Finding Your Own Success

Finding your own success...

find your own success as an artist


Each week I write a brand new article to support members of our three wonderful art groups on Facebook, The Artists Exchange, The Artists Directory, and The Artist Hangout. This week we take a look at some of the things that other people think you need to do to become a successful visual artist and why their perceptions of success might not always get you exactly where you want or need to be. 

My little bit of self-promotion!

First off this week it’s time for a little self promotion which is something I rarely ever do on this website! I was reminded by a dear friend the other day that some of you might be interested to see what else I do other than write and drink coffee! So throughout this weeks article you will be able to see some of the detail in my two latest artworks, “In my Beginning is My End,” and “You Are My Beginning.” The links to both of these works can be found at the end of the article. Each work I sell contributes to the ongoing cost of creating this site every week. 

Defining Success...

Back in October 2018 I published an article all about looking at artistic success. In that article I wrote about how success can be defined by much more than the usual suspects like being able to sell every work you create, or being financially solvent from selling your work alone, or the fame that comes with having a work on display at MoMA. Recently I have been thinking about this very subject again. You can read the original article right here.  

In between then and now, I decided to read a few books on the subject of success.  I was trying to figure out how you really start to define what success looks like as an artist because writing that article reminded me that we rarely celebrate the near wins that we experience every day. Selling work is important when you make a living from your art, but surely other things we do as artists are important to us too?

At one time I categorically defined success as being able to sell more artwork this month than last month, or I would think: “I know I will have made it if I could just get that one gallery to represent me.” As time went by my definition of success became more about not getting yet another letter of rejection from that one gallery. Back then I don’t think I was looking for success at all, I think I was probably looking for validation and acceptance. 

A few of the books I read were written by hugely successful people and when I spoke to other people about what they thought success was and is, the answers they gave me were mostly the same. 

Most people told me that they thought of success as things like having financial stability, or making a difference or making a change, and I can’t begin to tell you how many times I heard or read the phrase, be the change. A phrase which is either added to the end of any sentence that mentions making a difference in a motivational stock photo, or a phrase that constantly appears on a PowerPoint presentation at every overpriced inspirational workshop you have ever attended. But no matter who I asked, mostly people were saying the same things and defining what they thought success was in similar ways. 

Even in the books if you paused for a moment to take stock, there were signs that many of the author’s successes had been more down to luck and being in the right place at the right time. Serendipity was at play just as much as having any particular skill or magical touch. 

But many of the authors had experienced times when they had been completely zeroed in on achieving certain measures of success and it was at these times they had been expected to walk a path in a particular way and take an expected course of action. But it was only when they stood back and took different decisions to the ones they were expected to take that they made their biggest wins.  

in my Beginning is My End by mark taylor


What People Think You Need To Be…

The more I explored the subject the more I began to get the feeling that we frequently define our own measures of success on how people see us. But when we think we have become successful based on those measures it might not always be the kind of success that we wanted at all. 

Thinking back to the time I was represented by my first gallery I really thought that being selected to show my work meant that I had made it. In truth it didn’t mean that at all, I didn’t enjoy the experience and that didn’t change until I found another gallery a few years later. 

Apparently you need to be this type of successful…

How do you know when you are a successful artist? Does it mean that you no longer have to work the nine to five and can spend all of your time in a studio? Or does it mean that you are exhibiting at the world’s greatest art shows, or is it about the fame, or that you can financially sustain yourself by doing what you love to do? Those are certainly all worthy measures of success but they might not fulfil you if they’re not your own measures of success.  

Maybe success is as much about being able to create anything in the first place which allows someone else to feel an emotion or react in a certain way? We tend to only rarely celebrate those near and small wins but maybe if we celebrated them more often then we might find out that we are already way more successful than we often think we are. 

Perhaps we don’t define what success really means for us as individuals at all. Maybe we feel that we sub-consciously and absolutely need to meet the expectations of others if we are to be considered worthy of being labelled a successful artist. We think we are successful only when others think we are, but the reality is that we don’t have to have permission to be successful at all. Is this artist represented, did this artist attend this or that fine arts school, or how is this artist performing on the secondary market? All of those are measures but they are measures that are expected by others. 

When I first started out in my art career I didn’t immediately do the art school thing. I took business and orthopaedic sciences instead and carried on creating art alongside what was perceived by everyone I knew to be a regular career. It was only later on in my art career when I started to follow the accepted route of studying the arts and finding representation, because I believed back then that was what you had to do to be successful.

Did this accepted route into the arts suddenly make me a success? Absolutely not, if you measure that period of time solely in the number of sales I made. What that time in my life did give me was a grounding and an appetite to find out more and it made me realise that I had spent three years learning just how little I knew.

Many perceptions exist that view the art world as wholly elitist, yet only a small part of it really is. It just so happens that this is the part of the art world that has the loudest voice and gets the most media attention. It’s a part of the art world that makes the headlines when a work sells for millions more than the guide price. So of course with all the media interest people will form their own opinions on what exactly success in the art world looks like, and of course this brings around a stereotype of the artists who people believe are really successful.

So what we end up with are a load of perceptions about what the art world is and isn’t and what artists should or shouldn’t be, and apparently artists also have to be really weird too. 

