Patronage, or sponsorship, is financial support from a wealthy donor or donors that allows you to spend all of your time pursuing the type of art you’re most passionate about, quite often at your own pace. In Latin, the word patron means father or protector. A patron of the arts is someone who protects the arts.

That patronage could come from a wealthy art lover, the government, corporations, small businesses, foundations, or the public. The artists are the ones with the talent, but it’s the patrons who fork out the money to support them as they create that art. If you do get a patron or sponsor, you’ll be in good company. Some of the most famous and successful artists in history have all had patrons.

Here are some of the most renowned ones:

Leonardo da Vinci

Leonardo da Vinci, the iconic Italian Renaissance artist, enjoyed the patronage of Ludovico Sforza, the Duke of Milan. Sforza commissioned da Vinci to create various works, including “The Last Supper” and numerous engineering projects. He was one of the famous artists who had patrons.

During his time in Milan, da Vinci painted famous works and worked on various projects including the design of canals, fortifications, and even a monumental equestrian statue. Ludovico Sforza greatly supported and encouraged da Vinci’s artistic and scientific pursuits.

Da Vinci’s patrons

In addition to Ludovico Sforza, da Vinci also had other patrons, including Cesare Borgia, a prominent military and political figure of the time, who commissioned him for various projects. After leaving Milan, da Vinci had several other patrons, including the Medici family in Florence and King Francis I of France.


Michelangelo was another famous artist who has patrons throughout his career. Here are some of his prominent patrons:

Lorenzo de’ Medici

Also known as Lorenzo the Magnificent, he was a powerful ruler and patron of the arts in Florence. Michelangelo received early support and education in sculpture from the Medici family, including Lorenzo de’ Medici.

Pope Julius II

Michelangelo’s most famous patron was Pope Julius II, who commissioned him for several significant projects. The most renowned among them is the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, which Michelangelo worked on from 1508 to 1512.

Pope Leo X

The successor of Pope Julius II, Pope Leo X continued to support Michelangelo and commissioned him for various projects, including the monumental tombs for the Medici family in the Basilica of San Lorenzo in Florence.

Pope Clement VII

Another pope who became Michelangelo’s patron was Pope Clement VII. He commissioned Michelangelo to paint “The Last Judgment,” which adorns the altar wall of the Sistine Chapel, completing it in 1541.

Cosimo I de’ Medici

Michelangelo also received patronage from the Medici family later in his life. Cosimo I de’ Medici, the first Grand Duke of Tuscany, commissioned him to design the Laurentian Library in Florence.

Vincent van Gogh and Theo van Gogh

Vincent van Gogh, the post-impressionist painter, had a close relationship with his brother Theo van Gogh. Theo, an art dealer, provided financial and emotional support to Vincent throughout his life, allowing him to pursue his artistic endeavors. He was one of the famous artists who had patrons.

Vincent van Gogh had a complex relationship with his brother, Theo van Gogh. Theo played a significant role in Vincent’s life, both personally and professionally.

Family patronage

Theo supported Vincent emotionally and financially throughout his life. He was Vincent’s confidant and closest companion, with the two brothers exchanging numerous letters, which provide insights into Vincent’s thoughts, artistic development, and struggles. Vincent often relied on Theo for advice, encouragement, and comfort during challenging times.

Theo also provided financial assistance to Vincent, enabling him to pursue his artistic career. He worked as an art dealer and regularly sent Vincent money to cover his living expenses, art supplies, and even to help him secure living arrangements and studio spaces. Theo’s support allowed Vincent to focus on his art without worrying about financial stability.

The relationship between the brothers was characterized by deep affection, understanding, and mutual respect. Vincent valued Theo’s opinion and often sought his feedback on his artworks. Theo, in turn, recognized Vincent’s talent and believed in his artistic abilities, despite the struggles Vincent faced during his lifetime.


Tragically, both Vincent and Theo experienced challenges in their lives. Vincent battled with mental health issues and emotional instability, while Theo faced financial difficulties and health problems. Vincent’s mental health deteriorated over time, leading to his untimely death in 1890. Devastated by Vincent’s death, Theo himself became ill and passed away just six months later in 1891.

Theo’s wife, Johanna van Gogh-Bonger, played a crucial role in preserving Vincent’s legacy. She dedicated herself to collecting, cataloging, and promoting Vincent’s artworks, ensuring their recognition and eventual acclaim.

Pablo Picasso’s patrons

Pablo Picasso was a famous artist who had several patrons and supporters throughout his career who played important roles in his artistic development and success. Here are some notable patrons of Picasso:

Ambroise Vollard

Vollard, a prominent art dealer and publisher, became one of Picasso’s earliest patrons. He organized Picasso’s first solo exhibition in 1901 and supported him by purchasing his works, providing financial stability, and promoting his art to a wider audience.

Gertrude Stein

Gertrude Stein, an American writer and art collector living in Paris, became a significant supporter and patron of Picasso. She acquired many of his paintings and introduced him to other artists and collectors, helping to establish his reputation within the art world.

