Do you have art career clarity?

Art Career Clarity


Gaining clarity can make the difference between a marginally and a highly successful result for your art career. Can you easily describe how your career will look in one year? What about in five years, or oh my goodness, ten years?

Or, do your thoughts resolve to vague notions of how things are going with not much more than hope things will pan out?

If you are missing clarity from your art career, you are not alone.

Many artists’ careers are either stuck in a malaise of ill-conceived plans, unrealistic plans, or no plans at all. Without clarity, the forecast for their future is cloudy, bleak, and unfulfilled.

Problems compound the longer artists continue in ambiguity around their art career. Lack of clarity leads to careers that flounder, sales and recognition that stifle, and vastly increased odds an art career will hit the skids and eventually cease to be.

How to Find Art Collectors: A Trout Fishing Analogy
How to Find Art Collectors: A Trout Fishing Analogy



Sounds scary, right? That’s the intention…to shake you up.

If you care about your future, you have to plan for it and not just let it happen. If you have avoided getting serious about detailing plans for your future, you need to start now.

No matter where you are now – whether just beginning, in mid-career, or well-established – clear plans are the key to your success. Acting on them allows you to get the most for your career and secure it to the best of your ability. You will find everything you do in your career becomes markedly easier and more attainable with clarity on your side.

So what is clarity? adroitly puts it this way: clearness or lucidity as to perception or understanding; freedom from indistinctness or ambiguity.

The description of clarity when applied to your art career is powerful.

Do you have clearness and lucidity in how you perceive your career? Do you revel in the freedom from indistinctness and ambiguity when it comes to your career plans?

Do you have a clear perception of yourself as an artist? Do you have a vision for how you want your art career to unfold? Do you have a solid marketing plan that gets your art seen and sold? Count your blessings if you answered yes.

How to Find Art Collectors: A Trout Fishing Analogy
How to Find Art Collectors: A Trout Fishing Analogy



Lack of clarity is not just an affliction for artists.

Many of us float through life. We go to school, get a job, marry someone, have careers, and kids. We try to climb some corporate ladder without taking stock of what wall the ladder leans on.

How many people do you know who are wearing the proverbial golden handcuffs. You know a career with great benefits, other perks, and steady income that keeps them glued to some soul sucking job. To keep up, they run as fast as they can to stay on the material life merry go round.

Don’t get me wrong, a regular job is not all bad.

Working at a grind is sometimes unavoidable. In fact, it is downright noble and a good thing to take care of your family; to work to keep them safe; to sacrifice to give them a great life. So do not beat yourself up if you are on a full-time day job, and part-time artist path.

I could be talking about myself here.

I’ve been there; always just managing to spit out the Kool-Aid and still doing an admirable job while giving up so much control of my schedule by working for the man. I freely admit for decades I traded my time for a significant income and benefits.

On the upside, because I worked in the art marketing, picture framing and art retail publishing and tradeshow business, I can easily say I gained many friends, and had untold enjoyable, memorable events and moments from that experience. In fact, I would not be writing this today were it not for the knowledge and insights I gained doing that job. Sometimes things happen because they lead you to a better path.

Nevertheless, for two decades, I suffered from ambiguity about what was next and had no alternate plans. Nailing down $150k plus, year after year, dulled me, lulled me, and made me too comfortable to consider jumping ship. Unfortunately, that Good Ship Lollipop went under when magazine publishing and the tradeshow businesses were decimated taking my career and big income with it.

It took more than merely moving my cheese for clarity to sink in for me. It took a realization that they didn’t just move the cheese, they freaking took the cheese. It was gone, gone, gone.

When that eye-opening and nothing less than devastating situation set in and coupled with the wisdom of what getting older really means – that I was no longer a kid who could get a fresh start after fresh start – is was then the need for clarity in my life and career became unavoidably obvious.

I am writing this to help you avoid getting hit with a big stick.

What I am saying is it took getting hit on the head with a really big stick to get me to to understand the need for clarity and to do something about it. I am writing this post to help you avoid having to suffer such a shock before you get yourself on track with clear art career intentions and plans to fulfill them.

Deciding on a job to further a career.

Ultimately, I decided to find a 9 to 5, Monday to Friday job that paid decent offered great benefits, and would require zero thought and energy when not at work. In other words, I never take the work home. Thus, leaving me time to work on my real career.

