PK 039: Cory Huff on Why We Need to Dispel The Starving Artist Myth

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Making money from your art can be tough, but Cory Huff has helped countless artists succeed

“The reality is, for an artist to be successful, it’s extremely hard work.”


Cory Huff is on a mission: to help banish the myth of the starving artist for good. But how is he doing this? By teaching artists the world over how to turn their passion into a successful, sustainable career with his site, The Abundant Artist.

And, if you’re prepared to put the hours in, there’s no reason why you can’t do the same. As Cory says: “Basically, we help artists who want to make money understand how to do it”.

So what’s the number one roadblock that stops people from pursuing their creative dreams? “Without doubt, fear of failure and of not being taken seriously are common factors”, he explains.

But where does all this fear come from? And how did the mythological image of ‘the starving artist’ gain such a foothold in the minds of creative people?

According to Cory, the answers lie in a book by Henri Murger which was published way back in 1845. In ‘Scènes de la Vie de Bohème’ (Scenes of Bohemian Life), Murger describes the lifestyles of his aspiring artist friends, who spend most of their time thinking about being artists rather than actually working at becoming one.

It’s a fascinating collection of short stories which has inspired other famous works, most notably Puccini’s opera, La Bohèmewhich in turn provided the inspiration for  Jonathan Larson’s musical, Rent.


Do you have to be starving to be a real artist? Cory Huff says this is a myth we need to dispel

Dispelling the ‘Starving Artist’ Myth

Although the book was written several centuries ago, Cory says the same things hold true for some aspiring artists today. “We need to dispel the myth of the starving, layabout artist,” he says. “If you want to be a successful artist, you need to see yourself as a small business owner. You need to market your product, network with people, and do all the other stuff like building a good website to showcase your work.”

If this all seems like good, common-sense advice, that’s because it’s been gained from many years of experience and knowledge. Although he’s not a visual artist (he went to drama school and took a BA in acting), Cory first started helping his creative friends when he landed his first post-college job at an internet marketing company.

He soon realized that many of them needed help with marketing their work online, and that’s when he started writing blog posts on the subject. In turn, these became the foundations for all the resources available at The Abundant Artist.

Key Resources for Selling Your Art Online

One of the main pieces of advice Cory Huff gives to aspiring artists is this: Divide your time equally between making art and marketing it. It’s called the 50/50 rule, and it’s crucial if you’re in the early stages of setting up your art business.

He also recommends joining or forming a group of similarly-minded artists who are focussed on building their careers, and taking advantage of all the resources available to you.

The Abundant Artist has a free course on how to start selling your art online, but Cory also recommends reading these books to help you get started:

Cory Huff has also been busy writing his own book, which is due for publication in 2016. In the meantime, he says: “Check out all these great resources, see what they say, and then go and do what they recommend – it really is that simple!”

Ready to launch your art career and forget all about that ‘starving artist’?

Check Out This Week’s Podcast And Learn:

  • How to start thinking about your art as a business
  • How to avoid ‘self-sabotage’ and giving in to your fears
  • Why the online art market has changed everything
  • Why changing your mindset is one of the most important things you can do as an artist
  • Why writing a journal of your creative process can revolutionize the way you look at your art (seriously, this is such an easy thing to do, but it’s crazily effective!)

People on this Episode:


Mentioned in the episode:

The Abundant Artist Website
The Abundant Artist on Facebook

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6 thoughts on “PK 039: Cory Huff on Why We Need to Dispel The Starving Artist Myth”

  1. Ironically I had a flat tire today! Very helpful podcast like holding a mirror up to myself. Not always easy to look at or listen to but helpful and necessary. Pretty much echoing the sentiment of my mom, who did go to art school. A wise woman ahead of her time. I think she would have gotten a kick out of this podcast. Hopeful someday I get past the fear stage and move forward. All the best.

    Helena Ross

    1. Chris at PencilKings

      Hi Helena and thanks so much for your feedback. Like you say, getting flat tire on the same day is deeply ironic – hope all’s good with your car now? It’s fascinating to hear about your mom, and I hope we can help you move past that ‘fear’ stage and get into making the great art you know you’re capable of! Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you need any help doing this 🙂

  2. Definitely timely for me and something I feel every fearfully aspiring artist should hear. I especially love the journal idea. I want to get on that ASAP.

    P.S. I tried sharing this via pintrest but it failed. Eveything else worked though! ^ ^

    1. Chris at PencilKings

      Hi Dominique and thanks so much for your feedback 🙂 Yup, the journal idea is a great one – it’d be great to hear how you get on with that! I’ll be starting a thread on this topic in our community later this week, so stay tuned. I’ll look into that Pinterest issue – thanks for letting us know!

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