Diary of a Penniless Frustrated Artist


“If you want to really hurt your parents, and you don’t have the nerve to be gay, the least you can do is go into the arts. I’m not kidding. The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possibly can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.” ― Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country

It begins with the day someone points out to you that your drawing, writing, voice etc is particularly beautiful. They marvel at how someone so young could create something so insightful.

Your parents boast about your gifts but they discourage you from pursuing it as a full time occupation. They tell you to study a real course; apply for a real job. There is no money in art. You tell them Beyonce is an artist. They raise their eyebrows. You point out Vincent Van Gough’s fame, they point out his ear.

‘But madness is sanity and sanity is madness and she isn’t sure there is a difference’ – Oyin Braithwaite, Goodbye

One day, you break free from their parameters. You allow your art to define you. You do the unimaginable, you trust art. You watch how others try to imitate you. You listen to them tell you how they also write, sing, blog and you think of the hours you have dedicated to your art form.

‘Van Gogh produced 2,000 works of art between 1880 and 1890 (or 1,100 paintings and 900 sketches). That’s four works of art a week for a decade. He didn’t even get started until age 25…Shakespeare wrote more than 40 plays, plus dozens of sonnets, poems and, of course, grocery lists.’ Forbes

But you have created something that you are proud of and you wait for someone to discover you. You send your work to the best art houses and you receive rejection after rejection. You live on gari and bread. You stop going out, because there is no money. They call you an introvert and stop inviting you to places.

Perhaps you stop creating art, perhaps you try to become commercial; but one day, one ordinary day that began as a nothing day because you didn’t get up till 12 and the sky wasn’t particularly pretty, you get a call.

And the call changes your life.


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Oyinkan Braithwaite

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May 2019
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