Deep Thought Thursday: Success

I used to ask this question at the beginning of my workshops.

How will you know when you've become successful?

Christen Benet, One Pink Poppy.
Christen Benat, One Pink Poppy. ©The Artist


How did you know that you had become successful?


What happened that made you feel as if you had become successful?

Take your pick.

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25 thoughts on “Deep Thought Thursday: Success”

  1. This is something that I think about a lot, and I’m not sure if I can even now give you an intelligent answer, but I’ll try anyways.

    Success for me seems to be a feeling. Part of it is about the money – having enough to pay all my bills and then some would probably help me feel successful. But it seems like a lot of it is about feeling noticed, or visible or important.

    I think more than knowing what my vision of success is, I’ve realized that it’s too vague to give me any sense of satisfaction. I’ve realized that I need to give myself actual milestones of success, instead of just some hazy vision in my head.

    I think that at least noticing that I don’t have a concrete vision of success is probably the first step.

    But that’s just my two cents!

  2. My focus is on pet portraiture and I knew I was doing what I was supposed to be doing when in 05 a very large pet food company gave me a huge check for 300 gift certificates for a sweepstakes promotion they were running. The money allowed me to invest in a large format printer among other things and business has been growing each year since. This was one of those “the universe is screaming at you” events, however I think every year smaller things happen that remind me that my path is true.
    The universe wants us to be successful and when we pay attention we can find plenty of occasions to feel successful and to own that label. Too often artists fail to celebrate their successes, or they measure it by unrealistic standards.

  3. I love this question. I am not sure I have an answer at this time, as I have alway felt that I would be sucessful when I was in a gallery, and being able to afford my own studio space.
    I am there now, and I feel that I have accomplished a lot, but still thinking on what will make me sucessful will make me more sucessful.


  4. Pingback: Random thoughts about success. | Sarah Regan Snavely studio

  5. I love this question; it’s something I’ve pondered for too many years! 😉

    As an abstract painter, I feel there are about 3 measurements for success:
    1. Creatively: when I feel that my paintings are really fabulous, are as good as I want them to be, are continuing to develop in a direction that truly satisfies my soul, and when my work progresses with each new painting.
    2. Critically: when I become a known quantity in the local art scene, have positive reviews written about my work, get invitations to participate in important local shows, and my openings are well-attended. When New American Painting publishes me, or New American Talent recognizes me, or something of that nature…And when my reputation as a good painter precedes me.
    3. Financially: when I make enough $$ through sales of my art to earn a meager to comfortable living without having to resort to any other kind of work.

    I just hope this all happens before I die! Ha!

  6. I try hard to take pride in my best work. Lord knows I’ve poured years of unstinting energy and focus on it. And very often it has handsomely paid me back.

    I got to know two very famous artists quite well over the years. These are people who I had always looked up to as “having arrived.” But in unguarded moments each of them confessed to me they felt the art world had treated them unfairly and passed them by in favor of lesser artists. You could have knocked me over with a feather in each case. The lesson I took from it is to watch out for jealousy and resentment trying to insinuate itself in any of our lives. No matter how your art career is turning out, it is a trap that can make you less happy than you deserve.

  7. Let me start by saying that I enjoy Zachary Brown’s response. I agree success is only measured by one’s self. Personally, I usually do not ever feel successful in life. Of course at an opening there is a great moment but overall, the feeling of success can hold us from achieving more. It holds us back from new techniques and new, different explorations in our work. After the opening I’ll look around and think…. I could have done that better. So though the day is successful, getting stuck in the contentment of success can be limiting. Success to me is the continuos effort and strive and “being successful” is the process of this effort with a favorable end product.

  8. I would say that all three of the posed questions are valid not only at any given time but occasionally all at the same time. A sort of superposition of success-states (rather like a superposition of eigenstates). Ok, now I can answer because my response is relevant to the superposition of success questions. On the one hand I will know when I am successful when I feel that I am progressing rather than foundering. On the second hand I realized I was successful when I took my latest major step, an action rather than a reaction, to initiate the creation of my own version of an Open House/Open Studio/Artistic Event. On the third hand I what happened to make me feel as if I had become successful was the aha moment of realization that blossomed when I contracted the space (3 hours at a tea room).

