4 things that make a successful artist – Part 1


Artists often unconsciously fall into the archetype of the ‘starving artist’ who faces the world alone by trying to succeed against all odds while the unforgiving world spins by without giving them a second thought.

As a result some artists may become resentful at other artists or individuals that they see achieve success. A cynical artist may lament ‘look at those artists that make millions for a piece of work, while my artwork is ignored, what is wrong with the world?’

The truth is that this artist and many others may have a valid point of view, and still lack a deeper understanding about what is really going on.

One of the first things to understand is that there is a distinction to be made between an ‘artist’ and a ‘successful artist’ therefore a good place to start would be to define what success means. This typically would require a book in itself, however the elements of success can be stated here that should be able to accommodate each artists’ requirement.

A definition of a successful artist

• The ability to live in financial abundance through income generated from your artwork
• A psychological sense of fulfilment and accomplishment achieved through the creation of your artwork
• The ability to freely express yourself creatively with integrity
• The respect and acknowledgment from other authorities and individuals that you like and respect


So now we have an idea of what success looks like we can now begin to make the connections from a starting position to an on-going position of success.

There have been a number of individuals who were once ‘successful’ who went on to degrade themselves or commit suicide because once they achieved a significant goal they had nothing else to live for.

As long as you’re green, you’re growing. As soon as you’re ripe, you start to rot.’ – Ray Kroc

Now that the idea of success has been defined we can look at each of the 4 things that make an artist successful

  1. Express your own unique style and voice

‘Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice’ – Steve Jobs

We now live in an age where the amount of information that is produced is increasing with ever-increasing speed therefore the amount of people who are shouting for attention to be heard creates an excessive amount of noise.

The noise that is created is not just audible noise, but visual noise, cultural noise, political noise, mediated noise that is fed to individuals through the media.

As a result of this barrage of noise many become bored, apathetic or indifferent to the words and images that are fed to them unless they specifically identify with their specific preferences and unconscious biases.

In order to succeed as an artist it is important to be able to stand out from the noise and disseminate your own unique style. In many respects it does not matter what your style is, it only matters that your style is unique.

It is certainly true that you can become financially successful by mimicking other styles from artists and there is a long tradition of artists who have ‘borrowed’ or ‘stolen’ artistic styles from other artists and cultures and used them for their own purposes.

As we progress through these steps you will see how it is possible to be able to ‘steal’ from others to achieve financial rewards.

I wish that I could say that those ‘culture vultures’ that rob and steal the work of others would ultimately fail and that some type of justice will prevail, however the world of business does not work like that. Ethics and morality have nothing to do with the business of business.

The only way that I know to genuinely create an authentic unique voice is to be grounded in your own core values and purpose.

Your values are the emotional states that you want to achieve or avoid, and at the root of every decision that you make will be your core values. It is very important to know what your values are, and you can know simply by consciously understanding the things that please you the most and disgust you the most.

A purpose is the reason why a thing exists. Why do you create art? Is it a thing that you do or is it a function of who you are?

The art that you create should be wholly congruent with your core values and purpose. It does not matter so much what your values and purpose are, it only matters that you stay true to those values whatever they are. If you can do that you are acting with true integrity.

The next thing to consider is what type of medium you will use. Not all artists use paints and easels; a growing number of artists are embracing moving image and digital methods of production.

The unconventional literary philosopher Marshal McLuhan once famously stated that ‘the medium is the message’ and although I would not necessarily agree in all situations, the perception of an artist that paints on a canvas is vastly different to an artist who creates artistic videos, so again it is important to find your own unique style and voice, regardless of what others think.

Those people who say that everything has been completed already simply lack imagination. Just as the artistic marvels of the civilizations of the Nile Valley had never been created anywhere else on the globe, the abstraction of artists such as Georges Braque, Pablo Picasso, Piet Mondrian, Marcel Duchamp and others had not been interpreted as art until then, and now we have entered what some would call an ‘absurd’ age of art where collectors buy blank canvases, dissected animals, discarded objects, excrement, and a plethora of objects for vast sums of money. These items were once not considered art, and the question of what is art? Should be deferred to another time.

For now it is important to understand that you must initially create art that is authentic to you, whatever it is or whatever others say in criticism of it. There is more to be said on this because some artists deliberately aim to offend and cause controversy to gain attention for their work. I will mention more about this later on because this element will be an important thing to consider in creating your artwork.

If you are having difficulty in beginning then a good place to start is to look at your own values and purpose.

If you are not sure what they are then we have created a couple of e-books to help. You can download them by clicking the links below.

Click here to discover your values

 Download Values e-book


Click here to uncover your purpose

 Download Purpose e-book



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