Every Sunday morning, my father would take his family to "The Starving Artist Show" at the Holiday Inn in Bellevue, Washington. First, we'd enjoy a Sunday brunch, where my brother and I would fill our bellies with strawberries, pancakes, and bacon. Then we'd be turned loose to discover the next artists who would become famous.
The Art World According to My Dad
I was raised with the notion that all artists starved while waiting to be discovered—a feat requiring a combination of luck and talent. My dad talked about art and the art world as if he were an experienced collector. He said it was extremely rare and nearly impossible to succeed in the art world, and that most artists die anonymously with rooms full of their paintings never to be seen by anyone.
After failing to steer my artistic interests toward architecture, my dad encouraged me to pursue art. He bought me art supplies and talked about how I could paint as a hobby as something to do while I raised children. He expected me to marry a doctor, lawyer, or engineer who would take care of me while I raised his children and played with my paints.
Our First Steps in the Art World
Much to my dad's disappointment, I earned a BFA in painting and married another artist who was completely unemployable. I didn't have a concrete plan for what John and I would do with our lives, but I thoroughly believed the myth of the starving artist.
To everyone's shock, John and I both got jobs painting and creating art for the decor market soon after graduating from college. We made small salaries but painted for a living. Although a year later we went freelance and painted from our home studio and sold art to dealers, I still didn't really believe deep down artists could make it or be affluent with art sales. I thought at best we would get by, churning out art for dealers hoping they wouldn't dump us and leave us to starve.
The dealers affirmed our groveling hearts with statements like, “You both are pretty lucky to be connected with us here at 'Such and Such Fine Art'! Without us, who knows what would happen to you.” Or “If you don't like how it works here, there's the door. We have desperate artists lined up down the street hoping to work with us here.” We believed them and tried to behave ourselves at all times.
Determined to Fulfill Our Daughters' Dreams
Five years into our careers, we were working with a dealer in Scottsdale, Arizona, and a few other outlets still in Georgia. Our daughters, Dimitra and Dafni, were three and one years old, and they really wanted a swimming pool to beat the Arizona heat. We took them to the neighborhood pool, but there were always wild older boys who ran, jumped, and roughhoused, which scared them.
We really wanted to get a pool at the house, but the quote came in at $30,000! We had $10,000 in a savings account, and that was it. John and I got together and made a plan: we could sell over $30,000 in art that month and pay for the pool in cash. This would mean a lot of hustle, negotiating, and painting 80-plus hours each week for both of us.
The Power of Dreams and Determination
We were determined. We created a power statement, gave it to God, and got to work. We didn't let up once the entire month. We tallied our sales at the end of the month and realized we made $35,000. We could pay all of our bills and buy our daughters their swimming pool. John and I looked at each other, and at that moment, we realized we were in control of our destiny. We truly had free will. That was the moment I knew the starving artist myth was a lie.
From that point on, I knew my success was entirely dependent on my choices and strategies while listening to God. For the rest of my life, no one could ever tell me that artists can't make it—that I was lucky to work with some dealer or gallery who was my savior from poverty and that without them, I was doomed.
Crossing Over: Entering a New World of Possibilities
I had completely crossed over to the other side and entered an extraordinary world. This was where the dream chasers lived—a world shaped by destiny and purpose. In this world, I made my own decisions and was free from others' expectations and prejudices. The naysayers, haters, and jealous types couldn't touch me in this world. Our swimming pool served as a baptism, where we were reborn into a world of endless possibilities. $30,000 could be anything—it could be $100,000 or a million; it could be an island in Greece, a worldwide art institute, or even a movement that shaped culture.
Whatever we could dream of, whatever we could conceive, could be accomplished through a strong work ethic, a sound strategy, and consistent focus. Now, we were unstoppable and had the elixir for others to cross over too!