    The most important thing to know about all this is that it is success of a very specific kind. Am I able to support myself with my art? No, not yet. But that isn’t the only measure of success; it is merely one measure of success.

    Albeit a very important measure that I wish would hurry up and happen. 🙂


  9. I too feel Zachary Brown hit the nail on the head.

    Success is not measured by money or fame, but by our own sense of pride and accomplishment. If we can approach each day with a feeling of “This is me and I am doing what I love” then we are successful.

    I feel hugely successful these days in that I’ve stopped making excuses, or waiting for someone else to get my life going.

  10. Marilyn Fenn’s post is closest to my own.
    Here are my bullet points:
    *Love the process.
    *When your finish the painting that you feel the same excitement as when you started it.
    *Be fortunate enough to have collectors that love your work.
    *Live off your work.
    *Celebrating your works with collectors and friends at Openings.
    *Recognition from knowledgeable people.
    *Museum shows.
    I have been fortunate enough to experience each of these. But, one of the things I would like to be able to experience in a fulfilling way is to be more relaxed and inviting at exhibitions. Well, that is my next goal coming up October 17th!
    btw, when I 18 I had great mentor, Edgar Ewing. He drove the point home that creation is an act of love. That first point seems to really help and support all the rest of the things that go into success.

  11. Success to me is fairly simple and I believe good things result if you can live this type of life. Success is each day giving your best effort, without complaint or whine. Trying your hardest, doing something you love, or helping others is a great way to live. I think for many dreaming about riches or material things, about some far off dream place called the “easy life” is misguided and will never lead to true success. I posit the opposite-your best effort is trying circumstances, giving it everything you have with your head held high-this to me leads to the truly rich rewards we can have on this short journey.

  12. For me, as I get closer, what I feel , is that there is less & less of a disconnect between where I should be & where I am…As where I am becomes a better thing, there is less grating on my soul, caused by that round peg being placed in that square space…It seems there is much less friction when where you are is a good fit…For me, success is when me (the peg) fits well enough into its place, that the whole machine gets churning…Flow…& then other parts of the universe can flow too…I think I am close…or there…but it will take a while to get the flow going…(to really be certain)…

  13. Pingback: Redefining success | Sarah's Blog

  14. After a lifetime as an observer in the art world I am now learning and working so I can be a participant. My view of the emotional road to success.

    1. Satisfaction will come when I finally exhibit in a gallery or on a website
    2. Happiness will come when someone likes my work and buys it.
    3. Success will be achieved when I exhibit and people recognize my work
    without asking who did it.

  15. Coming from a corporate world as an organization development and training consultant,
    I learned that “success” is contingent on objectives as way of being able to measure it. So if you set an objective and are able to achieve it — then success is part of the completion. I don’t believe there is any grand scheme of success that is ouside of the goals we set and achieve.

    I don’t think the art world is really any different except that as artists we also include much more esoteric goals.

    I find that if I set small manageble and realistic goals that I do accomplish them and
    each time I do, I feel greater satisfaction. I am living my dream and do admit that sometimes it can seem like a nightmare trying to juggle all the parts, but it is coming together and the “big” goal within view. I consider myself successful on the smaller accomplishments.

    The philosopher Alfred North Whitehead, whose organic “process” philosophy is a treatise on aesthetics defined the “big goal” as “to live, to live well and to live better.
    So as artists if we are living at creating our art form, we are already successful.
    Granted that ‘living well’ and ‘living better’ can be a challenge, ie making a living and a “good living” with our art, I think what is needed most is a perspective in which we see our gifts and this challenge in the same light.

    When we love it we already have what we need and the rest will follow — just sometimes not as quickly as we would like or on the terms we want!!

    Personally I guess I see success as being on a different “plane” much like art is to the world — sort of perpendicular to the rest of experience and what I need most to do is to tap into it to experience it, especially when I am mired down in the everyday tasks of creating it. And I do this by taking minute vacations to appreciate the world I am living.

