Starving Dinosaurs, Apps, Homes and What was that About Owls?!
I like to think of artists as the velociraptors of the career world. You may create all kinds of boundaries; put in place rules and policies that encourage conformity; yet frequently, it is the artist that pushes at the edges of societies and finds a way. “You clever girl!" to quote Jurassic Park.
Not too long ago, a colleague whispered to me over lunch: “Hey Jen, your neighbourhood is in the paper.” Owrly? ('Oh really', for those who love English). The article in question was about how hard it is to afford a house in Toronto these days, let alone the neighbourhood you grew up in. Owrly? This think piece went on to lament that an artist cannot possibly afford to live in this city. It is now impossible! You see the irony is, I can point to several artists who are doing just this. Yes, they have day jobs. The element that makes them highly creative types is also a valued and marketable job skill.
I then started thinking of the idiom of the starving artist. Are we creative types destined to be poor if we do not reach art stardom before the age of 30? How rich were the great master painters of the Renaissance for instance? So I did what any good library employee would do and I dug up some information from JSTOR – a really amazing database full of scholarly research that, get this, does citations for you! I learned that painters were paid in a form of money known as scudi, on contract (this is not news), and that a good income paid in scudi is roughly say 30 or so scudi a year. Now someone like a Caravaggio, who was really well-known, could earn between 20 and 200 scudi per commission. Enough to afford housekeeping, which I’m beginning to think is essential to getting anything creative done. Someone like Leonardo DaVinci it is said, had enormous difficulty getting paid his commissions and subsided off of his engineering skills. Do you know how much the last DaVinci painting sold for?! Poor Leo is laughing or crying in the beyond. Whereas Hieronymus Bosch was independently wealthy, so we have his full artistic domain left to this day.
Even Caravaggio was not the most loved artist of his school. That title would belong to the not as recognizable by today's standards painter, named Guido Reni. (Please go look up "Aurora"). Caravaggio, even though he was a known murderer still received commissions and work, his penance was simply to stay out of the offended city. If Caravaggio had lived today, he would be cashing in on quite the book market. In recent years, his exploits have inspired historical fiction. But if Caravaggio did come back and find himself abhorred instead of highly sought after, he now has a further option. Now there is crowdfunding! He need only convince people to first follow him, then back him as a subscriber to his personal project and in return, they get to watch the process. The honest truth is that there is a lot of networking that goes into a successful artist's career, you need to get heard and be recognized. While I would suggest waiting a couple of months and watch a site like Patreon before investing too much time in it (that last update was upsetting to some), and also check out sites like Kickstarter and GoFundMe.
I recently returned from Nova Scotia and the best advice on artists and housing comes from Maud Lewis who painted her teeny, tiny cabin on every surface. The home is made by the artist, the home does not make the artist. Her cottage is now permanently housed inside the Maud Lewis Gallery in the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia and takes up a only fraction of the gallery. Unfortunately no photography is allowed but to give an estimate of size, it is roughly 100-200 square feet tops. The story of the house is simple, people could see it from the road and fell in love with it.
Those dinosaurs escaped their enclosure if I remember correctly. Now if only there was a magical card in the city that could teach cleverness!