Becoming a Successful Artist = Hard Work
You can read about how to be an artist. You can study all the latest trends. You can ask for advice and you can take a lot of notes. You can pray, ask the universe, use the law of attraction or any other mystical force to try to guide your career with positivity but one thing is for sure, if you don't do the work you'll never get anywhere as an artist. Ideas are great, trying to go about things with a plan is essential but never DOING anything is a huge problem for most artists. If you’re dreamed of becoming a successful artist never underestimate the value of hard work.
I am no stranger to hard work. I didn't come from an artistic family. Though both of my parents had college degrees, my father had to resort to working in the construction field to support our family of five. After I got in some trouble with my friends at age 9, my father took me to work with him as a laborer for his construction company. For the next 8 years I learned the value of hard work through many cold winters and blazing hot summers and every weekend and holiday I was off from school. Within a few years I was a carpenter's helper and for a short time after college I was running my own construction crew. I know what an 80-hour week of physical labor feels like and I've seen what that grueling schedule did to my father after 40 years. In comparison, making art is far from hard work. Though I've pushed the gamut of how long one can paint without collapsing from exhaustion (I painted 22 paintings in 48 hours for an event in 2011), you’ll never hear me complain that being an artist is exhausting or laborious.
What I took from all those years of strenuous labor was simple, hard work and dedication will eventually be rewarding. Effort is sometimes most of the battle. Along the way you may stumble, fail miserably and become disenchanted with your dream but if you continue to forge through, no matter how beaten and tied, there is something amazing to look forward to. If you just sit around dreaming of what a house will look like you'll be staring at a pile of lumber for the rest of your life. You have to put in the work.
I receive many emails from normal people with real problems like, "how do I support my family while pursuing my dreams." The answer is a tough one. I know I've been faced with that dilemma now for 19 years. You may have to accept that you’ll need to burn the candle at both ends – it’s difficult but most dreams of success and independence are. I never gave up even when I was forced to work for someone else to pay the bills. I worked when I came home into the middle of the night and then after a few hours of sleep, woke early and painted a few more hours before work. Years ago, I had to take one commission I did to work with me because it was so time sensitive. I would take meetings with my client who lived 3000 miles away on my way to work via conference calls and then, on my lunch hour, I would paint with my panels balanced on my steering wheel. There is no perfect plan sometimes. You do what works but never stop making forward progress. What did I get from a decade of painting in the middle of the night and on lunch breaks? I got a career that never stopped. I painted on average 4-5 hours approximately 5-6 days a week. That's 30 hours a week.
How my career worked out in 10 years: 30hours x 52 weeks x 10 years = 15,600 hours
If it takes one 10,000 hours to master a skill then I did that in just under 7 years AND I kept a full time job. Does it mean you'll have to sacrifice sleep - yes. Does it mean you'll have to sacrifice all your "free time" yes. But ask yourself do you need that time? To me, becoming a successful artist was worth so much more than that time. Can you continue to rest comfortably years from now when you've give up because life was too hard, or you were too tired, or it was all just too much or are you the type of person that seizes their future and takes what is rightfully theirs? In the end YOU make or break yourself. It isn't the outside world, the economy, where you live, or who’s in the White House. It's you and you alone that determine your future. Make yourself accountable for everything and anything. Look at any success story and you'll find one common denominator, the person overcame odds.
My dad was a master carpenter. He couldn't teach me anything about art - but what he did teach me was so much better. He taught me the value of hard work. Though he was proud of my accomplishments as a carpenter, he didn't want me to follow in his footsteps. Imbued with passion and determination, I went to college to pursue my dream of becoming one of the best artists in the world. I took what my father taught me and made beautiful paintings, frames, panels and a beautiful home that’s been featured in many magazines. I took my disadvantage and made it my biggest strength. What was once counting against me makes me special and unique today – I learned to embrace my hardships and use them to my advantage.
What is your disadvantage? What’s your current struggle? What is keeping you from success? You must, no matter how difficult, self-actualize. You must learn how to be honest with yourself. Once you begin a heartfelt dialogue with yourself, things will come into perspective. Sometimes, we create our own obstacles. We become fixated on an idea that in the end is detrimental to our future. I’ve been there. I’ve been stubborn and narrow-minded and reaped all the havoc and setbacks that nonsense bought to my door. Take a look at where you are in your career and ask yourself what role you’ve played in your own misery and failure. How are you responsible? Trust me, you’ll feel like crap for a few days but in the end, the clouds will part and you’ll be glad you were honest and hard on yourself.
Never ever give up. Always keep forward motion in your career no matter what life throws at you. If you want to be a successful artist you have to think and ACT like someone with those goals. Life will always continue to be difficult and complex because sadly, it’s part of the human experience. When things get tough, work harder. I always found that when life became more complicated, stressful or depressing, pouring myself into work made it less bitter. Keep that momentum and eventually, you’ll have something to celebrate. Just remember, anyone can achieve their dreams if they are willing to work for them.
Want a chance to check out a live interactive painting demonstration from the comfort of your own home. Eric will be streaming one live on May 26. Click here to reserve your spot as there is limited space.