Sergei Shchukin

Shchukin, a Russian industrialist and art collector, was an avid supporter of modern art. He collected a substantial number of Picasso’s works, particularly during the Blue and Rose periods. Shchukin’s collection, which included numerous Picasso pieces, became the foundation for the State Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Helena Rubinstein

The renowned cosmetics entrepreneur Helena Rubinstein became an important patron of Picasso in the early 20th century. She collected his works and supported his career, introducing him to influential figures in the art world and helping to increase his visibility and sales.

Peggy Guggenheim

Peggy Guggenheim, an American art collector and patron, played a significant role in promoting Picasso’s art. She organized Picasso’s first solo exhibition in the United States in 1939 and continued to collect his works throughout her life, contributing to his recognition and popularity in America.

These are just a few examples of the patrons who supported Picasso’s career and contributed to his artistic success. Picasso’s talent and innovation attracted the attention and support of many individuals who recognized his groundbreaking contributions to modern art.

Andy Warhol and Pop Art Patrons

Andy Warhol was one of the famous artists who had patrons who played significant roles in his artistic development and success. Here are some notable patrons of Andy Warhol:

Muriel Latow

Muriel Latow was one of Warhol’s earliest patrons and supporters. She provided him with his first public exhibition in 1962 at the Hugo Gallery in New York City. Latow also introduced Warhol to prominent art collectors and gallery owners, helping him establish connections in the art world.

Eleanor Ward

Eleanor Ward, the owner of the Stable Gallery in New York, became one of Warhol’s key patrons. She hosted his first solo exhibition in 1964, which featured his famous “Campbell’s Soup Cans” series. Ward’s support and promotion of Warhol’s work helped solidify his reputation as a leading figure in the Pop Art movement.

Sammlung Ludwig

The Sammlung Ludwig, a German art collection led by Peter and Irene Ludwig, became significant patrons of Warhol’s work. They began collecting Warhol’s art in the 1960s and continued to do so throughout their lives. Their extensive collection includes numerous iconic Warhol pieces and helped elevate his status as an internationally recognized artist.

Fred Hughes

Fred Hughes was an influential art dealer and curator who became Warhol’s manager and close collaborator in the 1970s. Hughes played a crucial role in promoting Warhol’s work, managing his business affairs, and connecting him with high-profile clients and collectors.

Gunter Sachs

Gunter Sachs, a German art collector and industrialist, was a major patron of Warhol in the 1970s. Sachs acquired numerous Warhol artworks, including portraits of himself and his then-wife Brigitte Bardot. Sachs’s support further enhanced Warhol’s international reputation and financial success.

Salvador Dalí

Salvador Dalí had several patrons throughout his career, but one of the most notable and influential was the art collector and patron, Edward James. Edward James, a British poet and aristocrat, played a significant role in supporting Dalí’s work and promoting his career.

Edward James first encountered Dalí’s art in 1936 and was immediately captivated by his unique style and surrealistic vision. James began collecting Dalí’s works and became one of his most devoted patrons. He not only purchased numerous artworks but also provided financial support and commissioned several significant projects.

One of the most famous collaborations between Dalí and Edward James was the Lobster Telephone, a surrealist sculpture created in 1936. James commissioned Dalí to make the piece, which has since become an iconic symbol of surrealism.

These are just a few examples of the many famous artists who had patrons and relationships that have shaped art history. Each relationship had its own unique dynamics and impact on the artists’ careers and artistic output.

To find out more about artist patronage, check out “From the King’s Court to Kickstarter: Patronage in the Modern Era”.

Artists have been hit particularly hard during Covid for the past couple of years. But it’s not the first time in history that that’s happened. Since history does tend to repeat itself, it’s smart for artists to emulate what artists have done in the past to survive and thrive during the most trying of times. The ones that thrived used artist patronage.

Artist patronage – William Shakespeare

William Shakespeare was at the top of his game. The Renaissance was roaring along, giving artists the chance for the first time to be entrepreneurs. This meant they no longer had to choose between working for just the church or the state. They could create their own businesses with the help of wealthy patrons. They could work for anyone who had the money to pay them. Shakespeare used this to his advantage and started looking for as many patrons, and as many different types of patrons as he could find. He got a jump start on artist patronage.

Patronage from the Queen

Shakespeare’s first royal patron was Queen Elizabeth. She loved drama. Especially the study of the ancient classical period, which Shakespeare would perform for her at her court.“A Midsummer Night’s Dream” was probably one of the plays that was done as a private performance. During the Queen’s forty-five-year reign, London went through a cultural awakening, and England prospered during the second half of her reign. Professional theaters were built in England for the first time and her love of theater gave birth to literary geniuses such as Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, and Ben Jonson through her generous patronage. It was one of the golden ages in English literature.

Artist patronage during the plague

Shakespeare also had other things working in his favor. The invention of printing meant that many more people would be able to read his works. His biggest competitors, Robert Greene and Christopher Marlowe, had both just passed away. It was a fabulous time to be an artist, and an even better time to be William Shakespeare. Luck and timing were on his side. That is, until……the Bubonic Plague broke out. Theaters were boarded up and ordered closed until further notice. (sound familiar?) This caught artists by surprise, who relied on the theater for their livelihood.

