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Artist Checklist For Success

My art journey began in 2002 after an emotional crisis pushed me to enrol into a portfolio preparation course at a small art school at the age of 32. The next year I was accepted into a 5 year MA Fine Art programme split between Edinburgh College of Art & Edinburgh University proving that you’re never too old to follow your dreams. I was 38 when I graduated so I was well aware that I did not have time on my side. Below is a list of things I’ve learned over the years that helped me to eventually become a full time artist in 2015 and then to my cryptoart adventure in 2017/18. 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. 

TIPS TO BECOMING A MORE SUCCESSFUL (NFT) ARTIST

  1. Continue to study & learn. Artist’s never retire and they never stop exploring.
  2. Don’t be afraid to experiment with new mediums – physical and digital.
  3. Develop/investigate new ways to 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. Get comfortable destroying a piece (digital or physical) to find new ways to ‘bring it back’.
  6. You learn the most from your mistakes.
  7. Focus your work on themes (ideally for years) or at the very least make art in a series. Successful artists have something important to say and it’s much more effective to get complex and meaningful messages across through multiple pieces, solo exhibitions, and life long investigation, exploration and creation.
  8. Continuity is important as otherwise you may confuse potential buyers/patrons.
  9. Develop your own style that is recognisable throughout your work but continue to experiment and expand your visual language.
  10. Create an exciting and relevant USP.
  11. Learn from other artists, past and present, but don’t simply copy. Create your own style 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 now and I’m creating artwork for today and the future!”.
  12. Watch the HBO documentary ‘The Price of Everything’.
  13. Build an awesome website. True, most people will discover and admire your art on your social channels but your website is curated specifically for people to visit to quickly get to know you and your story. It adds another level of professionalism.
  14. Find other artist websites that you like and learn from them.
  15. Only put your best work on your website. Less is more.
  16. Quality over quantity.
  17. Don’t mint every single thing you produce. Yes, I know, Picasso created over 50,000 artworks and he did alright but unless you’re the reincarnation of the genius Picasso with the backing of the entire art establishment then I would suggest being a bit more selective in what you create with the intent to sell.
  18. 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 traditional artists and the institutions of the legacy art world.
  19. Don’t try to write about your artwork in an art historical context if you’re not an art history major.
  20. Don’t make up an ‘ism’ to describe your art. Leave that to the art critics and historians after you become famous.
  21. Feel free to write about your creative processes and your inspirations.
  22. Drink wine.
  23. Study other successful artists of various disciplines.
  24. Study other successful people in general.
  25. 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. You never know where a series of individual achievements may take you.
  26. Take constructive criticism with grace but ignore that which isn’t relevant to you… but be honest with yourself when processing the criticism, even if it hurts.
  27. Don’t take art advice from your friends or family if they aren’t artists or involved in the art world.
  28. Be aware that just because your latest artwork you posted on social media attracted a lot of likes doesn’t means that it’s actually any good and vice versa.
  29. 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 and/or as an individual.
  30. Organise a solo or group IRL exhibition as you’ll learn important lessons; organisational skills, management, advertising and marketing etc.
  31. Work with honesty and integrity.
  32. Always give credit where credit is due.
  33. Dedicate your free time to artistic pursuits.
    1. visit galleries – commercial and national museums
    2. read artist biographies
    3. study the history of art
  34. Study the great masters.
  35. Study what the more successful artists are doing in the NFT space and really contemplate why you think their work is popular. Try to be objective. Don’t copy these artists’ styles but study what they do, how they work on social media, what themes they focus on, what is their background and education?
  36. Always be true to yourself when you’re creating your art. Don’t make art simply because you think a particular ‘style’ will be more popular and will sell. This isn’t true creativity, this is production. Saying that, it’s still possible to be true to yourself and to be flexible enough in your processes that you can shape your work, that which is important to you as a creative individual, in such a way that it will attract more attention. Think deeply about this.
  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 career like a business.
  40. Make intelligent and strategic decisions, think long term 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. Use social media negativity to drive you to work harder. People can be mean online and it hurts but if you can embrace these feelings and turn them into fuel to motivate you to work even harder you will always win.
  48. 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. 
  49. 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 work tomorrow.
  50. At the end of the day, if you put absolutely everything into your art and you’re exceptionally proud of what you’ve 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.
  51. Be aware that the vast majority of successful (financially independent) artist’s careers have taken decades rather than a couple of years to achieve. 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.
  52. 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. Jealousy sucks regardless of whether it’s your own jealousy of other artists or that of others’ aimed towards you. In most cases, the best thing you can do is keep your mouth shut, your head down and focus on your work.
  53. Don’t let jealousy override you from learning from other artists.
  54. Build your brand.
  55. Build a community around your work and your brand.
  56. Set up a Discord and find a couple people who would like to help you as Mods/Admins.
  57. Host or participate in productive and engaging Twitter Spaces.
  58. Don’t get involved in online bitchfests. They’re very rarely productive and it’s not good for the soul.
  59. Research marketing skills and apply them even if you hate this part.
  60. Generate publicity whenever possible.
  61. Network whenever you can.
  62. Go to NFT and crypto conferences. I completely understand that this can be very difficult if you’re shy and introverted but it’s incredibly important to meet other artists and collectors IRL. Everything is difficult at first but it does get easier with time and practice.
  63. Push yourself out of your comfort zone whenever you can. For example, not that many years ago I would never, ever speak in public. It frightened me to death! It’s still not easy for me but I am much better now dealing with it and this skill has been instrumental in my success in a lot of ways.
  64. Build a crypto media email contact list.
  65. Get to know some crypto journalists.
  66. Learn how to write a good press release.
  67. Invest as much time and money as possible into your art practice and your education.
  68. If you won’t invest everything you can into yourself and your art career then why should someone else invest in you?
  69. Show your work at crypto conferences.
  70. Learn how to speak about your art. Admittedly, I really don’t like this part but if you can speak about your work effectively it puts you at an advantage over others because most artists hate this as well. Practice talking about your art with your family or friends.
  71. Organise an exhibition for charity.
  72. Creating artwork in return for ‘exposure’ is fine if you’re just starting out. At some point though you’ll need to put your foot down and say ‘no more’.
  73. Support other hardworking, honest artists regardless of how successful you become. 
  74. Prepare yourself for years of hard work and long days.
  75. Prepare yourself for huge sacrifice and single mindedness.
  76. Ideally you will have a very supportive, understanding partner as being an artist is, in general, a selfish career path.
  77. 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.
  78. Don’t let new ‘flash in the pan’ trends affect your work, themes and direction. Do your best to keep on top of what’s happening in the NFT/digital/art space but if you’re always chasing what’s ‘hot’ to try to reproduce it you’ll never create what is uniquely you.
  79. Drink wine often. 🍷🍷
  80. Aspire to be more like Alotta_Money

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