When it comes to building an art career, I subscribe to Thomas Jefferson’s view of luck:
I'm a greater believer in luck, and I find the harder I work the more I have of it.
― Thomas Jefferson
In other words, don’t rely on luck to hand you a successful art career. Roll up your sleeves and get to work. Every. Single. Day.
On this St. Patrick’s Day, it doesn’t hurt to remind ourselves how lucky we are. But every lucky gold coin has a flip side to be aware of.
You’re lucky you can express yourself freely through your art form. We take this for granted, but not everyone in the world can safely get away with doing so.
In many countries, artists are a dangerous lot because they refuse to go along with the status quo and have “outrageous” ideas about democracy and freedom of religion.
Above all, be grateful for freedom of expression.
On the flip side: There are a lot more people expressing themselves through their art these days. The pond is getting smaller and noisier.
Rather than increasing the volume of your self-expression, focus on nurturing personal relationships that will sustain you over the course of your career. A whisper might yield better results than yelling.
You’re lucky to have alternative brick-and-mortar venues for selling your art. Commercial galleries are no longer the only way to show and to sell one’s art. In fact, they’re undesirable for many artists who have a different vision for their path. You can show and sell your art almost anywhere these days, and most artists do.
Your options are limited only by your imagination (and, often, your ego).
On the flip side: The number of artists seeking commercial galleries far exceeds the number of artists those galleries could represent. It’s been noted that galleries in New York City can no longer afford to show emerging artists, which means that emerging artists there have to look elsewhere or become better at self-representation.
It’s more important than ever to stand out. Your work needs to be especially strong, you must be articulate about your art, and you must build a strong network of relationships to sustain your career.
You’re lucky if you are part of a community of artists. Artists support one another.
They will show up at your openings, help you with installing your work, and cheer on your success.
It is from other artists where you will learn about opportunities you didn’t know existed. You will also hear about resources for the business side of your career.
On the flip side: There is such a thing as artist envy. Not everyone will be happy for your success, and you have to be okay with that.
Create a career and life that is unique to you – one based on your values, goals, and strengths. Beware of anyone who tries to keep you small. [Tweet this]
You’re lucky to have the Internet to connect with potential buyers and other artists. It wasn’t that long ago that artists didn’t have this tool for selling their art and gaining recognition. There are thousands of artists who wouldn’t be trying to sell their art if they had started building their careers before the Internet age.
I’m fond of reminding my students that 20 years ago the only way to market your art was postcards and sending slide packets to galleries. The latter would set you back $50-60 and you probably never saw it again.
You are lucky to have social media to nurture connections that might lead to opportunities. Who would have thought ten years ago that you would be able to share your art so quickly with so many people?
On the flip side: The Internet (and social media) can be a big time-suck. You hop on to post an update and before you know it, it’s 3 hours later, and you haven’t yet entered the studio for the day.
It’s especially a waste when it’s misunderstood, misused, or abused. Artists who think the Internet is a panacea are often the same artists who are looking for shortcuts. Shortcuts might provide short-term satisfaction, but they rarely contribute to lasting success.
If you are looking for an easy way out, check your commitment level. If you’re really in it for the long haul, you will build a sturdy foundation – including a strong artist statement, website/blog, and community network – that will make your online efforts more likely to pay off.
Supportive Personal Relationships
You’re lucky if you have people in your life who love and understand you. Not all artists have this kind of personal support.
Give those special people a big hug today, and thank them for being part of your world.
If you don’t have personal relationships that support your art career, seek them out. It will make a huge difference in the level of success you achieve.
On the flip side: Sometimes people can be too supportive. They tell you exactly what they think you should be doing.
They mean well, so you’re tempted to follow their advice. Watch out! Only you know what’s best for you. It’s not in your interest to change course whenever someone else has a good idea for you.
Trust yourself. Protect your dream.
Remember how lucky you are.
What makes you feel lucky today?
29 thoughts on “Lucky You”
Supportive personal relationship…and the time/resources to make art make me feel very lucky.
This weekend was my first ever open art studio. Our home (my husband Andy was curator, bartender, and cashier) was covered with my artwork from 16 years. Lucky me, 20 pieces found new homes! Lucky me, I have over 300 to go, lol, but no matter what…
I keep on painting.
I’m also very lucky that I “found” you & your resources so many years ago (yeah)!!!! Thanks, Alyson!
Angeline-Marie: 20 sales is awesome. Andy is awesome! I’m lucky you found me. 🙂
I feel lucky that I get to do this! 30 years in another career and now I get to paint almost all day long. No more butt-numbing meetings with executives, no more long commutes, no more doing what someone else has prescribed that I do with my day.
Regarding your comments on community:
In my limited exposure to other artists, most have said that they find a lot of mutual support and helpfulness among their peers.
Yet I’ve heard other artists say “artists can be very competitive and often jealous.”
Like most things it’s not a black and white situation. My question: in your experience, are the cases of “artist envy” more the exception than the rule?
Jay: They’re definitely the exception, and as with all exceptions, they’re the ones we remember. That’s why I want to remind you how supportive a community can be.
I am a big fan of yours, thanks for helping the art community. I have always learn some thing new from you. Thanks and keep up the good work Alyson!
Thank you, Ahmed. That means a lot to me.
