It’s everywhere, especially if you’re NOT an artist, you probably say it: “Those successful artists” or “There was an exhibition at the SAM called Elles that displayed the most successful women artists in history.” If you are an artist, you are plagued by this potential goal of “The Most Successful Artist,” the converse is that if you don’t hold this title, you are by default a failure.
That’s what people insinuated when you decided to devote all of your free time to art, and they didn’t agree with it.
That’s what your family said when you told them you wanted to get a degree in fine arts.
Even your best friend, who’s not an artist, has probably asked you what your life goals are as an artist and how you will obtain Big Success, read: money.
Know what you should tell them? (besides “Fuck Off, you’re a dick”)
People like Dale Chihuly had to struggle and work up to where they are now. Even the ‘Old Masters’ of the Renaissance struggled to get to the top and competed with each other to do it. It’s going to be a tough road to obtain my own level of success that I strive to achieve, but with hard work, determination, and a great support system from my friends and family I’m sure that I can obtain success that I’m really pleased with.
Boom. What will your loved one say next?
Well at the least that will keep the crazies at bay, but what about really obtaining success? What about REALLY achieving your goals to prove that you are capable? That’s up to you. To be an artist, you must be an entrepreneur.
On a side note, did a hipster tell you that to be a real artist you had to move to NYC, live in a flat with 10 other artists, work a restaurant gig, and eat ramen noodles to survive? A majority of the time, the people who are trying to deter you from your goals are resentful of the fact that you are capable of effecting change.
Q: What Does Success Look Like
A: Dick Chicken, NYC
An anonymous artist who’s never done graffiti work before haphazardly created Dick Chicken, laughed his ass off at himself, then realized it should be graffiti. After a while, Dick Chicken gained so much popularity that the artist anonymously put together a show for his work, got the word out, and close to 100 people came out to see the Artistic version of what they’ve been seeing on the streets.
Was his goal to flaunt penis everywhere? Who knows! He’s anonymous, but from the interview below, it doesn’t appear that he thought this would take off, or that it was any way to find success.
But it happened! He found something socially shocking and turned it into a success by being driven to promote his work (illegally) and gained a following by forcing people to notice it.
A: Hyper Haute Jewelry by Erica Dunk, St Louis
Erica creates jaw dropping, gorgeous, one-of-a-kind pieces of jewelry that she claims ”Every piece I create, is unfinished until it has the right woman wearing it.
“Once I no longer feared getting lost, I began to appreciate the journey and all the things that came with it, oddly enough. For me, always knowing what I want to do but not having a clue how to get there scared me. It took awhile to realize that if you put yourself out there and really focus on what you want … you don’t need to know how to get there, things will just unfold as you go.”
A: Michael Grab, Boulder
“I began balancing rocks through an unexpected spell of boredom next to Boulder Creek one afternoon. Now I can say I have become slightly obsessed with the activity.”
How does this one qualify as Successful, you may ask. He’s a new artist, only started exhibiting his work in 2012, but his resume states he was showing 2/3 of 2012 — INTERNATIONALLY showing, I might add. This wasn’t even something he set out to do; it was something that happened to him. He continued following what felt right and the exposure/success followed – probably still with a lot of hard work on his part.
Q: How Do I Start Defining My Own Success
A: Make Goals
Step 1 for me is making goals. I need to figure out what it is I want to do, and how much time it will take for me to get it done. These goals will always change slightly,but I must remember that I made them for a reason.
A: Work Harder
Always keep ideaizing and pushing yourself to your limits creatively, even if it moves you away from the goals you set out to achieve.
Don’t Lie. You’re a procrastinator. You thrive on deadlines. Know This & Make Them.
Consequence for not obtaining your goals: self-loathing. Hate to put it to you that way, but it’s completely true. You are the only one accountable for your actions and you will probably need to delay some of your bigger plans to obtain your smaller goals. That’s fine. But you have to be OK with that.
And if you’re OK with that, you need to reassess your priorities:
- Do you really want to achieve success?
- Have your priorities shifted?
- Is the life of an entrepreneur for you?
- Do you have the self-motivation to succeed? Honestly.
- Should you be an artist?
Yeah, that’s a lot of tough love right there. But really, we artists who are trying to be successful are tired of running into people who say they are artists but have no drive, motivation, or gusto. For instance, this “Starving Artist” opinion article says it all.
The “starving artist” meme is actually an excuse. It’s an excuse to fail. It’s an excuse for laziness.
Either commit, or get out of the game. You’re making the rest of us look bad.
Don’t fall for the “starving artist” meme. It’s a virus that will only pollute your self-confidence, self-will, and ultimately your success. It may even pollute your creativity.
The only way to stop this meme is to treat it like a virus, and stop spreading it. Let’s spread the “successful artist” meme. Let’s spread the “entrepreneurial artist” meme. How about the “millionaire artist” meme? How about the “ingeniously multitalented filthy rich artist” meme? How about the “I became a millionaire by staying true to my artistic integrity and working my butt off” meme? I think you get the picture.
Artists need to become entrepreneurs in order to survive. They need to start thinking about how to monetize their work. You’re not in college anymore. Making money is not icky. Those artists you praise so much, DaVinci, Michelangelo, Raphael… guess what… they didn’t work for free. They were all commissioned for their works. So should you.
A: Network (Hard Core Pro-Tips)
The one thing I’ve learned from my day job is you have to HAVE TO network. People have to know you exist. You need allies. You need exposure. You need connections.
Are you scared of networking? Don’t be. Here’s a tip for when you’re not the exhibiting artist – don’t talk about your work. People want to hear your opinion about their work, the work at the show, or nothing to do with either of those – but NEVER about your work. Make people care about YOU first, and it will be easier to discuss your work with them later.
Here’s a tip when you are the exhibiting artist – don’t talk about yourself. Talk about your inspirations or the thought processes behind your work. Take the elitism out of your voice and speak with people as if they are real human beings. Because they are. And they are real human being who will talk to their connections about you. DO NOT fuck this up.
If you meet someone at an event and you get their business card, make notes on the back so you remember what you spoke about and that you should contact them again in the next week. It’s so much simpler if you do it ASAP than at the end of the night.
And be prepared to actually contact them. These people you meet at events don’t want to be put on your normal mailing list. Put them in a separate, *Special* category with the notes you took. Once a month/quarter, shoot them an email with a link to something you think they would like, something about you you think they would like, and ask if there is anything new going on in their work? Check their website – do they have any exhibition dates coming up? Ask them about how that’s going. Make it personal. It will take time, but you can do this to help yourself succeed. It’s proactive, and shows that you remembered them. They will like that. If they never respond, you can stop after 2-3 email blasts.
This could also be considered marketing yourself. Just do it. You’ll get places. I promise.
Now Get Started.
Go to Events.