Creativity, like songbirds, can be bought and sold. But songs sound differently from behind the bars of a gilded cage, when sung for a supper.
Greed makes artists compromise. They follow trends rather than their hearts. They measure success in sales rather than in the call of their souls. They agree to distort their work to fit corporate agendas and market demands. Greed turns originality into predictability into a worthless tin horn.
Ironically, greed rusts the very things that made an artist’s work valuable in the first place. Greed transforms artists into celebrities, hogging the limelight, addicted to fame, prisoners of their egos, and detached from the pure, original source of their creativity.
Greed distorts and cripples the true purpose of art, turning the fruits of personal expression into a mere commodity. An artist’s heart-felt response to the world shrivels into a rich man’s prized asset, garnering millions at auction, then hidden away, another coveted diamond on a dragon’s hoard.
The opposite of greed is generosity.
Greed prevents artists from sharing their work with the world, afraid it will be poached. Rather than joining a creative community, inspiring others, collaborating, teaching, sharing their insights and lessons, greedy artists hide in their studios, squirreling away their work, waiting for the best offer. They refuse to support causes, to contribute their creativity, to reap the benefits of selflessness.
Greed clouds perspective, skews values, saps generosity.
Greed is a symptom of fear.
When you are afraid of being deprived, you hoard possessions against any possible future famine, no matter how remote. When you are afraid of being passed over and neglected, left to shrivel and die, you hoard attention. Afraid of competition, you crouch on your mountain of toys so no one else and play with them. Afraid of being taken advantage of, you refuse to open the door to others. Afraid of being vulnerable, you amass a pile of any stuff than could be a bulwark or a weapon. You bank your work rather than letting it see the light of day and of possible critique.
Greed blocks your way. Generosity and creativity clear it.
First in a series on seven deadly creative sins.
21 thoughts on “The Sin of GREED”
Great post Danny, I TOTALLY AGREE! 🙂 Thanks – Matthias
I had a related convo about ambition and my art with Igor my cab driver yesterday after I mentioned I spent Sunday outside painting. He asked about how I sell my paintings… online or fairs? I told him I don’t. He said, so you just buy a garage for them? I thought that was funny. Then thought about it. I still thought it was funny, and said, pretty much. I paint outside and usually with people I’ve met. These were and are my original, intentional goals in taking this up after I couldnt get the image out of my head of a couple painting in Taos out of the bed of a pick up truck a couple years ago. I usually have an extra pad and markers for kids who stop to look at my work (the deal is, I keep the drawing their adult can take a pic… (I’ve never said that second part b/c 100% of the time they’ve asked.) I told Igor that I’m fairly new at painting and sketching. The rest of my world is about ambition and making a living, i.e., it was the 3rd time this month he’d picked me up for a biz trip. Sketching and painting is way too precious to me now to put someone else’s value on it.
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“Greed is a symptom of fear.” Wow. Hadn’t looked at it that way before but your examples are food for thought indeed. As always Danny, you make us THINK. Another excellent post, thank you. x
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I hadn’t thought about it like that either – but now that I have, I have to wonder how I could’ve missed it! 🙂
Yellow-spot on. Reminds me also of many online “discussions” about people not sharing images of their online or plastering ugly watermarks across their images to ‘protect’ from copyright ‘abuse’; contentious thing to raise, I know but it’s that same yeller stain at work.
Cheers on you Danny for your ongping honesty.
I think I must be a whole lot more scared than I’m willing to admit…..
Thank you Danny.
I want to remember that the road back to creativity requires a welcoming of the fear. Name it, begin to appreciate what it is attempting to do. Invite it in, ask it to come and tell some of its history—where did it come from for me? What is it attempting to do for me? What is it afraid will happen if it doesn’t work so hard on my behalf? How can I help unburden that belief it holds? Ask the fear what it will take to begin to trust me again. There is an endless supply of Creativity within me–enough to soothe hard-working fear.
Danny, it’s funny you should post this. I haven’t told too many people this but I was participating in a plein air event last month and I painted a seashell stand in front of one of the local’s house. The little girl who lived there chatted happily with me the whole time and her father came out and took a photo of me painting his seashell stand. They came to the Wet
paint show and I had the painting hanging for sale. The little girl stood in front of my panel and told everyone about the painting that was “hers.” Her father had just bought the family a new refrigerator so they didn’t have any cash on hand to buy the painting. When they took her home, they had to pull her out the door because she was crying that she didn’t want anyone to buy her painting. John and I were distressed. Our gut feeling was to just give her the painting. The show ended at 9PM. We packed up the unsold pieces, and went back to our rented cottage, which was a short walk from the little girl’s home. We got up, separated out the paintings to take home, the ones to leave in the gallery there that I belong to and we drove down the the house where the family lived. The mother and the little girl were home and we presented her with the painting. She was very happy and so was her mother who explained why they needed the new fridge. John and I walked out feeling we did the right thing. I didn’t get money, I got something much more, I made some friends and that is priceless. It meant more to me to become part of that island in a good way.
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I love this.
I so agree. “Are you going to follow trends or create them?”
Very interesting! I read recently that peggy guggenheim set up a monthly salary for jack pollock so that he wouldn’t have to make compromises when making his art since she knew it wouldn’t necessarily sell well at the time.
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Thank you for this post. Very interesting!
Great post Danny, get the juices flowing, the mind’s gears turning. Fear is so pervasive on this planet, but it is not without rationality. Coincidences abound in the SBS kommunity. I was talking to my wife about a project (silk painting) she just finished ( which I thought was outstanding) when we hit the subject of critics and the marketplace. Now there is something I would like to hear your thoughts on. In a land in which we extol the values of a “free” market place why do we let people assume the power of “keeper of the gate” or setting the market? Please do not misunderstand me, I have no solutions to this. It is a personal decision and one does what works in one’s life. But I will say this you and sketchbook skool work for me.
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awesome blog post…thank you
I just stumbled upon your blog via wordpress and really enjoyed reading this post. Greed is a symptom of fear. Looking forward to more of your work on the seven deadly sins.
Reading your post an avalanche of thoughts.
I’m taking couple of ideas, like :
“Greed makes artists compromise. They follow trends rather than their hearts. They measure success in sales rather than in the call of their souls.”,
“Greed transforms artists into celebrities..”; and
“detached from the pure, original source of their creativity.”
I like your writings because it makes me think. Yet, this time, i don’t really agree. And i hope is not because like someone said, ” we listen to reply, not to understand”, (we is me in this case).
I keep it simple, just 3 ideas:
1) “souls” don’t pay bills (you must be sick with this argument of mine by now, sorry!); neither “souls”(not even/ at least) pat your back/shoulder saying you’ve done such a great job!
2) some artists can beat up their Anxiety bursts with numbers($); some others can’t (unfortunately :0(;
And i hope this is not a repeated explanation of no #1);
Regardless, i believe they all suffer of it: from Vincent to Damien and from Warhol and O’Keefe to the unknown artist hiding in his studio for many many years after graduation/years to came, dedicated to his art, not making compromises, not following trends etc..,
It is like in sports: you “die” to be a champion and work you ass off; then when you are on top, it is even harder to keep yourself there.
3) In my pinion, creativity is endless and in the corporate environment following trends or taking specific instruction doesn’t limit the creative process much; even a contractor can do a deck in multiple versions within the same budget, measurements, specific materials requested by client; unless is something like :” I want it exactly like that” and gave you a picture, the art process is not, in my opinion limited much.
Creative killer : would be(for me:0) the time limits/due dates. That is/ was a “big-y” :0) ..always.
Thanks for posting “food for thoughts”.
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Bravo! D can I post a link to this on my FB page? Many of my artist clan will love it, and can’t wait for my other sins!
Thank you Danny, for this blog! You make me think about what really matters in life, in living a creative life. Looking forward to your other blogs about the creative sins.
Dear Danny, I haven’t been brave enough to take one of your classes yet, but want to thank you for this great post! I am guilty of gluttony with purchase and storing of art supplies. Just wanted you to know your email affected and convicted me of this great sin.
I am going to go through All my art supplies and take them to our local high school art teacher. And if he/she can’t use them in classes, perhaps she will give them to a deserving student. I was one of those students who would’ve been ecstatic to have good art materials. Maybe that’s why I’ve been gluttonous with them.
Anyway, thank you and God bless all your endeavors to help trapped, repressed artists like me!
I love all of these posts (read them backwards – ha!). Thank you for writing truth.
Excellent, insightful post. Fear limits the chances we wish to take…again stopping us from finding our authentic selves. May we all take that leap of faith and find our unique form of creativity! By the way, I recently read Art Before Breakfast and enjoyed it very much. Thanks for the post. I look forward to reading more from you!