Humans have four endowments—self-awareness, conscience, independent will, and creative imagination. These give us the ultimate human freedom—the power to choose, respond, and change.— Stephen Covey
We all face changes nearly daily. Some are big; many are tiny and insignificant. How you react to changes is a pivot point that makes a difference in your choices and the outcome you achieve.
Whether you actively accept responsibility for your life or not doesn’t change that you are the boss. You can choose what makes you a successful artist, including pursuing a full-time art career. Even a “do nothing” reaction is a choice. And no matter the choice, there are consequences.
Taking a proactive approach to change puts you in control of most of the consequences in your life.
Dealing with Change Needn’t Be Uncomfortable.
A Harvard Business Review article on “How to Get Better at Dealing with Change” offers straightforward advice that applies to taking a creative career shift:
Fortunately, there are ways to adapt to change and even take advantage of it.
- Find the humor in the situation. …
- Talk about problems more than feelings. …
- Don’t stress out about stressing out. …
- Focus on your values instead of your fears. …
- Accept the past, but fight for the future. …
- Don’t expect stability.
It goes on to tell you that stress can be a good thing — if you choose to see it that way. I agree.
We Each Respond Differently to Letting Go, Stress, and Change.
One person responds with a happy-go-lucky attitude. Yet another person experiencing the same thing on a similar career track bristles, gets angry or shrivels when unexpected things happen to them. I can’t change who you are or how you respond, but you can. Please reread the Stephen Covey quote at the top. He is right.
Letting go of the things that hold us back is never easy. Those things can be toxic people, old feelings of anger or resentment, or physical objects. They serve no purpose other than to take up space. Our attachment to these things is powerful.
Examine why you cling if you must. There’s a reason. When you know and accept it, then you can move to let it go. Sometimes you need help. The object is too heavy to lift, or the topic is too serious to handle on your own. Never be afraid to ask for help.
Are Pain and Happiness Related?
I’ve written before about being happy. I think artists in pain sometimes make beautiful art from experience. Could Hank Williams have written “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry” if he never plumbed the depths of lost love? When Elvis Presley sang it, he introduced the song by saying, “I’d like to sing a song that’s… probably the saddest I’ve ever heard.”
Still, I’d like to think that alongside the loneliness of Williams’ experience, he also experienced highs of happiness. Maybe, the only way to know absolute joy is to have known sadness and sorrow first. We don’t always choose our circumstances—life’s not fair that way—but we still get to choose our reaction.
The Career Path We’ve Chosen
Today, I’m thinking about you and all my independent artist friends, and I’m thinking about me, too. We are each on a unique path, following our unique creative process. Conditions may have dictated our direction to a degree. But, mostly, we’re where we are because of our choices.
You Can Make Changes. You Are Not Stuck!
If you are not happy with your given status, do you have a plan to make changes? Do you realize you are mostly stuck with the choices you made? Are you ready to embrace something new? You can change your thinking, change your paradigm, and change your life. You must decide you want to change and then commit to making it happen.
If your favorite artist is also a professional artist, you can use what they’ve done and how they did it to alter your career trajectory.
Letting Go Frees Your Mind and Opens Opportunities
I’m not saying one can solve every problem by letting go. Some things are worth mending—worth fighting to fix. Only you know for sure. Still, other elements are the sort you cling to because it’s what you have done for years.
It doesn’t help to regret past losses. It just makes you feel worse about circumstances you can’t change. A better solution is to consider how to simplify your life. If you feel stuck, it’s a sure bet some of what occupies you also barricades new opportunities. Awareness is the first step to letting go.
Letting Go Leads to Opportunity and Change
Although I can’t tell you how to learn to let go, I can tell you it works. Sometimes it takes difficult situations to force the issue. Other times it’s an enlightening moment from a friend, mentor, or total stranger that stirs action. I’ve seen how letting go of invalidated careers, unfounded beliefs, or old ways of doing things leads to dramatic, unexpected life and career shifts.
I’ve witnessed enough to know when you are full of stuff of little value, your chances for life and career-changing opportunities are slim. And so it’s time to draw on your four endowments and start making the most of your life. You can become a full-time artist if that is your goal, or stay in your current career and make your career in art part-time if it will make you happy and bring you joy.
Move to fill your life with more value as you determine it. Satisfaction with success at that is worth more than money.
It Takes Courage to Make Changes
I’ll be here urging you on and rooting for you. Now is the best time to start changing your life and career. Aim to move away from the mournful sadness of Hank Williams. Try going into the light of being and happiness espoused by the late, great Wayne Dyer. His Wishes Fulfilled PBS program was both powerful and poignant. Search YouTube for it. There is so much wisdom he shares. His advice is so poignant for career changers.
