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Finding Success as a Visual Artist

Updated on October 28, 2012

Work Examples

6 Faces. Oil on canvas. From Supermodels Series 2008
6 Faces. Oil on canvas. From Supermodels Series 2008 | Source
Smoker. Oil on canvas. From Supermodels Series 2008
Smoker. Oil on canvas. From Supermodels Series 2008 | Source

Art Success

I started my career as a visual artist in 2005 when I made the conscious decision to move from working in the pharmaceutical industry to working for myself. Some would say it was somewhat of a crazy decision!The point is, that up until that point, I had a very clear idea of what success meant to me. I had a very clear idea of what it took to get there. When I left the pharmaceutical industry, I had to re-evaluate my definition of success as this was the only way I would be able to continue on as an artist without completely losing my mind!

Success and Money

I was a very well trained sales person. I worked as a pharmaceutical sales representative, a hospital specialist and a key account manager for two major pharmaceutical companies. I was trained to set myself targets in terms of the number of units I sold- which was further broken down into targets for visits with medical professionals. The point I am making is that all of the targets set were very much sales orientated. Success was about money. The job was glamorous and my friends and family saw me as a "success," because of the fact that I appeared to be on my way to attaining many of the trappings of material success. I enjoyed the work and relished the challenges associated with it.


I have always had a love for the visual arts. Ever since I can remember, I considered myself an artist. I just never thought anyone would be interested in what I was producing. I did it for my own enjoyment. I joined the pharmaceutical industry in 2000, a few months after graduating from university. That same year, I was diagnosed with endometriosis. Essentially, it is a female condition which causes quite debilitating pain. I fought with my body until 2006. My body clearly did not like the challenge. Friends and family started to notice my work in around 2005. People started to offer me money for it! It was at this point that I decided to make a go of it. Nothing better than following a genuine child hood passion! After making the switch from pharmaceuticals to art, I decided to set up my career in much the same way as I did when I worked in the pharmaceutical industry, by completing a complicated business plan and setting targets.

Début Show

By the time of my first exhibition in 2006, I thought I was so organised! I had a business development manager, my sister was my PR person and we had secured a venue for the show. I made the work in a few months. We thought that if we invited people and had lots of media exposure, people would come and they would buy work. We were wrong! Although people did come, I did not sell a single painting at the show. Sales came later, but not for the big works that I produced for shows. For smaller pieces ..

Art Success Series

As time went on, I started to network quite heavily with other artists, both on and offline. I would have conversations with with them, mostly about their journeys and about success in the art world. In 2011, I started to become ill again. I had done pretty well keeping my little monster in my belly at bay until then. Enough to get on with making work and doing exhibitions. Something was different about this time and it was very bad. Between summer of 2011 and April of 2012, I was in and out of hospital every month. Even morphine drips did could not numb the pain enough for me to get some respite. Anyway,I decided to formalise the conversations I was having about success and came up with the idea for the Art Success series of interviews just before I started getting ill again. I conducted my first interview and it went from there. I kept the interviews up in between hospital stays.

Now, coming to the end of October 2012, I have accumulated more than 30 artist interviews. I have interviewed people across a range of backgrounds and career stages within the field of fine art. This means I have spoken to some well established and relatively famous artists as well as artists who are considered emerging. By speaking openly about the lives, challenges and accomplishments of various artists, I hope to get some insight which others, including myself can learn from. I am interviewing artists at different career stages and from a variety of backgrounds in order to get as much information as possible. To date I have interviewed the likes of Harold Klunder, Tim Okamura, Ruud van Empel, Romauld Hazoume, Rene Cox and Ben H. Summers. It has been an interesting and insightful journey so far! I publish at least one interview a month on my blog, an art blog called Contemporary and Modern Art and a print magazine called Lime, which is distributed in the UK. My website is linked in my profile box, you can get to my blog from there for the interviews...

Lessons Learned

So far, I have learned a hell of a lot from my eclectic mix of artists. My investigation is leading me to places and people I did not expect... Obviously, just like with every other career, everyone has their own unique journey. Everyone has their path. No one can replicate another persons career in order to attain the same level of success. It does not work like that unfortunately! However, I have picked up some very useful tips. In every interview, I always ask the artist to tell me what advice they would give to someone who wished to follow in their footsteps. All of the artists obviously speak from their perspective, but the one piece of advice that seems to crop up more often than any other is belief. Belief in oneself, belief in ones work. That, combined with a burning desire and passion to fulfil ones dreams.

Not everyone gets to the promise land through the traditional gallery route and not every artist is particularly suitable for that route. I have found that sometimes, artists whom I consider to be successful, do not necessarily consider themselves to be successful and I have also found that artists whom I do not consider to be successful in the “traditional” sense, consider themselves to be successful- by their very personal definition of success. All of these things are interesting to me as are the perceptions of minority artists when it comes to discrimination within the art world. Those who are pushing boundaries and making a way for themselves despite what some may see as very real barriers to entry, simply do not see those barriers and continue to make a path for themselves despite the barriers which seem very apparent to others- stopping them from even trying.

I am learning an awful lot. I will use this hub to discuss interviews as I do them and to chart my own journey in a more personal way than I do on my own blog. Feel free to check out my blog for the interviews and of course, feel free to check out my art work which can be found in the gallery section of my website.

To success!


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    • adelaidewrites profile image

      Adelaide Damoah 5 years ago from Kent

      Thanks very much!

    • Jennifer Sides profile image

      Jennifer Sides 5 years ago from Edmonton

      Good luck to you!