Artist diversification

But Shakespeare had learned early on that you have to diversify — and have a backup plan. Though Shakespeare is known as one of the best and most prolific writers in history, it wasn’t just his writing alone that made him wealthy. He became a shareholder in a joint-stock company and leading cast member for two decades. So, he was making money as a writer, actor, and business owner. But even with multiple streams of income, the challenges he would face were numerous: competition, censorship, fire, war, and of course, the Plague.

The King’s Men

Shakespeare’s company was called The King’s Men, and they were in the middle of one of the best theatrical seasons ever with “King Lear” and “Macbeth” when they were forced to close their doors. The Bubonic Plague was raging and they had no choice. All of that hard work was shut down in an instant until further notice. Shakespeare still had a family to feed, so he got to work and pivoted into a different direction.

Patronage of artists

This is when Shakespeare sought out the patronage of the Earl of South Hampton. He was a very wealthy and spoiled young man who was dipping his toe into the patronage of artists and poets. Shakespeare was already known for his plays, and admired by the Earl. Shakespeare knew that the Earl was facing a huge fine if he didn’t marry by a certain age, and he was prepared to do his part in helping to resolve that problem. He pledged his service to the Earl. The Earl’s patronage during the Plague allowed him to spend his free time writing without having to worry about paying the bills. So, when the Plague was over, he was further along than many of the other writers of the time who had spent their time touring through the countryside for whatever money and free meals they could get.

Most artists wouldn’t have thought about the possibility of becoming a matchmaker. After all, they were artists! But Shakespeare didn’t think like other artists.

Shakespeare reinvented

Shakespeare reinvented himself during this period by writing and publishing two long poems, “Venus and Adonis” and the “Rape of Lucrece”. Writing poetry stretched his creativity and writing skills, and ultimately made him rich. His playwriting also improved, and he was ready to hit the ground running as soon as the theaters reopened. The hard times taught him to become more prolific – and they reinforced the value of diversifying his income streams.

With a portfolio of wealthy patrons and a rabid following of fans of his plays, Shakespeare was able to do something few of his fellow artists could do. He simply made a living with his art alone. He was able to continue writing at a time when the plague had the theaters closed down. Shakespeare used his time wisely, writing poems and sonnets when he couldn’t make money writing plays. And he was diversified in his art and in his financial portfolio. He was using artist patronage to his advantage.

The modern day artist as entrepreneur

Today, artists can do the same thing as an entrepreneur. But most artists still choose the traditional route of waiting to be hired by someone. This guarantees they will always be under someone else’s control, will never get the lion’s share of the profits, and won’t have creative control. Some A list celebrities have managed to negotiate these things, but the A list makes up only a tiny fraction of artists out there.

Today there are playwrights who want to follow in Shakespeare’s shoes and create a career as an entrepreneurial artist where they do get creative control and profit sharing. These entrepreneurial artists are using the same methods the Lord Chamberlain’s Men used, and some are even creating new business models that would make William Shakespeare proud.








What can you learn from failure as an artist? A lot! Many people will avoid putting themselves out there creatively because they fear the failure as an artist. But that’s how you learn and grow. You can’t learn how to be an artist just by reading a book or watching others. Even though that is helpful. You have to actually get out there and be willing to fall on your face and fail over and over again. I asked some artists what their biggest failures were and what you can learn from failure as an artist:

Learn from failure as an artist

“I started to perform in public after a 5 year gap (stopped playing publicly when I went to college). I felt way more nervous than I had when playing in an indie band in high school. So, I decided to try and shake some rust off at an open mic night in Indianapolis and try some of my new originals. It was only one song at this open mic night. But when I got to the falsetto parts (the high notes), I completely tensed up – making it very difficult to control my voice. That, of course, made me even more tense, which snowballed into a terrible vocal performance.

What did you learn from failure?

I learned three main things:
  1. People are very supportive and forgiving at open mic nights (they’re all artists that have been there too!)
  2. Messing up isn’t the end of the world. Yes, it sucked, but it helped me start to learn how to play through mistakes
  3. Most importantly, it made me focus on my vocals as a way to combat nerves. I am taking voice lessons and really getting more comfortable with controlling my voice.
Marcus Wadell

Embrace both sides of the brain

As a stand-up comedian, I bomb ALL the timeeeee. Bombing can give you terrible writer’s block. I would sit in coffee shops near open mics and then just flake out when it came to doing the mic.
I’ve learned with creativity, the main thing is to embrace the two sides of the brain, 1) the creative side 2) the editor.  Also, it’s always a great exercise to AIM to bomb.  This helps be less judgmental.  When one stops being judgmental of their creative stuff, it is amazing how you end up writing some of the best stuff. Mainly because you’re writing less from the ego and less of what you think people will like and doing stuff that is more true to who you are.
Here is a video where I react to my old stand-up clips!  I bomb pretty hard lol!
I created a mini-course on YouTube with what I’ve learned from bombing- called “From Procrastination to Post” because I didn’t realize how much of my procrastination was linked to me being afraid of failing at my art.
Amy Jans

Bombing in Grand Style

“I have been involved in the performing arts or over 40 years…which means I have had the learning experience of “bombing” more than once.  I started as an actor and as my career continued I expanded into directing, writing and producing.  Currently I am the owner and Creative Director of Scott Swenson Creative Development LLC.

