I got to thinking today about what it takes to be successful as an artist. Of course, everyone defines success in their own way, but for me it implies a certain degree of recognition beyond friends and family. Perhaps beyond my own region. It also implies that the ‘income’ is greater than the ‘outgo’ (at least the art supplies outgo). So what are the attributes that are necessary to achieve this goal? I can think of several:

  • Developed talent – You have to have put in the time to demonstrate some skill in your art. That implies all of the things we often think about, composition, color, value. I think it also requires a level of control over the medium. For printmakers, this is about process, process, process (in that order).
  • Consistent production – I have heard of aspiring artists who say “I will produce some work when I get a place to show it”. I have never heard of a successful artist that says that. You need to be in your ‘studio’ regularly, working steadily, cranking it out. Some people call it a work ethic.
  • Marketing savvy – I am consistently amazed at how much mental effort I put into this. What to make, where to show, how to advertise? Who are the buyers? The list seems endless. You have to be willing to sell your art, and you have to be willing to promote your brand (yourself). I don’t really know why this surprises me, it is the same for every business, and art is, after all, a business.
  • Business skills – At a very fundamental level, this is about money. What to spend it on, how much to spend and how much to charge. If you don’t spend (invest) enough, you don’t get the desired result. If you spend too much, you don’t make any profit. If you don’t charge enough, you go broke. If you charge too much, you don’t sell (or at least don’t sell consistently)
  • Tenacity – I think you have to be a little stubborn to be a successful artist. You have to be willing to persist. In spite of lack of sales. In spite of rejection by jurors. In spite of almost everything.

Oh yes, and one other thing, you have to have a little luck. Either the kind you find or the kind you make yourself.