You Can Choose Happiness.

[color-box] Editor’s Note: This is an Art Marketing News classic from a past post. As such, you may find some of the content in this post more attuned to the pre-Covid life we all long to have again.[/color-box]

You Can Choose — Be Proactive.

Stephen Covey, in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change, tells us in Habit One to be proactive. It was eye-opening for me to hear him talk about how this works. He explains that the unique quality of being human is the ability to choose.

We don’t always get to choose our circumstances. Being born in poverty, or suffering from living in an abusive family, or being handicapped or disabled are all things you had no choice in. It is what has happened to you.

You can, however, choose how you react to your circumstances. Covey found inspiration in Viktor Frankl’s book recounting of being in four Nazi death camps in a Man’s Search for Meaning. He lost his parents, siblings, and pregnant wife in the camps. Frankl’s belief was while we cannot avoid suffering, we can choose how we will deal with it. His personal example and later as a psychiatrist was to look for meaning in suffering. Then use it to get on with your life with renewed intentions.

Jon Morrow Inspires Me and Millions More.

I have written before about the remarkable story of Jon Morrow. He was diagnosed with Spinal Muscular Atrophy as a child. It takes the life of most children by age two. He is still very much alive. Until 2006, he got around in a van that allowed him to drive as a paraplegic. Then tragedy struck again and made him a quadriplegic.

Do like more than one million others have. Read this incredible account of what happened when Jon was hit head-on in a crash: How to Quit Your Job, Move to Paradise and Get Paid to Change the World. That post has gone one to be viewed by more than a million people. He’s gone on to build several multi-million dollar businesses even though he can only move his lips and eyelids. His advice has helped thousands of people learn how to make blogging into a career.

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



Tanner Gers Is a Fearless Inspirational Leader.

I have had the good fortune to meet another awe-inspiring person. Tanner Gers also almost died in an auto accident as a young man. He survived but was made blind as a result. Begin blind did not keep him from running the 100-meter dash in the London Paralympics in 2012. As a blind person, he has been a personal trainer in a gym.

Tanner now has a career as a public speaker and success coach. He has a beautiful wife and a young daughter.  Like Jon Morrow, Tanner is an exemplar for how to live a life with passion and purpose despite crushing setbacks.

About Being Unhappy.

If you are bitter about the state of your career, you need to turn your negativity around. Life is too short to be unnecessarily unhappy about your career or your life. We don’t all get the same skills and starting point. We do all have the same options to choose to make the best of what we have.

Buying Art Is Not Out of Vogue — It Never Was.

If you are struggling in your art career, it is under your control to fix it. You can find an unending list of reasons why things suck. Technology, geography, and apathy are biggies for many. Here’s the thing. People have never stopped buying art. Let me repeat. People have never stopped buying art.

I have known artists, art publishers, and gallery owners who have stayed in business through thick and thin. Buying habits change. Some years are better than others. Nevertheless, art continues to sell. Always has, always will.

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



[color-box] Editor’s Note: A member of my Art Marketing Mastery Facebook group reported new sales recently. He had a connection with a person who worked for a cancer charity. It gave him the chance to offer his art to the charity’s membership through its mailing list. He is donating 35% of his sales to the charity to honor his grandmother, who died of cancer. He’s made several sales of smaller priced work and has received an offer for an expensive commission. The moral is you are one or two degrees away from someone who can help you sell art even in a pandemic. You have to believe it’s possible and then go out and make it happen.[/color-box]

Why Is Your Art Not Selling?

Okay, maybe folks aren’t buying your art. If that is the case, you need to figure out why. The usual reasons are either you are making work that is hard to sell. That is, it has limited appeal to most buyers. You might have work people will buy when they see it often enough, but you are not efficient in getting it seen by the right prospects frequently. Or, you are trying to sell to people who don’t have the budget to buy your work.

If your work is a problem, you can keep making work like that, but you should lower your expectations about how well it will sell. Happiness is about meeting expectations. If yours are out of line with the reality of what you are making, you are making yourself unhappy.

You can also choose to make art with more appeal. Even though it is a creative endeavor, it is also a product that needs commercial appeal if you want to build a successful business around selling it. Otherwise, accept you have created a pleasant pastime where you occasionally get rewarded with sales.