Just taking a look through some of the questions being asked on the knowledge sharing platform, Quora, (which by the way you should totally join here, because it’s a great way to find out the questions that people ask) tells me that a lot of people want to know if artists are this or that, or if they are really weird or why is some art worth more than other art. Perhaps it’s because of questions like this that we feel we have to be someone else’s version of successful? Maybe what we should be doing much more of in the art world is putting those stereotypes to bed. 

Not every artist, not even a majority of the working artists around the world are part of this perceived elitist corner of the arts world. Beyond the auction rooms and the fancy galleries there are artists all over the world who supply a piece of their heart into all of the other markets that have a need for art to be present. 

Some of those artists might be creating images that are used on widgets or they might spend their working hours painting a family portrait, or design restaurant menus and book covers which have been my staple for years, yet it doesn’t mean that they are any lesser of an artist. Perceptions of what’s needed to become a successful artist make them appear so though. 

Whenever people find out you are an artist there is often an immediate assumption that you must be represented somewhere and sometimes you can even see those people visually think about whether or not they have ever heard of you. They have a certain perception and then they ask the two most iconic art questions of the 21st Century, “what do you paint?” and “what gallery are you with?” 

Those are the two questions that allow those people to take a small part of you away so that they can form the rest of their vision about who you are and what you do. They go away and fill in the blanks.  That’s another reason to make sure you tell your own story when you market your work. 

Apparently you need to be this specific kind of successful to be successful, but that specific kind of successful is only how that person or group of people define or at least perceive how success should be measured. But here’s the thing, no you don’t need to be someone else’s version of successful to be successful at anything at all.

If your idea of being a successful artist is to become financially solvent through selling your work or to see your art hang on the walls of one of the world’s greatest galleries then go for it, but only if those are the successes you want to be measured by. It’s bad enough not being able to meet a goal that has been set but it is even worse when you find out later that it was a goal set by someone else. 


you are My Beginning art by mark taylor


Do we really need to become successful at all?

The more I have thought about what success means lately I have begun to wonder if success is something that we should spend our time and energy searching for at all. If we only ever base success on the perceptions and ideals or whatever of others, no matter what the end play, no matter what the final result, there is a question around if that is truly success at all.  Maybe there’s something even better that as artists we should strive for. 

Perhaps we really should leave others to decide what success is and stop chasing it ourselves. That’s mostly what Cézanne did when he deliberately left his works uncompleted in the hope to one day return to them. When he died he had only signed around one in ten of his works. Perhaps he wasn’t searching for success, but what he was really searching for was mastery

For Cézanne, mastery became a constant pursuit. Not having a commitment to any single goal, it became about the reaching and not just the arriving. Perhaps the works he did sign were his wins and near wins. It might have been those near wins that pushed him forward, closing the gap each time between where he was and where he wanted to be. 

When I read those books it wasn’t the times that the authors had been successful that stood out but the times when they celebrated the near wins. Those were the pivotal moments that pushed them onwards. They thrived when they knew they had much more to do and instead of creating some utopian view of success formed by others, they defined their own measure of what success looked like to them. 

People will always have perceptions, they will always have their own opinions of who each of us are and what each of us do and that’s not always a bad thing, some of the perceptions that people have about you can actually help. But only when the numbers stack up, or in this case, when the numbers align with the successes we want. 

In short, what matters about you, to someone else, is whatever has most meaning for them – and not always for you. You and your art are the most important part of the story. Set your own bars, define your own goals, but success is only a moment in time, mastery lasts forever.

My two latest artworks!

“In My Beginning is My End” is the first of two works as I start this year with a focus on finding balance and symmetry. I created this piece using an iPad Pro (2018 model) and the second generation Apple Pencil which performed extremely well. I used my all-time favourite app, Procreate and then further refined the work in Photoshop CC and Affinity Designer. 

In a similar vein, “You Are My Beginning” is a work that I became inspired to create while working on the first piece. The colour contrast between both works is intentional and when both are hung side by side they really do draw the eye. 

If these are pieces you are interested in, prints are available from the links below via Fine Art America and Pixels. 


in My Beginning art by Mark Taylor

In my Beginning can be found here


you are My Beginning art by mark taylor


You are My Beginning can be found here


You can view the extended range on my Pixels site right here.  

Remember that I am still looking for independent visual artists to feature on this site in my regular Artists Showcase Series! If you would like to be featured, feel free to get in touch with links to your work and a short bio

About Mark…

I am an artist and blogger and live in Staffordshire, England. You can purchase my art through my Fine Art America store or my Pixels site here: https://10-mark-taylor.pixels.com   

Any art sold through Fine Art America and Pixels helps towards to the ongoing costs of running and developing this website. You can also view my portfolio website at https://beechhousemedia.com 

You can also follow me on Facebook at: https://facebook.com/beechhousemedia where you will also find regular free reference photos of interesting subjects and places I visit. You can also follow me on Twitter @beechhouseart and on Pinterest at https://pinterest.com/beechhousemedia 

If you would like to support the upkeep of this site or maybe just buy me a coffee, you can do so right here

Comments

  1. Awesome post Mark! I love how these pieces turned out after they were framed. They are true beauties framed or unframed! Masterfully done!

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    1. Thanks Colleen, so deeply appreciated. Thanks for your kind words x

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  2. Next week on my blog: how to art like a kid!

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