The problem with doing this is in being seriously overqualified to do the work. It chips away at you even though it is not a career, but just a job with a means to an end. One benefit, if you can call it that, is the chipping away keeps the urgency at full blast to quickly build the real career to full-time status.

Clarity led me to take that job, and gave me the zen to not buy in the daily drama of why working for the man sucks.

Once I knew what I wanted to do with my career for the rest of my life, I knew the best thing to do was find the interim job that covered my family and me with needed health benefits, but that was also one I would leave me time to work at my real career.

That career is this one where I am composing this post today. It is about helping artists, writing books, penning posts, creating webinars, and finding new, inventive ways to help you get your art to market.

I am on a mission to steadily improve my own career and that of those who follow me, and who seek my advice. With my passion and clear intentions aligned, making good decisions about what to do next comes easy.

I am clear on where I am headed now.

I am thrilled to say sometime this fall I will move full-time to my working at fulfilling my career goals  – this is none too soon for sure!

The thing is if you lack clarity, you may escape your day job, but success will elude you.

Even if you do get away, or already have, without a clear vision and action to back it up, you will not meet your potential. It does not matter whether your art career is already full-time, or if you have designs of joining those ranks in the future. Only with clarity can you focus on getting the best from your capabilities.

We are all here for only a short time. Make the most of yours.

To get the most of the time you have for your art career, you need clear, realistic goals. You need to take determined, scheduled action to see them to fruition. You need to make art people want to buy.

If you suffer from ambiguity in your career, it is time to stop everything you are doing get a grip on what is important to it. Sometimes the only way you can make this happen is to get off the treadmill temporarily. That means stop doing anything extracurricular that takes your time away from strategizing, planning and working on your career.

To get art career clarity, you may need a break from your routine.

Taking a break from your career may just be the best thing you can do for yourself and your art career.

To get clarity, you might need to quit the part-time work, shutter your studio temporarily, or completely get away for a retreat. For sure, you have to learn to stop all those unnecessary scripts running in your head. You know the ones I’m talking about.

They might be baggage from your childhood. They might be self-induced negative thoughts sapping your confidence and self-perception. They might be unfocused, unrealistic expectations about what is both best and potential for your art career. Whatever they are, they run your life in ways that are not productive and are just plain unhealthy for you.

To rid yourself of these scripts, you need to take steps to rejuvenate you physically, emotionally, and financially. Make this a priority. Get professional advice if necessary. A trained psychologist or psychiatrist can do wonders for helping you lift the fog and get focus.

I have seen wonders on accomplished friends who I would not have guessed would benefit from mental health guidance.

Some friends I know surprised themselves and me by tapping into the mental health system. They found that within a few sessions they gained new, remarkable and healthy perspectives on how to manage their lives. These were high performers with no visible notion of needing help. They just thought they could be doing greater things with their lives and used all available resources, including mental health practitioners to get them there. In each case, greater clarity and focus were the outcome, and with the pleasant byproduct of improved overall sense of well-being and happiness.

Get yourself to a place where you can step back and do some serious soul searching. Examine what you have been doing, what you are capable of doing, and take stock of where you want to go. Learn what you are good at doing, what you need to improve, where you might need the help of someone else to help you fulfill your art career aspirations. Just doing this kind of mental housecleaning will do wonders for your outlook and psyche.

How far are you from gaining art career clarity?

You need to determine how wide the gap is between the reality of your current situation and what you truly want and are capable of achieving in your art career. Equally important, you need to make sure the plans you make to lift yourself out of your present state of affairs are doable.

If you set unattainable goals based on unrealistic assumptions about your capabilities, you will go in reverse from working towards clarity to creating a murky, depressing quagmire for your art career plans. You do not deserve such an outcome.

And, neither does anyone who loves you and supports you.

Has the importance of having clarity around your art career plans begun to set in? I hope so.

The point of writing this post is to encourage you to challenge yourself on what is truly important. Make your motto the same as the one the late Stephen Covey brilliantly, succinctly, and powerfully said when he talked about focusing on what is truly important, “Keep the main thing the main thing.”

To get the clarity we are talking about here, you may need nothing more than a boot in the caboose from this post to start turning things around. Some of you might tap a mental health professional to get an unbiased, trained opinion on how to get on track, shed bad habits, and focus on the right things.

