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Doing It for the Art

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"I don't make movies to make money, I make money to make movies."

When dealing with media, sometimes it is difficult to overcome the feeling that, however much you may love a TV show, movie, video game, etc., the only reason it exists is to make money. Sure, it might have great writing, acting, animation, etc., but when it comes right down to it, it got produced because someone wearing a fancy suit thought a bunch of other guys wearing fancy suits could make money off of it.

However, there are plenty of people in media who do their work just because they find it fulfilling. Not all of us need money to justify effort. A lot of people are honestly just Doing It for the Art.

Those from outside the art world usually associate this mindset with what is visibly present on the work. If there is an immense amount of detail present in a work, many feel it has to be because they are committed to pure artistry. However, this is a misconception, as plenty of artists will do this even if a paycheck is the ultimate motivator. Artists that do it for the art will be the first to admit they stretch their personal limits because that's their only motivation. Any work they do will be work done for its own sweet sake, even if it is never expected or intended to make money. Sometimes they will even turn down any kind of monetary compensation, no matter how much is offered to them.

This often applies to niche media, since oftentimes, with more popular works, the creators must work with the general expectation that they need to create something to satisfy a large audience above all else.

Now consider that Tropes Are Tools. Doing It for the Art does not equal quality work. If it did, then this page would have been put in the Sugar Wiki a long time ago. Some examples here are of people who genuinely tried, but just weren't talented enoughSturgeon's Law still applies, regardless of the creator's motives. (In which case this would be some kind of consolation, as in, "That movie sucked, but at least they cared".) Conversely, doing it for money does not equal lack of quality. Indeed, some writers' hackwork is preferred to what they regarded as important stuff, sometimes because doing it for money was the only way they let down their pretensions. Also, if somebody lets their success get to their head to the point where their "vision" hurts the quality of their work, it can quickly slide into a Protection from Editors situation. However, the romantic ideal represented by this motivation can lead to a backlash against creators who are perceived to be doing something solely (or even partially) for reward, possibly by people who assume that doing something for money means you don't put your effort into it for artistic reasons as well.

In film analysis, someone who does a lot of this is called an auteur, as opposed to the metteur en scene, who is the journeyman director who makes someone else's movie. Within the artists' circle, this practice is called "Art for art's sake". Of course, if it does actually make money, well that's just a perk.

The same motive appears in a far less benign (and more explosive) form in For Science!.

Compare and contrast with Awesome, Dear Boy, Money, Dear Boy, One for the Money; One for the Art, and So My Kids Can Watch. Contrast with Pandering to the Base, Propaganda Piece, Contractual Obligation Project, and Creator's Apathy. See also Serious Business, The Producer Thinks of Everything, Shown Their Work, Written for My Kids, and Creator-Chosen Casting.

Important Note: This only applies when creators openly state they prioritize art over profit. No matter how impressive something might be production-wise, a behind-the-scenes factoid or a visual effect is not proof on its own that the creator or production team is Doing It for the Art. This page is not intended for Gushing About Shows You Like. If you are looking for pages to gush about impressive facets of production regardless of motive, please post it on Development Heaven, Awesome Art or Visual Effects of Awesome instead. If you were sent here by an example that better fits any of those pages, please correct this by moving the example away from the Trivia page and into one of those pages instead.

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    Anime & Manga 
  • Osamu "God of Manga" Tezuka continually revised his work (and removed stories from circulation that he felt weren't up to par), created experimental works just for the hell of it, and is even said to have died saying "Please, God, let me work!" Tezuka, in fact, had a license to practice medicine (which would've guaranteed financial security) but turned it down because he wanted to draw comics instead. Realize that when he did this, there was no manga industry, so Tezuka was turning down a guaranteed career (as a doctor) in favor of something that could've just as easily crashed and burned.
  • Dragon Ball creator Akira Toriyama. Though he hated the weekly format of the manga, the Executive Meddling, and being obligated to make his work a Franchise Zombie, his works never declined in quality—in fact, it became even more complex and interesting—and he always took special care about making sure no plot holes were created. What's also notable is that he had already become very financially successful with his previous work Dr. Slump, and yet he chose to keep going with another work.
  • Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind—When Hayao Miyazaki originally pitched the idea, producers refused to risk money making a film not adapted from a current hit, so Miyazaki reluctantly made a manga out of it. Even after the Nausicaa movie was greenlit, made, and became a hit, he continued to create the manga for the next dozen years in between working on his other hit films.
  • Giant Robo The Animation: The Day the Earth Stood Still was made over a period of nearly 6 years, ran massively over budget, and the finale was practically financed out of the production staff's own pockets. And it was worth it.
    • All for a series which was already deemed a commercial failure by the third of its seven episodes. The team kept plugging away at it anyhow. While it went unloved in its homeland, it was a big hit in North America, and is considered a classic among English-speaking fans.
    • This is one of the defining traits of Imagawa. Giant Robo and Shin Mazinger are both incredible stories that tanked in Japan, and G Gundam would have been a shameless set of 22-minute toy commercials had he not held his ground.
  • Mobile Suit Gundam: The 08th MS Team. You do not get much more committed to a work than when your director dies partway through, causing a series that could really be wrapped up in just three months to drag on for three years and keep going at it and refusing to let any of that lessen the quality. To say nothing about the realistic nature in which it was portrayed.
  • Hideaki Anno, entirely. He founded Studio Gainax with some college buddies in order to make off-kilter stuff like Royal Space Force: The Wings of Honnęamise, Gunbuster, and Otaku no Video simply because they loved anime—then he suffered a breakdown due to lack of creative control over Nadia: The Secret of Blue Water. His iconic work, Neon Genesis Evangelion was created primarily as an expression of his own struggle with manic depression, as well as a rumination on various philosophical topics of interest to him. He even admitted his astonishment when the series became one of the most popular and iconic anime of all time. He is notoriously dismissive of Fan Dumb and starting with Evangelion, every other one of his works has been a massive "fuck you" to otaku. He walked out on the next series he worked on because of creative disputes with the original author, and simply abandoned anime altogether in favor of bizarre live-action films until leaving his company to form his own production studio. If all that isn't Doing It for the Art, we don't know what is.
  • Mamoru Oshii, who is known for making bizarre, off-kilter films notorious for being disorientingly complex and EXTREMELY contemplative. He became enmeshed in disputes over "artistic differences" in his FIRST PROJECT, and since then has never made a movie that was about anything other than what he damn well felt like.
  • Even though he was working for several studios in California at the time, Crispin Freeman decided to play the role of Zelgadis again for the Slayers Premium movie (all of the franchises' movies were licensed by Texas-based ADV Films, whereas NYC-based Central Park Media had recorded the television series, hence a different voice cast), going to Texas on his own dime. Slayers Premium is only half an hour long and Zelgadis only has about twelve lines total.
    • Taken even further when he does a twenty-minute commentary on the series.
    • Eric Stuart CAME OUT OF RETIREMENT to voice Gourry again for Slayers Revolution.
    • Anime dubbing, in general, tends to be like this. Ask any voice actor in a convention. They'll tell you that anime voice acting is the lowest paying work in the industry and is also one of the hardest (due to the processes involved). They suggest that while the issue of money (and lesser extent, unions) should not be ignored, they advise aspiring new voice actors to do anime voice work just because they like it, not for the money.
      • This trope is one of the reasons why certain VAs normally based in LA (or, more rarely, NYC) are willing to work with Funimation (which is located in Fort Worth, Texas) in the first place, being that it's a Right-To-Work State, thus cheaper prices and in general a more open environment compared to LA and NYC (one of the advantages is that you can actually call up the company doing the casting auditions and have your name put on a list. Then, on audition day you go there and take your shot in person).
  • Masashi Kishimoto, creator of Naruto. No, really. Reading the personal history segments he puts into the volumes reveals just how much he loves being a mangaka, and how much effort he put into getting to that point. And the biggest reason he came this far is For the Art, his love of drawing is what convinced him to be a mangaka in the first place.
  • Tite Kubo, creator of Bleach. Much like Oda and Kishimoto, he loves his work as a mangaka. He has stated that he draws and writes what he loves, and that to write something he did not like would be a sin. His foreword in Volume 55 is proof of this, where he stated that the entire story of Bleach was done for the sake of the Final Arc, a final arc he had been drafting and preparing for the past five years. Call him whatever you want, but this is a man who writes what he loves.
  • The attention Hidekaz Himaruya puts to both his works and audience says a lot about his dedication, whether it's in the research or his sincere appreciation for the fandom's support even during the 2011 earthquake.
    • And if this Q&A blog post is anything to go by, he's also notably open in letting his fans have their way with his work, including scanlations.
  • Koichi Mashimo founded his own studio, Bee Train, just for this. After a lengthy hospital stay from a skiing accident, he formed his own company to nurture the creative talent of its staff and not be driven just for profit.
  • Musou Kakyou: A Summer Day's Dream and Fantasy Kaleidoscope are professional, extensive Touhou Project fanime.
  • Hirohiko Araki stated that the reason part 7 of JoJo's Bizarre Adventure moved from Weekly Shonen Jump to its sister seinen magazine Ultra Jump was that he wasn't satisfied with the restrictions of a weekly shounen magazine or just "drawing manga for his own benefit", and wanted to tell a more challenging, ambitious, adult and psychological storyline. As a result of this, Steel Ball Run is widely considered the best-written and most engaging storyline in the entire franchise.
  • The One-Punch Man anime is done by Madhouse on what is reportedly a very average budget...and yet they are creating amazingly detailed and beautifully animated scenes for the show, far above what that budget should be able to allow. All indications are that they're doing it simply because they love the concept of One-Punch Man and just want to bring it to life in anime form.
  • Like Eric Stuart before him, Dan Green exited retirement to reprise Yugi and Atem in Yu-Gi-Oh! The Dark Side of Dimensions, and Mewtwo in Mewtwo Strikes Back—Evolution.

