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10 Success Principles for Artists / business of art / Philosophy

10 Principles for an Artists Success

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Michael Godard Rockstar of the Artworld

Godard - Rockstar of Art?

Do you ever wonder why some artists are incredibly successful, despite the fact that they aren’t the most talented?  And then you meet one of the most masterful oil painters since Leonardo da Vinci, and you find out he’s still living in his mother’s basement.

It seems as though there is a secret combination to finding success as an artist, and only a few lucky people figure out the code.

In our younger years Drew and I prayed that the secret code would land in our laps.  We watched as Shepard Fairey and Wyland and Michael Godard traveled down the path of prosperity, and we would ask “how’d they do it?”

It was hard to find answers, because no one was talking.  So we put our heads down and just kept moving forward.  Before we knew it years had gone by.  One day we looked up and saw that we, too, found our way to the cul de sac of accomplishment.

There are many combinations to unlock the secret to success for artists.

Usually it’s not one massive accomplishment that leads an artist down the path of victory, but rather a consistent series of little triumphs that blend together, coupled with basic principles that are practiced regularly.

Below is my list of the 10 Principles of Success for Artists.  Over time, I will post a weekly article which will dive deeper into each principle.  They are:

1.)    PLAN YOUR ART CAREER – Decide what you want: You can’t get what you want without a concrete vision of what it is.  Deciding what you want is the jumping off point.  Once you do that, you are capable of creating the lifestyle of your choice.

2.)    Have Integrity: A good reputation will get you more work, collectors and clients, and it comes from having integrity.  Integrity means doing what you say you’re going to do, when you say you will do it. Meet deadlines, respect your agreements, and make ethical decisions.  Make your mother proud.

3.)    Brand Yourself: Tell your own personal story.  Carve your own niche and have your own distinctive style.  You’ll be remembered for this.

4.)    Promote yourself Shamelessly:  Marketing is how you announce to the world that you have something to contribute and it’s for sale.  Tell everyone that you are an artist.  Hand out business cards.  Keep your website fresh, because it’s your window to the world.  Document your work with photos and video.  Ask the media to write about you.

5.)    Keep the Passion: Being passionate about what you do will shine through you and your work.  Think Big.  Be a light for your ideas.  Never give up.  Don’t do things you don’t enjoy.  Not for long, anyway.

6.)    Control Your Copyrights and Use Legal Agreements:  Be protective of your style and your name.  Use common sense when going into legal agreements.  Never sign anything that you don’t fully understand or agree with.

7.)    Manage Your Money: If you aren’t making a profit, than what you’ve got is a hobby.  THINK BEFORE GOING INTO DEBT TO SELL YOUR ART.  You must be able to make money off of your craft to be a professional.  This means charging the proper amount, handling your money well, and keeping track of expenses.  Never give your work away – you hurt your collectors and your fellow artists when you do.

8.)    Say “yes” to most everything: Be open to trying new mediums and new techniques.  Don’t ever be “too busy” to give interviews or to be featured in a book or magazine.  Consider all opportunities that come your way, even those that you aren’t sure of.

9.)    Contribute to the Industry of Art: Network with other artists, help your fellow artists, buy from your favorite artists.  Join us in the vision of making the profession of art become a lucrative career.

10.) Tenacity:  Commit to your craft and don’t look back.  Never give up.  Realize that you can live the lifestyle that you dream of.  It’s within your reach.  Remember that you are making a contribution to the world, and it’s important.

So that you don’t miss out of future postings, please sign up for my rss feed or fill in your e-mail address to get future posts delivered to your in –box.

Thanks for listening…Maria xxoo

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31 Comments 10 Principles for an Artists Success

  1. Cindy Lundon

    These are great principles to live by!

    I particularly like the one about Deciding what you want. It makes sense that if you don’t decide, you’ll have the decision made for you.

    Thanks. I’ll look forward to your follow up articles on this topic!

  2. Pingback: Plan your Art Career – Success Principle Number One | 10 Success Principles for Artists - Maria Brophy

  3. Pingback: Integrity gets the Art Commission – Success Principle Number Two | 10 Success Principles for Artists - Maria Brophy

  4. Archan Mehta

    You have no idea, Maria, how lucky I feel to have come across your blog.

    It was perfect timing. Reading your pieces is just what the doctor ordered. In a way, it is like a catharsis for me to read about your ideas.

    I was saddened to learn, however, about your initial struggles. However, I was overjoyed to learn that you and Drew eventually pulled through.

    It is also a shame that those artists who have become rich and famous are so reluctant sometimes to share trade secrets with new artists. Perhaps, it stems from insecurity and a wish to corner the market. “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

    Maybe that’s why successful artists want to hold a monopoly instead of sharing with others and helping struggling artists along the way.

    At the same time, I feel, as long as there are people like you and Drew around–altruistic souls–there is hope for the artistic community.
    You have contributed so much of your time, money and energy toward the betterment of art and artists. Please keep up this great work.

    1. Maria Brophy

      Thanks, Archan. I think the struggle that we went through is one of the things that drives me so hard to share what we know with others. Not that we have all the answers – we surely don’t. But we have some of the answers, and I’m willing to give them all away!

  5. Eric D. Greene

    Hi Maria, I clicked through to your site after reading a post on artbiz blog. This post really hit home for me as it is basically what I am going through now. I’m in art school and dreaming of ‘making it’ with my art work. Although I am definitely content with my full time work (web development), it’s not my true passion, which is art! I most liked your comment about success coming as a series of little triumphs. I think many of us do expect that one big breakthrough, but in the art world, it just doesn’t happen like that. You have to build one brick on top of the other. Slowly but surely! (or maybe quickly if you just can’t wait haha!)

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  7. Gwenn

    Nice points! But I’m not convinced on #6. While I agree that model releases for portrait work as well as agreements for commissions are useful, I’m certain that trying to control copyright is a bad idea.

    I believe in making original work that, in all the ways that matter, cannot be copied and certainly cannot be replaced. I don’t believe in copyright. It’s a law that was originally intended to help artists while also protecting free culture, but has been so corrupted by corporations trying to own culture that it’s a blight on our society.

    Like all artists, I benefit from free culture, so why would I try to lock up and freeze dry my contributions to it? Artists who believe in copyright haven’t thought through the implications of it.

    1. Maria Brophy

      I love the Free Culture philosophy! I agree that it’s a good idea to allow others to have access to your artwork, for non-commercial purposes (to print out, hang on their wall, tattoo on them, whatever!).

      However, if you’re an artist that wants to have an impact with art, you have to be careful about letting anyone do ANYTHING with it. It could end up being on a porn site or used for something you don’t agree with, which could hurt your fans. Without copyright protection, anyone can print it on cheap t-shirts and sell it in Wal Mart.

      Having control is important – so YOU can choose who gets to use it for what. I’d hate to see Picasso’s art on $3 tees in the bargain bin!

      (P.S. If you’re an artist who licenses your work, you have a legal and ethical duty to your licensees to have copyright control over your art.)

  8. Travis Rice

    I lived in Hawaii for 12 years so have been into several Wyland galleries, (most of them have closed) and heard a rumor on how he became so famous so quickly.
    The story I heard goes like this. His brother, a successful business man gave him 2million bucks and some advice to help him start out. So he went to the city of, I forget what city it was, and offered to paint a mural on a giant water tower on the hillside over the city. He offered to do this for free, not even asking material costs. This led them to agree, and him to paint a world record sized mural. This not only got him front page exposure in the local paper, but international notice as well. He also had a gallery open and waiting for that publicity to do its magic. Since then city planners and corporations alike have requested his work and the great part is for him it’s publicity, every place he does a ten story tall mural, he has a gallery or 5.
    So knowing how he did it doesn’t help those of us without the startup capital to jump start our careers in art. But it does point out that doing something extraordinary to get noticed and publicized can go a long way to getting your name known.
    Thank you for your insight into this very difficult profession to succeed in, no matter how talented.

    1. Maria

      Travis, thank you so much for your comment!

      But I have to set the record straight – your facts on Wyland are completely wrong. No one gave him any money to start out.

      The time that Wyland painted that first Whaling Wall in Laguna Beach, CA, he was B-R-O-K-E and barely surviving. He did get a lot of publicity – I’m sure that’s why he went broke doing it – but he didn’t get it easy at all. He had to fight the city for 3 years to get their approval to paint it – all on his own money.

      Many people look for reasons that they can’t make it – and they point to money as one of them. Wyland is a shining example that you can make it big, on your own, without anyones help. You just need a lot of energy and you need to never give up!

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  10. ryan walsh

    I disagree with this… Infact the only way to be a successful artist is beating the best. Very competitive art world. Beating the best and doing outstanding artwork. Thats basically it right there in a shell. Plus art is the toughest thing to get into anyway. Infact you probably have a better chance at success if you play a fuckn guitar, atleast then people will feel sorry for you and toss you a dime or two. maybe a 5 dollar bill if you are real lucky. Fact that the world always seems to be in recession dosnt help alot. And most famously, artists who are successful are legendary people.

  11. don quintana

    Thank you very much for taking the time to post these principles for success. Although some people may have paved their way differently and some may beg to differ, Its a great relief to know people like you out there putting the time and effort to equip people like me with tools to steer us on the right track to better ourselves and give us back what we put in with all our hearts. Thank you! I wrote them all on a dry erase board in my studio and can’t wait to start putting them all into practice and seeing stuff happen! Sincerely ~ don quintana

  12. Pingback: Maria Brophy – Business of Art « I Jump Out of Bed

  13. Joe Fenton

    Hi Maria,
    Thank you for sharing how you and Drew have made a go of success so explicitly. It’s really opening my eyes to aspects of the business I have not discovered, and helping me see what not to focus on if art-making is my goal. Thanks!

  14. Steve Rhea

    I met you and Drew at a Folly Beach SC workshop a few years back. Bought the package, pens, DVD, Sector 9 blank to support your cause. Got into painting on my “found objects”. One idea is a hit and now i need to turn the corner from hobby to pro. Your info is great and I’m pouring over it now. Drew predicted this would happen, many thanks. Would love to share what I have going and get your input. Note: No website yet, yikes. Aloha, Steve Rhea

  15. Erica

    Great article. From my personal experience it really rings true. Now put talent and the 10 principles together and there’s no stopping us! 😉

  16. Brian Sherwin

    I don’t think Shepard Fairey is a good example to use concerning integrity. He lacks it. This has been shown time and time again. For example, he has ripped other living artists off all while being quick to send out a cease and desist letter if a fellow artist uses the word ‘obey’ on a piece. He is often clueless about appropriating from the past as well. Case in point: He once used symbols on a poster and shirt design because he thought they looked “Cool”… he had no clue the symbols were Nazi symbols — even after it was pointed out he tried to mangle a story together as to why he chose to use the symbols. It didn’t work. Stores pulled the shirts. Aside from that, great article!

  17. Lisa Gibson

    I just discovered your blog last week through a link to the article you wrote about making a charity request a win-win situation. Thank you for these informative articles, you are helping me with some great common sense solutions!

  18. Tammie

    Love your post! I have study the art licensing business for some years now and continue to educate myself. I stepping out in showing the world what I can do. currently working on my website to launch early fall.

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