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Artist Checklist For Success

My art journey began in 2002 after an emotional crisis pushed me to enrol into a small art school (portfolio preparation course) at the age of 32. The next year I was accepted into a 5 year Fine Art programme at Edinburgh College of Art proving that you’re never too old to follow your dreams. Below is a list of things I’ve learned over the years that helped me to eventually become a full time artist in 2015. I apologise now that this list does not promise the secrets to becoming rich and famous quickly.

I believe that many of the lessons I’ve learned about how to survive in the traditional art world through long hours and long days, taking risks, creating unique work, reading and researching, trial and error and mostly out right stubbornness are transferable to the NFT/digital art space.

It’s not an exhaustive list and I’ll add to it as I continue to learn. Of course, there are always exceptions to every rule. Everyone is different. Have a look over it, take what you like and ignore the rest. 

HOW TO BECOME A MORE SUCCESSFUL (NFT) ARTIST

  1. Master your art form.
  2. Continue to study & learn. 
  3. Push your artistic limits and always be open to new ideas.
  4. Try to work with artists who are more skilled and experienced than you.
  5. Don’t be precious about your work. Learn how to get comfortable destroying a piece (digital or physical) to find new ways to ‘bring it back’.
  6. If you’ve never pushed a work far enough that you completely destroyed it, you’re not pushing yourself hard enough.
  7. You learn the most from your mistakes.
  8. Focus your work on a theme that should last at least a year minimum and preferably a lot longer. 
  9. Continuity is important as otherwise you may confuse potential buyers/patrons.
  10. Develop your own style that is recognisable throughout your work.
  11. Create an exciting and relevant USP.
  12. Learn from other artists, past and present, but don’t simply copy. Create your own style (USP) that is relevant and meaningful for today. Your work needs to shout, “I’ve learned from and am inspired by great artists but this is 2022 and I’m creating artwork for now and the future!”
  13. Watch the HBO documentary ‘The Price of Everything’.
  14. Build an awesome website.
  15. Find other artist websites that you like and learn from them.
  16. Only put your absolute best work on your website. Less is more.
  17. Quality over quantity. 
  18. Scarcity is key. There are always exceptions but if you choose ‘mass production’ over exhibiting only your absolute best work then you should be able to explain why this creative process is relevant to you and your work.
  19. Just because there is a lot of hype around the digital and NFT space at the moment don’t discount the lessons and knowledge you could learn from contemporary artists and the institutions from the legacy art world.
  20. Don’t try to write about your artwork in an art historical context if you’re not an art history major. You’ll eventually get caught out.
  21. Don’t make up an ‘ism to describe your art. Leave that to the art critics and historians after you become famous.
  22. Write about your creative processes and your inspirations.
  23. Drink wine.
  24. Study other successful artists of various disciplines.
  25. Study other successful people in general.
  26. Define what success means to you. If being a full time artist isn’t the long term goal, still write down what your goals are and aim for them.
  27. Take constructive criticism with grace but ignore that which isn’t relevant to you.
  28. Don’t take art advice from your friends or family if they aren’t artists
  29. Be aware that just because your latest artwork you put on social media attracted a lot of likes doesn’t means that it’s actually any good and vice versa.
  30. It’s not always possible but you should aim to improve in one or more ways with each and every work/series of works you create – be conscious of these changes, write them down if you like and revisit them in the future to see how much you’ve grown as an artist.
  31. Organise a solo or group physical exhibition as you’ll learn important lessons, organisational skills, marketing, etc that will be transferable to the digital world.
  32. Work with honesty and integrity.
  33. Always give credit where credit is due.
  34. Dedicate your free time to artistic pursuits.
    1. visit galleries
    2. read artist biographies
    3. study the history of art
  35. Study the great masters.
  36. Study what the more successful artists are doing in the space and write down why you think their work is popular. Try to be objective. Don’t copy these artists but study what they do, how they work on social media, what themes they focus on, what is their background and education?
  37. Find a mentor but remember it’s not a one way street, mentoring can be time consuming, so what can you offer in return as the ‘apprentice’?
  38. Collaborate with other artists especially artists with completely different styles and skills sets than you have.  
  39. Treat your art like a business.
  40. Make intelligent and strategic decisions but be ready to adapt if necessary.
  41. Be efficient with your time. Make lists and tick off at least a couple things every day.
  42. Spend less time on social media and more time developing ideas and skills.
  43. Set achievable goals and write them down: daily, monthly, annually and so on.
  44. Don’t beat yourself up if you don’t achieve every goal. Re-evaluate and continue.
  45. Remember that almost every successful artist has built their career on mostly one step forward and two (or three) steps back days.
  46. Use rejection to drive you to work harder. There will be a lot so don’t give up!
  47. Don’t blame others when you think you’ve failed. Life can be cruel. We all have privileges AND disadvantages (Some people have more privilege but it is what it is) and at the end of the day, the buck stops with you. 
  48. If your recent NFT drop wasn’t as successful as you had hoped try to be as objective as possible to understand what really happened. Write down all the things that you could have improved on as well as the things that could have affected the sale that were out of your control. Re-evaluate, try not to be overly distraught but do your best to learn from the experience. Have a glass of wine or two, reread these tips, and get back to the studio tomorrow.
  49. At the end of the day, if you put absolutely everything into the artwork and you’re exceptionally proud of what you created and how your piece(s), concepts and themes have developed it doesn’t matter if the drop didn’t achieve the financial success you’d hoped for. You will always have something beautiful and meaningful that no one can take away from you.
  50. Be aware that in over 95% of all financially independent artist’s careers it has taken decades rather than a few years to achieve any kind of real success. To be honest, there is no guarantee of financial success as an artist so you do it and you sacrifice because this is who you are. I know this is difficult to hear especially in this crazy NFT space right now but prepare for the long term and keep learning, building, growing, and creating regardless. Your time will come if you’re ambitious and disciplined, dedicated and patient.
  51. As you become more successful be prepared to take the occasional shot from those who aren’t as enthusiastic about your success as you are.
  52. Build your brand.
  53. Research marketing skills and apply them even if you hate this part.
  54. Generate publicity whenever possible.
  55. Network whenever you can.
  56. Build a crypto media email contact list.
  57. Make friends with crypto journalists.
  58. Learn how to write a good press release.
  59. Organise an exhibition or giveaway for charity.
  60. Invest as much time and money as possible into your art practice and your education.
  61. If you won’t invest everything you can into yourself and your art career then why should someone else invest in you?
  62. Show your work at crypto conferences. 
  63. Hope for the best, prepare for the worst.
  64. Support other hardworking, honest artists regardless of how successful you become.
  65. Don’t let jealousy override you from learning from other artists. 
  66. Prepare yourself for years of hard work and long days.
  67. Prepare yourself for huge sacrifice and single mindedness.
  68. Ideally you will have a very supportive, understanding partner as being an artist is, in general, a selfish career path.
  69. No one ever became great at anything by practicing a day or two a week. If you want to be the absolute best artist that you can be, at some point you’ll need to take that leap of faith and go full time.
  70. Don’t let new ‘flash in the pan’ trends affect your work, themes and direction. Do you best to keep on top of what’s happening in the NFT space but if you’re always chasing what’s ‘hot’ to try to reproduce it you’ll never create what is uniquely you.
  71. Drink wine often.

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