How do you define success as an artist? It’s a difficult question to answer because everyone’s artist dream is different. How I define success by my standards may not align with yours. And that’s perfectly ok. We all have a unique artist dream.
Many people (especially non-artists) define the success of an artist as achieving a certain degree of fame or fortune. And this might ring true for you too. You might seek tangible tokens that prove your success. You might think that in order to be seen as a professional artist you need to be able to sell your art online or have it hanging in a prestigious gallery.
Many surveys have been run on this topic in artist communities. The overwhelming majority of answers include some kind of combination of what I like to call the four F’s. Followers, Faith, Fame and Fortune.
It’s important to understand and identify your unique artist dream. Because only you can decide when you’ve ‘made it’ as an artist. Do you identify with any of the four F’s? Let’s explore each a little more deeply so that you can hone in on your artist dream.
Artist Dream: Followers
Your artist dream is to gather a large following of people who love your work and tell others about it. You might be looking for ways to sell your art online through platforms like Instagram or Pinterest.
So how many followers will you need to hit before you decide you’ve made it as an artist? 10,000? 100,000? 1,000,000? It’s important to define what that number means to you and why it’s important. Be careful that you’re not falling into the trap of chasing vanity metrics. 100,000 followers doesn’t mean much if nobody is engaging with your art or buying it. Oftentimes having a smaller, highly engaged following is more profitable in the long run.
Artist Dream: Faith
Is your artist dream to build your faith in the quality of the work you produce? Many artists experience a lack of support in their nuclear families, leading to a lot of self-doubt in their ability and talent as an artist.
If your artist dream is to live your faith, it’s possible that you’re not as concerned with financial gains (although that still may be an influencing factor). But you’re driven by the conviction that you can produce the art you see in your mind’s eye. Your goal is to tap into a higher source when you create, so that the process of making art becomes more of a spiritual practice.
If you sell your art, great. But that’s not the end goal. Your artist dream is to live with a connection to your artistic source, and whatever else comes along is just a bonus.
Artist Dream: Fame
So your artist dream is to be famous? Perhaps you’re seeking publicity for your work, or you’d like art critics to write about your art, or you’d love to attract gallery dealers to your shows?
Recognition for our work is rather lovely isn’t it?
On some level, we all want to feel validated as artists. While there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s important to remember that the validation that matters most is the validation you give yourself. External appreciation is nice but it shouldn’t be the only reason you create art.
There are many, many successful working artists who are not household names. And still, many famous artists who never achieved recognition until after they’d passed away! So it may be worth giving yourself some time and space to assess why achieving fame is your artist dream.
Why is the goal important to you? How do you imagine your life will change if you achieve fame? What if you don’t? Will your artist journey have been all for nothing?
These are questions worth pondering as you map out your artist dream.
Artist Dream: Fortune
Ah this is probably the artist dream I hear the most! Your artist dream is to create enough income from selling your art to live off your art. That’s great, but in order to achieve that artist dream you’re going to need to learn how to market your art effectively.
That’s right, there’s no getting around it. In order to sell your art consistently you need to market the heck out of it.
It’s important to approach your artist dream like an entrepreneur. Who are you making your art for? Who is your ideal audience? Where are they hanging out? Can they afford to buy your art?
These are all questions you’ll need to ponder as you start mapping out your artist career. If you haven’t already, take The Working Artist Masterclass. There’s loads of valuable information to help you uncover this information so that you can start selling your art to a wider audience.
It’s also important to understand how much money you’ll need to bring in. Will you be satisfied just covering your baseline expenses? Or do you want your art to make you wealthy? What do you define as wealthy? Again, terms like success and wealthy mean different things to different people. Wealth to a privileged white man likely means something different to someone from a marginalized background. What matters most is what it means to you.
Take some time to define your artist dream
So now that we’ve covered the most common artist dreams, what’s driving you?
Have you ‘made it’ as an artist already? Taking some time to think about what your definition of success is is time well spent. Afterall, if you don’t know where you’re going or why you’re heading there, how will you ever know when you’ve ‘made it’?
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Working in the international world of contemporary art, Crista Cloutier has spent her career selling art and marketing art to art galleries, museums and private collections.
Using her professional experiences, Crista has created The Working Artist Masterclass, where she’s developed a global reputation as an artist’s coach. Crista can teach you how to be an artist; including how to sell your art, how to sell art online, how to sell photographs, how to price your art, how to succeed at art fairs, and even how to find your art style.
Crista has worked with established, blue-chip artists to raise their profile and attract greater opportunities. And she’s also helped thousands of emerging artists to build a professional art practice. To learn more, visit https://theworkingartist.com