Definition of a successful artist?

Christine Alfery

Posted on September 04 2020

Definition of a successful artist?

 Featured image, Tangerine Sky II

What you do, how you do it, whether it succeeds or fails is entirely up to you as an individual and as an artist. How you define success or failure is also up to you.  Remember, everything changes. You cannot define success or failure based on what others think. You can't base it on what was successful or not from the past.  Success and failure can only be defined by what your goals are, and how you have worked towards them. 

To judge your success or failure based on a dream you have about what is successful, or by what has failed is a tough judgement call.  I believe that you have to be realistic about what you define as successful.  I never have been realistic about my dreams, which is why I have always thought of myself as a failure.  But recently, I have been more realistic about myself and my work as an artist.  It is not through a lack of trying that I think that I've failed, but instead, it is because of what I thought the definition of a successful artist was.  I was basing my idea of a successful artist on old ideas, and the paths taken by artists in the past.  I have learned that to make judgement calls like that only sets me up for failure. So of course, I would always fail. But, and this is a big but, if I look at what is successful today and what is called art today for the most part, I do not want to be successful by what I see there.  Why?  Because I would lose my soul, myself. 

I have also learned that one needs to know how they think about what art is.  I know folks have been trying to define art for a long time and have been unsuccessful.  But again another big but,  if you as an artist define how and what art is for you, and if you define and understand yourself, then you will know if you are successful or not. 

For me – I have defined how I understand what art is.  I know that others may not agree with me and that is fine. However,  if it works for me, and I'm happy by how I define myself and my work, and am true to these values for myself and my work, then, it would be hard to understand myself as a failure.  I have done that.  So would I call myself successful?  Yes,  but not because of some values others have defined for me, but by the values I have defined as what art is, how I want to be as an artist, and what values are meaningful to me.  Success for me has to do with being true to myself, and true to how I understand art to be. 

For example: There are only about 1 in 20 works I consider successful that I create.  They are the one in a million works I have talked about in another blog. Click to read blog "One In A Million."   Not everyone likes what I like  and not everyone will agree on what I think is a "one in a million" work.  Tangerine Skies  is one of those pieces of artwork. It is one of the "one in a million" pieces where I think I was true to myself and to the concept of art.  To date, there aren’t many others who agree with me.  But that is ok – I like having the work around.  You can see this work during the Northwoods Art Tour coming up October 9-11.  Appointments preferred, COVID precautions taken, masks required,  limit 6 in the studio at a time.  Make appointments by CLICKING HERE

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