Late nights, insomnia and overstock of noodles: A look into the lives of the unknown and creative thinkers. 

“Life in hell” – Matt Groening. Illustration: Matt Groening

 

“The struggle is real,” a common phrase associated with many young and independent artists. From fashion designers to musicians, photographers to Arts students. The phrase couldn’t be more widespread, but the important question to ask is how do they all get by?

19th century outcast poet, Aulnay Dubois, once said life is a grave mystery that leaves us in void. To some extent, one could say Dubois’ solemn wise words best describes the situation most creatives or commonly known as “struggling artists” find themselves. A deep sea filled with never-ending void.

The world we inhabit is a cold and dismal place, whether we – as stubborn humans that we are – like to admit it or not. In order to keep sane in a mad, mad, mad, mad world, activities such as weekend visits to galleries and museums prove to be essential and healthy for the brain, particularly considering how much technology and social media we’re bombarded with.

Moreover, one must find it bemusing that creatives and artists hustle and bustle so hard in order to just make minimal living; considering the Creative Industries accounted for 1.71 million jobs in 2013, according to Gov.uk.

Speaking to Kaveh Rhodes, a musician and music studies graduate, he describes the industry as ‘pretentious and damning.’ According to award-winning news website Salon.com, “Taxpayers bail out failing corporate firms, but there’s no help, or Springsteen anthem, for struggling creatives.”

Statistical research show that those in the creative field – musicians, painters, illustrators, designers etc. – average a salary of less than £20,000 per year, while arts graduates earn a maximum of £17,300 as their starting salary.

Reports by statistic website, CreativeIndustries.co.uk, indicate that the creative and arts industry generated 76.9 billion pounds Gross Value Added (GVA) in 2013, a 9.4 per cent increase that sees the industry surpass any other UK industry sector.

Creative industry employment figures. Courtesy: Gov.uk
Creative industry employment figures. Courtesy: Gov.uk

Despite all the statistics favouring the industry, figures and research shown only seem to imply an affiliation with the corporate big boys down at Canary Wharf. In a recent report made by ArtTactic.com, giant art brokers such as Sotheby’s and Christies raised a total of 6.2 billion pounds in the previous calendar year. In some ways these reports mirror the Conservative party’s ideology of the rich getting richer whilst the poor…you know the rest.

Student-friendly careers advice website, Prospoects.ac.uk, in a recent report show that 39.3 per cent of types of work entered in the UK are within the arts, design and media department. In comparison to the likes of law and business, the figure is relatively low.

Reiterating the earlier stated question, how do artists survive? Another question that only seems right to ask is, why go into the industry? Or simply why become an artist?

Nouveaux caught up with three talented creatives (Jordan, Jessica, Ben) from different aspects of the industry, to answer the aforementioned questions and talk about survival, education and ambitions.

 

Nouveaux: Hi guys, appreciate you talking with me today. Firstly, what is it like being solo artists or as some would call “struggling artists”?

Ben: It’s quite up and down to be honest. I don’t know what the others think, but myself being a Fine Art artist and a student I find it to be tremendously tasking juggling both Uni and personal work. The lifestyle is not as its portrayed in films and TV (well, Hollywood), you know like being an artist means you’re cool and so chilled and you have nothing to worry about in life. Completely the opposite, I have almost everything to worry about. So to be honest, worry is primarily what it’s like. I’d say worry, anxiety and loads of pot noodles.

Jess: Well, Ben has kind of said the main thing I had in mind. It is a struggle, it might be so common and actually offensive to be called a “struggling artist”, but the fact of the matter is most of the time being an artist is a struggle.

Jordan: Yeah I pretty much agree with these guys. I mean I find being a ‘struggling artist’ and particularly a music artist like I am to be something that’s so common in my part of the whole creative/arts industry. The amount of buskers or as it is now called ‘street performers’, in London is very high.

 

NVX: You all talk about being called struggling artists to be a fact of matter. How do you think that can be changed?

Jordan: More opportunities to be honest. Less about the mainstream and more about actual talent.

Ben: Yeah more opportunities and a greater general interest in the arts.

Jess: It can be changed if we’re actually taken more seriously. It’s always been like that then I guess, the whole mentality of being an artist is not a real job or whatever.

 

NVX: Talking about mainstream. What about mainstream media do you think is killing or hindering creativity?

All: Money.

Jess: It’s all about money isn’t it? Or it’s not about the money as Jessie J said yet she made millions from that song.

Jordan: That’s always the problem, at first it seems like you’re doing if for the love and passion you have for it, but once that major opportunity comes your way it all changes and you change along with it. That I think is killing creativity, the money.

Ben: The problem is there are too many big companies owning things to do with arts, like music labels, art galleries, design brands etc. But it all comes down to money and what they think the audience want, which is actually what they’ve made the audience want.

 

NVX: Overall, do you all wish you’d gone down a different career path?

Ben: It comes to mind at times, I won’t lie. But then I realise how much passion goes into what I do and know that I can never give that to anything else.

Jordan: I can never be devoted as I am to my music to anything else. It would feel like I’ve sold my soul to the devil if I had gave up and chose a different path.

Jess: No, not at all. Art is a part of me. I can express myself however I want through my work. I am liberated through the arts and though money makes life tough at most times, but the love and happiness for something you enjoy is all that matters.

Overall, despite the struggle being very much real, no adversity can deter these innovative characters from their passion, which sticks it to the man!

Timmy Odejimi
Posted by:Timmy Odejimi