10 reasons you haven’t made it as an artist

Sometimes it can be just as helpful to discover what you are not in order to determine what you are. Here's advice on how to get your plans to be an artist back on track.

Here at ArtsHub we are always giving you good advice on what to do right frommastering Instagram to overcoming inertia. But sometimes you need to know what you are doing wrong.

Here are out takeouts from a recent panel on how to make it as an artist to help you recognise when you haven't.

1. You pend time planning your career instead of making work.

‘I don't go outside very much. I just make a lot of work and travel and a lot of good things have come my way,’ said illustrator, graphic artist and animator David Booth, who credits good timing and plenty of output for his success. 

Echoing the sentiments of many successful creatives, Booth said that if he had known he would be a full time artist ten years ago, he wouldn't have known how to get there. Rather it’s about 'going with the flow and being open and reaching out to people.’  

‘I tried not to be too strategic or think about it... I just enjoy making things for myself and sometimes my friends.’ 

Don’t worry about labels or other people, said Booth. ‘It is doing the work that is the most important part. It’s better to just pursue your own thing and strive for uniqueness.’ 

2. You are in love with the idea of being an artist.

One of the ironies of making it as an artist, is that those who are actually doing it are often the last to be confident with the label.

‘I'm not sure if I am an artist or what the title is, it doesn't seem so important. I like doing things for myself, not so much aspiring to be something,’ said Booth, who describes being ‘pulled into’ his career. 

Illustrator Kate Pullen, who recently put together the charity exhibition Goldensaid she was ‘not really qualified’ to talk about making it as an artist. 

‘I'm not an artist. I haven't made it and I shouldn't be here,’ she said, in a textbook example of the imposter yndrome  
which those who are really making it are more likely to feel.

3. You don't have a style

Experimentation is great but you need to understand your own strengths and what is distinctive about your work. An unwavering commitment to your own artistic style is essential.

Agent and producer at artist agency The Jacky Winter Group, Li Liang Johnson said illustrators with a distinctive style can be more easily communicated to clients. 

‘Because I didn't study, I never had to justify what I was doing...my work would be that style without the rest of the world,’ said Booth. ‘There is no design, no compromise, no thought about sustainability.’

Pullen’s distinct style has garnered attention on social media, but it is still something she struggles with. ‘Style is something I struggle with a lot... I think it comes back to confidence and being assured about what you want to say, but it is difficult when more people are watching as you suss that out.’

Typography and hand lettering has experienced a surge in popularity, but despite the fear of her style sitting in an over-saturated category, Pullen said you have to ‘keeping trucking on.’

Artist Jimmy Lee said style is something that can change and progress, but ‘you’ve got to do it because you love doing it and progressing because you want to, not to impress someone else.’

4. You don't use social media effectively.

Social media is a place to exhibit, network and practice being an artist, not just chat with your friends.

'It would be weird not to use social media,' said Booth. ‘Before the internet there were a bunch of gatekeepers. None of us would be here 20-years ago because there was a bunch of people saying what was and wasn't good art.’

‘You have to use it. But just have good discipline about it and take the good things and then put it to one side and not let it dominate your life or get in the way.’

For Pullen, sharing her work on social media was a way to build confidence and push herself creatively, but there are still some traps. ‘There are parts of social media I like, but it is so easy to compare yourself and get distracted by creating things you think people want to see rather than just doing what you an to do.’ 

‘But it's an incredible way to get work. I’ve also made friends through social media and have been able to work with people having only met them on Instagram.’

5. You don't get out of the studio.

While prioritising making work, artists agree that it’s important to physical meet people in order to further your career. ‘You cannot exist in an artist bubble in your own studio,’ said Johnson. ‘There is so much out there so it can be hard to cut through.’

‘We know people who are super talented but because of their social problems or where they live, that becomes a huge barrier,’ added Booth. 

Lee provides a reminder not to go out and compare your work to somebody else’s and question if you are good enough, but rather ‘get out there and meet likeminded people and make friends.’ 

Replacing the term ‘networking’ with ‘meeting people’ makes it a lot more stomachable. ‘It's nice just as a human to meet other humans,’ said Pullen. ‘People can tell if you are going out there to make connections…if you are there just to meet people that's nice. Plus, we all have common ground so it is not as daunting.'

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