My most impactful “bombing” story happened just a couple of years ago when I decided to return to the live stage for the first time in over 15 years. I was cast in a production of Noel Coward’s “Blithe Spirit”.  Now the first red flag was that I decided to make my “grand return” in a period piece with extremely precise and complicated language. PLUS, I was cast as Charles…who nearly never leaves the stage.  I was thrilled that the director and producers had enough confidence in me to give me such a wonderfully written role.  The rehearsal period was 2 weeks, which would have been substantial back in the day, but it had been a while since I had to grasp and retain scripted content then bring it to life on stage (I had been doing improvisation and commercial work most recently.)

Exit stage left

By the end of the first week I was panicked.  I wasn’t able to remember the script and I was beginning to feel that I had made a huge mistake.  I got so down on myself that one night after rehearsal I fell into tears and didn’t stop until the next morning.  After I was all cried out, I decided that the old ways of doing things weren’t going to get me through this production, so I completely changed and intensified my approach (This was the first time I had ever worked on lines while playing with my dog, bicycling in my neighborhood or even waking up in the middle of the night to do a “show run” in my head.)  By the time the show opened, I was ready and back on track.  The run went fine and my performance was even recognized favorably by local critics.  So, although the audience never saw me bomb, the cast, crew and staff did.  I will NEVER let that happen again.  I would almost rather bomb on stage than undermine my professional integrity.  Theatre is a collaborative art form and in this situation, I was unable to be an effective contributor to that collaboration.

What worked in the past, may not work now

I learned that every time you set foot on stage, is a new and different experience.  What has worked in the past may not work now and that I can never rest on my past success (or even my current success in related fields).  The next show I was cast in (with the same director…so apparently, I was forgiven) started completely fresh.  My approach to the script had changed and I was READY…then COVID hit and the show was cancelled.  I wanted so badly to “get back on the horse”, but I guess I’ll just have to hang out around the stables for a while longer before I get my chance.


Owner/Creative Director
Scott Swenson Creative Development LLC

Life of a Rock Star

My name is Zach Bellas. I have been a professional touring musician for the past eleven years and also run an independent label in the Washington DC area.
Right now I front a three-piece rock band called Zach Bellas. My bomb story, however, happened when I was playing lead guitar in The Pasadena Band back in 2016.
I had recently just joined the band and we instantly went out on a six or seven week nationwide tour. The band is based in Baltimore and when we got back, they had planned a farewell show for their original guitar player whose shoes I was filling.
They’re wasn’t a ton of planning for the show and I didn’t even know if I was going to perform at all that night or if the other guitar player would do the whole show as his last hurrah.
The venue wasn’t huge, but it was over sold out. 450 people or so were packed in this place and everyone wanted to buy the new guitar player – me – a shot of Jameson. I should mention they pour shots with a heavy hand in Baltimore.

Drinks on the house

I hadn’t eaten all day and started the evening with a bottle of champagne my girlfriend brought since she hadn’t seen me in almost two months. So, I’m getting pretty drunk when all of a sudden I hear ‘Everyone, we would like to introduce our new guitar player. Zach come on up here.’
I knew I had been drinking a lot, but I felt pretty good and thought ‘I got this’. The second I got on stage and strapped the guitar on however, I instantly knew ‘I do not got this’.
As soon as we started playing, I was a complete mess and I knew it was going really bad but couldn’t do anything about it at this point.
The next few minutes are a blur, but it ends with the bass player whispering in my ear ‘Get the f*ck off the stage’ which resulted in me ripping a mic off of the chord and throwing it at his head (or so I hear) grabbing all my gear and marching out of the bar. I walked through downtown Baltimore with my amp, guitar and pedalboard about half a mile to my hotel.
Thought for sure I was fired. But the next morning I got a call ‘Hey man, we gotta head to Virginia Beach in a couple hours. You ready?’
Turns out this type of thing is par for the course in that band and over the next couple years, we would all take turns getting a little too drunk for the show. Never as bad as that night though.
Definitely learned to drink after the show.

Acting is a team sport

My name is Mycah Bacchus and I am a business owner and performer based in Los Angeles CA. During a theatre performance I had a new duel monologue to do which consisted of two actors splitting the monologue, so if one actor messed up one line the whole thing messed up. I was the one who messed up! What I learned was that 1 – acting is a team sport. My partner in the monologue helped me get through it and put me back on track and 2- its never as bad as we think it is. Sometimes as actors we think its the end of the world because we pride ourselves on performances we work so hard for. But, sometimes we mess up. And thats ok. There is always something you can learn from failure as an artist.
What can you learn from failure as an artist?

Sex and Violence in Hollywood

Hollywood has certainly changed since the 1950s. Back then there was less sex and violence in Hollywood entertainment. A good example is The Lucy Show. Lucy and her charismatic singer/band leader husband Ricky Ricardo, were practically chaste on the popular show, which ran on CBS for 6 years.

Even though we only saw a brief kiss now and then, we still knew they were madly in love. They also slept in separate beds, and even the word ‘sex’ was never mentioned. Rob and Mary on the Dick van Dyke Show also slept in separate beds and none of the characters in either show ever said the word ‘pregnant’.

Censorship in Art

Censorship has always existed in every society throughout history. There is a constant clash between what one person views as offensive and another views as art. A lot has also depended on who was in power at the time and what their political, ideological and religious views were.

It isn’t just TV shows, but movies have also been censored. As soon as movies started going in the direction of any sex or violence the “morality police” started forcing them to reign it in. In response to that, film industry executives decided to start regulating themselves with a production code.

Self Censorship – Sex and Violence

Economically it made sense to self-censor and save the extra money that would have gone into reediting a film. The code was pretty strict and prohibited nudity, drug use, suggestive dancing, offensive words, ridicule of the clergy, scenes of actual childbirth, and brutal killings. It even went so far as to say that the sanctity of marriage be upheld, and plots couldn’t sympathize with criminals.

But as with all art, artists began to start pushing the envelope starting in the early 60s. They backed down on their self-censorship promise, and movies pushed the boundaries for edginess. So, the Hollywood Administration Code was formed to strictly enforce the code. They fined any theater that ran a film without the PCA seal of approval $25,000. In 1968 the code was replaced by the MPAA age-based ratings system that still exists today.

Throughout history, films and TV shows have been banned in countries around the world for different reasons. Even Barney’s Great Adventure was banned in Malaysia for being unacceptable for children.

#MeToo Movement

But everything goes in cycles, and that’s especially true for Hollywood. Even before the #MeToo movement and the COVID-19 crisis shut down production, Hollywood was producing fewer movies and TV shows with sex scenes. It all usually boils down to money, and this was the case here. Mid-budget character dramas and the fact that movies needed to appeal to all ages suddenly started changing things. If your movie got an R rating, that eliminated a big part of the audience. And that meant fewer dollars. Ultimately it all came down to money.

Unlike the days when I was an actor, thanks to the #MeToo movement, female actors are putting their collective feet down when it comes to doing nudity and sex scenes. Actors are demanding more specific riders in their contracts regarding nudity, and are including provisions for legal ramifications if there is any leaked nudity footage from the production.

Alliance of Motion Picture and TV Producers

Now with Covid-19 The Alliance of Motion Picture and Television Producers is putting out guidelines for production changes to keep everyone as safe as possible. Their guidelines mention that “fight scenes and intimate scenes increase the risk of transmission,” so scripts will need to be rewritten to avoid putting actors at risk. Actors are required to stay “as silent as possible to avoid spreading droplets through talking.”

It looks like Hollywood will be self censoring once again, so I guess everything goes in cycles. Does this mean we will be seeing more movies about nuns? And will today’s TV characters be sleeping in separate beds like Lucy and Ricky? You never know. I wouldn’t try to second guess Hollywood.

Get Feedback From Other Artists

When I first moved to Los Angeles I worked as a bartender in a comedy club. After the comedians would finish their sets they would head to the bar to talk to the other comedians, so I heard many conversations regarding critique of what worked and what didn’t work. Even though they loved making the audience laugh, most comedians really wanted to make each other laugh. That was the ultimate compliment for them.

The same is true for actors. The Oscars and the Golden Globes are much more for the public and what the audience thinks. But the SAG awards are more cherished because the voters are limited to their peers. It’s a reward for reaching the pinnacle of their craft as established by those who have also worked hard on their craft.

Nominees for the SAG Awards are often similar to the list of nominees for the Oscars because many SAG voters are also Oscar voters. SAG award winners are a good predictor of who will win the Oscar in the same category.

Get feedback from other artists and brainstorm with other artists in your field to help you up your game.

Why Good Ideas Are Passed Over in Hollywood

I recently read an interview with Justin Berg from the Stanford School of Business about why good ideas are given a pass in Hollywood. He talks about how artists pitch original ideas, like Seinfeld, Star Wars and Titanic to executives who turn them down. He noticed that the artists create new ideas and evaluate their own ideas. But the executives who buy the material are focused on evaluating other people’s ideas.

Berg said “if your job is to evaluate ideas but not generate them, the criteria you use to evaluate ideas may become too rigid and idiosyncratic. This leads you to undervalue novel ideas.”

Another Artist Has Walked in Your Shoes

Artists are able to critique and evaluate other artists because they’ve walked in your shoes. And usually know the actual craft better than someone who has never been an artist. When it comes to the business side, ask an executive or buyer for their opinion. But as far as feedback on your painting, new book, screenplay, photography exhibit, etc., ask another artist.

