About those ‘Starving Artists’

So when I’m sick I watch more TV than I normally do, and since I’ve been watching a couple of nostalgia TV channels recently added to our cable lineup, I’ve seen some cheap commercials, including ones for those house slippers you heat in your microwave.

(Slippers in the microwave? The hell?)

Anyway, the last couple of days, every commercial break has been broken up by ads for the latest “Starving Artists” sale.

I remember commercials for these sales when I was a kid. Inevitably, the sales were held over a weekend at a fairgrounds or motel and featured the work of “professional artists” but were selling for as low as a few dollars.

Most memorably, the sales offered “sofa-sized” paintings. A few years ago they were less, of course, but now these behemoths of art are going for $49.99.

I’ve never been to one of these sales. I don’t have a lot of art on my walls, but what is there is something meaningful to me. Hand-me-down favorites from relatives, or pictures or prints bought at a significant time. Couple of movie things too.

So I didn’t feel the need to go snap up some landscapes that looked, frankly, as if they were painted by unprofessional artists. Or maybe the artists are professionals but are so weakened by hunger that their technique is impaired.

But being the curious sort, I decided to look on the Internets for info about the sales.

I didn’t find much. A couple of sites featured columns that theorized the paintings are mass produced in China. Some say they’re done on an assembly line in sweatshop-style conditions, with artists standing for 14 hours at a time, painting the same tree and then passing the painting along to the next artist, who paints a hillside or ocean.

Perhaps entirely appropriately, the online pieces about the starving artists sales appear to crib from each other.

It’s not surprising that online “writers” steal from each other and post verbatim or nearly word-for-word versions of the same story.

But it’s pretty comical when you’re reading stories about mass-produced art and most of them end with:

“Now that you know the inside scoop on the starving artists sales, don’t you think that your $50 would be better spent on a good pencil sketch by a student artist at your local college or university? I certainly do.”

It’s good to know that the starving artists have comrades online.


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