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?