Wisdom for the Start of Your Art Career

What Artists Wish They Knew at the Start of Their Career 

"What do you wish you would have known at the start of your art career?"  

Some of the advice mentioned is very practical and some is broad, sweeping, and existential. All of it can be applied to make your journey as an artist a little smoother and a little happier.  

From finding your confidence, discipline, and voice, understanding entrepreneurship, money issues, and business tips, and dealing with success, rejection, and bruised egos, artists have been through it all and share what they learned along the way. 

It's a marathon, not a sprint 

The road is what you make of it. It takes a lifetime to develop your talent and anyone who tells you otherwise is just lying. There will be many tears and not much appreciation (at first). 

People can (and will) be cruel or unconstructive towards you and your work. Grow a very thick skin. 

Keep making the work anyway. 

There are no lightbulb or grand inspiration moments; it's about chipping away each day. Learn to feel the joy in that. 

Learn as much as you can about marketing yourself and your work as soon as possible. Rely on yourself to take action.  

Get to know the people who collect your work and keep in touch with them. They are a part of what makes it all worthwhile.

There is no right or wrong, there is no win or lose 

When first starting out, is there a “right” way to approach your art and your art business? Only thing that matters is that it is in alignment with myself  and that there is no right or wrong way. 

Rather, it’s about listening to your intuition. Stay true and confident in your vision for your business. 

The art business can be very competitive: whose work is better, whose work is selling more, etc.  Detach your from the noise.  

Being an artist also means being a business owner 

Being a working artist today requires you to be a small business professional with an understanding of art market trends. 

With the rise of the internet and social media came a new wave of art world–artist interaction. Artists of all mediums, practices, genres, and talents have exposure in ways that those who came before us could only dream of. But, with that exposure comes more of a responsibility for the artist. 

A website is a requirement; social media presence is a necessity; keeping an inventory is crucial, and an ability to sell artwork directly is not only possible, but desirable. The key is the responsibility of understanding the intricacies of the art market.  

Minimize administrative tasks and maximize making time 

Paint (or create) more. 

Delegate or outsource busywork sooner so that painting/creating time could have been preserved or even increased. 

Think ahead.  When you wait too long to seek out assistance things may become hectic and the transition of delegating may be unnecessarily cumbersome.   In addition, the business needs begin to fall through the cracks as your time to accomplish them becomes more and more scarce. The expense and time to seek out assistance is worth it.

Develop the business side of things early 

What is the entrepreneurial side of being an artist? It's a learning process to get established as a business alongside developing your studio practice and personal vision as an artist. 

Seek out a mentor who can show you the road ahead while you're getting where you're going. 

Stay positive and know that it IS possible to be a professional artist.  It just takes a little ingenuity, hard work and belief within yourself. 

Only compare yourself to former self 

Begin with a very little understanding of the art world and other artists around you. 

Compare your work only to your earlier work, which is a safe place to build confidence. 

Don't rely on money from your art ... At first 

Having multiple sources of income other than just selling your artwork is very important when you first start off and potentially throughout your career as an artist.  

Diversified income streams allow one to experiment and make the work you truly want to make rather than just making work that you know will sell.    

Stay on your own personal creative path, while you feed yourself and keep a roof over your head with your alternate sources of income.  

Trust your instincts and your abilities 

Your sincere commitment to your practice is the path to becoming a successful artist. That, and trusting your instincts. 

Those two things plus a current approach to marketing = success. 

Believing in yourself is paramount to artistic success and artistic happiness. 

Make more work 

The standard logic behind this advice is that working in greater quantity loosens you up and you end up making more good work. 

Keep going in the face of rejection 

However long you are an artist, there is always much to learn.  Keep going in the face of declines or people not responding to and liking your work.

Be okay with getting knocked down but get back up.  Pick ourselves up from disappointments and keep going. 

Commitment is everything 

Devote your time to your art, work towards your goals full-time, stay on track, and stay focused. 

Dali once said, "No masterpiece was ever created by a lazy artist." 

Put in the hours and persevere 

Rejection is simply part of the profession. Be willing to accept a lot of “no’s” to finally get a “yes.” Perseverance is key, and it’s important not to take those rejections too seriously or personally. Keep moving forward! 

Your work will continue to improve when you keep practicing your art and putting in the hours. Just show up in the studio no matter what.  Eventually, you will find yourself getting engrossed in your art. 

Don't wait to get serious about art.  

Be more willing to take risks. Be confident and believe in yourself. Nurture and explore your creativity and master your skills.  

Tell your younger self to find a mentor or a creative coach whom you can learn from. Also, put money aside when you have it! Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, identify your goals and approach your art career with a business mindset.