If want to accomplish something, you must first expect it of yourself.— Wayne Dyer
Let’s Hear from You!
Are you ready to make changes? Let us hear about them. Post your comments, questions, thoughts, fears, desires, or visions in the comments. I promise to reply and help you as I can.
I’m Seeking a Higher Purpose.
I launched the Art Marketing Toolkit Project (AMTP) to make world-class art marketing information affordable for artists around the globe. My goal was to democratize the data instead of pricing it so only the elite could afford it. And that remains a pillar of the program.
However, reality set in and gave me a new paradigm. My epiphany was providing the growing library containing dozens of workbooks and videos on virtually all aspects of art marketing to artists would do little good alone. That’s because information and training are useless without artists having self-awareness and clear goals for what happens to their art upon completion.
The higher purpose is to help artists decide what they want from their art because teaching them art marketing out of context wastes everyone’s time. And it often leads to substantial frustration and loss. It’s a holistic approach focusing on intent—getting that right is how to live your best artist’s life. If these thoughts appeal to you, please accept my invitation to become an AMTP member.
The Freedom of Changes to Your Art Career
Changes happen when you let go of the useless. Instead, it clears a path to make new space for those things that are authentic and meaningful to you.
So you can stop waiting. You don’t need to be on hold while you wait for the world to change. You can change it. You can start right now by making some changes in your life. There is no time like the present to act and start working toward living the life of your dreams.
I don’t have all the answers and will never be presumptuous enough to believe I ever will. But, I can help you find the answers within yourself. It’s all part of the AMTP experience. So subscribe today to start finding yourself as an artist.
Thank you Barney. I enjoyed this mail. Often some blogs (not only yours) are too long and there is just not the TIME to read everything. You have given some valuable advise and I wish you (and myself) all the best in “Simplifying Things.” Not easy, but essential. Look forward to next week’s blog.
Your feedback is appreciated!
Hi Barney. Want to congratulate your courage and dedication. I think you’re onto an important path. The Internet is a crowded, noisy place, so sometimes it’s nice to take a deep, calming breath, slow down and ponder deep thoughts.
Today, hubby and I were eating lunch at a cafe in a small New England town. There was a bulletin board covered with ads and announcements, so many so, that none of them stood out because each was vying for attention in the same space.
I said, “that bulletin board is a lot like the Internet; everyone is shouting at the same time and no one is heard”.
I think you’ve made a wise decision.
Thank you for your comment. More importantly, thank you for your perspective and support. It’s hard to make a change when you are doing things a new way, especially if it looks like it will slow revenue. I’m sure that is true to some extent in the short run, but hope it levels out in the long run. In the meantime, it’s a breath of fresh air for me, and I hope for my readers, too. I do believe less is more in many cases, including this one. 🙂
You have no idea how impeccable your timing is on this post! In the last week I, too, decided that my life was TOO BUSY! My epiphany erupted 2 days ago as I realized I had not even picked up my paintbrush – nor have I even wanted to – for the past 3 weeks. That was my wake-up call. I knew I needed to start making some changes in my life – simplify, weed out distractions, downsize, and just get rid of things that are getting in the way of my creativity.
I feel like my brain has been on overload for far too long and my focus has, over time, ever-so-subtly shifted to things that I’ve come to realize are really just big ol’ BSOs or piddly little things that really don’t add any value to my life at all….and my creativity has suffered.
Loved this post, Barney, and agree with you wholeheartedly about the wisdom of narrowing ones focus, cutting out distractions, and honing in on what’s important, sans all the fluff.
You’ve demonstrated immense courage in doing what you’re doing, in spite of what some “marketing experts” would advise. You’ve inspired me to move forward with my changes as well, in spite of advice to the contrary. Keep on keepin’ on with what you’re doing! Change is good.
Thank you for commenting. I’m pleased my timing was good for you. For sure, we cannot get out the ruts we’re in by doing things the same old way. It’s rewarding beyond words to know I’ve inspired you!
I’ve always said as a business consultant you can’t be all things to all people. Now that I’m focused on building an art career that same saying applies. Finding what I can do well and feel passionate about is a key ingredient for success. Great blog. I’ll look forward to the next one.
Thanks for your poignant comment. Sounds like you already got the memo. 🙂
Love the new design and the new attitude! It’s a welcome relief from sidebars, banner ads and links to more stuff which I didn’t even notice until you made the change. To quote Philip Morgan, “It is difficult to create something simple; simple is hard.” – and you’ve done it!
Thank you, Katherine,
I appreciate very much your thoughts about the design and direction I’m taking, and your encouragement!
Thank you for this timely newsletter. I’ve been toying with a new idea on how to boost my art school and / or rethink it. In the past I tried to book as many students that could fit into my studio at a low price per student. Now I’m thinking of doing private one on one classes and charging more. Which will fit into the ” less is more” theory perfectly. So tomorrow I’ll be updating my website to reflect that change.
By the way, Happy Father’s Day.
You’ve been such a great supporter over the years. I always love hearing from you. To know I have inspired you to take a new direction is just so gratifying. Wishing you the best with the new take on teaching. I have a great feeling it’s a winner!
I like it, Barney! I’ve been paying more attention to dreams and synchronicities as I navigate into a full time art career. Yesterday, working on a small painting of a roadrunner, one more in a spirit animal series, I was pondering my life choices and wondering if I am on the right track. Took a break to go water the horses and heard splashing as I approached the tank. Yep, a roadrunner had fallen in and couldn’t get out. I scooped the clacking, waterlogged bird out of the half empty tank and had to just say thank you!
You not only did a good deed, you may have just set yourself up for some good luck. Encounters with roadrunners are known for it.
Intrepid roadrunner symbolizes magic and good luck: http://smdp.com/intrepid-roadrunner-symbolizes-magic-and-good-luck/74506
Barney, thank you again for your generous sharing of valuable insights and the willingness to put others first.
The past seven days have been an incredible roller coaster of loss and gain. From that dreaded call to come to the hospital quickly – only to arrive minutes after my younger son, Glenn, had passed away, followed by a week of sorting through the detritus of unexpected loss. Then, yesterday, at the celebration of marriage, in which I gained a grandson as I watched my grandaughter, Jessica, become Mrs. Mike Fox.
This morning a Memorial for Glenn at one of the NA meetings he started I was embraced by some of the dozens of friends he had sponsored through 27 years in which he helped others battle addiction.
The lesson from all of this continues to be: It’s all about giving, not getting.
Live life that way and the GAIN will follow no matter how we choose to use our God given talents.
Dick, thank you for your kind comments. There are no words to adequately express my sympathy for you and your family over the untimely passing of your son, Glenn. While the timing of your granddaughter’s wedding may have seemed unfortunate, I think it was a blessing. One, I bet without ever having met Glenn, that he would appreciate. Through sorrow and loss, we have to find a way to keep on living, to matter, to become better persons. Your generosity of spirit and willingness, no eagerness, to help other artists has always been an inspiration to me. That you have continued to work and contribute and create into your 80s after spending a very long time caring for your dear wife is beyond the pale in terms of showing others how to live a life worth living and how to never give up, never lose curiosity, and always maintain one’s dignity and integrity. Blessings upon you and your family, my friend forever. 🙂
I love the new format! Thanks for all you do and your generosity.
You’re welcome and thank you for your interest in my work!
I love your new format and approach. It’s refreshing to not be constantly sold. I know you write books, mentor people, have incredible online courses, etc. If and when I can afford them, I will avail myself of them. In the meantime, I truly appreciate all the information you so generously share with struggling artists at no cost. I’m sure you’ll still do very well. Your reputation makes you the go-to marketing guy for artists and they will seek out more extensive help from you when they’re able.
Another pleased reader. 🙂 Thanks for your kind comments. When you are ready, I will be here for you.
I love this! Thank you. I’ve also been thinking along these lines, working on streamlining my work and narrowing my focus instead of trying to be a creator of everything for everyone. I also wish more folks would take a similar approach to their websites- nothing is more aggravating than constant ads and pop ups when all I want to do is read the relevant content. Thanks for all you do for artists. 😀
This was nice and those who follow your blog will no doubt appreciate the change. I do. Most who come to an art marketing website such are yours are already looking for something. Perhaps just to get creative marketing juices flowing by reading your blog posts, to see comments from others to get differing perspectives and perhaps to add their own two cents in a comment. Some may be looking for more advanced or tailored help. From my computer I see a nicely fixed navigation at the top of my browser clearly in view at all times. Art Marketing Books, Consulting, Art Marketing Mastery Workshop, How to Find Collectors…..click.
Thank you that’s what I needed and you didn’t even have to use any bells or whistles. By the way, I already have 3 of your products.
I enjoyed reading this post from start to finish. I admit that many of your previous posts were too long and all about selling me something, so I would drift away part way through. I am pleased with your changes. I am also in a period of change, so I look forward to following you on your journey of change.
As so many comments before the timing of your post was incredible. Only a few hours earlier I was on a skype call with my “art business coach” and she was emphasising the importance of deciding what is appropriate for me and my art career, finding the right channels, galleries and collectors that resonate with my art. Filtering out the noise and having a clear plan on how to get my work out there. Sounds obvious but is sometimes difficult to remember.
Your post was just another affirmation of this. Thanks!
Thank you Barney for this well timed blog. I recently was introduced to a very narrow niche market for my watercolors. In a sea of many talented painters, I now visualize a very receptive public that I can serve perfectly if I laser beam my focus. That will mean letting go of the known and the secure but yes, I do want more.
Thank you Barney for following your heart and shifting your blog posts to reflect how you wish to present the timely information you share. We are all letting go of what no longer serves us. As others have stated here, we welcome this change to simplify our lives and focus on only what resonates with us. Only letting in what we truly feel is important into our minds, hearts and personal spaces. I have no doubt you will continue to prosper in your work, because what you bring to the table has a tangible value. One only needs to read one or two of your posts or publications, to know you have useful and valuable information to share. That’s certainly how our connection and later our friendship began. You quietly offer the links at the top of this page and people will continue to click to obtain more of what you have to offer. Without shouting, you may have just revolutionized art marketing yet again. Kudos!
Thank you, Jana! Your insights, support and encouragement hit home with me. You’re so right. It’s scary to make changes and let go, especially of doing things the same way for a long time. Even more so when a financial outcome is in the equation. I just knew I had to break the mold and try a different path. You, and so many other artists who have commented here or contacted me personally about this change, are my inspiration. You are the wind in my sails. 🙂
It’s good to have your example, Barney, of an extreme flexibility, or willingness to make helpful revisions in format with greater effectiveness as your aim.
Whether you’re including links and ads to other courses, books, etc. or not, I’ve found your lessons so pertinent to ways in which I’d gotten myself stuck, your advice about attitudes and recommendations of different free software so beneficial over the past year and a half that I’ve decided to streamline my indoor, at-home time by following no other art marketing guide besides you; I can’t make time for any of the others.
Compared to two years ago, I see that my gross revenues from art sold are about doubled–still modest, since few people in my acquaintance will spend even $100 on an original painting, so I have to offer my originals at less than that unless they’re nicely matted or matted and framed–but in any case you’ve helped me more than anyone ever before see what amounts to wheel-spinning in the realm of art marketing vs. what’s worthwhile because, sooner or later, it brings about sales success.
Tanya, thank you for all your kind words and for sticking with me as you pare down following art marketing advisers. I’m honored by that decision and will continue to work hard to deliver to you and all my readers and students the very best information and inspiration I can. This is more than a business for me. I want and need it be profitable, but my real motivation comes from a desire help others. And, I believe it honors my mother who was a selfless schoolteacher and very talented artist who never got the chance to know the thrill of selling her work. Raising six kids as a widow took that option from her. By helping you and other artists I take each success, however, large or small that I helped happen as a tip of the hat to her. Keep up the good work. You have had way more obstacles than most other artists and you continue to make progress and improve. I’m very proud of how far you’ve come. Keep on keeping on! 🙂
I would be flexible if there were things to be flexible about. But as far as marketing my art there is no market and no target audience. I have reduced my outreach all right — to zero. After testing the waters I found not even a lead or a hint of any possibility. Some of peers have encouraged me to repeat my failed attempts such as boosting FB or appearing on Instagram. I do not want likes or followers. I do want the bottom line which is not building a fan club. Thus, I continue to paint for my own pleasure.
If you believe there is nothing to be flexible about, you make that your truth. You don’t mention what you have done to prove your theory, other than to say you tested the waters, that there is no market or target audience for your art. That’s a statement I’ve never heard before. It sounds defeatist. I’m sorry you have arrived at such decision. However, the upside is you have also decided to paint for your own pleasure. That actually is a good thing. For many creative people, keeping their work as a hobby is the best choice. And, you don’t have to give anyone any reason why you arrived at such a decision. Because is more than adequate enough. If someone doesn’t understand or disagrees, that is their problem, not yours. It’s perfectly acceptable to not pursue turning your passion into a business. Be happy for yourself that you now know you can be content to make art for art’s sake.
Hi Barney Thank you so much for your encouraging words and wealth of experience to back them up.I feel myself at a
point of major change in my art career. Internet self promotion hasn’t worked out so it’s time to play the gallery game again. Whatever happens I always have you there to help-it’s very reassuring to know I’m not out there alone. Richard
Thank you for your comment and kind words. No one’s path is straight to the top. If you feel you must pursue galleries, I understand your decision. My only admonition is to not give up on building personal relationships with buyers. Even adding a few at a time on a schedule workable for you will have an accumulative positive, long-term effect. Wishing you all the best!
