This morning I was pondering the many important elements required to make a successful artist. It’s exhilarating – or completely daunting – depending on whether you are in a “glass is half full” or “empty” frame of mind. One thing for sure, if you can achieve a measure of creative and financial success as an artist you can truly say that you have mastered something great in your lifetime – really!
Having said that though, have you thought recently about the level of mastery required to be successful in other professions? Any Olympic medalist has probably been completely married to their sport for decades. They’ve been up every morning at 4am heading off to the pool or the track for 3 hours training before the rest of their day started and on most days they do that for several hours before sleep as well.
A very successful business-person may be no different. They’ve spent many years and $$ at business school then very likely worked 12-15 hour days for years before tasting the champagne of their success. And they did that without any guarantee of success at all. They most probably did it because they loved it.
What’s my point here? I often hear artists commenting about how hard it is to be successful. While I know that it is true, a part of me is always thinking, “Yeah, but if you approached your art career as an Olympic athlete in training, have you really done everything as well as you possibly could? Have you been up at 4am every day painting? Have you marketed your work for 2 hours every day? Have you studied the work of masters every day? Have you really gone for the gold medal?”
Have you? Have you really gone for the gold EVERY DAY?
Well – the truth is that you can’t do it every day – no one can. Everyone needs rest periods and vacations. Heck – I spent most of my life in Australia and we Aussies know more about the importance of rest than anyone:)
But you can do it most days – and that is what you need to do to be very successful.
With that in mind, I brainstormed with myself and came up with 18 tips to make success as an artist an absolute certainty. I’m not saying they’re all possible for you in your life – but if you were able to achieve 50% of each one or 9 out 18, you would be way, way ahead with a successful artistic lifetime. I had fun with these – so please let me know your comments…
- Choose a family that nurtures or challenges your artistic spirit and talent. This is an interesting point that encompases your spiritual viewpoint on life. Some people believe that we choose our parents. Others believe that our parents choose us. Others, still think its a completely random statistical thing.
- Read great literature every day. The works of literary masters can unlock the creative potential in your being in a way that nothing else can. This is one of the keys to opening up the gates of your inner creativity so that you can find your truly authentic artistic voice.
- Listen to classical music while you work – especially Mozart. Classical music will help you to open the creative centers of your being in a way that other music styles cannot.
- Exercise your body and spend time in nature every week. You are a whole person – spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical. All of you needs to be exercised and integrated for optimum success as an artist. Be a renaissance person.
- Don’t watch television. I know this will get a reaction but it’s very important. OK – you can maybe watch your favorite program for an hour but nothing more than that. And mute the sound when the add breaks come on. Television can break down your connection to your creativity and individuality.
- Don’t spend a lot of time on the internet. I know this is an oxymoron because you have to be online to be reading this! Be aware though that the internet can affect you in much the same way as television and it can also be a huge time-waster.
- Study with masters and become a great artist. A great artist has inspiration, talent, uniqueness of vision, and absolute mastery of their medium. It’s not about pretty – its about originality and a way of seeing life.
- Be honest with yourself. You need to assess if you really have what it takes to be a commercially successful artist. Only you can determine this. If you don’t have the talent and persistence needed you won’t be successful – big dreams alone cannot take you there.
- Make a deal with your spouse or partner or family to give you 5 years to focus 100% on your art.
- Work on your art as hard as Michelangelo did. Right now, go and buy a copy of “The Agony And The Ecstasy”. It is a fantastic read and it will show you what hard work and dedication as an artist means! Paint or sculpt or photograph – do whatever you do for at least 4 hours every day.
- Have a stunning online gallery of your work. This is what everyone in the universe is going to see when they get their first impression of you and your art. If it looks less that 100% great everything you’ve done before this and everything you will do after this are pretty much wasted effort. Do you realize how important this is? Think about that when someone tells you that its not worth spending thousands of dollars on an artist website.
- Attend a major art event every week, speak with at least 10 people, and give each one of them your business card with your website address. Invite them all to YOUR next event.
- Hold an Open Studio every month. Advertise in local publications. Invite local arts professionals Send out email invitations to all your email list – even if they are thousands of miles away. You want to demonstrate that there is “something happening” with your art career. Nothing compares with a physical showing of your work involving real people! A little food and some nice wine together with your art will create an environment for selling your work.
- Every year, buy a copy of the Art In America Gallery Guide and make a list of 600 galleries that appear to show work similar in style to yours. And yes – we know that everyone says the gallery system is dying – but the right galleries can still play a major role in your success.
- Every month, send out 50 letters (yes – we mean snail-mail letters) of introduction with a postcard of a very strong piece of your work and an invitation to visit and review your website.
- Commit to a major gallery or art-center showing of your work twice a year and make it happen no matter what. Plan 6 months in advance for each show and make it perfect – curating, framing, catering, assistance, etc. Invite everyone as for your Open Studios. Get advance press coverage for every show.
- Answer every request for information, every email, every response to your mailouts, every phonecall to your artist studio – as if the sender or caller might be wanting to spend $25 Million on your art.
- Like Buzz Lightyear once said, “Never give up, Never surrender!”
The best things in life come from inspired persistence. Does this article give you an idea of the level of effort and commitment you COULD have to your work? If it took that much effort would you still do it?
Michelangelo did. Van Gogh did. Other great artists did. Thats why we remember them as “great”. Are you a great artist? Do you want to be one? If you do you’ll have to make a “great” commitment to the journey.