Creative Insights: Lesley Riley

10 Traits of a Successful Artist – Do You Measure Up?

Your heart says you can but your head (and hands) don’t measure up. Believe me, I know. I’ve been there. So has every well known artist, every single one of them. In a recent discussion with some of the instructors at Art & Soul, we were lamenting the fact that so many of our students give up on their art way too soon. There seems to be this notion that “real” artists always and easily produce beautiful work. So let’s get something straight right now……NO WAY. NO HOW. We struggle with each and every piece the same way you do.

So what’s different? Why aren’t you having the same artist success, the same beautiful results? I’m pretty sure you know the answers but for some reason they don’t stick in your head and you let fear and disappointment overrule your brains and common sense. It’s my mission to facilitate your discovery of all things art, so I am going to remind you again what separates the artist successes from the artist wanna-bes.

  1. Successful artists don’t give up when the work looks like, shall we say, crap. They continue to work a piece until they get it right.
  2. Successful artists create more art. Like any other skill, artistic talent comes from practice.
  3. Successful artists have the confidence and courage to continue when the going gets tough or inspiration is lacking.
  4. Successful artists show up every day, or at least on a regular schedule. They make art a habit.
  5. Successful artists don’t wait for inspiration before they start. They start, knowing the inspiration and ideas will follow.
  6. Successful artists know that the answer does not lie in the next book, class or latest supply. They know the answer is within.
  7. Successful artists trust the process. It’s not about the final product, it’s about the making.
  8. Successful artists know that not everything they do will be a masterpiece. They create the mediocre to get to the diamonds.
  9. Successful artists don’t compare their work to others. They only compare it to their last piece.
  10. Successful artists are not afraid to be unique, exposed, raw, to show their true colors. They want to stand out and be noticed.

Does any of that sound impossible for you? Here’s the beauty of it – the only thing you really need to do is make art. Make art, not excuses. Everything, and I repeat, everything comes from the work. Not thinking about it. Not planning to do it. Not preparing to do it. Not acquiring supplies for it. Not reading about it. Not worrying about it. Everything comes from the work.

Come to think of it, is making art really even work? Not in my book. It’s pure joy, it’s play, it’s a privilege and a blessing.  A life without art would be sad indeed. So what are you waiting for? Come on, get happy, get creating.

Do this right now:

Print this article and cut out the 10 Traits of a Successful Artist. Post it where you will see it every morning, noon and night. Make as many copies as necessary. Don’t just read it, take action. Go make art and act as if you are already the success you want to be.  I guarantee that success will be yours once you start acting like the successful artist that you really are.

Lesley Riley is an internationally known artist, teacher and author with a passion for spreading the magic of art. Though her company, Artist Success, Lesley provides resources, coaching and mentoring to artists, enabling them to achieve their vision of success. For more information and resources, visit


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