There is no one-size-fits-all definition of success for an artist
One of the great advantages of pursuing art is the personal freedom you enjoy as an artist. As an artist, you are master of your studio, and what happens there is completely up to you. No one can tell you how to create, and no one can define success for you.
Having spent twenty plus years in the gallery business, I’ve met and worked with hundreds of artists, and every single one of them has different goals. Each uses different metrics to define success.
There are several common goals many artists strive to achieve, however. As you think about your future success, I would encourage you to consider each of these areas and decide how important each is to you. Your priorities will help determine how you approach the business of art.
At the deepest level, many artists create for the sheer love of creation. They will spend years studying and training to hone their craft. Time spent in the studio is focused on the pursuit of excellence. Every other consideration is secondary.
No artist creates in a vacuum, and many would argue that no work is complete until it has been shared with an audience. Many artists hunger for the opportunity to share their work. Art is communication at a very emotional, and often visceral level.
For some artists, the prospect of an award or critical praise of their work is more important than any monetary gain that might come from the sale of the work.
Monetary Gain/Financial Stability
Many artists aim to create a business around their art. Art sales, while not easy to attain, can allow an artist to gain independence to create more art. An artist who successfully sells his/her work earns the freedom to focus more time and energy on creating.
Artistic Motivation Venn Diagram
For most artists, motivation lies in a combination of these factors. It is important though, to understand your personal motivation priorities. If artistic excellence is the overriding priority, you may sacrifice your marketing and business time to find more time to devote to your work. If recognition is the priority, museum shows and juried competitions will take precedence over gallery representation or shows. If sales are the priority, production and gallery representation become far more critical.
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I encourage you to think about your personal artistic motivation. What is the driving force behind your creativity at this stage of your career? Are there motivating factors that I’m missing? Share your thoughts in the comments below.