is Michelangelo. Rab Hatfield, an art historian, discovered bank accounts that document Micelangelo’s immense wealth. A myth busted as Michelangelo seemed to prefer to be thought of as a struggling artist. This sets the tone for the rest of the book. Each chapter of the book is based on one of the principles of a thriving artist and each is chock full of stories of various artists who found success following one of the principles.

At first, the stories are enjoyable, like a nice pep talk. The reader is feeling good about the prospects. But after section 1 of the book on mindset, things get a little repetitive and by section 3, I was skimming pages. The stories began to run together and I skimmed through them looking for the principle which was often the last paragraph of the chapter and was used to glibly sum up the chapter.

The thriving artist collaborates with others.

Real Artists Don’t Starve Jeff Goins

That was the disappointing part of the book for me. Many of the principles are not new, most creative people will come to these conclusions in short order. But, beyond that, there really is little guidance on how to accomplish the principles. The last sentence of chapter 11: “ We must own our masters or our masters will own us.” Easy to say, not so easy to do!

Chapter 6 entitled ”Go join a scene”, gives the example of Vincent Van Gogh and his time in Paris when he was exposed to the work of the Impressionist and how his brother Theo was a source of support for him. I agree, Paris transformed Van Gogh’s work. I’m not sure Van Gogh is the best example of “ joining a scene”, but I get the idea. 

I think this book reads better as a collection of “ how they made it” stories that can be used as a source of inspiration to artists. For guidance on how to achieve success one should look elsewhere.

Reading the story of Van Gogh and Theo brought to mind Johanna Van Gogh-Bonger, Theo’s wife. I’ve always been amazed at what she did to bring Van Gogh’s work to the attention of the public. Without her, who knows? Would Van Gogh’s paintings be stashed away in someone’s attic? I did a Google search for books about Johanna’s story and sure enough, “All for Vincent” by Hans Luijten was written in 2019. An English translation is in the works! I’ll be waiting!


    • wendy says:

      Hey Sharon! My registration page is not live. Hope to have it activated soon! Watch your inbox for your invitation to join the club!

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