“But Julie, aren’t artists jealous and competitive of each other?” you might ask. Here’s my opinion on that. Jealous artists are ones who haven’t figured out what makes them unique yet. Once you know that there is only one artist exactly like you. And you have put in the hard work that it takes, and you know that you have talent, there’s no reason to be jealous. And, if that’s an issue for you, find an artist who isn’t your direct competition. Or find an artist who is in another creative field.

Only another artist will know what it feels like to spend weeks, months or years on a project without getting paid. Only another artist will know what it feels like to go through constant rejection. Having a support system of your artistic peers is a good way to keep you on track and keep you inspired to do your best work.



P.T. Barnum Working Class

I was sad to hear that one of the most successful and innovative businesses to come out of the Gilded Age, Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus, will be closing its doors after 146 years. The Gilded Age gave birth to all new types of entertainment, especially for the working class, including circuses.

Show Business

One of the most well-known raconteurs of that time was P.T. Barnum. He knew from an early age that he was born to be an entrepreneur. After several failed attempts at business, he went to New York City without a penny to his name and began his career as a showman. He quickly realized he had a knack for discovering unusual talent. He was the first person to coin the phrase “show business”. P.T. Barnum created entertainment for the working class.

The Gilded Age

The Gilded Age was a time of economic growth, and industrialization led to real wage growth. The working class had money in their pockets and free time to enjoy it. An inexpensive form of entertainment for the working class was the dime museum. The first one was called the “American Museum” and was founded by Barnum in New York City. It was billed as edutainment for the masses, a lowbrow combination of entertainment and moral education. It included freak shows, wax figures, films, variety acts, melodramas, and pseudo-scientific exhibits.

The museum burned to the ground three times. Each time, Barnum would pick himself up, dust himself off, and immediately start building it back again.

Entrepreneurial Artist

Barnum had loved the idea of contests since selling lottery tickets as a young man. He put on flower shows, dog shows, baby shows, and chicken shows. These were judged, and the winner was given prize money. Then he came up with the idea for a beauty contest where the visiting public would choose a winner. The first prize winner got $1000, and the top 100 got to pose for an oil painting. Out of those, the top ten were included in a French publication.

The Barnum Show

Barnum didn’t enter the circus industry until he was an older entrepreneur at 60 years old. He started with the P. T. Barnum’s Grand Traveling Museum, Menagerie, Caravan & Hippodrome, which was basically a traveling museum, menagerie and freak show.

P.T. Barnum eventually took his troupe of human oddities and created the Barnum Show, which was his grandest show ever. He later partnered with James Bailey and the show would become the “Barnum and Bailey Greatest Show on Earth” which was seen by crowds all over the world. He was one of the first circus owners to take his show around the country by train. This vastly increased his geographical reach and proved to be extremely profitable.

In 1907, after his death, the circus was sold to Ringling Brothers for what would amount to over $9 million dollars in today’s currency.

P.T. Barnum Grew up in Working Class Roots

P.T. Barnum had grown up in working class roots and understood the people he attracted to his shows. He always wanted to give them the most value possible, and got them in the door by using hype to get their attention. He showed them a glimpse of something they had never seen before. His goal was to bring pleasure to as many people as possible, while making money doing it.

Childlike Wonder

He also believed in “profitable philanthropy”, or what we would today call “social entrepreneurship”. His goal was always to show people how to tap into their sense of childlike wonder about the world around them.

Towards the end of his life he told his partner James Bailey “always remember that the children have ever been out best patrons”. Barnum cherished his nickname “The Children’s Friend” and was prouder of that title than being called “King of the World”.

Though Barnum would be sad to know that the circus was closing, in true P.T. Barnum style, he would pick himself up, dust himself off, and start thinking of his next adventure.



Never Too Late to be an Artist

While it’s true that there are plenty of things that don’t get better with age, wine and creativity are two things that do. So, if you’ve put off being an artist because you think you’ve missed the boat and are too old to be creative, here’s some good news. It’s never too late to be an artist!

As kids, we all start off as creative beings, making rocket ships out of milk cartons and turning refrigerator boxes into forts. We have imaginary friends, and don capes to become an alter ego super hero.

Creative Dreams on Back Burner

We have dreams of what we want to be when we grow up. But then life gets in the way. Mortgage payments, student loans, and a real job. Those creative dreams get put on the back burner, sometimes indefinitely. And that’s a shame, because it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s never too late to be an artist.

Scientists used to say that we couldn’t grow new brain cells, but now they’re finding out that that’s not true. The brain can grow new brain cells, and in fact, they’ve found that the older brain is actually more resilient and adaptable.

Though we do lose brain cells as we age, the good news is that we actually gain more connections between those cells. By being creative, the brain can strengthen those connections, and reshape, restructure and adapt. Hence, improving cognitive function.

There are plenty of people who have proven that it’s never too late to be creative. A great example is Grandma Moses. Anna Mary Robertson chose the path of getting married and raising children. Art took a backseat for many years. In fact, she didn’t even pick up a paintbrush until she was 78 years old.

