5 Habits That Are Destroying Your Art Career

For me, social media has become a large, telling window into the lives of many artists from around the world. For nearly a decade, I've silently observed the rise and fall of many talented and not so talented artists - they either damned their career by getting too personal or faded into obscurity after their 15 minutes ended. Some rode on the coattails of their more impressive peers while other made a boom with something clever or witty but failed to progress. Let's be clear, the art world is a strange and unusual place. Artists struggle to build an audience and collector base and some, rely on a persona instead of continually working on their craft. These individuals usually crash and burn quickly. If your social media persona is more impressive or amusing than your work, take some time to reflect because I promise you, it'll hinder your art career. You may be a star for a short period of time but that sort of shtick has no staying power. Becoming drunk on yourself is off-putting and soon, you're no longer the artist but the insufferable narcissist who sometimes gets creative. And yeah, I know we're wired differently and can't help standing out in a crowd even under the best circumstances but intentionally making a circus of yourself never appeals to collectors. They want to invest in you, not your sideshow. After watching so many promising careers fizzle out due to some sophomoric mistakes, I feel compelled to make a list to prevent further career suicides. 

1. There are makers and takers.

If you're are a taker,  you live to tear other's down. These individuals are animated primarily by jealousy. They troll the pages of fellow artists and make it a mission to be an insufferable jerk. They never have a nice comment or an uplifting word. Most times, they don't even need provocation - they're so miserable they just ooze jealousy. If they funneled that energy into making, they'd stop taking. 

2. You spend more time on activism and politics than on your business. 

Get it through your head, one is business and one is personal. I've touched on the subject NUMEROUS times and yet, I still see people alienating potential collectors and colleagues. I may offend some readers but there's no other way to touch on this subject without being a tad aggressive. I want you to succeed and I get it, your passionate but it's an epic turnoff. You'd be surprised at how many people roll their eyes when they see your militant political posts popping up in their newsfeed. And trust me, I've had many lengthy conversations with several influential figures in the art world who've echoed my disdain for the flood of aggressive political posts. These gallery owners, editors and prominent collectors all agree that the current social media environment lacks a certain level of decorum for fostering optimal business relations. So unless you're running for office, keep your opinions to yourself. If you need to vent your frustration, call a friend. If you can't help yourself, separate your social media accounts so those of us who want to see your latest work don't think less of you.

3. You are needy and unbearable.

No one wants to invest in someone that is a pathetic attention seeker. Again, I'm going to be raw and insensitive concerning this particular topic. You can scroll on or you can grin and bear it because I strongly believe, there is nothing more absurd and damning than a whiner. Listen, we all have hardships but making your trials and tribulations a public spectacle becomes taxing to your viewers. I've seen artists sink themselves into the bottomless pit of self-pity to the point of career oblivion. They never ask for real help because they're too busy balancing on their social media soapbox. They become drunk on the negative attention and become 'work' for those who feel obligated to sooth them. If your chaotic life is more interesting then what you're creating, you need to get yourself together and quick. Take a deep breath and realize that we all have depressing things going on in our lives - every person struggles with something. Some of us are just more dignified than others. 

4. You're not investing in your career wisely. 

Don't expect to make a career exhibiting in vanity galleries, shows in other countries where there is a huge "exhibition" fee or books that promise you'll be seen by many collectors for an exorbitant charge.  The truth is, it's all one big lie. I've never known an artist who's made their career for falling for one of these vanity scams. In an age where we can easily connect with people from all over the world, you don't need to invest in one of these 'get rich quick' schemes. Build a strong, positive and non-offensive social media presence that doesn't alienate any potential clients or investors and I promise you, great things will happen. 

5. You are refusing to progress. 

Being content with yourself is one thing but being overconfident, especially early in your career, will destroy your future. No matter how talented you are, if you aren't progressing or challenging yourself, you'll become yesterday's news. This is another grave sin I've seen committed frequently. It's one thing to have a niche but another to beat it to death.  The best way to prevent this from happening is to never, ever, get comfortable. When I feel comfortable or overly confident, I know I've hit a plateau and I work harder to challenge myself.

I know this advice may be harsh or unsettling but again, I'm not here to coddle you. I want to see you succeed and have a long, prosperous career. Holding back and conducting yourself as a professional really isn't that difficult. Understand that you need to separate your personal life from your business persona. Trust me, there is no other way of achieving success.  

I wish you well in all of your artistic endeavors and I hope you will read and share this post with someone else that needs it.  If you'd like to follow my artist motivational series "The Truth About Being an Artist" follow my youtube channel.  Click the links for more information on my artist career consultations and painting and drawing lessons or my testimonials page.  I work with artists around the world via online.  Make huge strides in your career today by taking action now.  Have a great day!

The Two Most Motivating Words EVER: "YOU CAN'T"

There are two words that, together, have inspired some of the greatest achievements known to man.  These two simple words have paved a path when all seems lost.  They have broken barriers when everyone claimed it was impossible. These two words are "you can't."  

There was a time when experts believed the sound barrier couldn't be broken and yet in 1947, Chuck Yeager broke it.  There was a time when people claimed Mount Everest couldn't be climbed and yet in 1953, Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay became the first two men to reach the top.  Since then, this impossible climb has been completed by over 4,000 people.  In 1993 a record was set when 40 people climbed to the top in one day. The impossible is made possible by brave individuals who remain steadfast while others adhere to the more comfortable, and popular lie of, "you can't." 

You don't have to be the worlds greatest rock climber or pilot for these words to be important.  As artists, we deal with lies like this on a daily basis.  To make matters worse, we hear these lies so often, we begin to repeat them internally, convincing ourselves each day that our dreams are impossible because everyone else believes they are.  This way of thinking can destroy anyone, regardless of what level of talent you have.  As a painting and drawing instructor, I've had the pleasure to work with numerous artists around the world.  You'll be surprised to know that you aren't the only one subscribing to this way of thinking - apparently, "I can't" is a universal mantra.  I've seen emerging, mid-career and established artists almost abort their dreams because they caved into that negative internal dialogue. You aren't alone.

It's even more important to note that those of us that who've been beaten down the most, usually possess the means to go the farthest.  I know this is contradictory to the messages we receive these days since we've adopted the habit of giving children trophies for 9th place in sports and various academic contests. Sadly, we're forced to celebrate mediocrity and no longer champion the strongest, most tenacious or talented. But I'm here to inform you that getting swept away by that popular, toxic mentality it dangerous and damning. If you want to pursue your dreams and succeed, it's gonna be messy, there will be a lot of tears, bad days and frustration. What doesn't kill you, makes you stronger. 

I've been an entrepreneur most of my life and I stare down defeat and the impossible everyday when I enter my studio.  My advice - ignore it all.  Pour your time and energy into your dreams not your problems.  Your time is better spent working on the solution not repeating the problem to yourself.   I don't know anyone that worried their way out of a problem and improved their lives.  In fact, did you know that 85% of what we worry about never happens?  If you don't believe me read it in this Huffington Post Article

In my 25 years as an artist, the most motivating words I've heard is "YOU CAN'T."  I laugh to myself every time I hear these words because I've had the pleasure of proving so many people wrong.  After so many years,  I've turned those words into a motivational chant.  When someone says I can't do something, I know I'm stumbling onto something big. To be clear, I'm not special in any way. In fact, my childhood and surroundings weren't the ideal breeding ground for greatness.  If anything, I saw a lot of examples of how I didn't want to end up. I knew at an early age I didn't want a 9-5 job that offered no advancement or creativity. I didn't want to bust my ass and only make ends meet and most importantly, I didn't want to just survive and be content with a beer at the end of the week with my buddies in some run down bar.  I did everything I could in spite of what I experienced.  If contempt for your surroundings and your current situation is all you have in your life - use it. No one can give you permission to succeed - it's a solo journey.  Build your life from the ground up.  Funnel all your energy into your dreams and envision a future as the artist you want to be.  If you can't do this, all of the degrees and training in the world won't enhance or better your life. Train yourself to live with the mentality that everything is possible. At first, this will seem difficult because we've been trained to believe that we have limitations. Artists especially are conditioned to believe the old, 'starving artist' slogan that's frankly tired and ridiculous. Remove this stigma and re-train your mind. Acknowledge that you have a unique gift that needs time, attention and nurturing. Be mindful not to neglect your dreams and invest in your ideal future - you need to commit to change for things to manifest.

I wish you well in all of your artistic endeavors and I hope you will read and share this post with someone else that needs it.  If you'd like to follow my artist motivational series "The Truth About Being an Artist" follow my youtube channel.  Click the links for more information on my artist career consultations and painting and drawing lessons or my testimonials page.  I work with artists around the world via online.  Make huge strides in your career today by taking action now.  Have a great day!

10 Tips For Transitioning From Your Job To Being a Full Time Artist

10 Tips For Transitioning From Your Job To Being a Full Time Artist

The number one goal for every person I do career counseling with is to leave their job and pursue their art career full-time.  However, the biggest concern is how to do it and most importantly, when.  I tell every artist who's serious about leaving their 9-5 the same thing - have an established business, a well-thought-out plan and don't be capricious or you'll be looking for another day job in a few months time.

Face Your Demons

Face Your Demons

Sometimes it seems that you make some steps forward and then suddenly,  nothing is working. I've seen many artists experience a setback or two and want to throw in the towel and quit. Then, in a fit of anger and depression, they go online and look at successful artists with absolute contempt and wonder how the hell they did it.  Instead of employing some reflection and accepting that all careers have challenges, they choose to feed the jealousy and begin a deadly cycle of self-pity and projection. If they keep this destructive behavior up, in a  short amount of time they have the perfect recipe for depression, anger, and career suicide.

Effort = Luck (+ 4 tips)

Effort = Luck (+ 4 tips)

I'll be bold and say that luck is quite achievable.  It has even been suggested that Thomas Jefferson said: "I'm a great believer in luck, and I find the harder I work, the more I have of it." 

5 Mandatory Tips for Emerging Artists

5 Mandatory Tips for Emerging Artists

I've confessed many times here that I really didn't have any support early on in my career and because of that, I always promised myself that when I achieved some level of success I'd never refuse anyone who asked for help.  This brings me to the subject of this blog post; the number one question I get asked the most - what advice would you give to an artist just starting out?  Here's are 5 mandatory tips for emerging artists.

Unraveling the Knots in Your Life (+ 4 Tips)

Unraveling the Knots in Your Life (+ 4 Tips)

Do not waiver, doubt or hesitate. If the house is falling apart and beyond repair just burn it to the ground. I know, I know, it’s not easy to let go but once you learn to take out the trash before it begins to reek, you will start to thrive.

Greatness is Not Something You are Born With

Greatness is Not Something You are Born With

Greatness is not something you are born with.  Greatness is something you achieve, and most of the time; it’s acquired through great struggle, failure and disappointment.  There’s no equation or scientific formula that can predict who will become great or who doesn't. Being born into a wealthy or prominent family cannot guarantee you greatness nor can it be deterred by a lack of money or opportunity. At the source, greatness comes from the soul of a human being. 

Envy - The Road to Ruin (+ 4 Tips)

Envy - The Road to Ruin (+ 4 Tips)

Its been said that envy is an illness so deeply ingrained in human nature that if entertained, it becomes a spiritual cancer. Envy is ruthless, cruel and often, intoxicating. I’ve seen many people become drunk on envy and it’s painful to witness. The worst and darkest part of any individual emerges when they are made to feel inferior - either by the direct behavior of an individual or by an implied feeling of not being ‘good enough’. To be specific, as artists, this emotion emerges when we see one of our contemporaries "making it" when we are in fact, still struggling and maybe even failing.

Social Media Etiquette for the Art Professional (5 tips)

Social Media Etiquette for the Art Professional (5 tips)

No one likes to be told what to do. I occasionally hate when people give me unsolicited advice but sometimes, we have to listen. I'm certainly not in the business of changing minds or forcing opinions on anyone - it's not my style. The only desire I have is to inspire and encourage anyone who's walking down the same challenging path.  That being said, let's take a moment to talk about your art business presence on social media. 

Trust Thyself, Artist (& 6 Tips)

Trust Thyself, Artist (& 6 Tips)

It's no secret I love the works of Ralph Waldo Emerson.  Nothing empowers me more and helps me focus on what is important.  It took many years and a lot of background noise to penetrate but at 42, I feel more alive and full of energy than ever before. It wasn't always the case though – I had to wade in the same pool of self-doubt and uncertainly as many before me. I had to grow a thick skin and learn not to obsess on all the negative and ‘constructive’ criticism I seemed to attract. The journey to self-empowerment was difficult and many lessons were learned the hard way but in the end, I emerged a warrior.

Banishing the Self Taught Artist Stigma (+ 5 tips)

Banishing the Self Taught Artist Stigma (+ 5 tips)

I’m always upset when I hear an artist trying to qualify him or herself as a professional by admitting they are "self-taught."  It's very sad to hear someone who may have spent the last 10-20 years of their lives working as a professional but just because they didn't have the chance to attend college or an academy they feel insecure or illegitimate. 

What's Your Excuse?

What's Your Excuse?

Everyone has a story. The story can either be one of immense struggle that eventually yields great rewards, or an uneventful story of safe, well calculated mediocrity. But to me, the saddest story is the unmemorable life full of excuses and failure – it often reaps misery, bitterness and contempt.  Look at the great figures of history before you and their disadvantages and ask yourself - what's my excuse?

Embrace Failure

Embrace Failure

Aside from the personal nature of what failure does to an artists, I'd like for you to consider another way of thinking.  Consider this: what pushes you to grow more - success or failure? I can say with absolute confidence that my failures have made me the artist I am today.  Artist advice: embrace failure.

Never Underestimate the Value of Hard Work

Never Underestimate the Value of 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.  

The Importance of Balancing Your Passions

The Importance of Balancing Your Passions

It's easy to just focus on one facet of your life and let the whole world fall behind you.  You've seen it time and time again in movies where the suave and sophisticated man is stockbroker of the year but his personal life is riddled with failure.  I've seen it many times over the last few decades with some of my peers in the art business.  They will sacrifice everything to make it big, even if it means leaving a wife, children and even a conscience behind. Life is not worth living unless you can share your success and failures with someone you love.