How to be successful as an artist?
The decision to make art a career choice is not an easy one anyway, but the amount of scepticism such a choice is bound to draw from people around, makes it that much more difficult.
People who consider art as a career choice almost always do it because it is their calling. It is a passion that they are compelled to follow. But even then doubts and and the notion of practicality can assail the best, especially as mentioned, there will be people around you who will doubt your choice.
Now they necessarily do not oppose you because they have anything against you. Rather most often they will be people who care about your well being, want you to have a bright future and overall have your best interests in mind.
The problem is that many times people, as well intentioned as they might be, do not have a well informed perspective on issues that are somewhat removed from their usual sphere of knowledge and understanding. Hence, they might have trouble understanding your reasons for your choice as well. And as with most things unfamiliar, might have some fears.
So, the best thing that you can do in the circumstance is to be as best informed as you can be to not only be sure of what you are doing but also to muster the support of the people around you if it is important to you and is not easily forthcoming.
In this article we will try to talk about mostly all important factors that affect a budding artist as well try to get a look at what you are in for. While it’s true that one artist’s success or failure doesn’t determine yours, it’s also correct to assume that all artists face almost the same set of challenges.
Who is a successful artist according to you
In this post we are often going to speak of being “successful” as an artist. So the very first thing to address should be “who is a successful artist”?… think about this one carefully. What is your definition of a successful artist. Where do you see yourself in a few years from now.. What kind of and how much success will make you happy as an artist…
I want to quote Winston Churchill here for a moment here :
“Happy are the painters, for they shall not be lonely. Light and colour, peace and hope, will keep them company to the end of the day.”
In other words how important for you to make a lot of money from the word go as an artist? Are you content to be doing what you love to do as long as you can make a decent livelihood from it? Will you be able to accept not becoming a famous artist of renown or will it make you bitter?
The idea here is to know what you are getting into and be prepared. I guess we are also saying that it is important to be alright with the fact that things might not pan out on as large a scale as you wish. That is not to say that you never strive for bigger things. But be alright with the smaller ones as well and if it matters so much to you, then have an alternative backup plan if things do not work out for you as planned in the art world.
I have many friends, mostly designers, who are in this place. Almost everyone dreams of making it as a main stream designer with fame and money. But not all of them end up that way. Some do not even try because they quickly realise what it takes to scale up things beyond a certain point and the toll it takes on other aspects of life. Some are just not that business savvy and efficient in other aspects of their lives, apart from the creative process, to sustain mainstream success.
Now the fact is that ALL of these people have done very well with their lives. They have a healthy clientele locally as well from other parts of the country. They take part in some of the biggest names in events and exhibitions all over the country and generally do very well at these events.
They have a robust network of people is all walks of life. They are part of key institutions which keeps them busy with community work and fun events. What this means that while these people are not nationally and internationally renowned artists, their lives are by no definition unfulfilled.
I think this works in a similar way for most people. They are quiet happy when they are doing as long as they achieve a semblance of recognition and monetary success. In fact happiness stems from personal factors more than it does from a career, for most people. The interesting thing to note is that for a true artist creating art is a personal thing as well. Therefore, a lot of happiness should emanate from there. Refer to the Winston Churchill quote above. This is what he’s saying too.
Now that we have got the expectations part out of the way, let us look in to the process and path of an artists’s career. And I am probably going to sound like a lot like one of the concerned well wishers that I spoke of earlier. The reason is that there are certain things to which only you have the answer. And one cannot predict the future. So the best thing one can do is try and present a complete picture.
What are your work choices
There are many ways of working as an artist. If you visualise yourself as only working with fine art ( making and selling original paintings and drawings) then you are limiting your options to a large extent. Selling in galleries is not the only way to go as an artist. Even though that might be your ultimate goal, there are several other options that will fuel and feed your creativity, as well as pay the bills.
Think about all the places where you see art – it’s there in magazines, newspapers, brochures, books, posters, websites, products etc. There are artists creating this work. There is also films, computer graphics and a myriad of online implementation.
Teaching is also a great option for a couple of reasons. First of all it has become easier than ever to leverage your knowledge to teach others and earn an income out of it. The reason is online teaching services like SkillShare and Udemy. They make it extremely simple to upload your video lessons, access students from all over the world and start making an income from the word go.
The other good thing about teaching art is that it allows you to stay involved in the work of your choice and keep on growing. Art is not a stagnant field. You are constantly learning. I have discovered that if you are inspired about teaching others you also get inspired to learn new things, both for yourself and to be able to bring more knowledge to your students.
Apart from these choices, there are other streams of work available as an artist that is indirectly related to the field. Examples are, architecture, interior designing, landscape designing, furniture designing, lighting and ambience designing, fabric and textile designing, fashion designing etc. You will see that all these career choices have the same thing in common which is that they require a creative bent of mind similar to that of an artist. These jobs also require you to get busy with drawing skills. So if you are happiest working on your easel or sketch pad, these career choices will give you plenty of opportunity to do just that.
How much money will you make as an artist
This is something that varies from one individual to another. Artist do get rich, but most do not. That makes it important to have some sort of a plan in mind. Some people have regular jobs and work on their art part time. Some people leverage their skills to find work in various art related fields, while working on their fine art collection on the side, till the time that they get the opportunity to have a showing of their own, although having a show does not guarantee instant success and recognition.
For most people working part time on their art, they will have to make the choice to switch to it full time if they want to make a success of their art career. It just takes that much commitment to succeed in the art world.
So you might not make as much money as someone in the corporate world. Kids who studied with you and chose other commercial careers might end up having bigger houses and newer cars. Are you going to be ok with that? Not many people get to have job satisfaction and have to sacrifice personal aspirations to make money.
Also, more and more people identify themselves with what they do. So something that comes from a passion and interest within makes sense to have as a career. This just doesn’t just apply to art. If you have a passion for numbers, it makes sense for you to be a banker. So while you might not make as much money, will you be happy doing what you like to do as long as you can make a comfortable living out of it?
Whats your plan for your art career
In the previous point, we spoke about making enough money to make a comfortable living as an artist. This is probably going to take some planning on your part. While you are to become a famous artist, and try hard you are going to have to, there have to be other means of earning a living with your art skills.
It’s a good thing then that there are a lot of fields open for a talented artist. The internet plays an important part in this by bringing people all over the world closer together and giving them access to what you might want to share with them.
An artist doesn’t just have to rely on galleries and showings to sell his work. Online marketplaces like Etsy provide an international platform to reach people all across the globe. There are many more such platforms.
Check out 31 places to sell your art online.
The art world is competitive and so it is online as well. Just because it is easy to get your work listed and showing doesn’t mean that it is easy to sell. Same rules apply. Just like you have easy access to thousands of potential buyers, these buyers have access to other artists on the same selling platforms.
So you have to be creative, stand out, create a body of work, keep creating new art and learn to promote your online portfolio.
How else can you make money as an artist? Refer to the career options we have mentioned above. Again, gigs like computer graphics, illustrations can be accessed online as they are frequently posted on the freelance websites. Check out Fiverr.com as an example.
Look at work available locally with local publications or as an art teacher. Plan to create and sell your art for merchandise. We know a few artists who have done this brilliantly and major home decor companies print their art on their merchandise. You can even create your own merchandise with your art. There are many companies online that can do this for you. All you need to do it upload your artwork and choose the merchandise you want to sell it on.
Stock image websites are also an option for selling your art work.
All in all, have a plan as to how you are going to utilise your art skills beyond just one option so that you can make a comfortable living.
How can you be a successful fine artist
Believe it or not, not all artists aspire to become internationally famous gallery showing worthy artists. But even if that is what you want, you will have to go through a process. The art world is a finicky business. And if you must know the absolute truth, it is deliberately controlled and manipulated by the art galleries and critics of standing.
A fine artist is an artist who makes his living by selling him painting in galleries and art shows.
You will have to come terms with the fact that talent and personality might not get you on that fine artist roster. Networking and connections are very much a part of the game and something that many find difficult to do. That is why art agents exist. Can you afford one? Good for you if you can! A good art agent can pull off some magic for you with art galleries and potential buyers, provided your work deserves the attention!
Ever been to France? See the number of artists on the roadside? I personally find it depressing till you realise that making it as a fine artist takes that little bit of extra resourcefulness. Have you ever come across conceptual artists and the work made by them? So much of it is beyond common comprehension and why it should garner so much attention and demand.
I have an example of a work of conceptual art where the artist walked to and fro on a grassy patch till the grass was trodden enough to look somewhat like a path a few feet long. The photograph of this path was the conceptual art. It is easy to imagine that the person selling his artwork on the street side in France is a lot more talented than this artist.
But that’s the thing about art. Imagery, message and hype sells just as much as talent.
I gave this example to demostrarte that if you want to succeed as a fine artist and want that to be how you earn a living, you have to create work of art that people want to buy. And that is not achieved simply by creating but also promoting and marketing your work through the right channels.
This is one of the reasons why some galleries exist that have the power to make or break the career of an artist. Well, maybe not to break it, but certainly to make it. These galleries have spent a fortune building a reputation for themselves. A reputation for hosting only the best of artists and discovering new valuable art from new artists.
To get a showing at one of these galleries means overnight recognition and fame. But remember, galleries, agents and buyers will remain interested in you as long as you keep coming up with your best work, at least till the time that you become a master artist, can call your own shots and can make the world wait for your next piece of art!
How and where to learn art
You want to become an artist and need to learn. Where do you go and how do you start?
There are some very good courses in fine arts. Some very prestigious institutions, colleges and universities offer courses in fine arts. Are these accesible to you? Your community college, night college will have something to offer you as well. Formal qualifications are not needed to succeed.
They are mostly there to help you reach the platform and skill you need. Pursuing a diploma or degree in fine arts will expose to to different kinds of art forms and you will learn techniques. This can turn out to be a great thing for a couple of reasons.
First, you might be surprised at what really interests you when you actually thought of doing another. Apart from that knowing different craft forms and techniques will allow you to experiment with whatever medium you choose to work with or even be known for working with several mediums. All the great masters were known to delve effectively and beautifully in other forms of arts like architecture and furniture designing.
The internet is not a bad place to start with some tutorials if learning is what you are after. But that is mostly for the beginners and medium level learners.
The struggle of an artist
Art is an informal field, much like the performing arts of acting and singing, maybe more so. So their is no fixed pattern for employment or career graph.
I guess the first struggle for an aspiring artist arises with creating art that has potential to generate keen interest amongst people, agents and galleries. Make no mistake, there are all kinds of artists. While they may share a similar passion for art, their interest alone does not guarantee a creative process par excellence. There will be good artists, great artists and exceptional artists, and this will, most likely, reflect in their work. Needless to say, the better you are, the more unique in your work, if you offer newness or exemplary skill, you are more likely to succeed.
The next struggle is with finding your destined place in the art universe. There are so many things that people do to get discovered. Thankfully, the internet has opened a lot of channels to display and garner attention to your art, even sell it online. But participating in exhibitions, taking up art related freelance work, doing a completely unrelated job to pay the bills till you can make money off your art, and if you are in Europe, displaying your stuff on the streets is quite acceptable as well.
Lets say that you do find the exposure and sell your art. Now you have to sustain that flow. You have to stay productive and creative to continue the success story.
Remember, in all this that there are many venues for making a living with art. Learn about all of them and how to leverage them