She spent her days doing needlepoint until her arthritis made it too difficult. Then one day she was putting up some wallpaper and she ran out of paper. She put up some plain, white paper and painted it herself. The painting now hangs in the Bennington Museum in Vermont. She continued to paint and do exhibitions until almost the day she died at the age of 101.

3 Successful Artists

Here are 3 people who proved it’s never too late to be an artist:

What was your career before you became an artist? Can you share your backstory with us?

Before I became a sculptor I drove an 18-wheeler. When my wife and I wanted a privacy screen to hide our garbage cans – an area that would become my first studio!  I found some an old metal conveyor belt, put a wave in it, and hung it from a frame. I had more of the material and made my first fountain. Soon people were trading with me for fountains. Then a friend handed me five $100 bills and asked me to make him a sound sculpture. I was floored! You mean I can make money doing this?

After several years of working part time while still driving the truck, I got my biggest commission to date and went full time as an artist January 1, 2006. Today I have sculptures all over the country and have won several awards.

What prompted you to pursue an artistic career later in life? At what age did you start?

I was 46 when I went full time. I was so glad I had those years of part time work because I had a handle on what it would be like to be an artist full time.

Have you always had an artistic streak? Was it hidden or has it been a hobby?

I’d never thought about being an artist before! In fact, I failed art and geometry in school. Yet something came alive in me as I began sculpting.

What is your advice for others who think it’s too late to become a successful artist?

There is no time like the present to start. As Dear Abby once said, how old will you be if you DON’T follow your dreams? Also, don’t quit your day job! Try it part time to make sure you like to do what it takes to be an artist and to get some sales or appreciation for  what you do. Make sure you market your work – no one can buy or appreciate what they don’t know about! Note what works and do more of that, whether it’s what you create or how you promote and sell it.
Kevin Caron

What was your career before you became an artist? Can you share your backstory with us?

My career before writing is the same as my career now, which is business development, which is a fancier way of saying sales.   I landed my first sales job in 3rd grade and have been in the field for the past fifty years.  Artists do not always realize that they can be the most talented person on the planet, but if they can not personally sell themselves and their craft, they will not be successful. You must be ready to network and promote yourself. You must overcome any tendency to be an introvert.

What prompted you to pursue an artistic career later in life? At what age did you start?

I began writing around 45 years old and only with the idea of entertaining my friends.  After sharing my short stories and hearing enough times “you should write a book” I did. By the age of 54 I had 4 published books, both fiction and non-fiction.

Have you always had an artistic streak? Was it hidden or has it been a hobby?

I had wanted to be an actor since I was a child and was took acting courses and attended auditions starting at a very young age.  By the time I entered college, I had the self-awareness to realize, finally, that as an actor, I was awful.  But I had stage presence, so I switched gears and began performing standup comedy.

I had more success with the standup than I did acting and actually toured with some pretty famous comics.  After about nine years, I saw that I had no future in stand up and I sought things that a career in comedy could never provide, like an income.  So, I quit and went back to graduate school to receive my MBA.  But the artistic bug never leaves so I chose to become a triple threat, I figured I failed at acting and I failed at comedy, why not fail at becoming an author.

I began writing in 2013 at around 45 years old.  When my first book, Exit Zero, was published in 2016 and was at least relatively successful in relation to the massive number of books that release each year, I decided to stick with it.

What is your advice for others who think it’s too late to become a successful artist?

When it comes to artistic pursuits, it is impossible to say anyone is too old.  I have a friend who went back to medical school at age 50 and became an emergency medicine specialist.  So really, there should be no age limit to any career.  To become successful in any endeavor, it requires persistence, endurance, a positive attitude and hard work.

Also focus on what makes you unique and while it is important to plan, it is also just as important to realize when that plan is not working and change course.  My most recent book, Business is Dead, Resurrecting Entrepreneurship is all about unique entrepreneurs who launched their first venture based on their Fandom of pop culture.

Neil Cohen


Twitter/Instagram: @ExitZeroZombie

What was your career before you became an artist? Can you share your backstory with us?

I was an administrative assistant for the American Institute of Chemical Engineers right out of undergrad and then I worked as an admissions assistant at the Stern School of Business. Then later worked as an assistant director of an AIDP (Attendance Improvement Drop-out Prevention) program at Jamaica High School in Queens.  I didn’t audition for my MFA at the Actors Studio Drama School until I was 33. Most of my classmates were in their early 20’s just out of undergrad theater programs.

What prompted you to pursue an artistic career later in life? At what age did you start?

My brother encouraged me to become an actor. He was in the cult classic film The Warriors. I was 33 when I made the decision to be an actor full time.

Have you always had an artistic streak? Was it hidden or has it been a hobby?

I was always singing in church. Had my first solo at the age of 7. I toured Europe with gospel groups when I was a teen and later in my twenties to England, Scotland, Wales, Germany, France and Israel.

What is your advice for others who think it’s too late to become a successful artist?

It’s never too late to be an actor-look at Betty White, Cicely Tyson, Dame Judi Dench…there will always be a need for older actors who have life experience to bring to a character. As far as singing, dancing, playing instruments-all those things keep us young at heart.