  • Alexandre Cabanel's inspiration to paint "The Fallen Angel" was born from his desire to have his characters emote accordingly to the scene they were painted in and submit an outstanding piece of art. For example, his "Christ in the Garden of Olives" doesn't look as if he's agonizing over the ill fate that awaits him. By contrast, his Lucifer's countenance exquisitely displays turmoil. He comments this to his patron and friend in a letter. So, it's a rare case of putting art not above money but above the time's artistic conventions.

    Comic Books 
  • Dave Sim's Cerebus the Aardvark is probably the crowning example. Sim spent a quarter of a century working so hard that his marriage broke up and he spent time in an asylum.
  • The Alternative Comics publisher Fantagraphics can certainly qualify, releasing over 100 titles a year ranging from more popular examples like Love and Rockets to more esoteric examples like ”Abstract Comics: The Anthology”. All edited and released by a staff of Twenty. And they’ve managed to stay in business since 1976. For example, when they faced a cash shortage due to co-founder Kim Thompson having Died During Production, their Kickstarter campaign to make back the money to release the titles was funded in FOUR DAYS because they just built up that much goodwill in the comic community over the years.

    Comic Strips 
  • Calvin and Hobbes creator Bill Watterson willingly stopped the comic's run once he ran out of ideas, to stop it from becoming a Franchise Zombie. And official merchandise is extremely rarenote ; Watterson was open to producing an animated series at one point but ultimately decided against it because he couldn't get used to the idea of Calvin or Hobbes having a voice, as it would inevitably fail to match the voices readers had imagined for them.

    Furthermore, Watterson took a year-long sabbatical from drawing the comic at the height of its popularity, due to artistic differences with his publisher. He only came back on the condition that he'd have a reserved block of space for the Sunday comic, instead of the usual modular format that allows individual newspapers to rearrange the panels as they see fit.
  • Peanuts: One man, doing all the writing, drawing, and inking, for 50 years, only stopping when he was too ill to continue (by which we mean that his final strip was printed the day after his death and had been drawn just a few weeks before). And not only the comics — Schulz was also pretty involved with the TV specials and movies, especially the original Christmas special.

    Fan Works 
  • The Crimson Badger, the first book of The Urthblood Saga, is a good example. This monumental Redwall fic of 87 chapters and 400,000 words was mostly written in the late nineties before the author had ever heard of the Fan Fiction community, and was convinced that no one but himself would ever read it.

  • The original publishers decided to back The Lord of the Rings based on its quality alone, even though they thought they'd lose money on it. The first print run, 3,500 copies, sold out within six weeks.
  • The Harry Potter books. Before the first book came out, J. K. Rowling spent seven years Worldbuilding and planning out the six sequels she had already planned to write. And for much of this time, she was an unemployed single mother living on welfare. She turned down various offers for the movie rights and only relented when Warner Bros. agreed to her conditions, which included following her storyline and averting the Fake Brit trope. And like Chuck Jones, she has been quoted as saying she didn't actually have children in mind when she wrote the series and was really just entertaining herself.
    • The success of the Harry Potter franchise has made her rich enough to never have to write another book in her life...not that that's stopping her.
  • Cormac McCarthy certainly seems to take this view towards his career. Though he has always been critically acclaimed, his audience has expanded significantly since he started out, growing from just a few thousand readers to millions of them—but in spite of this, he claims that he'd be just as happy if he'd stayed relatively unknown and that getting the chance to write is its own reward.
    • "Anything that doesn't take years of your life and drive you to suicide hardly seems worth doing."
    • For Blood Meridian, he taught himself Spanish just so he could get the dialogue exactly the way he wanted it.
  • While Malazan Book of the Fallen is profitable to the publisher nowadays, it took quite a while to get there. It took even longer for Steven Erikson to even find a publisher who was willing to take the entire series as planned because it was such a massive undertaking and he wasn't willing to compromise. Erikson is citing his frustration with the publishing system's aversion to risk-taking in the preface of Gardens of the Moon.
    Ambition is not a dirty word. Piss on compromise. Go for the throat. Write with balls, write with eggs. Sure, it's a harder journey but take it from me, it's well worth it.
  • Bernie Wrightson's illustrations for Frankenstein were not initially done for any pay; he spent seven years working on the project simply as a "labor of love."

