e-book A Banquet for the Starving Artist

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We both have jobs that can be restricting at times when it comes to having auditions or rehearsals to attend, so we were discussing what it would mean to take on more flexible employment—weighing the pros and cons.

Rittz - Starving Artist- Episode 1 - SWK Burger

Long story short, we came to this conclusion: flexible employment would equal less money and more time. The society we live in would like to have us convinced that money is the end-all, be-all. We are conditioned to believe that there is nothing more important than keeping our bills paid. But make sure you can keep the lights on. Ok… but what do you do for money?

After that initial conversation with my friend, I started digging deeper and conversing with other people close to me about this idea of moneymaking as a priority over artistic cultivation. From those conversations, I came to this question: What do we gain from the jobs we work? Do we even actually get that? Think about it. Am I right?

Wealth can be defined in so many different ways outside of money, but for artists, what is the part of our lives that contains the most value and weight in the pursuit of our dreams? Time is wealth! Having the time and freedom to create, to increase our knowledge and to grow not only as artists, but also as whole human beings, is FAR more valuable than any check. If this sounds crazy to you, trust me… I get it.

Everyone likes payday, but how long does that satisfaction last compared to the satisfaction of being a creator? My favorite way to stay inspired is to travel. Finding new places around the city, appreciating nature, etc. Also, I watch movies and listen to music. Not really. It adds to your story. People are drawn to artists because of the passion and story behind [our] art. Yes, lol. I quit a lot of jobs. I was working a high-end retail job when I got [an] offer to go to Paris.

I booked a couple shoots over there and was commissioned to do some street style photos. So I quit. I did an album cover for an artist, Roman GianArthur. One of my goals has always been to do visuals for artist albums. I got the call for the job pretty last minute. It was long days that turned into something amazing.

I see the cover all over blogs and various social media accounts now and it makes me really happy. Plus, we almost got arrested [during] the shoot. The pilot is finished. Pay us more. Pay us period. Stop stealing our shit. Respect our craft just as you would respect a non-creative craft. Last night, I was up until 1am taping, editing and submitting a self-tape audition for a TV show. Before that, I was meeting with a neighbor of mine who is helping me organize a community strategy meeting to tackle the not so recent issues with police brutalizing Black people in this country.

Yay us! But, I had an epiphany this morning. And I agree… but the only person in control of whether or not your gift becomes a curse is YOU. I realized I needed to pace myself. I had to do that without guilt and without worry that some imaginary ball would get dropped while I shifted my focus for a few hours. So, I buckled down, focused and had a very successful audition if I may say so myself. And then it was back to business; finalizing the meeting agenda, answering missed phone calls, etc. We must learn to compartmentalize and be willing to take care of the parts of ourselves that require immediate attention.

Katsushika Hokusai: the starving artist who became the prince of tides

I get off work in about 20 minutes and I have to go take a tour of the venue where the community meeting is being held tomorrow night. Always working. Omenala Griot Afrocentric Museum. We need a variety of voices, gifts and resources at the table. Just make sure you wear your Activist Hat… leave the other ones at home. Get into her journey, honesty and words of wisdom below! The last job I worked was for a month last summer at planet fitness cleaning the gym at night and working the front desk. I feed my spirit through church, mediation, journaling, crying, the beach, long baths, listening to music and exercise during my dry seasons.

I basically do [the same things] I do to keep my sanity when auditioning.

Hopefully as I grow, I can add Director and Producer to my list. Whether, you starve physically, mentally or spiritually. It makes this journey beautifully complex for many, I believe. My three biggest artistic inspirations are my Grandmother, my family and the people who seek art as a form of therapy. I do look up to others and am inspired by many people and their crafts. However, my family is the reason this gift God has given me pushes me daily.

I want to use this gift I was blessed with to inspire others and to help my family experience a life that was taboo to us. Though a part of me believes that is a pessimistic state of mind, I know that every great lesson I have ever learned, every opportunity worth having DID NOT come without struggle, tears, lessons, and hard work. They were hard to learn while in the midst of the storms but they made me a better person and artist. All the time!

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I literally started quitting jobs about 3 years ago. It was a struggle. I was working a job that paid a little over twenty-five hundred a month.

The starving artist

However, I was never home and I could never audition. NO extra money. I went into a depression. I found a job shortly after [that], as a host in a restaurant. I decided only to take jobs that would allow me to audition. I would hand in my two weeks notice or resign. God has never let me fall completely on my face and for that I am grateful.

It was filmed on actual film, so the shots are breathtaking. The land on which we worked in Virginia gave me chills. Shooting on a plantation, feeling the spirits and [being] in these super old houses that marked the era—nothing about filming was fake. It was all natural and organic.

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Jeff Nichols is an amazing director and the cast was to die for! I learned SO much. It stretched me so much and I received so much from each actor. I feel super blessed and overwhelmed with gratitude having been chosen to play a critical role in something so beautiful, with such immense talents.

It feels surreal.

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The show is filled with relevant drama that keeps you glued to the screen and begging for more. I had to stop depending on my comfort zone and a job to keep me balanced. I had to decide. I am speaking to myself right now also. Have a pity party if you must to release those emotions, then dry your eyes and keep moving.