The Big Secret About a Successful Art Career or Business

I feel like there is this big secret in the art world. It’s about how things work and how to be successful. 

Everyone but me seems to know what it is.

Katrina Thorstensen pastel
©Katrina Thorstensen, Snow Patterns. Pastel on archival paper, 5.5 x 8.5 inches.

Have you ever felt that way? Or how about this …

If I only knew this one thing—this one elusive thing that I can't identify—my art business would be a success. 

But I don’t even know what questions to ask to find it.

You Are Not Alone

If you feel like everyone has the secret figured out except you, you’re not alone.

Many artists are on a quest to find the magic bullet and hoping to uncover it in a new class, blog post, or book.

And, still, the art world machine remains a mystery to most.

Joy Beckner bronze sculpture
©Joy Beckner, Life's a Ball. Life-sized miniature smooth dachshund sculpture in bronze, 25.25 x 11.75 x 8 inches.

The Forces At Play

Let’s consider all of the personalities that are part of the drama. 

You’ve got your artists, gallerists, and collectors. You have critics, curators, and consultants.

Not part of the gallery scene? You’re looking at festival organizers, licensing companies and agents, portrait brokers, and art consultants. Not to mention the people in organizations that oversee public art projects and residencies.

These days you have tech startups that create apps, software, and websites for artists to show their work. So let’s add places like Etsy, Fine Art America, Artwork Archive, and Society 6 to the list.

Finally, you have people like me who try to help you navigate the possibilities. Each of us comes from a different background with a unique set of strengths. Who to trust?

No wonder you’re confused!

A Road Map Would Be Great

It would be lovely if someone would hand you a road map to success, right?

First you do this, and then you do this, and then you do this, and then you sit back and watch the opportunities roll in.

Ha! It’s not going to happen because each artist’s path is different.

Besides what fun would that be? A road map would mean that there’s no room for you to be creative with your business.

You have to find your own way, so you might as well roll up your sleeves and get to work. 

Artists who accept this will have a jump-start on everyone else who is waiting to discover the big secret.

Martha Meade oil painting
©Martha Meade, Stream of Consciousness. Oil on canvas, 30 x 40 x 1 inches.

There Is No Secret

The big secret you need to know is that there is no big secret. Stop looking for magic bullets, pills, and how to beat the social algorithms, and start taking action.

When you take time to analyze the careers of successful artists, you will see that what they have in common is a commitment to their vision and hard, consistent work.

I've seen many artists doing whatever they can to avoid this hard work. Art should be fun, they think. So they keep looking for something that would make their businesses fun and easier.

Well, art can be fun. An art business or art career is about rolling up your sleeves and getting to work. You do it because that’s what’s required.

You don't have a choice because this is your life mission.

Successful artists must:

  • Decide on a goal/dream/vision.
  • Commit to making it happen.
  • Take action and keep taking action until they reach their goal.

You must have each of these pieces for any successful business.

[ How to Feel Like a Successful Artist ]


Commit. Take action.

Without the decision, there is no commitment.

Without the commitment, you are easily distracted by ideas that don’t support your vision, so you give up too early because you think nothing works.

Without the action, well … you know what happens without action. Zippo! Nada! Not a thing!

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6 thoughts on “The Big Secret About a Successful Art Career or Business”

  1. Listened to your webcast on 3 massive mistakes we artists make and took lots of notes. I wish I could come to the Colorado workshop as it sounds wonderful, but it falls on my daughter’s birthday otherwise I would be there! Your information is very clear and to the point! Thanks!

  2. Thank you for your honest and realistic advice. I admit that when I first started reading this, apart of me thought ‘ooh, maybe she will have that one secret I haven’t heard!’ But I’m so glad that you are reinforcing the fact that continuing to take action in your art practice is the real “secret.”

  3. Alyson, I have a crumpled old sticky note that says
    AAA—Aim, Act, Achieve
    straight forward and it works; or maybe I work.
    You make such Good sense, THANK YOU!!

    1. Love it, Lee. Thank you for sharing that. The problem with the AAA formula for some people is they spend too long on the first A. They think their aim has to be perfect – as if there is such a thing.

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