    Live-Action TV 
  • Battlestar Galactica (2003): When they realized they were running out of music budget for the series finale, Ron Moore, the other producers and composer Bear McCreary himself pitched in to pay for the orchestra.
  • Babylon 5: The creator of the show also wrote 4/5ths of the 110 scripts and took the job of executive producer just so he could get the creative control he wanted. There's also over 10,000 posted public comments from the five year run of the show. It went so far that he let Warner Brothers give him a percent of the net rather than the gross. Hollywood Accounting at it's best, he's not upset despite the 'billion dollars' it's made for WB with him seeing almost nothing off DVD sales.
  • Sherlock was originally created because writers Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss were gigantic fans of Sherlock Holmes and frequently discussed what a modern adaptation of the books would be like. They didn't expect it to become popular and actually had a very small promoting budget during the first series.
  • Both The Wire and Damages apparently have this as their motive for existing. Neither were major successes with the public, and both are unapologetic in the extreme for what they are.
  • Day Break (2006) seemed to have been this. Unusual for a TV show, the entire season was written out and filmed as a whole like a movie and then broken up into 13 episodes, allowing for a great deal of continuity and tricks that might have otherwise been difficult or even impossible to do.
  • The Muppet Show always had Jim Henson and company going that extra mile for the series. Henson willingly cancelled it after its fifth season because he felt like the show lasting any longer would have compromised their creative output.
  • Patrick McGoohan was, at one point, the highest-paid star on TV. That he turned down both The Saint and James Bond and the millions he might have earned for another series of Danger Man in order to make The Prisoner (1967) speaks volumes. He also made sure that he supervised every element of the show, often rewriting and reshooting segments (when he wasn't the credited writer or director that is), all in order to make a highly personal statement about the nature of freedom.
  • Most producers and writers, and even actors on Doctor Who see the show as their lifelong dream, but special mention has to go out to Russell T Davies, who tried for sixteen years to get it back on the air. Say what you want about his storytelling, but he really loved the show.
    • This trope even extended to actors who weren’t even fans of the series before appearing in it. William Hartnell took to the series like a fish took to water, going to the extra effort of labelling many of the dozens of levers on the TARDIS console so he knew which one to use for a specific purpose and had great faith in the future of the show, which couldn’t be said for the other shows he previously appeared in. Jon Pertwee enjoyed doing the show because he finally got to have the chance to play a suave action hero rather than another comic character, also developing friendships with the other cast members and crew, and Tom Baker thought the entire idea behind the show was cool and was more interesting than his own personal life.
    • Not forgetting all the other people who worked on bringing Doctor Who back after its hiatus and those who work on the Doctor Who Expanded Universe, such as Nicholas Briggs for Big Finish Doctor Who. It helped keep Doctor Who alive before its return.
    • The Doctor Who Restoration Team, the people responsible for the remastering on the later VHS releases and all the Classic Series DVD releases work for free so that people can see the show in the best possible quality.
  • Similiarily, a number of actors have appeared on Star Trek related productions because they were fans of the franchise or felt it look good on their resumés, such as Kelsey Grammer
  • Chris Morris is known for the lengths he will go to to achieve his effects and his sheer guts and bravery (even memorably mocking drug dealers to their faces). His agent has commented that she doesn't tell Chris what his fee will be for any one programme...because he's likely to negotiate it away to pay for extra filming.
  • Some Project Runway contestants have had a tendency to do whatever they wanted artistically, even if they risked losing. Austin, Stella, and Sandhya really stand out in this category, and even more moved into it at least once for a challenge with a weird inspiration or one where they had immunity.
  • Dave Chappelle walked away from a $50 million contract to continue Chappelle's Show because of the changes that would come with the money. He instead preferred to do impromptu stand-up.
  • Every single one of the actors and crew donated their time to make Home Movie: The Princess Bride, which was created to raise money for the World Central Kitchen during the COVID-19 pandemic. Director Jason Reitman instructed all of the actors to "think like kids" for their respective segments, leading to the scrappy "kids' home movie" feel of the production.
  • Craig Mazin agreed to run The Last of Us (2023) after finding the original video game to boast what he later called, "the greatest story that has ever been told in video games."
  • While preparing for his role as Halbrand in The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power, Charlie Vickers got so passionate about his role that started learning blacksmithing for good just for the heck of it, without being a demand for the role.
  • Much of the cast members and crew of One Piece (2023) are huge fans of the original manga and anime, and have repeatedly stated they're making the show out of love of what Oda made first and foremost.

  • John Popadiuk, full stop. The decline of Arcade Games and arcade pinballs at the end of the 20th century have sent pinball designers either consolidating into the few remaining companies or moving on to other fields. But not John Popadiuk, who not only continues to dedicate himself to keeping the spirit of American Pinball alive, he's also started his own studio for creating hand-made custom tables for a truly devoted audience. His first table, Magic Girl, took over two years to create and had a production run of only thirteen tables... all of which were pre-sold, sight unseen, for $15,995 each.
  • WhizBang Pinball, formed by veteran pinball developers Dennis Nordman and Greg Freres. Their first game, Whoa Nellie! Big Juicy Melons, is a Retraux electro-mechanical pin, taking two years to produce four tables that resemble stacks of wooden crates. They've since released their plans and artwork to the pinball community, encouraging fans to make their own machines, and are looking at teaming up with Stern Pinball for a limited run to meet the demand of die-hard collectors.

    Music Videos 
  • Pamela Anderson loved the premise of the video for Miserable and wanted to be in it so bad that she actually did it for free, telling them to just pay her hair and makeup person instead. And this was after they had approached her to play the Giant Woman.
  • Kanye West's "Runaway" — a musical short film featuring music of his upcoming 2010 album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy — was supposedly financed entirely out of his own pocket. His label reportedly had no involvement in the project, admitted they had no prior idea of how Kanye was funding the film or why, suggesting it to be more for the art than the promotional potential.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • Pro Wrestler Jim Fullington, better known as the Sandman. Has been independently wealthy for more than a decade, and still goes out almost every night and gets the living hell knocked out of him due to the love of the "sport," and his love for the fans.
  • CM Punk believes that pro wrestling is one of "the original arts that America has given to the world" and his career was built around making that as sincere as possible beyond the usual aspirations of personal fame and recognition.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Forge World, a company that makes high-end models for Warhammer 40,000. They not only make special tanks and variations, including the always-favorite Super-Heavy Tanks, Flyers, and wallet-raping Titans, but will also do shuttles and support vehicles that have little to no actual combat value, and about half a dozen "pattern" conversion kits, which are sets to make your standard tanks look just a little different. These guys just love making tanks for the Imperial Guard (and to a lesser extent, the other factions as well).
    • One could also argue that it's actually the people buying the kits who are in it for the art, and Forge World themselves are just exploiting a market that is willing to pay a lot of money for their models. Or they are one and the same.
  • Magic: The Gathering: Two full expansion sets were nothing but over-the-top cheesy humor — Unglued and Unhinged — were done strictly because the developers wanted to do something silly. It doesn't help that the main impetus behind both was Phil Foglio.
  • Think of all the math and story details that go into your favorite tabletop roleplaying games. Now remember that anyone who can come up with those game mechanics or that setting does so knowing full well that they'll not only never get rich off of it, they'll probably not be able to afford to do it for long.

  • Pacific Overtures. A kabuki-inspired historical pageant about culture clash and gunboat diplomacy featuring an all Asian-American cast was never going to be the next big Broadway commercial hit, but Hal Prince and Stephen Sondheim never shied away from making shows purely because they challenged and inspired them creatively.