    I doubt that I will ever have have fame or fortune, because I don’t set these as goals. Also my art form is fiberart — I raise the animals that I harvest the fiber and create wearable as well as collectible, pictorial amd scultural fiberart. So it is labour intensive as well as a wonderful process of literally making something from nothing. Yesterday I sold a beautiful wedding ring shawl that was handspun and lovingly designed and created of fine kid mohair and angora from my angora goats and rabbits. The lady who bought it has MS and when she put it on she was totally emersed in the luxury of the enchanting experience. For a moment she was lifted to that other plane — out of her MS and into that brief and fleeting experience of delight. As I shared her delight I felt successful. Who could ask for anything more!
    Creature Comforts Cottage

  16. I have a painting titled Common Scents by a Roger Lawrence dated 1984 Is this the same Roger Lawrence listed above or is anyone familiar with this artist? It is a painting of two skunks in the country. Very vivid deep colors.

  17. No Charlene this is not the same artist. I have just started learning to paint in oil this year after retiring. Thanks for asking. I now know I will need to use my middle initial or name on my work.

  18. It dawned on me as I was reading here….if “success” is the goal, what happens if you achieve it? Ok, we have “succeeded”….we have “arrived”
    we have gotten all that we worked so hard for….ha!…THEN what do we do?!

    What if we make careers out of the chase after success….then if we succeed…poof!…it is done…completed…task finished…goal achieved…. then what?

    And, if it is instead all about the chase….the pursuit….the challenge… the struggle? If so, then success must stay just out of hand’s reach in order to perpetuate the misson. A Catch 22!

    My dog chases squirels….loves to chase them…with the most enthusiasm you could find in a dog….she will sneak up on them…stock them…then when she feels the moment is right, runs with all the energy and speed she can muster. They most always get away by the closest of calls, then run up the tree just out of her reach and chatter at her… teasing and taunting her. I say “most always” because I have seen her when she could easily have gotten one…but she will slow down just a tiny bit at the end…it is about the chase, not about the catch…she wouldn’t know what to do with one if she caught it. And I believe that if she did catch one, she would probably stop chasing them…what would be the point? Are we like my dog…ever chasing the squirel (success)?

    Perhaps it would behove us all if we took “success” out of the picture… just do what God made you to do….do it well….live well….live fully… period.

    ….just some thoughts…


  19. Lemme, why not consider success as not a static thing but rather an ongoing series of accomplishments? Then, once you have attained one success you can use it or go on from it to attain other successes. It’s like painting a scene. Ok, done, the scene is painted. But why not paint it again from a different perspective or a different time of day or in a different medium or… .

    Success is like fractals – not walls, I think. Children both learn and mature best when rewarded by a series of successes. They gain experience and confidence. Then “failure” become merely a step in the process towards “success” and not an alternate end.

  20. Success is doing what you feel passionate about, and living the life of your dreams. For me, that’s being able to work on projects that fire me up, to be involved in the art world, and to travel the globe.

    I used to strive very hard to reach a certain dollar amount that I felt would be my benchmark of success. It was the one thing that I worked so hard to reach, that I forgot what was really important. After “hitting the wall” and suffering sever burn out, I took time off to re-assess what I was doing.

    I came to realize that I had already reached success. I had everything I had always dreamed of: A loving family, freedom to travel, and the ability to create anything that I desire.

    And I’ve learned, since then, to never forget how successful I am. It truly is the simple things in life that make me happy.

  21. Alyson Stanfield

    Maria: A lovely thought. I wonder, though, if you’d be able to find that sense of peace if you were still striving to make ends meet. ?? I think the lesson is to be sure to enjoy the ride along the way–that you love what you do. Otherwise, the money doesn’t matter.

  22. For me, success is when I feel I’ve connected with someone’s emotions with my paintings. The world gets so busy, rushing from task to task. All of us do. If you’re just going through the motions, you want to feel something. That’s what makes each of us humans and individuals. If I’m grateful for making a connection with someone else in the same way I want to be connected with, my actions have meaning, and I’ve come full circle.

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