Why do you make art? Do you feel like your art needs to BE something? Hi my name is Carrie and I help artists like you refine your skill and develop your unique artist voice. Today on Artist Strong we talk about a topic few artists actively reflect on: what does it mean to be a successful artist.


The word success is overused. It’s lost it’s meaning. And the only association most have with the word success is money. When I first engaged in the arts it was a hobby. Over time I realized I wanted art to be part of my daily life and art education seemed like a natural choice. When I worked as a teacher and worked on exhibiting my art at the same time, I never ONCE thought to ask myself: what do I want from and for my art?

Each time I achieve something new: a new exhibition, a new opportunity to be a juror, I’m SO excited. And yet, my thirst to keep achieving is never quenched. I’ve only recently wondered: is this because I don’t know my larger goal for my art?

Do you have a specific goal for your art? I want to be clear here: it’s okay if you don’t. I’ve never really had a larger overarching goal and I’m pretty happy with the art life I lead. The reason I ask you to reflect on this is because I don’t like seeing artists who feel stuck because they don’t know what they want (or often: they are scared to know, because knowing means they have to do something about it).

You have some choices here. Here are different strategies and considerations to make when asking yourself these questions:

Do the inner work to listen and hear what you really hope for your art.

Do some daily journaling, work on something like The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron or my favorite The Joy Diet by Martha Beck. Go for a walk and ask yourself that question and see what comes up in your mind and heart. Don’t be afraid to listen. Be afraid of a lifetime of ignoring those hopes and dreams.

Roll with your process.

You’ll be surprised how much you learn and discover about your goals because you focus on creation and enjoying the journey. This doesn’t mean putting your head in the sand, it means committing to your art practice and staying mindful of your process and journey, allowing them to guide you.

Success can be many little goals or one large goal.

I personally enjoy working on smaller projects or goals. As I finish them I feel motivated and enjoy a sense of accomplishment. And that keeps me excited for the next project. These smaller projects or tasks can also actively lead you to one larger goal.

For example, a larger goal could be to create a series of artworks for sale. A smaller goal might be to select image references from the National Archives. Being conscious of the goals, big or small, we choose and asking ourselves if they are aligned with the art life we want to live is important and necessary work.

Bigger goals can and should be broken down into smaller tasks. For example: I want to become a full time artist you can break this down into smaller projects: create a series of artwork, update my Etsy or website, photograph artwork…

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Goals change.

It’s important to accept and embrace that your goal will change over time. What we want from our art changes as we change. This isn’t a sign of failure. This is a sign of normal creative process.

Look at Picasso’s early work, full of realistic drawings, and then compare it to something like Guernica. His goals for his work changed as he changed.

What would Frida do?

IF you aren’t sure about goals and these conversations make you nervous, I have another way to help you reflect on and make good choices for your art.

Name an artist, past or present, that you admire. Do some extra homework on this individual. How could apply similar value-based decisions to your art? For example, Frida Kahlo has become an icon to many, myself included. I admire her for several reasons: for her unique, painful, personal artwork, her unapologetic nature of being herself, and her ability to create despite great disability.

If these are qualities I admire, they suggest guiding values I can use to guide decisions around both making and promoting my art. When I have to make decisions about the future of my art I can ask myself: what would Frida do?

Where’s the success?

I use the word goals when I talk about success because I secretly (well, not anymore) think we all want to achieve something with our art. It could be to become proficient at drawing realistically. It could be to relax and allow playtime in our lives. Or it could be I want to exhibit my art at a museum. But I DO believe we all make art for a reason. We don’t always know or understand it.

To know that reason, and be witness to that unfolding, that can be a powerful force for positive change in our world. And that does mean, whatever art we make, at whatever level we are at with our art, our art already IS something. It doesn’t need to BE anything because it already IS something.

If you want help breaking down your goals into achievable, actionable steps I’m answering all kinds of questions art related every Friday at 12:30 EST for the rest of November on our Facebook page Becoming Artist Strong.

Feel free to ask your question in the comments below and I’ll be sure to answer them in our latest Becoming Artist Strong. There is replay access to the video for those of you who can’t make it live, or catch today’s post at a later date, so go check it out and see what going on with your peers and how you might apply their questions and answers to your own artist life!

Now, it’s time to Be Creatively Courageous: What does success look like to you? What is one smaller project you could work on that would move you closer to this definition of success? Let’s talk about it in the comments below.

All this month doors are open for my mastermind program called The Circle. If you want or miss the community experience of being part of an artist collaborative group, The Circle is 6 months of community and accountability. We work on building your voice, your portfolio as well as building promotional strategies for your art.

My free challenge in October, called Be Creatively Courageous, offered a small taste of the program. If you enjoyed the accountability and community you experienced from working all month long in the FB group image Be Creatively Courageous magnified.

The Circle includes video workshops on everything from finding your voice, organizing your art in an inventory, to understanding how to write about your art. I also offer monthly Q&As where you get feedback on your work, much like my November free Q&As on the Facebook page, and a whole lot more.

If you want to take advantage of the early bird pricing available this month visit www.artiststrong.com/the-circle. I’ll be sure it’s linked below this video as well. Watching this video after The Circle has closed? Be sure to use that link to sign up for the waiting list, and you’ll be the first notified when it opens again.

Thanks for watching and I’ll see you next week!

*Special note: links I include in this article are affiliate links. This means should you choose to buy with these links I earn a small commission. It’s one way you can help me continue to offer free content to this community. Thank you for your support.*