Elizabeth June

FaceBook, Instagram & Twitter: elizabethjuneny 




I’m constantly hearing people say “They don’t make movies the way they used to”. But I never knew why. It seems the film rating system these days has also changed the actual content. Not to say that it’s better or worse. Just different.

Voluntary Film Rating System

In 1968 a voluntary movie rating system was put in place to help parents determine the content a particular movie contained. The Motion Picture Association of America screens movies for objectionable content and places a rating system on each one so parents can determine for themselves whether the movie is okay for their kids to watch.

One set of parents may think a movie with some violence is okay for their kids to watch, where for another set of parents it may be too much. The MPAA lets the “average American Parent” decide the ratings through their Classification and Ratings Administration (CARA).

Parental Guidance Board

I always thought CARA was a censorship organization, but it’s actually a parental guidance board. It was established to replace the Production Code Administration, which required all movies be viewable by all audiences. The Production Code came about because, after films began to have sound and color, the public demanded stricter censorship of movies.

MPAA Film Ratings

Movies that didn’t pass the PCA’s strict code simply didn’t get released. They weren’t rated for different ages, so there weren’t any movies for adults only. The new MPAA ratings aren’t based on moral values, but on the content alone. The Production Code had strict moral codes written in. For example, a film had to have “moral obligations”.

One requirement was that a film couldn’t present evil “alluringly, even if later on the evil is condemned or punished.” It stated that at the end of the movie, evil had to be seen as evil and good as good.

When it comes to crime, the film “must not throw sympathy with the criminal”. And “the courts of the land must not be presented as unjust”.

Robin Williams’ Brain

Looking back on Robin William’s amazing career, I didn’t realize how much of it was improvised. Producers like David E. Kelly and writers from “Mork and Mindy” would often leave room for William’s to put his own spin on TV and film lines. It was his brilliance at seemingly flawless ad-libbing that marked him as a genius, much like Beethoven did with music.

Since we all have basically the same physical brains, what is it about Robin William’s brain that made him so different? Basically his brain was always in a constant state of “flow”, a concept that was developed by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi of the University of Chicago. According to Csikzentmihalyi, flow is a state where you lose your sense of self and your sense of time and become focused on a challenging creative task, and do it at peak performance. It’s as if time has no meaning as you become one with your work.

It’s a state where you get immediate feedback, such as a jazz musician who improvises. They can immediately tell if it’s working or not. With Williams, he would either gets laughs or not. It was an immediate type of feedback. And he thrived on it.

It takes a certain amount of confidence in your ability to be able to reach that flow stage, and succeed without editing. And that confidence comes from skill, knowledge, and practice. Beethoven knew he had a skill that few other musicians had, and that was the ability to improvise, and to do it prolifically. Robin Williams also knew his craft inside and out. He had the skill, the knowledge, and the practice.

Another element you must have is the passion, and the willingness to be challenged over and over again. This is when artists create their best work. And it almost feels effortless. Robin Williams had that passion in everything he did.

The irony is that Robin Williams’ brain, his most amazing asset was also his downfall. The artist, and the man will be greatly missed.



Theater Superstitions

I was getting ready to tell someone who was going to be running a marathon to “break a leg”, when I realized that didn’t sound like such a good idea. I know the phrase came from the theater, but I didn’t know exactly where it started or why. I’ve mostly heard it used by actors, but it seems like it’s more of a mainstream phrase now. It also tends to be used for a live performance or audition. Especially on opening night, instead of something that’s said before a TV taping or filming.

It seems the act of wishing someone in the theater good luck is considered bad luck and superstitious. Leave it to actors to do the rebellious thing and turn it on its ear.

Break a Leg!

It’s not certain where “break a leg” actually came from, but several theories are out there. The phrase could have gotten its origin from Shakespeare’s day when the theater actor would bend their leg at the knees to bow at the end of a performance.

It could also have come from the Jewish theater where the phrase “break a leg” literally means “bless you everyone”. It did become part of the language somewhere around the early 1900’s, so some of the theories of its origin would be unlikely.

The phrase was first mentioned in an article called “A Defence of Superstition” by Robert Wilson Lynd in 1921. He compared the superstitious nature of horse racing to the theater.

It was also mentioned in Edna Ferber’s autobiography “A Peculiar Treasure”, where she talks about understudies sitting backstage hoping for the principle actors to break their legs.

Superstitious Actors

It seems actors really are a superstitious group in general. There is a whole list of things that shouldn’t be done in a theater, like having three lit candles on stage. Well, that probably isn’t a good idea anyway, but the superstition is called the “rule of three”. I wonder if comedians know about this.

There’s another one that says whistling in a theater is bad luck and that someone will get fired. Since I really hate whistling I’m glad to hear about this one. This one actually made sense at the time it was started because stage managers used to use coded whistles before the invention of walkie-talkies. If someone whistled, it would signal a false cue for an actor, and surely would end in someone getting fired.

These are just a couple of the theater superstitions out there. Do you know of other ones?