You already know that being an artist is awesome – so awesome in fact that it can be dangerous! Your creations represent artistic freedom towards personal and professional pursuits. But making art is a journey, with equal parts highs and lows, requiring endlessly genuine love and dedication. It also takes planning!
Specifically, there are hazards on the road to success that could devastate any starry-eyed dreamer. These are the subjects a student learns in the corridors of art school rather than inside the classrooms.
But the knowledge of these subjects is not intended to dissuade you, which is by now hopefully impossible! Instead, the hope is to give artists a sense of the invisible traps so they may identify and avoid them. These are six dangers to plan against on your journey to success in the elusive world of art.
1. Artistic Expansion as an Endpoint
For the budding artist, it is natural to rush into expanding your opportunities. You want to make as many waves as possible, quickly, and who could blame you? But expansion shouldn’t be your end goal or starting point – not if you want longevity. Instead of rushing to expand, you should seek stability!
Artistic stability means to find what works for you as an artist. You may have many goals and talents, and you should embrace them all. But get your dreams, goals, limitations, and values down to a science – now! Always set and stay at your own pace and live and work within your means.
But stability is an art, requiring discipline, patience, and technique, and to grow whatsoever you must first grow stable. Unfortunately, this is not the quick easy path – this is the hard road. It’s not impossible, but, like everything to do with art, it takes time to perfect! The danger is in waiting until it’s too late.
For example, it’s easier to grow a field of useless weeds than it is to grow an awesome apple tree. But what’s going to be more stable and bear more fruit in the end?
By expanding too quickly, you could rush into what may appear to be a success but is just your downfall in disguise. Expansion is what you do out of necessity when opportunities present themselves, a logical extension of skill and experience. Start expanding from within and you will naturally find your success!
2 – Taking on Too Many Awesome Projects
The cool thing about art is there are infinite possibilities for an artist to create some cool things. There are unlimited adventures for any voyager brave enough to chase them. And as you venture down the road of artistic success, you will discover an invaluable, finite resource you have called “energy.”
And there is absolutely a way to exhaust all your energy, especially when things start to go right. There will come a point for any successful artist where multiple, genuinely amazing opportunities are within reach, calling your name.
And although you likely got to this pinnacle by saying “yes” to every project, now you must perfect the art of saying “no.” Taking on too many awesome projects leads to not very awesome results.
By being more selective with the jobs you accept as an artist you will do a much better job. Is it not better to get out one amazing piece of work instead of etching a million shades of mediocrity?
Another invaluable resource you will discover is time: there’s never enough of the free stuff unless you make it yourself. You must keep your free time sacred so that you can keep sane, grow, and do a good job. So, when demand comes rolling in and your best work is needed, you can keep calm, and exceed expectations. Yes, even your own!
When you become successful and appealing, yet conflicting, opportunities arise, you must say choose between them. Even if you must raise your rates to stay alive and properly focused, you are justified in doing so. By prioritizing quality over quantity, you will be proud of your output and actualize your potential.
3 – Forgetting Artistic Roots
At the beginning of the journey, it is impossible to disregard the small things that work for a struggling artist. Whether it’s posting daily or busking in the streets, artists establish personalized methods for getting their art out there. But as success becomes more tangible, artists commonly stop doing what made them successful, and it ends up hurting them. The lesson here is don’t forget your roots!
Though cliché, success often changes people. And if this kernel of truth is broken down further concerning the artistic process, it can hold especially true. This doesn’t mean success will change who you are at the core, but it can disrupt it. If you aren’t in touch with yourself and what got you on the right path, it’s easy to get lost.
And to be fair, everyone gets a little lost occasionally – for some artists this can even be healthy! But you don’t want to become so far gone that you become a stranger to yourself and all your creations. You won’t recognize instant change, but over time, as the landscape changes, you may start to feel you’ve become obsolete.
But none of this is to say that you must never outgrow anything ever. Art will inevitably demand growth out of its creator, but it will never require you to sacrifice who you are as an artist. The point is that everything happens for a reason, and so you should embrace what got you here for it likely holds the key. In other words, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!
At base, the things an artist does, in the beginning, are often done for free. They are the desperate measures of someone without funds who is crazy enough to commit to their capacity to create. And when those artists get busy, and successful, these methods tend to be the first to go. But they almost always hold more value than anything money, power or prestige can buy.
4 – Fake People
That’s right – as you succeed, you will unfortunately inevitably meet fake people who want to infiltrate your life. And a fake person isn’t an android, although certain metaphorical similarities could inspire much art.
No, fake people are real people who act nice to your face to get something while acting completely different elsewhere. They use you until they inevitably sabotage you and your efforts, though by now you may already know the type. And if it seems cynical to believe this, it is, unfortunately, a fact of life that becomes amplified in artistic environments.
You should face reality now before a fake friend finds you or hurts you any more than they already have! The solution is to have an inner circle that you are protective of. Surround yourself with like-minded individuals unintimidated by the success of others and know that not everyone is your friend.
Take a good hard look at who is in your life and do not feel bad for doing so. And remember to stay true to your values, as many of these people prey on the indecisive and unconfident. But none of this means to become a loner or a jerk – it just means try to be careful and wise.
The most trustworthy people were friends to you for no reason from the start, so invest in them! Encourage them to be honest with you no matter if it hurts – even thank them for the bad news! You will be glad you saved yourself from headaches and any long-lasting damages by investing in genuine friendships.
5 – No New Goals
An artist starts with a dream and then discovers that a goal is the best way to seize it. The goal may be to monetarily invest in materials, go to college, or to not go to college. And there’s nothing better than meeting a goal you set!
But there is also a danger in what happens next: success requires you to aspire continually like the infinite headed Hydra. If you don’t use it, you lose it!
Now, this doesn’t mean that you should exhaust yourself and never give yourself a break. On the contrary, know when to take a breather, as there is little worse than forcing a piece of art! Being an artist means discovering that balance between working too little and too much. And although it takes trial and error, it is a worthwhile endeavor.
Simply put, an artist must push themselves to grow, even if it seems like the status quo is good enough. The truth is if you become complacent you will discover you’re wasting your potential. You will become bored, your work will suffer, and you will get the blues. But by staying active and setting new goals for yourself, you flex your creative muscles, and stay happily creative!
6 – No Expansion of New Techniques
Artists become recognized for certain styles, techniques, subjects, etc. You get good at something and it shows because you have truly mastered it. You should pat yourself on the back, seriously!
But then you should get back to work. What separates a good artist from a great artist is that good artists stop experimenting with their work. Great artists are always looking for ways to expand on their knowledge and techniques. If this seems like a lot, it’s because it is – but ask yourself how badly you want success!
And if it seems like you don’t have enough time to expand on new techniques you must reorganize your routine. You are responsible for allowing yourself the creative time and space to learn more about art and yourself. And you will be glad that you made the time to learn, even if it doesn’t lead to direct payment. Because learning the new techniques is what makes an artist successful in the long run.
Start thinking ahead. In a few years, when other artists can meet your technique with a technique of their own, where will you be? You will want to be well on to the next technique by then, translating humility into great art. So constantly learn from others and expand on new techniques – no matter how successful you are or will become. Your future self will thank you, and your art will speak for itself!
Now Go Be Successful!
Success is complicated no matter what, but it comes with a million secret compartments for the artist! Even if you are just a beginner, this is what you should be looking out for as time goes on and you perfect your craft. Never give up on your dreams, treat art as a career, and remember it’s not a race! And most importantly, don’t forget to make art!