If you have a buy-in here for what I am preaching, then get moving to put clarity at the top of your to-do list. It is never too late to start. The only shame is the waste that comes from not starting at all.

Get started today.

Commit to yourself to start working on gaining art career clarity now. Don’t stall by convening a committee of you, yourself and I in your head to investigate whether this is a good idea, and when you should start, and what you will need, and how to fit it into your schedule, and will others accept what you are doing, and is this truly crucial… and on and on ad nauseam. Stop that crap script already. Instead, just do it!

Previous Successful Art Careers Posts

  1. Art Career | Can I Help You Do Something With Yours!
  2. Successful Art Careers | How to Make Yours Happen | Part Two
  3. Successful Art Careers | Marketing Art Effectively | Part Three
  4. Successful Art Careers | Grow Where You Are Planted | Part Four
  5. Successful Art Careers | The Curse of Thinking Small | Part Five
  6. Successful Art Careers | Using the Rule of Three | Part Six
  7. Successful Art Careers | Artistic Courage | Part Seven
  8. Successful Art Careers | Warm Art Marketing | Part Eight
  9. Successful Art Careers | Perspective | Part Nine
  10. Successful Art Careers | Networking | Part Ten
  11. Successful Art Careers | The Art of Slight Celebrity | Part Eleven

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art careers, artist career, Careers Clarity, Careers Planning, marketing art

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  • All I can say is “wow”. My new mantra is “clarity”. (I will add one more – “focus”.) See you and Jason on Thursday.

  • Hi Barney, I am signing up for your recent workshop because I really need help with marketing. I plug away at doing this and that with social media etc…but, still little results. Collectors where are you?
    Anyway thank you for your desire to help us struggling artists and offering your services at a reasonable price.

  • Good article, Barney. Question: What ever happened to the “Art Agent”? For those of us whose energy is directed to producing art and not selling it, who is available to do the marketing?

    Of course, we are willing, ready and anxious to pay the agent fee.

    • Art agents were never in large supply. I think these days they are more in short supply than ever. There are some around. The best way to find them is to contact galleries whose work and business model you admire. Ask them if they have contacts with reputable art agents. Otherwise, it is hit and miss. The internet still offers easy-to-use research, you just have to dig as with so many other useful things.

  • Thank you, Barney, for the continued encouragement. I understand the feeling of the soul destroying ‘day job’. I have a part time one at present, but it is not going to be long term – I keep hoping they will eventually get to the part where my skills are no longer needed. Your words are a good kick to not let up on the work of building my art career. I think I am headed in the right direction for me to make progress now.

  • Barney,
    As usual, a post that strikes home – right to the heart for many – and one which does it with clarity. Your personal journey and present goal to establish the new “career” is empowering, but requires determination and willingness to work countless hours beyond “bread and butter” time. The WARNING i’d add is that unless the cost to one’s health – physical and spiritual – personal relationships and quality of life must not just be considered, but given priority. Ultimately life is not about getting – it is about giving – something you do so generously.

    As a vet provided medical care by the skillful and caring doctors and techs at the VA who are being tarred with the same broad brush the media is using to call attention to the shortcomings of a limited number of greedy people in an unwieldy bureaucracy who use the system to earn bonuses to make their performance seem not what it really is. For that minority the “reward” became the goal not their “responsibility” to do their best for those they owed their own personal best.

    I’ve never known you to violate that kind of trust, and never expect to, but I worry about the personal cost to YOU coping with a schedule beyond the capacity of several people.

    • Dick, Thank you for your kind words and wisdom. Your concerns about me are heartfelt and deeply appreciated. Your insights into the sacrifices one pays to make dramatic changes in their lives are spot on. I work hard, but reserve time to goof off and just veg on mindless occupations to mundane to mention. It’s sort of like flipping the switch off on things. I like sports, but don’t read anything about them anymore, or watch any on TV, save special events. I will be taping the Belmont Stakes and rooting for California Chrome. I buy time in places I didn’t even know I used to spend it. For me, I am driven to do the things I do because I have the desire to succeed, to see a vision for the dent I can make in the universe a reality. I can’t wait to retire because that is when the fun will really kick into gear. I will finally have time to adequately fund with time the projects for which I have had a clear vision for a number of years. I have had to learn how to be patient, bide my time and choose projects carefully. I will take that wisdom with me because I know retiring only means my time is limited to accomplish all I intend to get done.

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