Artists are going to rise up and rule the world.

Miles to Go 2009 by Darlene Foster

Photo: Miles to Go by Darlene Foster

If you don’t see it coming, then stick with me for a moment.

Recently a large number of thought leaders have talked about how the artist mentality is where this century is going. Dan Pink’s book A Whole New Mind talks about how we are entering the Conceptual Age – a time that is post-Industrial. It’s no longer about efficiency and low cost, but instead about new ideas and visionary concepts. If it can be outsourced or automated then your business is in danger. Besides Pink, luminaries like Seth Godin, and Mark McGuinness are also preaching the Gospel of the Artists.

Artists Have A Different Mindset

Artists live every day saying ‘What if I…’ They look at a blank canvas, a lump of clay, a piece of music or a script, and they find new ways to express anger, fear, happiness, and joy. Their primary concern is with creation. The mental and emotional toll that creativity takes is familiar to artists, and we wake up every day, ready to face rejection and failure over and over. It’s who we are.

We often don’t think linearly, and that’s a strength for us. Artists make connections where there don’t appear to be any. It’s not that only artists can have these moments. It’s that artists actively seek them out and are trained, or compelled by an inner drive, to do so.

Here are some examples of artistic leaps as they apply to business:

Jump the Gatekeeper. If your industry traditionally has a gatekeeper between you and your customers, then Artists can help you figure out how to bust that mold. For hundreds of years the only way to be a successful artist was to work through the gallery system, or the record labels, or the Hollywood film companies. Now, all of those monoliths are under attack. The music industry record labels are in near-ruins. Artists have figured out how to jump the gate and connect directly with their fans. For readers of Laura’s blog, this is the most directly applicable situation. Social Media Marketing has helped hundreds of artists bust the Starving Artist Myth by allowing them connect directly with their fans and not worry about pricey middlemen.

Blue Ocean Strategy. Nike famously went from being a shoe company to being a global brand by doing things that no other company would have thought of doing. In addition to having a great product, Nike was one of the first companies to partner with graffiti artists to design their shoes. Nike now has a long-standing connection with the hip-hop community that has been a huge boost to their sales. It was risky for Nike to do, but they looked at what artists were doing and saw the underlying movement that they could align with.

Products As Works of Art. Apple became the most valuable technology company in the world just on the strength of a handful of patents that make their products unique. The Multi-touch capability of the iPhone and the iPad are going to keep Apple ahead of the game for years. Not to mention the fact that Apple partners with artists in very successful ways. The iPod commercials with silhouettes dancing are some of the most successful commercials in the world. Apple employs Design Think in all of their product creation. Design Think is part research and part artistic process, and it helped Apple be innovative enough to reinvent themselves. There’s a reason that most designers do their work on Macs.

Engage an Artist

So, how can you engage an artist to help you change up your business? Here are a few ideas:

Crowdsource Your Graphic Design. Websites like will help you get logo and graphic design work from a small army of artists who will compete for your business. This is basic engagement that gives you design, but doesn’t really focus on helping you expand your thinking. It will, however, give you some inexpensive access to creative minds, if in a limited way.

Sponsor an Artist. There are artists like Natasha Wescoat who are technology and social media savvy who love doing inventive things like live-streaming painting sessions over the Web or writing about how technology is changing the world of art. You could try sponsoring an artist financially to support their work, and in return get so many hours of creativity and image consulting. If you want to sponsor an artist, I can help you with that.

Hire An Acting Troupe. Improv actors like On Your Feet will come to your organization and help you out by getting you up, moving, and creatively engaged. If you’ve ever seen the show Who’s Line Is It Anyway, it’s like doing improv games, but then at the end you suddenly have a bunch of new ideas for your business and enthusiasm for how to get them done. Alternately, they’ll entertain at your event, and somehow people miraculously remember what was talked about a little bit better.

Find a Graphical Facilitator. Some artists have a mind for business and art – they’re very valuable. Many of these artists will come to your strategy meetings and draw out all of the ideas that you put out, giving you visual feedback on your ideas. It’s relatively new, but Graphical Facilitation is an innovative way of getting your ideas down and coming away with a road map to success. For an excellent explanation of Graphical Facilitation, check out Brandy Agerbeck’s website.

Find An Artist Near You

To find an artist to work with, you might try a local gallery owner, an art fair, or just do a Google search. Also, you can check out my For Business page on my website. I have an extensive network of artists all over the world who can help your business flourish with new ideas.

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CoryHuff01web-150x150Cory Huff is an actor, director, voice-over artist, and internet marketing troublemaker. In addition to helping artists dispel the Starving Artist Myth at, he also offers social media and search engine optimization consulting.


  1. This is a wonderful article! I’ve read Dan Pink’s “The Adventures of Johnny Bunko” (awesome manga career guide) and use it as a manifesto for continuing to grow my business. I even have the six lessons from the book taped to my studio door.

    I have “A Whole New Mind” and need to read it as well.

    Having been an artist my whole life and growing up knowing that the way I think is “different” (frequently also called “weird”), I love the idea that the next era might be one of uber creative energy. I would love to live through a second Renaissance — even better if I can help create it!

    Thanks for an inspirational post!

  2. Thanks for a wonderful article, Corey! I was pounding the desk and shouting “Amen” the whole time. As an artist, CPA, model and actress, I find that I always seem to be outside of “the box.” It’s made for some very frustrating times, but your post is a powerful affirmation of all us artists.

    I’m going to check out your website, as well as the other sites you list above. Great article!

  3. Thanks Carol & Ginger – I think a renaissance and/or a revolution sounds like a great idea. Viva la Revolution!

  4. LOVE IT! I think it’s super important for everyone to get into the artist’s mindset. My theater friends keep telling me to get a copy of the Artist’s Way…

  5. If you value artists, I’d suggest that you do not use “crowdsourcing” services like 99designs. These competitions thrive by devaluing the contribution of the designer. They requiring them to do a great deal of work for free, and in the end, pay the “winners” very little for their contribution.

    Instead, find a local designer, strike up a relationship, and work together.

  6. I have to agree with Daniel about crowdsourcing. While I LOVED your article and was nodding my head about how artists often do work their way around gatekeepers (did that all through college), crowdsourcing makes me cringe. It’s almost like job bidding on Elance and Odesk, except you’re not getting paid.

    While the spirit of group collaboration is nice, what it has morphed into doesn’t help the actual artists themselves and using crowdsourcing just trains artists to expect to be paid little to nothing for their skills, a mentality a lot of artists are trying to break.

    If you want to help artists, you really should pay them what they’re worth. Creating something from nothing is not an easy feat and while it looks like we’re just staring at the blank page for hours doing nothing, we are actually really working. Treating them like you value their contribution and their mental efforts would go a longer way. And be more nourishing as well. :)

  7. Awesome article. Darlene Foster is my favorite artist!

  8. @Cory Huff… Fun article, but you couldn’t be more wrong if you tried. Most artists start doing something because it is fun for them (at first at least). i.e. playing music or designing web pages.

    The fact is most artists won’t be able to transition from between being an artist, where the primary focus is on honing one’s craft, to owning a business.

    Unfortunately, business owners will continue to rule the world and most artists will continue to struggle even though the tools are now available to succeed. The mindset will 99% of the time not be there.

    Also, 99Designs great for artists? I agree with @DanielStroka that it’s terrible for designers. The only people its good for is the owner of 99Designs and the people who outsource cheap work there.

  9. I love this! Being a musician (singer/songwriter) is not the easiest job in the world and the majority of people look down on it as a profession. They view it mostly as a hobby. It’s nice to hear that we may have the minds of the future! Thanks for posting this…


    p.s. how might you go about being a sponsored artist?

  10. For someone who seems passionate about helping artists, I would suggest you do more research and reconsider your position on “crowdsourcing”.

    Crowdsourcing shows no respect for professional designers who deserve to be compensated for their expertise and it devalues a profession that many of us love. This is hardly good for artists. The end product suffers too, as it diminishes design to nothing more than a beauty contest and doesn’t consider its strategic marketing and communications value which is achieved only through an effective designer/client relationship.

  11. Great post, I was temping in London last year and this reminds me of a graffiti artist we used for a commission, we needed to hire a graffiti artist for a short add video and hired the graffiti artist called “Buzzby” from a group called Urban AllStars. Great bunch of graffiti artists, WOW this sounds like a add lol, opps. Ok finish of, go and hire the graffiti guys their good. Sarah xxx