Sunday, January 30, 2011

Artists Need to Face Reality: What is Success?

How to be Truly Successful as an Artist by Brian Sherwin

This article is by Brian Sherwin , Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews. Brian Sherwin is an art critic, blogger, curator, artist and writer based near Chicago, Illinois. He has been published in Hi Fructose Magazine, Illinois Times, and other publications, and linked to by publications such as The Boston Globe, Juxtapoz Magazine, Deutsche Bank ArtMag, ARTLURKER, Myartspace, Blabbermouth, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Modern Art Obsession, Citizen LA, Shark Forum, Two Coats of Paint and Art Fag City. You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.

The reality of being an artist is that success on a grand-scale is often far from reach. It is not uncommon for artists, especially emerging artists, to beat themselves up with worry over why they have not reached what they consider success. It is not hard to become bitter if you spend your time comparing yourself to wealthy famous artists-- especially if you are suffering financially for your dream as so many artists do. Thus, the first step in becoming a truly successful artist is to let go of your art star fantasies and work toward redefining your view of success in a more realistic manner.

I’m of the opinion that it is best for an artist to accept that only a small percentage of creative individuals will rise to become world renowned artists with huge bank accounts in their name. That said, an artist can be successful in his or her own right-- it is all in how we interpret success. Unfortunately, many artists get star struck by a bar that has been raised so high that one could create groundbreaking works of art daily and never reach it.

The fact that so many artists spend their days reaching for that bar to no avail has much to do with the consumer-driven money culture that we live in and the inclusive aspects of major media sources. Thus, the second step toward becoming a truly successful artist is to acknowledge that the value of your art is not found on a price tag, bank statement, or high profile review in an international art publication. The value of your art is found in your will to create no matter what life obstacle is thrown before you.

Point blank: Chances are you will not be as known as Pablo Picasso-- but that does not mean you will never reach a level of fame among your peers or become an influence on others. Chances are you will not be as wealthy as Damien Hirst-- but that does not mean you won’t eventually make a living, or at least establish an alternative source of income, from marketing your artwork. Chances are you won’t find yourself in the art history books of tomorrow-- but that does not mean you should stop seeking being written about today. Thus, the third step toward becoming a truly successful artist is to accept these common truths and to take advantage of realistic opportunities that you can take advantage of today.

In closing, true success for an artist, in my opinion, is the strength to push on with your art when the world is not at your feet. Most artists will never receive the spotlight they deserve-- but an artist can easily leave his or her own mark within the global art community, so to speak. Leave fame and fortune up to chance-- focus on creating art and gaining exposure for your art today. Take as many steps as you need to realize that you can truly be a successful artist beyond the bar that has been placed above you.

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  1. amen... well written. lately i've dropped the word "SUCCESS" out of my vocabulary for it's been beaten down to mean nothing. Just like every other occupation in celebrity land, only a few are chosen for fame. the greatest reward is simply working, finding reward in the process, experience and results in the work of you hands, mind and soul.

  2. Have you ever taken your time to define what your success in your art-world would be?

    There is perhaps a spectrum of what artists want from their art.  Some artists could not care less about ever showing their art. Some want to make enough money from their art so they can give-up their day job and make their mark. Other artists may have an independent source of income, money is not an important factor in their definition of success. They perhaps want recognition from their peers, or critics and so on. To perhaps have their artworks in a gallery somewhere. Some want just to be written about. It is perhaps true that we all want something on this spectrum and not always to be in the same place on it. So perhaps its time to think about what it is that you want for your art?

     Perhaps some of us have underinflated opinions of ourselves as artists and our artworks?
    Perhaps some of us have overinflated opinions of ourselves as artists and our artworks?

    Artists seldom, if ever, make much effort to market themselves or promote their artworks and the creativity that built it. Its completely against their nature. They can’t bring themselves to ask for it either. Some can’t recognize that it even exists for them.

    An artist trying to define success for themselves may want to have shows, reviews, recognition and even sales, but in reality, success for most artists already exists by the mere fact that they have acknowledged that they are artists with the ability to create original artworks.

    Perhaps the next time sitting around in your studio depressing yourself thinking that no one will ever see your artworks or experience them, let alone buy your artwork, the question: why am I doing this? The answer is: I am an artist. I'm one of the luckiest people alive.

  3. I love this truth that you wrote, Brian:

    "...many artists spend their days reaching for that bar to no avail has much to do with the consumer-driven money culture that we live in.."

    This applies to more than just artists. It's the American culture.

    Artists are paid in many different currencies. Not just money, but joy, time, ability to create that which they need to create, and the ability to design their life as they want to.

    If only we all could fully enjoy what we have created for ourselves, we would realize how successful we really are!

  4. We exist within a frame work where one needs money to live and success is measured by how much money you have. In addition our society values entertainment and information that dulls ones mind.

    Yes it is frustrating being an artist who agrees with that statement, because one wants to make a difference, maybe even help change it, but ones voice often falls on death ears. Whilst success among ones pears is nice as a pat on the back, however it achieves little to nothing, because they agree with what you are doing, it is the people who don't agree with you that one wants to reach. The people who tell you:

    "I would buy that picture of a beautiful landscape if it had not been for that screaming man"

    The only clear way to reach them is through success, measured in money.

    And now to the point, even though such success is an unrealistic goal the pursuit of it may be a fools earned but it is a crusade worth attempting.

    There is a distinction between one who tries to use the rules of the paradigm he lives within to his advantage and he who blindly follows the rules like a moth to the flame.

    Being an artist is about relentless perseverance of an unreachable goal, whatever that may be.