April 15, 2022
Creator Spotlight

How I Avoided Becoming The Starving Artist

By Ryan Petrie

In hindsight, my current career as an illustrator and animator was an inevitability. As a kid, I enjoyed art class more than any other and was constantly drawing sketches in the boundaries of my homework assignments. In my free time after school, I made silly action videos with my friends, and if we ever had a video project assigned in any class, you better believe I was on top of that!

Despite my creative passions I never thought I’d make a living as a creative. I was discouraged from pursuing a career in art growing up and was regularly warned that there was no way to make a living in it — that all artists end up poor and starving. So I treated my creative endeavors as a hobby — something I would do for fun on the side while working a real job.

My professional career as an artist began when I saw an open call for a digital illustrator commission posted by the (at the time) less than one year old music label Monstercat. I had just started branching out into digital illustrations on my iPad for fun, so I figured I’d shoot my shot and email them my digital art portfolio. Lo and behold, they liked my work and commissioned a piece celebrating the successful launch of their 8th compilation album. They soon invited me back to make the official album art for their 9th album, and then their 10th, and every other consecutive compilation album for several years!

Ryan Petrie Art Collage

My art style became somewhat synonymous with the label’s brand as it grew into a staple of the indie EDM scene, and I suddenly found myself getting a ton more work — not just digital artwork but also image editing, logo design, and even video! I found myself able to make enough money as a freelance artist that I dropped out of college.

Freelance work was liberating in many ways. There were obviously benefits to being my own boss, but the problems I encountered working freelance were numerous. I did not enjoy managerial duties necessary to maintain a steady flow of work. There were numerous times when money was tight and I feared those childhood warnings of the starving artist might become my reality.

I longed for the support of a creative team with skill sets different from mine. As a one-man team, I never felt free to hone my skills on the things I felt I was best at. I felt like a jack of all trades but a master of none.

I’m super appreciative to now be part of the team here at Treatment. In the few months that I’ve worked here, I’ve felt so much more free to experiment and try new things in the mediums I’m most passionate about. I think every creative is stronger as part of a team than they could ever be alone!