Tag Archives: “successful artist”

What It Takes

I wanted to take a moment to discuss some concerns that I hear repeatedly amongst artist friends and online.  If you are reading this post, then more than likely you are an artist or maybe an art enthusiast.  Some of you may have embarked upon making a career of your art while others are afraid to do so for various reasons.  And of the ones that are currently working on their art careers, you may find yourselves discouraged at times or frustrated that things are not going as planned.  So what do you do about it?  Well, I am here to say that first of all, don’t give up.  And don’t be scared, or discouraged, or angry, or sad, or frustrated, etc., etc., etc.  This is a subjective business and not everyone will feel that your work suits their gallery or their living rooms.  And that’s okay.

Let’s face it.  This career is not for sissies.  But if you love your art, which I’m sure you do, then the other stuff won’t really matter.  Take pride in your work and take pride in all that you have accomplished.  Even if you’re just starting out, you have a lot to be proud of just in taking the first step to starting your career.  Shockingly enough, most people do not take those first steps (and that’s including those that are not even artists).  It takes guts to make the first move.  You’re getting out of your comfort zone.  And even once you are well into your career, you will find that you still have to shake things up and get out of your comfort zone again and again.  As the stakes get higher, you need to do more as well as reach more.  But that’s okay because you love what you do.

Aside from loving your work, you have to be consistent.  That is the one thing that I see so many artists drop the ball on.  Consistency is key.  You can’t expect to accomplish everything overnight.  You will have to slowly build and take each step towards building your exhibition experience, your portfolio, your sales, your awards, etc.  And just because you accomplish one goal, doesn’t mean you can stop.  You have to keep on plugging away at your career.  You can’t just coast or rest on your laurels.  You’ll need to have new work to show, you’ll need to expand to other cities, other states, other countries even.  You’ll need to keep moving.  How many bands can you think of that were one-hit wonders?  How many actors can you think of that were popular and then seemed to disappear from the face of the Earth?  You may find it hard to even think of examples but once you do, you’ll be thinking, “oh yeah… whatever happened to…?”  Don’t be one of those cases.  You are not a flash in the pan.  You’re serious about your career and you are here to stay.

The good news is it’s not about luck!  Sure, sometimes you may happen to be in the right place at the right time, but that won’t be often.  And even if it does happen, it won’t necessarily make your career.  Even for the positive things that happen in your career, if it wasn’t directly related to your doing, if you trace it back, you will probably find that it was thanks to one of the “seeds” you planted in the first place.  You don’t need to buy a Magic 8 ball or get a tarot reading.  Just keep putting yourself out there, creating more, improving as much as possible, marketing, networking, exhibiting, etc.  You don’t need luck- luck is hard to get anyway.  Consistency is easy enough to do and is a sure bet.

Stay strong, be consistent, and be professional.  The rest will follow.



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One of the awards I won early in my career for my painting "Mike"

Goals- simple title, and seems like such a simple concept, but there’s so much more there that most people don’t realize.  We take them for granted, even I do sometimes despite myself.  I was at a reception the other day for a fellow artist and started talking about how I made my goals and strategized in order to become a full-time artist.  One person in the conversation said that I should look into giving courses on goal attainment because it’s a “big” business.  That latter part may be true, but I will stick with my art.  However, I thought it would be a great post to help out those in the arts, whether they are new or old to it.  So here goes:

– First, make a list of the goals you’d like to achieve.  Brainstorm and write down any and all goals.  This can apply to all areas of your life, but let’s stick with your art career.  Write whatever you want to achieve, desire, dream, etc.

– Cull from that list the things that are more attainable given your career at this given time.  This will be your list of goals for the year.  I like to have two lists, so that one is more “now” and the other is for “later.”  Reason being, it may not be feasible to get your work in the Louvre within a year.

– Put your goal list somewhere visible- maybe on your studio wall?  You might even want to make copies of it and put them elsewhere- on the fridge, in your car, your wallet, etc.  Sounds silly, but it will keep these ideas in your mind and help you stay on target.

– Now come up with your strategy.  On a different piece of paper or your computer, etc., come up with a strategy(ies) to attaining your goals.  What are the steps you need to take in order to accomplish goal 1, goal 2, etc.?  Be specific.

– Be flexible.  You may come upon the end of the year and find that not all of your goals were reached or maybe they weren’t what you expected.  Maybe you took all the steps needed and the goal didn’t pan out.  It happens.  So what can you do about it?  Look at what has worked for you and what hasn’t.  Get rid of the goals that aren’t the best use of your time and energy and focus on what does work.  Make changes or alter your strategies in order to meet goals the second time around.  And continue to meet goals that do work well for you.  For example, if showing in a particular city has resulted in good sales, you should plan to show there again next year, or maybe more often.

– Prioritize your goals.  You may need to accomplish one goal before you can realistically meet another.  Or you may find an urgency in accomplishing a particular goal before others.

– Revisit your goals often.  Aside from marking off goals as you reach them, you should be reviewing your goals list every few months to stay on track.  Bigger decisions such as what worked or didn’t work for your career should be left to the end of the year for a better analysis.

– After analyzing your goals at the end of the year, make your new list for the new year with your accomplishments in mind.  Continue to do the things that work.  Include goals that were not reached and devise a new strategy to meet them.  Remove goals that turned out to not be such a good idea.  And, of course, add new goals that you should tackle.

Seems like such a simple concept and many of you may find this silly or unnecessary, but holding yourself accountable is the only way to accomplish something.  You’d be amazed how 15 years can go by without making any real progression in your career, if you do the same thing day in and day out.