The Big Secret About Your Art Career That Nobody Is Telling You

The Big Secret About Your Art Career

I feel like there is this big secret in the art world. It’s about how things work and how to be successful. Everyone but me seems to know what it is.

Ever feel this way?

If I only knew this one thing … this one elusive thing that I have no idea what it is … my art business would be a success. But I don’t even know what questions to ask to find it.

You’re not alone. Many artists are on a quest to find the magic bullet and hoping to uncover it in a new class, blog post, or book.

And, still, the cogs and sprockets (Jetsons, anyone?) that run the art world machine are a mystery to most.

Let’s consider all of the personalities that are part of the drama. You’ve got your artists, gallerists, and collectors. You have critics, curators, and consultants.

Not part of the gallery scene? You’re looking at festival organizers, licensing companies and agents, portrait brokers, and art consultants. Not to mention the people in organizations that oversee public art projects and residencies.

These days you have tech startups that create apps, software, and websites for artists to show their work. So let’s add RedBubble, Etsy, Fine Art America, and Society 6 to the list.

Finally, you have people like me who try to help you navigate the possibilities. Each of us comes from a different background with a unique set of strengths. Who to trust?

No wonder you’re confused!

It would be lovely if someone would hand you a road map to success, right?

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Art Is About Being In The World


[Art] isn’t about being in the studio, it’s about being in the world. – Robert Irwin

I count myself lucky that I ended up at an art talk with Robert Irwin last April.

Irwin didn’t just get off the art school bus. He’s been in the ‘hood for a while now. He’s 86 and was the first artist to receive the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur “Genius” Award in 1984.

He’s well known for his garden designs, though he says he never gardened or even planted a plant before tackling them.

He didn’t know how the gardens were going to happen. He just knew it was something he wanted to do, so he educated himself through a lot of research.

Irwin is also an educator, though he doesn’t believe that you can teach art. Instead, the art educator’s

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Good and Bad News: Your Work Is Never Done

Your Work is Never Done

Newsflash! You’re just getting started.

Whether you think this is good news or bad news depends on your disposition.

Some people feel fulfilled and complete every day. I envy them.

I want more. Not more “stuff,” but more out of life. More experiences, more love, more friends, more cats. (Only kidding about that last one!)

I know it’s not fashionable these days to want more. They say I should be content where I am and live in the moment. Can’t I want more and appreciate the present?

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Say No Without the Guilt

Say no without guilt

When someone asks something of you, there are a couple of ways you can respond: Yes or No.

When you say yes to everything, you are probably saying no to yourself and many of your art goals. You are saying that what someone is asking or offering is more important than your agenda.

You can’t even do everything that’s on your list right now, so how do you ensure that your art business remains a priority when so many people are asking for your time?

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Art Critics Really Said This

art critics Roberta Smith (New York Times) and Jerry Saltz (New York Magazine)

Last week I sat in the audience and listened to husband-and-wife art critics Roberta Smith (New York Times) and Jerry Saltz (New York Magazine). They were in town at the invitation of Denver’s Clyfford Still Museum. (The photo here was taken from my seat.)

What struck me most was not just how much art they see (a ton), but the wide variety of art that interests them. They go to show after show after show, and then they want to see more. They never tire of looking at art. Saltz confessed to looking for all-night galleries to satisfy their obsession.

You might be tempted to discount critics, but you would be wrong not to listen to people who have spent decades looking at artist after artist, exhibition after exhibition, and style after style.

Much of this dynamic duo’s conversation

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Why Aren’t You Motivated?

©2014 Diane Gabriel, Young Girl With Icon, Nah Trang, Viet Nam. Pigment print. Used with permission.

I want to help you with your art business. Each blog post, class lesson, consultation, or live event is designed to help you get one step closer to your dream.

In these formats …

I can teach you what you should be doing to promote your art. I can teach you how to do things. I can teach you why it’s good to be doing these things. I can teach you about other artists getting good results.

But …

I cannot teach you how to get motivated to do the work.

©2014 Diane Gabriel, Young Girl With Icon, Nah Trang, Viet Nam. Pigment print. Used with permission.

I’d go so far as to say that I can’t teach you if you are not motivated. I could give you information, but that information is no good if it is merely

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Celebrate Your Year: 2014 Personal Review

©Victoria Eubanks, Red Sticks & Stones. Encaustic, 24 x 24 inches. Used with permission.

You’re surely already thinking about and planning for the New Year.

But before you get too far into everything you want to do, take a moment to look back on what you accomplished in 2014. Time to celebrate!

©Victoria Eubanks, Red Sticks & Stones. Encaustic, 24 x 24 inches. Used with permission.

Prepare for your review by 1) setting aside time on your calendar for this process and 2) gathering any data you might need.

This might mean that your first step is updating your bookkeeping.

You also want to have your calendar handy so you can go through it month-by-month.

Expanding Your Profile

What did you do to enhance your professional reputation? How many people did you add to your mailing list? How many social media followers did you gain on the various platforms you use? Who

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A Feast for the Eyes: Food in Art

©Sarah Atlee, Lunch at Sakagura. Acrylic and colored pencil on paper, 22 x 22 inches. Used with permission.

Wishing you a very Happy Thanksgiving – surrounded by people you love and filled with yummy food.

Here’s a no-calorie feast just for your eyes.

©Sylvia Tucker, Onions with Copper Bowl. Oil, 12 x 16 inches. Used with permission.


©Sarah Atlee, Lunch at Sakagura. Acrylic and colored pencil on paper, 22 x 22 inches. Used with permission.


©Jonathan Meter, Shishito Peppers with Lime. Photograph. Used with permission.


©Richard Hall, Heirlooms. Oil, 36 x 34 inches. Used with permission.


©2010 Karin Olah, Newton’s Daydream. Fabric, gouache, acrylic, and graphite on canvas, 36 x 12 inches. Used with permission.


©Sarah B. Hansen, Sunshine in a Box. Watercolor on Plexiglas, 30 x 22 inches. Used with permission.

Please share your gratitudes in a comment or even a link to your own

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Schedule Something Scary and Extraordinary

©Joey Feldman, Vicious. Pen and ink on paper, 28 x 20 inches. Used with permission

It’s scary to step up – to think bigger about what you’re capable of.

There’s very little motivation in the daily grind: update Facebook, schedule a few tweets, send a newsletter, write a blog post, work in studio. If you’re not careful, you’ll continue to go through the motions of life without doing something extraordinary for your art and for yourself.

©Joey Feldman, Vicious. Pen and ink on paper, 28 x 20 inches. Used with permission.

In honor of the witching season, I ask you to scare yourself a little. Give yourself a challenge that motivates you to get out of bed and into the studio every day. Take on a quest.

Anatomy of a Quest (with Examples)

According to Chris Guillebeau, author of The Happiness of Pursuit: Finding the Quest That Will Bring Purpose to Your Life, a

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Who You Are and What You Do


Alert subscriber Clay Cantrell sent me the quote in this image some months ago, saying that it reminded him of me.

The difference between who you are and who you want to be is what you do. [Tweet this.]

I tracked down the quote to, as best I can tell, fitness guru Bill Phillips.

I wanted to share this with you because I can’t think of a quote that is more inspirational for me right now, and I hope it serves you.

Who I Am

You know me as someone who is a no-excuse-action-taking-don’t-stop-working kinda gal. I have never had a problem taking action.

But that’s only a tiny part of WHO I want to be.

Who I Want To Be

Over the past few years, I have loosely been seeking some form of spirituality. “Seeking” isn’t really the

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