    Visual Novels 
  • Katawa Shoujo is a Visual Novel done entirely by a worldwide group of amateurs being distributed for free, simply because the developers wanted to turn an idea and characters (a game where all the potential love interests were disabled schoolgirls) from an omake page from a doujinshi into reality. What's even more staggering is the project was birthed on 4chan, yet the subject matter is handled with much more care, respect and dignity than many a Very Special Episode cares to afford.

    Web Animation 
  • All Fanime, period. A lot of time and effort is put into videos that few people will ever see, and the whole production is often written and animated by one person.
  • A huge majority of YouTube Poopers work as hard as possible on their videos without expecting any compensation whatsoever. While it is, on one hand, a product of the circumstances note it is generally agreed that making money off of the hobby would completely undermine its purpose.
  • Homestar Runner. It was quite sometime before the creators realized that they could make a penny out of it, and it was done as a labor of love. Now, they make enough money off of merchandising for it to be their entire livelihood. After it started picking up steam, The Brothers Chaps were offered, multiple times, TV shows and movie deals for Homestar Runner. Each time, they've said no. The closest they've come is the Telltale games, all of which have either Mike or both Chaps working with Telltale extensively on lines and story. (Eventually, they said yes to animating careers that had nothing to do with Homestar whatsoever.)
  • Similarly, JIM, the creator behind the Neurotically Yours series, was offered several times to have his creation put on TV shows or on a more broadcasted network on the Internet. JIM had turned down every single offer purely because every contract he read over had something in it that meant he would have less control over his creations and he didn't want to have his characters changed beyond his control.
  • Edd Gould refused to have Eddsworld be monetized despite its massive popularity, insisting that he didn't intend the show to go anywhere beyond being a silly series of animations featuring himself and his friends. Though a store for the series was opened around 2018 followed by the launch of a Patreon in August 2020, both of which were long after Gould's death, Gould's friends made it clear that the money is not for pure monetary gain (a bulk of it goes towards Gould's family, with the rest going to the series' new animation team) and intend keep the series exclusive to the internet.

  • All the works by David Morgan-Mar and The Comic Irregulars. Attention Deficit Creator Disorder crammed with massive references and explanations needed to just make a pun work, yet free of Schedule Slip and they are doing it as a hobby! That's something you don't get to see often. Since he's using copyrighted material, there are no ads or merchandise funding the site hosting. It all comes out of his own pocket. Even now when DMM has ads and merchandise for mezzacotta, he intends to make zero profit and give all the money earned to charity.
  • David Herbert has said that he doesn't care if his comics don't make much, as long as he can pay the artists for their hard work. Other than that, if he never made a cent from them, he'd still be happy.
    • He's actually losing money from the advertising and production of Gemini Storm and with only just over a thousand Living with Insanity readers and no merchandise, it's unlikely he'll make the money back any time soon. And yet LWI is still going, Gemini Storm is getting a second issue, and he apparently has some other projects coming soon.
  • MS Paint Adventures. Andrew Hussie Hussie once said that to most people, even if they make no money from it, stuff like this is a job to them, whereas for him MSPA is a lifestyle, and he spends the majority of every day working on it; even though most of it is planning, that's still a ridiculous amount of dedication.

    Web Original 
  • Calling Wildbow "prolific" would be an understatement. What does one do after writing a massive superhero web serial the size of twenty full-length novels? Apparently, take a few days of vacation and start on a new massive web serial, this one about demons and contracts. Wildbow could certainly make more money through traditional publishing, but instead he's funded entirely through Patreon and other donations. Every last word of his work is free.
  • This trope is the reason why a card game is developed as story material for Chaos Fighters.
  • There's definitely plenty of Author Appeal in the Whateley Universe, but this is a universe, crafted by a group of authors, built so the "just bugs me" moments of most comic books are handled, with incredible attention to detail everywhere. Over a hundred stories, dozens of full-length novels, and it's all free on a website.
  • Hardcore Gaming 101 is a video game overview site that consists of reviews on obscure/cult classic games, interviews, podcasts, vlogs, self-released books (all of which are available for download for free) - all made on pure enthusiasm and with little to no money in return, for more than a decade of regular updates.
  • The SCP Foundation setting is made up of nothing but fan-submitted content. It's all available for free and no one makes any money off of it.
  • The Avocado is an entirely non-profit website (its URL is, relying on donations to cover operating expenses. All content on the site is created by the site's users, just for the joy of creating something or to start a discussion in the community.
  • In the days before the release of The Last of Us Part II, Jason Schreier of Kotaku wrote an article that touched on the darker side of this trope. Developer Naughty Dog had a habit of perfectionism and only hiring the best, most driven people to make their games as good as could be, which meant they'd be willing to put up with twelve-hour-plus workdays and coming in sick to work on the game. They were never asked to work overtime week after week until they were hospitalized because they'd do it anyway. Some employees found it impossible to do it for the art in the extreme crunch, to the point that most game animators refuse to work with Naughty Dog at all.
    Schreier: Many who have worked at Naughty Dog over the years describe it as a duality -— as a place that can be simultaneously the best and the worst workplace in the world. Working at Naughty Dog means designing beloved, critically acclaimed games alongside artists and engineers who are considered some of the greatest in their fields. But for many of those same people, it also means working 12-hour days (or longer) and even weekends when the studio is in crunch mode, sacrificing their health, relationships, and personal lives at the altar of the game.
  • The Seven Levels of Photographer by Ken Rockwell. The highest level is Artists, who care about taking great pictures more than selling them or even showing them to other people. The second highest level is Whores.
    A whore is an artist who sells his soul by accepting money or drugs for his art.
    By lowering himself to this level his vision is compromised.
    Why? Because when one depends on selling one's soul to pay for one's food and pad one does not screw with the program, which means that one does not try new styles.
  • Nobody Here doesn't run any ads, with the project originally receiving its funding from the Mondriaan Fund, and later Patreon.

    Web Videos 
  • Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog, anyone? Done out of Joss Whedon's own pocket as a response to the TV Strikes, with the cast and crew being paid almost entirely out of any profits it made from iTunes sales and ads and eventual DVD sales. And it's insanely popular.
    • One of the DVD commentaries for Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog is the appropriately titled Commentary! The Musical. In it, Felicia Day takes the time to tell us, and remind herself, that it's "All About the Art". And not about the hunky co-star, awesome shoes, or promoting her own web series.
    • Joss sometimes gets this reaction from people who have had the pleasure of working with him. When Joss called Nathan Fillion to pitch the idea, Fillion said he saw the caller ID and answered the phone with "the answer is YES!"
  • Epic Meal Time: Harvey Morenstein can't be making much money from this gig so far, so given how expensive buying five different birds for one meal must be, it'd almost have to be this.
  • Marble Hornets was made on about a total of $500, which is about enough to buy a camera, Sony Vegas, and a suit. It's made by Something Awful goons balancing schooling and living on part-time jobs, using only weekends and time off to shoot. Troy has personally been offered TV and film deals, only to turn them down because the Internet is more fitting. Though there is a movie being made now that it's over, starring Doug Jones as the Operator.
  • Olan Rogers has about amassed just over 100,000 views for the most viewed New Prime video, and yet he continues to spend many months at a time working on each one. It shows. Oh, and there's No Budget.
  • The main reason Matt Santoro makes YouTube videos is because he enjoys it, not because of the money.
  • Early in his run when he wasn't seeing much money coming from The Nostalgia Critic, Doug Walker was selling birthday gifts and Christmas presents so he could keep living.
  • The first season of The Katering Show was made with an arts grant and the stars and director didn't get paid at all. The second season had backing from The ABC but even then, the money was basically all on screen. Their joke about the difference between the two seasons being that they were "on minimum wage now" wasn't far off the mark.
  • A lot of web critics and abridged series creators, Linkara, Spoony, The Angry Video Game Nerd, Little Kuriboh, Team Four Star, and hbi2k, (to name a few) do not earn much (if anything) for their work. Yet they still do it. Religiously. And they work their asses off to do it. These guys have done reviews or made episodes when they were sick or broke and have still kept at it.
  • Discussed by Tom Scott in his video The Greatest Title Sequence I've Ever Seen. He talks about the biannual Hilarious Outtakes clip show It'll Be All Right on the Night, and how each title sequence used surprisingly ambitious visual effects and editing to cue in each episode. In particular, he discusses All Right on the Night's Cockup Trip, which had such subtle details in its intro, including a spinning compass, that it blew him away.
  • bill wurtz shares his truckloads of music, videos, and other content — most famously on YouTube, but even more of it is through his personal website — all for free and without ads. He has a personal distaste for advertising and sponsorship culture, and that despite facing immense pressure from companies offering him exorbitant amounts of easy cash, he rejects it every time. He does upload his music on streaming services, sparingly sells merch, and has a Patreon for donations, but he doesn't promote or even incentivize them with rewards. He also doesn't think much about maintaining a mainstream online presence, either — he allowed himself to disappear without announcement in 2019, then return in 2021 revealing he spent the interim learning 3D animation.

    Western Animation 
  • The Ren & Stimpy Show creator John Kricfalusi. He turned down the offer he got from DreamWorks Animation to pitch a movie because he thought the team compromised his creative vision. He was also so insistent on keeping the original content of his cartoons in, he purposefully slowed down production of The Ren & Stimpy Show so the censors would have less time to go over them. It worked, but ultimately got him fired. (Needless to say, the Spumco staff is generally Doing It for the Art — after John K was kicked out, the majority of the crew left alongside him). The unbelievably high quality of Spumco productions (with John K's rule to never draw the same expression twice) is not unheard of either — especially that all of it is done for TV. However, as evidenced by this blog post of John K's, it's also quite evident the economic thinking is not absent.
  • As seen by Chuck Jones' quote on the quote page, the animators at the "Termite Terrace" studio producing the Looney Tunes shorts for Warner Bros. between the mid-1930s and 1946. Helping the anarchistic spirit along were a succession of humorless bosses that more or less invited open rebellion. Founder Schlessinger won unwitting immortality as the inspiration for Daffy Duck's trademark lisp ("You're dethpicable!"). The Warner Bros. themselves really didn't know or care what was going on in their animation unit, leaving hands-on oversight to bean counter Eddie Selzer. Recounting the genesis of the classic "Bully For Bugs", Jones recalled the day Selzer showed up at his door as he and writer Mike Maltese were hashing out story ideas and bellowed: "I don't want any pictures about bullfights! Bullfights aren't funny!" Then Selzer marched off, leaving his dumbfounded staff staring at each other. "Well," Maltese said, "Eddie's never been right yet..."
    • Jones explained that What's Opera, Doc? took several months longer to make than their usual cartoons (it featured a hundred-odd separate scene cuts) and his staff fudged their paycheck records, billing the extra time onto quickly-made cartoons.
    • Subversion: While at W-B, Tex Avery was heard to say "Let Disney make chicken salad and win awards. I'll make chicken shit and make money."
  • Ōban Star-Racers was Savin Yeatman-Eiffel's child on every conceivable level. Concerned that working for an existing studio would not give him the creative control he needed, he founded his own independent animation studio, spent years raising funds and figuring out the desired art and animation style, spent even longer to secure the music, sound, and voice talent he desired, and even wrote the scripts for all 26 episodes himself in several languages. The end result is an incredibly polished childrens' action/adventure animated series that's regarded as a Cult Classic.
  • Ted Turner proposed Captain Planet and the Planeteers as a serious effort to help the environment and was his one true passion project during his career.
  • Dan Povenmire of Phineas and Ferb is perfectly happy with his work being uploaded for free on video sites. He even reads the comments on the videos on YouTube and responds to some of them. The episodes continue to be created in HD, despite them never being aired this way, and it really says a lot when he talks about how Disney doesn't market them as such because they think the kids don't care and the adults won't buy it.
    • See this interview as well.
    "The truth is, we make this cartoon for ourselves," said Marsh. "We don’t make it for children; we just don't exclude them, which is something that John Lasseter once said. When you get to writing the jokes and finalizing the content, you just want to make sure you don’t do anything that's going to make you cringe as a parent or that’s going to alienate the younger viewers."
  • The Wacky World of Tex Avery creator Brody Dowler described it as a "homage to the brilliant, hilarious and groundbreaking animator Tex Avery and the wonderful squash-and-stretch cartoons of his era".
  • This mindset is the reason why Ed, Edd n Eddy was the final Western production to have its animation be hand-inked and hand-painted, managing to hold out for years after everyone else had abandoned celluoid (only switching because the overseas animation studio finally put their foot down). On top of that, creator Danny Antonucci is credited as the writer and director nearly every episode, with he and his crew have managing to come up with over 130 episodes worth of stories and gags with a cast of only 12 characters.

