How to be a successful artist

Working in a gallery like Agora Gallery, it’s common to hear artists ask anxiously something along the lines of ‘how can I become a successful artist?’ Sadly, there’s no magic answer, no certain formula for success. Each person is different, and needs to learn and hear different things that are appropriate to their situation. Similarly, ‘success’ means different things to different people. On top of that, one has to account for the effect of luck, which you can’t really plan for, though you can minimize its importance by doing all you can to encourage the end you have in view. Having said all that, though, there are some characteristics that unite most successful artists, and it’s a good idea to keep them in mind.

Know what you want to achieve. This is absolutely crucial; you need to decide what you really want, and what matters most to you, before you can move towards it. Some artists may be most animated by financial gain – Damien Hirst springs to mind – while others may want to reach the largest possible audience. Some artists simply want to develop their own technique and style in the most honest way they can, while others want to contribute an innovation to the art world. You need to work out what your goal is before you can look to achieve it.

Go for it. Once you know where you’re heading, put all of your efforts into getting there. Plan the things that can contribute to your success, whether it’s getting a lot of studio time, learning with a renowned teacher, marketing at a particular event or getting represented by a specific gallery. You need dedication to succeed; think it through and then make sure you’re giving your all to what you’ve planned.

Keep the big picture in mind. Inevitably, there will be many small aspects that need attention in order for you to further your ultimate aim. For example, if you’re trying to promote a particular, unusual art form, you will need to put time into creating works using it, teaching classes about it, writing about, perhaps even publishing a book about it. If you’re trying to reach a wider audience, you’ll want to appear in art reviews, attend art fairs and events, and put time into marketing your work. These elements are all important, but don’t let them obscure your main goal; because ultimately that’s what you need to judge your efforts by.

Always be aware of art. Whatever you’re doing, wherever you are and even if you’re engaged in doing something apparently unconnected to your art, it should always be in your mind. You never know where your next spark of inspiration will come from; you need to be open to all of your experiences, to let them teach you whatever they can that can help you achieve your main aim.

Put yourself out there. Unless your goal is to be very, very private about your work and not let anyone else see it, you need to be welcoming to the rest of the world where your art is concerned. This may be in terms of marketing, and gaining greater exposure for your art, or in terms of inviting criticism from well-informed people you trust to make a judgment of your work, or even in being open about looking for new ideas and inspiration. Whatever it is, remember that sharing your work with the world will likely help you far more than keeping it to yourself.

Keep going. There are bound to be disappointments, and success, whatever it means for you, probably won’t happen overnight. It takes hard work, determination and a lot of thought and planning to achieve real and lasting success. Push on, enjoy each small success, and never give up.

For more on how to become a successful artist, see the article ‘How to Become a World Renowned Artist Overnight’ from the latest ARTisSpectrum.

What contributes the most to your success as an artist? Share it in the comments!


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