The Long and Winding Road
So you want to become an artist. You’re certainly not alone.
Maybe you’ve found that you have a special talent for illustration, movie making, or creative writing.
If you’re passionate about your creative work, then it’s no surprise that you’ve been considering a career as an artist.
However, getting started down the path of an artist can be intimidating and even scary. But don’t fret, we’re here to help.
So if you’ve been saying to yourself, “I want to be an artist but I’m scared,” follow along with our guide below for some helpful tips on different factors to consider and how to get your artistic career off the ground.
Not for Everyone
From a distance, it may seem like the life of an artist is incredibly glamorous. And it is, but only for a very select group of artists who have been able to find critical and mainstream success.
These artists represent less than 1% of the working artists in the world today. These are the artists who achieve widespread name recognition and who will be mentioned in textbooks for years to come.
But for most people, this just isn’t a realistic expectation to have for an artistic career.
At the same time, if you have genuine talent in your medium and you’re prepared to work hard to gain notoriety, then you can realistically hope to make a living wage from your art.
The Starving Artist Archetype
One of the big reasons the life of an artist can be scary or intimidating to an outsider is that there is a prevailing cliche that artists remain poor for most of their lives.
The starving artist archetype is a staple of pop culture. And yes, there were many famous artists through the course of history who struggled to find success in their own time. Vincent Van Gogh, for example, only sold a handful of paintings during his lifetime.
And while starting a career in some form of art is not a guarantee of fame and success, it’s also not a guarantee that you’ll struggle financially for the rest of your life.
While you should maintain realistic expectations for your artistic career, never get bogged down by the perceptions of the general public.
You’re an individual, after all, and you will forge your own artistic path. You will make mistakes and falter in your work many times over.
All of that is to be expected. The real trick is not to get overly discouraged when it happens.
Before entering the market as a singular artist with work to share, you’ll need to make sure that your work meets your own standards.
The unspoken follow-up is that you should maintain very high personal standards.
The old saying that you have to be your own worst critic holds true. Once you start to develop a following and a dedicated audience, other people will try to critique your work once it’s been released.
You can anticipate that criticism by doing everything you can to make the best work of art you can, whether it’s a painting, a story, a movie, or a simple piece of pottery.
If your work can stand up to your own high expectations, then it will be that much easier to defend your work against critics.
Finding Your Vision
A successful artist doesn’t only have to make work that shows technical skill, they also have to create work that is rich in symbolism and that actually has something to say.
Try to think of some of your favorite works of art from the past ten years. Were they simple entertaining distractions from your daily life or did they speak to you on multiple levels?
Finding your personal artistic vision can enable you to create complex work that stands out from the crowd.
To give a quick example of an artist with a very specific vision, let’s look at the early work of Tim Burton.
Burton’s early short films and feature-length films all made use of very specific, dour lighting, and oddball characters who felt out of place and just a little bit off.
Maintaining that clear vision for years and years allowed Burton to tell some very compelling stories to mainstream audiences.
Without this kind of vision, it’s unlikely that Burton would have gotten as many opportunities as he did.
Another way to reduce the intimidation and fear surrounding a career in art is to make connections with other professional and amateur artists.
Spend some time in local museums, bookstores, or independent movie theaters. These can all be great places to meet other aspiring artists, many of whom may also be intimidated by the idea of becoming an artist full-time.
The conversations you have can help you build confidence. Making artists friends is also a great way to get some honest feedback on your work.
Creating a Presence
One of the most important things you can do to set yourself up for success in an art career is to establish an online presence for your work and your artistic persona.
You’ll want to create a website where you can show off some of your best work. Hopefully, it will attract the attention of an audience of enthusiastic viewers as well as agents who may be interested in representing you.
If your fans and admirers start to express an interest in purchasing your work, you can look into ways to sell your artwork online through services that only take a small fee from each transaction.
It’s true that making the leap to becoming a professional artist is scary. And even once you’ve started to enjoy some moderate success, it may still be scary.
Uncertainty is simply part of the experience of being a professional artist, unless you happen to be one of the ultra-successful artists that we mentioned above.
Always be sure to ask your family and friends for advice. They’ll be happy to support your efforts, even in the very early stages.