  • Editing any type of Wiki, including this one. There's no profit, and it's usually done anonymously or under a pseudonym.
  • Creators of Gothic churches would also care to create statues that were perfect on all sides—even if no humans would ever see the backsides, God still would. One gothic Cathedral, Chartres (whose architect is unknown and is regarded as a collaboration by pious villagers), is invoked by Orson Welles in F for Fake as an ideal of this belief, noting that it rendered hollow most artistic pursuits as vain and self-fulfilling, his own works included. During Baroque, this approach changed.
  • Every single piece of free software ever. The developers don't expect to be paid. They just write it because it's what they want to do. The bigger projects tend to have paid developers as well, though, for the most part, they were working on it beforehand.
  • Extreme example: MAME and MESS are not only free, but they're distributed under a license which forbids selling the programs or using any of their source code in something which will be sold.
  • The Human Genome Project was dedicated to mapping out the complete sequence of the human genome. Such information could give any given pharmaceutical or genetic testing firm a virtual monopoly on many product sectors, or lead to unscrupulous biological warfare or eugenics experiments. Instead, it was published online.
  • DeviantArt. Some of the works on there clearly took weeks, and the vast majority of them were not done on commission. That's pretty impressive.
  • The critically-acclaimed restaurant Schwa is easy to miss in Chicago. The restaurant is one of many 3-story buildings, no more than 20 feet wide, in an ordinary neighborhood, just opposite a tire shop with fake palm trees. Inside, there is only room for 30 people, and no more than two people can sit at a table. There are no waiters or staff, beyond the chefs themselves, who are dressed in casual clothes and talk casually to the customers. There are no decorations, there is no wine selection, and metal and hip-hop music plays in the background. Most days, the owner Michael Carlson barely breaks even. This is because every single cent the restaurant makes goes into making the most innovative and creative food anywhere in the entire US. No expansions, no remodeling, no fancy facades or gold-plated silverware. The man even served a party of 20 of the greatest chefs in the world on the house. His passion drove him to exhaustion and a premature exit, but he reopened Schwa a year later, and kept on going. He is practically the face of Doing It For The Culinary Arts.
  • Bob Ross donated all of the paintings he created for The Joy of Painting to charity fundraisers. When he lost his battle with lymphoma, all of his remaining unsold paintings were treated likewise.
  • Bill Cunningham (March 13, 1929 – June 25, 2016) was a fashion photographer who made it his personal mission to be as independent a voice as possible and made a point of seeking out people on the street who showed a strong sense of personal style, no matter how quirky, rather than celebrities following the latest trends. He lived an ascetic life and spent many decades living in a tiny studio (without a kitchen or bathroom) at Carnegie Hall that was filled to the brim with fashion books and boxes of photographs and negatives while sleeping on a board balanced precariously on top of it all. For most of his life, he would only work freelance for publications that offered him editorial freedom and would often work for free because his employers would have nothing to hold over his head in the event of a disagreement. He was so firm in his belief that he would never be beholden to anyone that he wouldn't even accept food or drinks when he was out photographing events. This philosophy, combined with a sharp eye, meant that he was highly respected within the fashion community; well-known fashionistas like Anna Wintour lived in fear of him ignoring them on the street because it meant that they were falling out of style. As he got older, however, he compromised somewhat by taking a job with the New York Times as he realized that he needed health insurance and a pension towards the end of his life.
  • Ingeborg Refling Hagen (1895-1989) lived this trope, and even more awesome, taught a number of people to do it with her. Being a hardass on the philosophy of "free art" as a concept, she, and a bunch of dedicated students, managed to work for free, to produce difficult and rather long stage plays, lasting up to 10 hours (or the better of a day). The audience came from miles around to watch this for free, and the actors, some of whom were on stage for almost the entire time, earned nothing besides the experience. This theatre made history more than once. The motto was: "The theatre on behalf of the poet - the poet on behalf of the people". For the art indeed.
  • Shia LaBeouf has become rather well-known for making several controversial decisions all in the name of art. For example, when he was accused of plagiarizing a script for the film he wrote, he plagiarized his apology, then plagiarized his apology for that. He wore a paper bag on his head to a film premiere reading "I'm Not Famous Anymore," and set himself up at an art exhibit where he allowed patrons to do anything they wanted to him. Most recently, he has appeared in an artful music video for Sia's song, Elastic Heart, filmed himself performing multiple monologues that a class of English college students wrote, and hosted a stream where he re-watched every film he ever starred in, face cam included.
  • The guys at OAFEnet seem to have an encyclopedic knowledge about any subject they cover, but they've gone on record as saying that it's only because they've done the research. Whether it's rewatching a film just to identify a single prop, or reading large chunks of a comic book character's previous appearances, they put in hours of behind-the-scenes work under a daily deadline, all for a site that just reviews toys. This is also a case of Shown Their Work (like when the review spent a paragraph on how a bear trap works) but they fill their articles with enough on-topic minutiae to make any nerd ecstatic, and always seem to have more when someone asks for it.
  • Andy Kaufman legitimately didn't care how people reacted to his work so long as they reacted to it, which allowed him to do most of what he did because he wanted to. At the same time, he did fine work on Taxi despite the fact that he agreed to do it only after he was convinced it would be good for his career.
  • Turner Classic Movies. A commercial-free cable network dedicated to showing huge swaths of deserving movies that would otherwise never again see the light of day.
  • Shout! Factory, a DVD publishing company that has secured the rights to an astonishing number of films and television shows which many assumed were lost or would never be released due to rights issues. This is a company that has gained a reputation for being very flexible with production companies and always being gracious to their fans (most notably, taking requests for what shows and/or films people want to be released on their official forums, and actively attempting to secure the distribution rights). The most notable case occurred with Mystery Science Theater 3000—after the DVD boxsets were discontinued by Rhino many years before, fans assumed it was time to go back to tape circulating, only to find out that Shout had secured the rights to the whole series and would be releasing them all in vanilla and collector's edition sets. Among other shows, they've saved SCTV, ReBoot, Parker Lewis Can't Lose, many of the Transformers series, many classic animated series from the 80's and 90's, and scores of cult television shows from the last 30 years. They genuinely love their jobs and work as hardcore fans who just happen to have a DVD publishing company.
    • Just one example of how far Shout! Factory is willing to go: for years, Mystery Science Theater 3000 fans assumed the Gamera episodes would never be officially released. After all, one of the Rhino DVD sets had to be yanked and re-released with a different episode due to copyright issues with a Godzilla film and the owners of the Gamera rights were even less pleased with Best Brains. And then Shout put all the Gamera episodes out on one collection.
    • WKRP in Cincinnati is another prime example. After TV reruns and 20th Century Fox's season 1 DVD release scoured the episodes of nearly all the licensed music integral to the show — the latter seeing low sales because of this — Shout! came to the rescue and put out all the episodes with approximately 85 percent of the original soundtrack.
  • The revived Toonami has basically no budget, which meant they couldn't get Sally Timms as SARA or Peter Cullen doing the promos. So why is Steve Blum back as TOM, despite taking an extreme pay cut? Because he really, really wanted to be. In fact, he led the charge for its return when the April Fools' broadcast revitalized the fanbase. Working for slave wages is not an issue for him.
    • The entire crew working on Toonami are doing this entirely out of love for the block. The block is maintained by a mere six people and none of them are getting paid extra to work on it.
    • This is also the only reason Steve Blum still dubs anime, which pays nothing compared to voicing video games and Western cartoons.
    "It doesn't pay the bills, you can't survive off of it; but I love working in that environment, I love the people that I'm working with in that environment, I love the passion that people have for anime and I love the fans."

Examples from characters in fiction:

    Anime & Manga 
  • Kuronuma Ryuzo in Glass Mask does this. His in-story nickname is Ogre General because of his strict, uncompromising perfectionism. He's perfectly willing to spend five years to try and put on the perfect play if that's what it takes. The financing guys are not particularly appreciative.
    • Most of the major characters fit this. Maya never actually seems to even think about the pay when considering a role, and only ever seems to have money when someone else is managing her finances.
  • In Pokémon Adventures, White, the president of a Pokémon talent agency, always makes sure that her Pokémon actors get the best possible treatment and that her clients are satisfied even if it means she fails to make a profit and has to camp outside in a tent. However, she is shown to be worried about her finances.
  • Rohan Kishibe of Diamond is Unbreakable went on record to state that the only reason he works as a mangaka is because he wants people to read his work, not because of the fame or money it could bring; writing manga that other people can enjoy is all that matters to him.
  • New micronation character Kugelmugel in Hetalia: Axis Powers appears to do everything for the art, including declaring his independence. He also seems to spend his time pondering what exactly constitutes art. This is based off only one appearance, so further developments may change it.
  • Macross 7: Nekki Basara, lead singer and performer of the band "Fire Bomber". Although he enjoys performing in large venues in front of thousands of people, he honestly doesn't care about riches or fame, and in fact, seems perplexed as to why some of his fellow band members do. As far as he's concerned, it's all about the music; everything else is of negligible importance.
  • In Keep Your Hands Off Eizouken!, this is subjected to a Decon-Recon Switch. Midori Asakusa and Tsubame Mizusaki both share a strong passion for animation, and found the Motion Picture Club with friend Sayaka Kanamori in order to let them make the kind of material they want. However, their very same passion becomes an obstacle multiple times along the way, with Mizusaki's emphasis on highly detailed character animation bogging down the pace at which she can work, to the point where she spends two weeks working on a single cut at one point, and Asakusa's inability to accept the idea of outsourcing labor (due to her own difficulties at socializing and a perceived inability to properly convey the ideas she envisions) forcing her to undertake far more work than necessary. However, thanks to Kanamori being around to keep the two in check while still making provisions for their own wishes, Asakusa and Mizusaki are able to get their projects actually finished (albeit at the last minute) while still having room for the kind of artistic expression they strive for.

    Fan Works 
  • This is the core and bedrock of Octavia Philharmonica's character in RainbowDoubleDash's Lunaverse. When she becomes Princess Luna's Court Musician, her joy comes not primarily from the wealth and fame the position brings, but from the fact that there is no audience in the world with more experience of classical music and more ability to understand and appreciate her work and from the fact that as Luna's Court Musician she has the time and resources to learn fields of music she would never otherwise even have heard of.
    • In The Court Musician Of Equestria, Octavia is contrasted with Thrash Metail. Where Octavia is devoted to music, Thrash just wants fame and fortune, as shown by his willingness to resort to mind-control spells to make his audiences believe that his work was good. This becomes clearest in the final confrontation between the two of them, where Octavia asks if any of his music from before he found the Guitar of the Sirens still survives, stating that if he ever was, even in the slightest, a true musician, he'd want to be remembered for his own work, however mediocre it might be. Thrash replies that he burnt the records. They didn't bring him fame and glory, so they were worthless to him.

    Film — Animation 
  • Coco: Both Héctor and his former partner Ernesto had a passion for music, but unlike Ernesto, who wanted to do music for the fame and riches and left his family behind, Héctor was a musician only to make people happy and he cherishes his family, especially his daughter Coco, more than anything else, as he wanted to go back to his family and ultimately didn't care about becoming rich and famous.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Arturo Domingo in The Auteur is a parody of Doing It for the Art. A washed-up, artistic porn director whose fame has been eclipsed by his former star, who has become a Cable TV porn icon.
  • Jonathan Shields from The Bad and the Beautiful, even to the point of betraying his friends, not minding flops because he liked them, and holding back a vital release due to not meeting his standards.
  • Johnathan Switcher in Mannequin couldn't hold a regular job due to his need to be expressive.
  • In The Artist George Valentin, in refusing to do 'talkies', claims in an interview that he is, in fact, 'an Artist', and that silent acting requires artistry, while sound will actually degrade the medium. He's wrong, of course, but the film itself pays tribute to that artistry.
  • Angier and Borden in The Prestige are very dedicated to creating and performing acts of magic. Part of the reason Angier wanted to steal The Transported Man trick is that it would make a great show. Borden was constantly shown trying to push the limits of the art of magic.
  • In BASEketball, this is Coop's philosophy when founding the NBL. By creating a league where teams don't relocate and all players are paid the same, he hoped to create an environment where the athletes are motivated by pure passion for the game.
  • In Airheads, Chazz explains to Ian that his goal in life is to make a song that people will remember. Chazz's passion for the music ends up helping Ian to remember why he fell in love with rock and roll in the first place.
    Chazz: I'm average and screwed up enough that I might just write a song that will live forever. And then it's all going to be worth it.
  • In Argo, Lester takes the task of finding a script for the CIA operation very seriously, treating it as though he's making a real movie and won't settle for something terrible or outdated.
    John Chambers: It doesn't matter. It's a fake movie.
    Lester Siegel: If I'm doing a fake movie, it's gonna be a fake hit.

  • Durnik in The Belgariad explained to Garion:
    Durnik: Always do the very best job you can.
    Garion: But that piece goes underneath. No one will ever see it.
    Durnik: But I know it's there. If it isn't done as well as I can do it, I'll be ashamed every time I see this wagon go by—and I'll see the wagon every day.
  • Earlier in Sherlock Holmes's career, he would take cases for free because he saw the detective work as a variation of this.
  • A forger that Fisk tracks down in Rogue's Home fancies himself to be a talented artist. He even considered the documents he forged to be works of art, which is why he hid his signature in them.
  • In The Princess Bride Inigo's father, Domingo, was possibly the greatest swordmaker in the world. He hid out in a tiny village and kept his skills a secret because he didn't want people to come offering money for his swords. He wanted to create a sword which was a work of art. He did have a less-skilled friend work as a front man and bring him the good ones though. Unfortunately, this ends up backfiring because when the nobleman who hired him to make the sword started quibbling over the price, Domingo calls him a fool for haggling over a piece of art, which Domingo worked himself nearly to death on. The unamused nobleman takes the sword and kills him. We all know how that ends.
  • Willy Wonka has shades of this, from insisting upon waterfall-mixed chocolate to making unusual sweets such as the Everlasting Gobstoppers and the chocolate robin's eggs that Grandpa Joe mentioned. Even the Wonkavision machine is this—he sees it as a way to make his confections even more widely available than they already are.
  • In Maskerade, Mr Seldom Bucket, a Self-Made Man who has just bought the Ankh-Morpork Opera House, is bewildered to learn that everyone else in the place thinks like this except the person who is using this attitude to rob the company blind.
    Bucket: Good grief, man! Important? What'd I ever have achieved in the cheese business, I'd like to know, if I'd said that money wasn't important?
    Salzella: There are people out on the stage right now, sir, who'd say that you would probably have made better cheeses. You see, cheese does make money. And opera doesn't. Opera is what you spend money on.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Angelus from Buffy the Vampire Slayer is a Darker and Edgier example that mixes this trope with For the Evulz. Some of his more despicable acts are done because according to him, he has torturing and killing others down to a literal art form.
  • Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip: Despite being an SNL ripoff, most of the writers on this metaseries are making quality "cutting-edge political and social satire".
  • Geoffrey Tennant in Slings & Arrows. The first season features this prominently, but in the final season, his dedication to his vision sees him hiring a terminally ill heroin addict, getting the production booted from the main stage to the studio theatre to out of the festival altogether, alienating nearly everyone involved, losing his job, and then finally putting the show on in a church basement.
  • In the Supernatural episode "Hollywood Babylon" the writer of a movie killed executives who he believed bastardized his script. Even if the script was supposedly bad the writer was clearly doing it for the art.
  • Natalie Rhodes of Castle goes well beyond the call of duty, to the point of trying to seduce Castle for the sake of getting to know her character. The rumor about her living in her crawlspace for a week to prepare for a horror movie about a crawlspace was just a rumor, though. It was actually a month.
  • In Winter Begonia, this is Shang Xirui's main motivation for the stuff he does—he doesn't care if it doesn't make money, or if it's not popular, he just wants to perform what he wants to perform to an audience.
  • In Witchblade, Irish indy rocker Conchobar has turned down a lot of record deals because he prefers being a small-time troubadour to being a rock star.

  • The Harry Belafonte song "Sing For the Song" is about this.
  • In their typical fashion, Knorkator manages to both play this trope straight and lampshade it in "Warum" (German for "why"), one of their most emotional and least comical songs.
    Why stands an old man at a river of pure gold
    Why are you desperately searching for that you don't want to find
    Why is the lamb born, just to be eaten by the wolf
    Why are swords drawn where no enemy is left
    And why does the queen cry, alone and quiet on her throne
    And why does nobody come to her, all alone in the light of the moon
    Because this awesome melody demands pain, longing, and poetry
    So it can carry great words, to make this song touch your heart
  • Porter Robinson's "Musician" is a Decon-Recon Switch of this, beginning as an anthem about the enjoyment of creating and sharing emotions with the world, but then zigzagging between ripping into how much of an uphill battle it can be — both regarding burnout in the artistic process and outside discouragement for not having a "real" job — and celebrating it anyway, because creation is simply that important.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • This little exchange between Lucy and Schroeder in an early Peanuts comic.
    Lucy: Schroeder, do piano players make a lot of money?
    Schroeder: MONEY? Who cares about money?! This is ART, you blockhead!! This is great music I'm playing, and playing great music is an art!! Do you hear me? An art! (pounding on the piano) Art! Art! Art! Art! Art!
    Lucy: You fascinate me!
  • Calvin and Hobbes: Calvin's tendency to make grotesque snow creations as deliberately subversive art that others find disturbing and unappealing is periodically commented upon. In one strip, he makes a hideous snow creature as a counterpoint to the more typical snowmen another kid made. When Hobbes comments on Calvin's "willingness to put artistic integrity before marketability", Calvin has a moment of realization and then builds a regular snowman.

  • In Seminar, a group of four acquaintances and wannabe writers hire a famous writer turned editor to give them a series of lessons on how to be better writers. However, most only see it (or even getting a particular book published) as a career stepping stone, and only one, Martin, feels he's truly doing it for the art. However, this is also a transparent excuse for Martin to feel self-righteous and look down his nose at others.
  • In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the adults in the Golden Ticket tour group question Willy Wonka as to the actual purpose of the elaborate Chocolate Room. Beyond the waterfall, which of course mixes the chocolate, none of it has a practical application; as Mr. Salt asks, "Well if it isn't for anything and it doesn't make money then why on earth does it need to exist at all?" This leads into an I Am What I Am song for Wonka, "Simply Second Nature", that's specifically about this trope — the room and, in fact, all of his creations as a confectioner are created out of a personal, restless desire to make the world a lovelier place in his own way, and this is more important to him than whether a given "work" will make money or not. (This makes the backstory detail that he became a reclusive artist after greedy rivals stole his work rather more poignant than in other versions.)

    Theme Parks 
  • In the former Disaster! attraction at Universal Studios Florida, Frank Kincaid describes in heavy detail about how he loves to make disaster movies because it's a subject that greatly fascinates him.

    Video Games 
  • Steve Scott from Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, who treats porn like this.
  • Game Mod Red Alert 3: Paradox has the Electrical Protectorate, a race of software programs who inhibit robot chassis' designed in the style of The '50s. They don't look like this to give people the impression of how robots should look like, they do this because they learned that's how people think robots look like and actually like doing it.
  • In Batman: Arkham City, Clayface cites this, claiming that standing in for The Joker was "the role of a lifetime".
  • Garrett in Thief treats his thievery like this. Sure, it pays the bills, but the real reason he steals is pride. In The Metal Age, he needs to break into the Bank and gleefully mentions he's always wanted to do this ("Now I know I'm a master thief, breaking into the Bank Vault..."). Then in Deadly Shadows, he notes that he's been dying for a good excuse to break into the museum ever since they declared their security to be thief-proof.
  • In Roommates, Rakesh's main motivation for doing pretty much anything is that he thought it would make good art. He says that he follows nature's example: nature doesn't ask you if you like its flowers, or expect you to pay it anything in return; it merely blooms because it feels like it.
  • One of the Apocalyptic Logs in BioShock is from Bill McDonagh, a plumber hired for the construction of Rapture. After being paid to use cheaper tin pipe fittings instead of brass, he went ahead and ordered brass anyway and planned to pay the difference on grounds of professional pride: "Profit or not, no man bails water out o' privies built by Bill McDonagh."
  • In The Elder Scrolls Online, the House of Reveries is a theater troupe in Summerset that's all about this trope: while most artists in Summerset are hoping for fame, the members of the House of Reveries give up their identity, donning a mask and a new nickname (such as "Alchemy", "Feathermoth", "Clever", etc). It's to the point that if the face of one of their members is seen, that person is kicked out of the troupe.
  • Harvest Moon: (More) Friends of Mineral Town has a random event scene where Won offers to buy Jeff's painting for 10,000 G. Jeff declines this offer because he says that he made the paintings with his heart and selling them would be like selling pieces of his own heart.

    Visual Novels 
  • Tsumugi Shirogane from Danganronpa V3: Killing Harmony sees cosplaying as an expression of love for the characters. For this reason, she would rather a cosplayer wear the costumes she makes as a tribute to the character rather than as a ploy to get recognised. Tsumugi also wears her costumes, but only out of love for the characters.
  • In Spirit Hunter: NG, this is Natsumi's reasoning for running The Black Rabbit; her actual profession is a horror author, but the bar was left to her by her husband, so she keeps it running as a hobby to satisfy their loyal customers, rather than to make a profit.

    Western Animation 
  • Phineas and Ferb: Who could forget Phineas' rant at the record producer?
    Phineas: You think just because you'll pay us obscene amounts of money we'll continue making records? Phineas and the Ferb-tones are strictly a one-hit wonder. Good day, sir!"
  • Rarity from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, in regards with her dress designs. The episode "Canterlot Boutique" has Rarity's desires to create new dresses come into conflict with the commercial prospects of her manager, Sassy Saddles.
  • The Simpsons: In "The Book Job", Lisa sets out to write a book after learning her favorite books are made by teams of writers who are Only in It for the Money. Homer, hearing about this, gathers up a team so they themselves can write a book for easy money, all done in the style of a criminal heist. Lisa suffers writer's block, while Homer and his team slowly fall into this trope to the point that they're willing to risk their earnings to preserve their vision.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: In "Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy VI: The Motion Picture", Squidward originally wanted no part in the movie SpongeBob and Patrick make starring the real Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy to compete with the new modern movie coming out, but when SpongeBob tells him that he can be the Makeup Artist, Squidward decides to put his artistic talents (or lack thereof) to the test. The makeover Squidward gives Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy is absolutely hideous, but SpongeBob loves it, saying that he made them look just like they did 30 years ago.
  • The tailor in Toy Story 2. While he does get paid for his work, he still takes the time to treat Woody with respect like a customer rather than a toy to repair, and when Al pressures him to hurry up, he replies with "You can't rush art!".


Video Example(s):


Jagged Stone

He couldn't care less if he's not at the top of the sales charts, as long as he gets to do his own thing. Of course, #2 is still nothing to sneeze at, which he points out to his producer.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (9 votes)

Example of:

Main / DoingItForTheArt

Media sources: