What does it take to succeed as an artist? Do you have the talent? Is there more than talent required? The title points to core issue many creatives focus on. But it is the wrong approach. Instead the true issues are not confronted and success remains elusive. In this article I want to confront what is important. And if talent is not the issue what is?
Usually the question that dominates the new artist is: Are you good enough to make it? Even though artists seldom voice this doubt out loud it remains a massive issue. Only a few people are so filled with self confidence that they steam roller any doubts. Deep down most of us struggle with this question.
This Artist's Story Will Give Perspective:
The young artist spent his time drawing whenever he had a free moment. And since this was before the digital age he had plenty of free time. Even before starting school he would draw silly cartoons and copy others from the newspaper. Often his work caught the attention of adults. Praise was his secret delight and praise came often enough. After all when he spent so much time drawing adults could not help noticing.
As he progressed through school the young artist continued to draw. He enjoyed art class even though other classmates used the time to get up to mischief. Art teachers were usually more relaxed and it took a lot to get them angry. Anyway our artist received a few minor art prizes at school. He was not the top artist, but did okay. Mostly he loved drawing his own imaginary works in his private time.
In high school the pattern progressed into more challenging work. He loved it though and even enjoyed art history. No surprise that art was his top subject. But in the back of his mind he did sense that adults were getting a bit nervous. Especially his parents and even the school guidance counselor. What is the artists future career choice going to be?
He underwent a few aptitude tests and considered potential careers. His maths was not too good and science bored him. All his favorite subjects pointed to creative things like art and writing. Good grief these are not professions! His friends would joke that a BA degree stood for "blow all". This was actually their parent's opinions passed onto their children. The fear was palpable. An arts degree meant much study fees for no return. Doubt steals confidence.
And so in this atmosphere of doubt, fear and subtle persuasion our young artist embarked on a traditional profession in the law. As have many other artists before him. And not surprisingly he did well enough at this profession since artists are, at heart, hard working and have initiative. But this fact is seldom acknowledged.
As time progressed and the artist became independent he eventually broke free. He was lucky. He returned to his art. Like a man lost in the desert he found his oasis and replenished his soul. Nothing makes him happier than creating art.
Artist Know Yourself
With hindsight it is all too clear. Anyone looking at the young artist's life could see what his passion was. So why did the young guy not study how to make art financially viable? A big problem arises when you surround yourself with people who do not have a clue about art, business and entrepreneurship. If you want to know about making a living from plumbing you need to talk to successful plumbers. Art is no different.
If your love is art then you need guidance from successful artists. A mentor. And these days there are many ways to get this information. You have to know what it is that makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning. Then do the work to make this a complete life choice that sustains you.
Fifteen Questions Every Artist Must Ask
In the video I spend some time asking the questions that I think are important. Talent takes you only part of the way. And not very far either. The rest is practice, learning, guts and action. I think artists are some of the toughest and most courageous people out there. It is not easy to justify art above traditional professions if you use money as the only yardstick. But I can assure you that money is a curse if you do not know how to respect it.
A lot of money brings pressures you do not need. Too little money is painful too. And if money is the goal then understand that there is never enough. Instead aim for the universal approach. A balanced life and the true values of an honest days work.
End the day tired, happy and eager to begin the next day. That is the life worth living. If art gives that to you then congratulations. You have chosen wisely.
(Yes that young artist was me)
The Business of Art
If art is you hobby then you are fortunate to have a wonderful pastime. If you want to make a living from your art then you will need a business too. These days we are in the happy position to be able to market our art direct to collectors. This is only possible with a strategy and action. Marketing is a big part of this strategy. Over the years I have learned many lessons about this from physical to digital. Without doubt the potential to grow your brand through digital marketing is enormous.
I published a book on this topic called The Art of Content Marketing. You can follow the link to Amazon and find a copy. I have also created a course on marketing strategy based on the book. Learn as much as you can on these topics together with traditional exhibitions at galleries and markets. Together these approached will help you grow your art business over time. Go for it!
Malcolm Dewey: Artist. Country: South Africa