Paul Klein on How to Succeed as an Artist

Mumora Team

What does success mean to you? People get into art for a huge variety of reasons, and 90% of the time that reason isn’t money.

Money is a symbol of things our society values, and is undoubtedly necessary for making a living. But it might not be the main thing you’re striving for. Is it fame? Attention? Making a certain statement?

I recently ran across an amazing talk art activist and professor Paul Klein gave on how to succeed as an artist. While I watched the video, I took notes on some of the points I thought were important for artists (think of this as a cheat sheet).

Here are a few of his main points of emphasis:

- Decide what art villages you want to be part of.

Which villages do you not want to be part of? Paul talks about art villages as artist subcultures. These could be either physical subcultures or more of just a matter of your personal identity as an artist.

Paul refers to being open to do commission work as one village, being part of the big gallery system another, etc.

- Apply the creativity you bring to your artwork to your career.

You’re creative by nature. That’s your strong suit. So let your creativity shine through to all areas of your life and business.

- Understand the difference between vision and strategy.

While your vision is made up of your core reasons for being an artist, strategy is the means by which you move toward it. One is negotiable while the other isn’t.

- Stop thinking of the obstacles preventing you from being successful in the art world.

According to Paul, the only obstacles in the art world are a.) obstacles you put in front of yourself or b.) obstacles resulting from your lack of knowledge.

In the art world, it’s not about training to master certain specific skills. It’s about training to become more and more yourself.

And finally, when it comes to making art, here are Paul’s 3 most important things to keep in mind:

1. Be distinctive.

Be honest. Be yourself. Be authentic. As an artist you don’t really want your work to resemble someone else’s work. If your work looks a lot like another artists’ work, people will remember that artist instead of you.

2. Get your ass in the game.

Get engaged with the community. People aren’t going to come to you.

3. Make good art.


Watch the full talk here:

What are other key things you think are important to be successful? Please share your thoughts below. 

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