As a soon-to-be retired art teacher, I am exhilarated to be starting the new journey of getting to spend full time in my own creative endeavors. At the same time, scared out of my wits! (Will I be able to make up the difference in income between my current pay and retirement pay?) But your posts help me stay positive and realize that there is a “method” that will insure success. Please keep them coming, and I hope attend one of your seminars in the near future.
Gayle: Congratulations on you soon-to-be new adventure. I’ll be here! Would love for you to come to Breakthrough in the fall.
Hi Alison thank you so much for posting this feels like a lucky charm on St. Patrick’s Day! You have been very inspiring and helpful. It really is about the hard work bringing the luck!
Thanks, Margaret. So happy you’re here and in the Art Career Success System.
I love this statement from today’s post: “Trust yourself. Protect your dream.” I’m going to keep it front and center and will probably copy it to use on one of my inspiration photos. And I’ll give you the credit on the quote.
I love reading your blog posts and learn so much from you and from your readers. I thoroughly enjoyed your last free webinar and plan to sign up when you offer the course again (saving up my money for it). In fact, I just submitted a request for a 1:1 biz review and that is a HUGE step for me. I know it is the right time, otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to press the SEND button.
That’s awesome, Marrianna. I look forward to working with you.
I agree with most of your points Alyson, as usual your posts are very generous and on the spot in terms of content. Yes, we are lucky! Though Art Venues and The Internet leave me longing for much more.
I do believe that brick and mortar galleries are still, and will always be, very important for the artist willing to seriously grow, to seek recognition, and to open to a wide and receptive audience.
Is the job of the curators to discern between poor and good quality art, to recognize great potential and be willing to work alongside the artist to improve each others careers. That is when the gallery is serious and knowledgeable, of course… I think of the ideal art gallery as the artist’s agent.
The internet undoubtedly opened a whole new world to the practicing artist and is simply impossible to be without it. But as you have mentioned it brings along a lot of chatter and noise.
Everybody knows that is a must to have a website, to use social media and interact with your peers, to try to sell art online. And this is also the downside as everybody is fighting for a bright spot in the online community.
How do you differentiate works of art from handicraft? Truthful and honest self expression from the straight commercial intent?
Does make sense to be on sites like, for example, Amazon Art or Saatchi Art when you are just one in the middle of thousands and thousands of other artists of any quality and style?
I know these are topics worth of lengthy lectures, but would be great to hear more from you on the matter.
Thanks for your dedication!
Lorenzo: I agree that galleries are important at a certain level. But that level isn’t important to lots of artists who seek a different path.
As for your other questions …. Whew! Loaded. I think I’ll save up those answers.
Thank you for being here.
I feel lucky to be selling art regularly, lucky to receive fabulous advice when I’m ready and able to hear it and, most of all, I’m lucky to have my wonderful husband of 1 1/2 years in my corner. He’s smart about business, loves my art and is rock solid in my corner all the way.
Lucky you, Pat!
I feel lucky to have seen the beautiful image above by Annie Gillespie. Gorgeous! I love it. This reminds me that other artists are people who love and appreciate art and they are frequently collectors. I feel lucky to be aquainted with people who appreciate and collect art and who can provide understanding and support whether or not they purchase my work.
Pamela: Yes! And I find the artists I feature either from comments here, on Facebook, or in my programs.
In 1972 I painted my first oil painting of a Bullfighter because of a challenge from a friend. A friend had taken me to view some “modern” art and there were several bullfight paintings on display. At the time I was a Meat Inspector working in the meat industry and so knew the anatomy of cattle, sheep etc very well. I looked at one painting my friend wanted to buy and told them the proportions of the bull were not correct. They responded “OK smarty do better”. So I accepted the challenge and painted a 3 foot x 5 foot oil painting of a bullfight. I subsequently sold two copies of it and thus started my love of oil painting. But it wasn’t until I retired three years ago that I was able to really get into painting full on. So if there is any LUCK in life, mine was a friend 44 years ago.
Gary: What a great story! Your friend was definitely a good luck charm.
I believe that brick and mortar galleries are still more important than having your work only shown on the Internet. I was reading an article about the business of art in a WSJ Magazine recently. Someone from NYC commented that (paraphrasing his words) with the Internet, you are buying only an image of the the art and not the art itself. Photographing your art can make any work seem great. How many times I have heard from customers of Amazon, E-Bay and the such that what was sent to them was not the same as the image on the Internet. I still believe that buying art is a very personal matter, where you are drawn into the piece at that moment in time. My own art has a totally different response when seen in person than seen on the Internet.
Bill: I couldn’t agree more. But the brick-and-mortar no longer has to be a commercial gallery. There are other venues where you can make sales.
I am lucky that I signed up for a local “pop-up”art show. I emailed the information to my entire address book. I received a response from a gallery director I met when she was organizing her town’s first art festival before she had her gallery. She has invited me to have a solo show in her gallery! WOW!
SWEET! I love hearing this, Elise. Good work.
I am lucky to have recently been on a holiday and have been totally inspired by the new lanndscapes i have seen
Nice, Mandy. So curious as to where you were.
Alyson, as always your writing is inspiring and reinforces my decision to follow my soul in becoming an artist.
I just wrote a blog post on some of the self-esteem issues I’ve had that have made me second guess where my element truly lives: