Five Mindset Keys for Success as an Artist

When I started on my art journey in 2007, I had no idea where it would take me. Along the way, I’ve met a lot of artists, some successful, some not. I’ve been a student, an amateur, and I’ve met a lot of other students and amateurs along the way. Some of which transitioned into successful artists while others did not. 

So what’s the secret? Mindset. I believe there are notable differences in the mindset of the successful artists/students and the unsuccessful ones. Here’s what I’ve discovered that determines whether or not you’ll be successful as an artist. 

A photo of an original oil painting on panel of a floral still life of lilacs and lemon in a glass vase.
Lilacs and Lemon, 14″x11″, oil on panel
  1. OPEN.  You need to be open. Being open to learn, open to ask questions, open for opportunities, open for business, open to help and share, open to looking foolish, open to failure, open to compliment and acknowledge others will guide you through to success. Unsuccessful artists close up all the time. They’re not adaptable. They don’t want to learn or try something new. They’re full of ego and afraid to look foolish in front of anyone.
  2. DETERMINED. If you’re determined to improve your skills, willing to work hard and keep showing up even through failure after failure, you, my friend will succeed. It will take most people a ton of grit and determination to succeed in art. This doesn’t mean that you don’t experience pain when you get knocked down, but that you’re so determined to see your dream come true you’ll get back up and keep trying. They constantly seek to improve. They set goals and are determined to reach them.
  3. OBJECTIVE. The most successful professional artists are always objective about where they are in their development. Meaning that they are not self-deprecating, but they also don’t think they’re better than they are. I can’t count how many artists I’ve met that really didn’t have the chops yet, but thought they did. An amateur always thinks they know more than they do. They stop studying with masters in their field and cuddle up in a warm blanket of self-satisfaction and ego. Successful artists always look to a master who’s skill set they know they haven’t achieved yet (even if it’s a dead guy like Rembrandt) as a benchmark of achievement. They don’t just compare themselves to their peers, but have a higher vision and standard at which they’re constantly working towards.
  4. CONFIDENT. This may seem contradictory to my above statement but it’s not. Confidence doesn’t mean that you know it all. It doesn’t mean that you’re self satisfied, arrogant or egotistical. Successful artists I’ve met though always have confidence about them. They’ve spent time thinking about their ideas on art and aren’t afraid to discuss those with other artists. They’re confident in their abilities, the direction they are going, their purpose, vision and mission as an artist. There’s not much that could ever shake them into walking away from their path as an artist. Whereas unsuccessful artists and students I’ve met are like leaves blowing in the wind. Any little rejection, criticism or failed painting can rock their artistic dreamboat. 
  5. GENEROUS. Every successful artist I’ve ever met has been generous with their knowledge and praise for others. I think this is because they truly feel secure in their own gifts and talents and aren’t worried about someone one upping them. Be generous, but don’t be a doormat. 
A photo of an original oil painting on panel of pink, ivory, and peach roses.
L’amour Rose, 16″ x 12″, oil on panel
A photo of an original oil painting on panel of a still life painting of white daisies and blue jar.
The Daisies Were Right, 11″ x 14″, oil on panel

Love in Light, Kelli

9 thoughts on “Five Mindset Keys for Success as an Artist

  1. Brilliant distillation of what a successful artist is. My late dad would call it “mental toughness,” the confidence and determination to see yourself through to the finish line. Generosity and openness should be almost happy by-products of this. Objectivity takes an incredible amount of mental toughness.

  2. Oh I’m so happy to hear this Anita! You’re so welcome. I’m grateful it helped.

  3. Thank you so much Kelli for these tips. I have printed them and I am keeping them next to my easel for the times I need a boost!

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