The words success and successful, have sparked heated conversations between artists on this blog. The definition of a ‘successful artist’ is subjective, and tends to vary from person to person.

That said, there are common things that most successful artists do differently.


Things Successful Artists Do Differently

1. They Follow Their Effort:

Successful artists know their strengths, and that’s where they focus their efforts. In this world, the value of hard work cannot be substituted. Effort is the life-force and core reason for success. Yes, artists are passionate. But, passion and talent alone cannot take the place of hard work!

When work, commitment, and pleasure all become one and you reach that deep well where passion lives, nothing is impossible. ~Unknown

At first glance, the following points by billionaire businessman Mark Cuban might seem counterintuitive. However, successful artists are constantly striving to better their craft with effort. Cuban states, “Don’t follow your passions, follow your effort. It will lead you to your passions and to success, however you define it.” 

  • When you work hard at something you become good at it.
  • When you become good at doing something, you will enjoy it more.
  • When you enjoy doing something, there is a very good chance you will become passionate or more passionate about it
  • When you are good at something, passionate and work even harder to excel and be the best at it, good things happen.

“The difference between try and triumph is a little umph”. ~Unknown

2. They Know How to Use Their Time:

Successful artists know how to manage their time wisely, and they know how to say ‘no’ to the superfluous. These artists understand that efficient time-management is an indicator of their future and where they are going.  They have well-thought-out plans and goals to help guide and direct their work activities. These pros work for improvement. They understand their tasks, and what they should be doing throughout the days, weeks, and months.

“Only put off until tomorrow what you are willing to die having left undone.” ~Pablo Picasso

3. They Make It A Business:

Being a successful artist is not a hobby, it’s a business. Whether they work part-time or full-time at their craft, successful artists are savvy business men and women. Being a successful artist not only consists of creating great art, but it is also about building a strong business.  They know their strengths and they outsource when they need help. They understand the importance of patience, and they know success doesn’t happen overnight. Successful artists take charge of their art careers.

4. They Adapt:

Nolan Ryan wrote this profound quote, “Enjoying success requires the ability to adapt. Only by being open to change will you have a true opportunity to get the most from your talent.”

Artists who are open to new ideas and have a willingness to adapt have greater success. Whether creating in the studio or managing their art business affairs, successful artists have the ability to try something else when the current method fails. They adapt to external conditions. This flexibility leads to better chances of success.
Aspen oil painting by Lori McNee

5. They Have Courage

Being an artist takes courage and faith in oneself. Every time an artist stares at a blank page, canvas or lump of clay, he or she learns to face fear and overcome it. These people take calculated risks, they enter competitions, reach out to magazines, blogs, galleries and collectors, and they experiment with new mediums.

Seth Godin shared this powerful thought, “Art is a personal act of courage. Something one human does that creates change in another”

Those who lack courage and fear risks ignore many opportunities that could lead to success. Courage builds self-confidence.

poppies Georgie O'Keeffe

6. They Use Failure: 

The greatest barrier to success is the fear of failure. All artists learn from failures and past mistakes, but successful artists are not defined by them.  Successful artists win some and lose some – it’s just part of the business. They learn how to paint adversity into a lovely picture.
Economist Tim Harford states, “The way to succeed is to embrace trial and error, develop the courage to risk and know failure–and adapt from those failures with adjustments.”

If you are dealing with a sense of failure in your art career right now, you might like this inspiring article, “26 Successful People Who Failed At First”.  

“There is no failure. Only feedback.” ~Robert G. Allen

 “A flower has to go through a lot of dirt before it can bloom.” ~Unknown

7. They Attract Success:  

Successful artists understand the importance of surrounding themselves with supportive people. They enjoy rubbing elbows with other successful artists and like-minded people. Like-attracts-like, and success-attracts-success.

“They limit their time and emotional involvement with people who are negative.” ~Aletta de Wal.

These are the main things or attributes I have observed among my successful art friends. Can you add to this list?

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