How to Make it in The Art World

There is one thing common to all artistic and creative professions. Making it is extremely hard. Whether “making it” means being able to live off your artistic work or being recognized for what you do, you will never get there easily.

“Becoming an artist is not a good business plan.”

— Carol Bove

You are competing with literally millions of other people trying to do the same thing: being good at that specific creative skill. Luckily for you, only a small percentage of those people are doing it right. That leaves you room for improvement and climbing your way up.

How do you do it right?

There is a big tendency in the art world to assume that it’s a completely free, limitless world. You can’t go wrong. Because this is art, you are supposed to do it as you like. Nobody can tell you how you should do your thing, because it is by definition your thing and only you can do it. This is only true to a certain extent.

They key to success in any artistic profession is to find the perfect ratio between the existing rules and your own style. The existing rules are here to frame your work. They will make your work coherent and thoughtful, not completely free and anarchic. The first step towards any improvement is to acknowledge and learn how to use these rules.

Take graphic design for instance. There are some key principles that apply to it that cannot be ignored. Emphasis, patterns, contrast, proportion, harmony, rhythm, to name a few. These principles will always be true. They will always make the difference between an average (or bad) composition and a good thoughtful one.

Writing is another good example. Write with nouns and verbs, not adjectives and adverbs. Active verbs add interest. Hyperbole and exaggeration hurt credibility. Lengthy qualifiers should be avoided. These rules will always make the difference between a bad to okay text and a good one. Needless to say they only work when used properly.

How to be different?

Once you learn how to use the rules that apply to your expertise, you will start generating awesome stuff. It will simply work. People will read your text and truly enjoy it. They will look at your photos and genuinely think they are good.

However, your work will not stand out. It will be pleasant and efficient, but not personal and different. To counteract this boring side effect of following the rules, your need on thing:

Here is the thing. Acknowledging the rules and learning how to use them already gives you a huge leeway over all the people who will never improve. They are running but they will never get anywhere. Finding your style is the last couple of miles standing between you and the winners. How do you catch up with them?

Work your ass off

You will never become successful if you are not willing to work a lot for it. If it was easy everybody would do it. That being said, don’t lose yourself to the race. Don’t sacrifice your health over your work, it will slow you down. Running is tiring, but you will only make it harder if you do it on an empty stomach. Work late but sleep enough, work hard but take time to relax.

Give it time. Of all the people running this race, a huge amount will get tired of getting nowhere. Nobody in the art world becomes an overnight success. Patience is key to success. You shouldn’t take time in consideration if you like what you do anyway.

Inspiration and productivity also lie in educating yourself. Find artists you like, learn about your artistic environment, get inspired. It’s okay to start from something already existing and tweaking it. Those who say it’s not are most likely lying to themselves.

Content and inspiration: everybody steals

All great creative minds on this planet were inspired by other great minds before them. Vincent Van Gogh was influenced by Impressionism and Post-Impressionism through artists such as Gauguin, Pissarro, Monet. As a result, he adopted brighter, more vibrant colors in his art, and began experimenting with his own technique. Two years later he created Sunflowers, a painting that would later become his most famous one.

This process of looking for inspiration and playing with what you find can be observed in any creative domain. Fashion is always reinventing the past. Car design is always influenced by the competition. The advertising world is full of cinematographic and cultural references.

The recipe to finding your style is to mix inspiration from your favorite sources with your own tweaking.

Should you do it for yourself or for the fame?

If you are trying to make it in the creative world for the views, the likes and the attention, you most likely will not get anywhere.

  • One:your lack of passion and personality will reflect in your uninteresting and boring work.
  • Two: you and your work will drown in the sea of Instagram and Youtube accounts of all the people trying to be famous too.
  • Three: you will hurt yourself. Why would you force yourself to do something you don’t truly believe in everyday? It only makes your life more painful.

You want to make it in the art world because you want to learn, be creative and be the best at what you do. Not for the views or the likes. Fame and money are secondary. They are potential side effects that you should not take in consideration.

Do what you love. Get inspired from what you love. Give it time. Be part of those who keep trying and keep running. Be part of those who are passionate and you will be winning.

Subscribe to the newsletter

Every Saturday: 1 quote I believe in, summaries of my latest articles, 1 book/article I enjoy, my life metrics.

* = required field

Download The 168H Spreadsheet

The best time management tool, designed to clearly outline where your time is going and how you can optimise it. Get it for free today.


Share this article

Other posts you might like

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *