The words used to describe successful art include uncompromising, honest, bold, ambitious, enlightening, original, and challenging. While all true, these words don't begin to convey how successful artists achieve both artistic and financial success. It has been my personal experience as a working artist and show director that those artists who make a living doing what they love have these foundations in common.
ART QUALITY: Artistic quality is often thought of in two components, originality and technical skill. The successful artist utilizes their skills to focus on communicating their vision. It takes a considerable amount of time to perfect skills, but take joy in the fact that you are producing something unique.
Jon Barlow Hudson - Double Helix
Artists who win awards and fame always consider these principals:
Shapes and proportions
Orientation, balance, and harmony
Contrast and tonal values
Rhythm and gamut
And use these rules of composition
The rule of golden proportions
The rule of thirds
The rule of rabatment
Rules of guiding a viewer's gaze
Rules of symmetry
CONSISTENCY: What strikes me most as a fine art festival director is many artists clearly have talent, but the art displayed is unfocused and spread across several styles that do not belong in the same grouping. Consistency may be the most important word to describe the activity of a successful professional artist. Encompassing the type of work created, presentation style, marketing strategy, posting to social media, and effective communication with customers to name a few.
"When asked what an artist should do to increase their odds of finding gallery representation and building long-term commercial success, consistency would be the very first factor to which I would point. That's right. Even above quality and creativity, I feel that consistency is the key to long-term success".
Jason Horejs, Xanadu Gallery.
UNIQUENESS: The truly successful have found their unique artistic voice. The word 'ART' use to mean craft. Something you could excel at through practice and hard work. 'ART' is now associated with individualism and originality. The artist's personality is essential and as important as the artwork itself. Artists that can balance the tension between preserving the individual and appealing to the popular are achieving success.
LEARNING FROM FAILURE: Patton Hindle, Senior Director of Arts at Kickstarter in his recent article Why Artists Should be Allowed to Fail states "I've seen how vital failure can be for the creative process." It is a sign of the times that this is a discussion. The idea of failure is antithetical today. Perfection is perceived as instantaneous and then projected in glorious color on social media. But as the article Lessons from the Masters taught us, in order to achieve artistic success, you need to be able to have the patience of going through the process of getting it wrong, many times. Don't Quit! Look at your work from another perspective, add another element, and seek advice. We all can produce a bad piece, even on our best days.
DISCIPLINE: Creating is never boring but the follow up can be tedious. You might not think of it this way, but as an artist you are the owner of a small business. Accounting, inventory, and marketing are all part of the process of getting art out to your current and potential clients. Like any business you need to have a plan. A good place to start is the Artwork Archive's Guide to Making a Business Plan in 6 Steps. Successful artists know that business success does not usually happen overnight and they have the discipline and positivity to stay the course.
MARKETING: While mentioned above and I have talked about this topic at length (The Art of Increasing Your Sales After the Show; Key Differences in Social Media Platforms; and Four Essential Tips to to be a More Successful Artist) part of having a successful career as an artist is learning how to create new opportunities. Take advantage of social media to build direct sales, promote your new ideas, and sustain a network of patrons.
Facebook: Utilize the 'Shop" Feature
Invite Patrons to Upcoming Shows and Exhibitions
Instagram: Showcase your creativity with photos and videos
Pinterest: Go-to platform for those who love decorating and art
Linkedin: Valuable in attracting corporate clients.