Measuring Artistic Success

A guest post about measuring success by Victoria Rose Martin


What is your measure of success and how will you know if and when you’ve achieved it?  Have you actually thought about what being a successful artist means specifically to you? We always hear about people “making it” in the art world, but what does that even mean? And more importantly, what does that statement mean to you? Whether you’re on an artistic path or not knowing your measure of success is a really important question to address.

Let’s face it becoming a recognized artist usually doesn’t happen over night. Like anything worth waiting for developing a career takes time, cultivation, and a whole lot of hard work. So, I ask you again; how will you know when you’ve achieved success? To help you answer the question, read the questions below and try to answer them as honestly as you can.

1.    I will consider myself successful when     

When you’re first starting out be sure to set smaller benchmarks. For example perhaps you could tell yourself “I will consider myself successful when I get into a gallery or boutique”. Perhaps your 6-­month goal will be to send out 10 packets to galleries where your work would be appropriate. Or maybe you’ll tell yourself “I will set up an Etsy shop before the holiday season”. After that your next goal could be I hope to have             (fill in the blank) amount of sales or earn            amount of money. And, be realistic. If you’re selling earrings for $2 you’ll have to make a lot of jewelry to earn a million dollars. Set small attainable goals and when you reach them  re-address and adjust your next set of goals.


2.   To be successful and achieve the goals listed above I need to work             hours a day/week.

Be real. If you’re working a 9-­‐5 day job you aren’t going to be able to dedicate every waking moment to making art. Remember, reasonable goals are achievable goals. Perhaps a reasonable goal would be to work on your art for one hour after dinner when the kids have gone to bed. Perhaps you make an extra casserole on Sunday, which in turn keeps you out of the kitchen on Monday. Forget the housework and do something for yourself. Remember being nice to you isn’t selfish. Like anything worth waiting for developing a career as an artist takes time, cultivation, and a whole lot of hard work.

3.   What will I do with my product once it’s created?

And no, storing it behind the couch is not an acceptable answer. Where can people buy your work? For me Etsy has been a great option. They charge low fees and your work will be seen by international audience 24/7. You’ll need to photograph your work, write a description and figure out a price and with a few clicks your art will be available to the world.



Another one of my favorite tools in discovering new sources to show and sell my work is The Artists and Designers Marketplace. I buy a new copy every year and quickly fold pages and mark it up with a highlighter marker. I always share my copy with my students at the college where I teach. There’s also an online version where you can gain quick access to the contact information and submission guidelines for more than 1700 publishers, galleries, art fairs & ad agencies. With the help of this book you’ll learn how to submit to or contact a publisher or gallery successfully.

Artist's Market 2013

And let me remind you before you start sending out inquiries, that having thick skin comes with being a seasoned artist. You are probably going to hear no a lot more than you hear yes but don’t let it get you down. Simply dust yourself off and move on to the next potential opportunity. Art is subjective. One man’s trash is another man’s masterpiece. Being an artist takes confidence and determination. And if you do get a response where somebody wants to sell your work another favorite resource is the Graphic Artists Guild Handbook: Pricing and Ethical Guidelines which lists information on pricing your work and even has sample contracts. I know it’s aimed at graphic designers but it’s very handy for artists too.

Handbook of ethical guidelines

4.   And finally, share your ups and downs on your blog.

If something worked for you, share it. If something you tried totally bombed, share that too. Perhaps your experiences are a great learning opportunity for you and your fellow artists. You could even ask your audience which line of work they prefer and why and allow them to be engaged. You’ll make great connections and in the process may receive great feedback.

For some of you asking yourself the above questions may allow you to discover that you’ve already arrived. Congratulations! Maybe by asking yourself the right questions you’ve discovered that you live in decent house, have a car that gets you from point A to B and selling your art provides fun money and in your eyes you’ve made it. Or perhaps you’re selling enough work online which enables you to take a wonderful vacation, then you’ve made it too. Remember, only you can determine your benchmark for artistic success.


Victoria Rose Martin is an artist and designer currently living in South Florida. She is the Department Chair for Fine Art and Graphic Design at Palm Beach State College in Lake Worth, Florida. You can visit her website at:

2013-Artist-and-Graphic-Designers-Market_160For more about the 2013 Artist’s and Graphic Designer’s Market, click here.






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