Frankly I think it’s up to you what you do on your blog so if that works for you, more power to you. I have never minded your links and if you were selling on your blog… well, again it’s your blog and you need to be profitable. i think I probably got your books via links on your blog years ago. I suspect you are targeting your offers more in email and that’s great. Plenty of people want to get free information but even free information has a cost both in time and effort. SO it’s not really free at all and I would hope people understand that. So it’s important you love what you are doing. As for me, it’s no secret that some time ago I did a deep dive to get clear about my creative purpose and mission… and from that I’ve been able to narrow my focus and find my target market (at significant investment and time I might add). I know who they are, why they buy my art and where they tend to reside… While I am always looking for new ways to reach my audience and meet with them I focus more on delivering value over and above my art and I enjoy directly marketing my art through my newsletter through a conversation and in person. I agree that it’s best to have a focus, however what I have found invaluable and important in my personal experience is understanding why I create the art I do, what my product is as an artist and why I am reaching a certain audience and how to do it more effectively. My goals include how to become better at sales and marketing my art as there are few things more fulfilling than successfully directly selling my art to my customers… and have them become repeat buyers. And most of my clients are not on social media. I don’t have a lot of links on my blog but in my blog posts I always include a link to view and easily purchase my latest art.
Thanks for sharing your thoughts, experiences, and processes. I love this line from your comments, “My goals include how to become better at sales and marketing my art as there are few things more fulfilling than successfully directly selling my art to my customers… and have them become repeat buyers.” It’s music to my ears. I know we agree this is the best path for artists who are serious about enjoying a profitable long-term career. That is my wish for you, and for all the artist who follow me.:)
I love to paint. It relieves me of the worry imbedded in the responsibilities I hold. I paint well and when I show I generally sell some ….but not enough. People respond very positively to my paintings and I get generous compliments but because I don’t sell much my studio [and corners of my house] look like storage units.
What to do….?
Thanks for your comment. Many artists share your concerns. If art is not selling, it comes down to one of two problems. 1. The art lacks commercial appeal 2. Not enough qualified buyers see the art on a frequent basis.
Selling art is a numbers game. Because it is a discretionary budget item and not something that is bought and replaced regularly, the demand is spotty. You must be there in the top position of fine art/artist when a prospective buyer considers an art purchase.
It takes effective marketing to arouse and maintain interest in all products, including art. Everyone knows McDonalds and Coke. Even mega brands realize they must keep up their marketing to drive interest and sales. If name brands need to market to sell their products so do smaller marketers. It takes repeated exposure to move someone from attention to interest and then to desire and action. Art is rarely purchased on impulse. For sure, unless you put tremendous energy into doing lots of shows, you can’t expect to build a successful art career on impulse sales.
Given your comments about your experiences, I’m pretty sure you are not getting enough qualified eyeballs on your art on a regular basis. I believe the best solution is for artists to develop relationships with potential buyers and repeat buying patrons. That is how to sell more art and become self-reliant and independent of third-parties such as galleries. The Art Marketing Mastery Workshop is devoted to this concept. Check it out to see if it’s something you can use.
I am in the process of clearing my studio space so I can actually work! I have been working with my kitchen table, but the studio has my beautiful easel, a desk and an armoire for supplies. My daughter says she will come over and help me clear it and organize it better. The main problem at present is that it’s full of old artwork.
You’re completely on it Barney! Funny that I’d read this now, as I’m going through a huge life changing event. At 70, no easy task. But for art’s sake it’s all good! Your thoughts are encouraging and supportive. Thanks Barney.
This article drew me in. I must admit I planned to just read the first few sentences, but as I read I felt a pull to keep on until the end. I want to read it again & will do just that until I digest the powerful message, which yet is so simple, CHANGE move forward out of the the stuff that weighs you down. Give tribute to your creator in everything and know His plans for you are much better than the small plans you have contrived for yourself. Thank you for sharing this message of possibilities through change.
Thank you for this timely message. I am struggling with a very big change — a move — and though I’ve moved quite a bit in the past, this time it’s very hard for a number of reasons — some of them just purely psychological — like “hanging on” to the past. Your message brought me comfort and reassurance today.
Thanks for your comment. It is heartwarming to know my words make a difference. I wish you all the best in all you do.
Great article! It has a lot of useful tips … thanks a lot!