Finally, you must market your work to those who:

  • Have an affinity for your subject matter and medium
  • Have the disposable income to purchase your work
  • Are in your circle of influence is some way

If It’s Not Your Artwork, Then It’s Your Other Work.

If you know your art sells when enough people see it, and you are not moving your work, you have a marketing problem. Making art is part of your art business. The other part is finding customers and prospects and selling your work to them. To have success, it takes marketing first and selling second. Marketing and selling your work is your other job. One, you cannot let lapse without risking your career.

Marketing creates interest and intrigue. It drives actions that lead to sales. You get sales with a well-designed website, heavy traffic, excellent conversions with compelling calls to action. You might also get sales because you drive traffic to an e-commerce site such as,, or

As an alternative, you might network online and offline and generate direct sales to collectors. This scenario, selling direct to collectors, is the best for artists and collectors. It is what I teach and preach about—selling through galleries works. There just are too few to go around.

Without the Right Insights, It Is Easy to Miss the Big Picture.

Some artists are confused about how things work. I saw a comment the other day on a blog post on The Abundant Artist. The post offered some useful ideas on how to sell more art. An artist commenter was bitter that there was also included an offer to buy an in-depth program to learn even more ways to sell art.

I’m not sure if the comments were just plain whining, coming from a misguided sense of entitlement, or utter frustration at making work, but not getting sales. It could have been all of the above. I alternately reacted by thinking I’m sorry you had such a terrible career going. Still, another part wanted to scream out about taking responsibility and starting to do the things necessary to make something happen.

The Amount of Free and Useful Info about Art Marketing Is Astounding.

Cory Huff, the owner of The Abundant Artist, is a generous person. He devotes lots of time and effort to create free content for artists. He’s not alone, so do I and Jason Horejs, Alyson Stanfield, Owen Garratt, Carolyn Edlund, Lori McNee, Gary Bolyer, and many others. There is a ton of great free stuff out there. You just need to research to find it.

This artist has the misconception that everything art marketing gurus do ought to be free. What a misguided concept! I don’t know him from a rock, but I bet a dollar to a donut he is not making any money. He has no idea of what an abundance perspective is. Instead of being grateful to find some useful free information, he is griping that he can’t get more info for free.

Becoming a Sourpuss Is Not that Hard to Do.

He may just also fall into the category of a sourpuss. It starts when you look at how life has been rough for you. Then it gets worse with the belief the art industry is skewed, so no one makes money, especially artists. From there, it’s easy to slide further downhill into a black pit of negativity and self-pity. No one can fix this for someone else. You gotta slug your way out of the swamp.

Someone can give you a buck so you can buy a clue, but you have to be ready to use it – to embrace the knowledge. Life’s not fair. Business is hard. Only the strong survive. These things are all true. None of them means you can’t have great success. When you realize what is holding you back is you, you can have a breakthrough. You can come into the light and bask in its glow.

There Is No Free Lunch.

You have to make your own way. When you begin to move in the right direction, you will find some want to help you. Start making little victories as each one makes you a winner. We love winners. We want the best for them.

Work for the day when it is you helping an up and comer. Give back. Pay it forward. Shrug off your negativity and get moving. Your career is waiting.  You, yes YOU, can achieve great things. Start to believe. Aim high. Aim higher. Be restless. Most of all, get going.

Get Your Happy Quotient Going! Even the Worst Miserable Curmudgeon Named Scrooge Did It!

It is a whole lot easier to do these things if you have a happy quotient going on in your life. Here are ten things to help you boost yours to new highs and lock-in being a happy artist.

  1. Don’t’ Get Your Knickers in a Knot over Trivial Stuff – Come on now. Next time, before you react in anger or disgust, take a deep breath. Decide if you can just let what’s bugging you go. The chemical reaction to anger and fear stays in your body much longer and is detrimental to your health, unlike those released when you are happy or ecstatic. Feeding the angst and anger just makes it harder to get back to even keel and happy.
  2. Givers Gain – It’s not just about being altruistic. For sure, it’s a good thing to give with no strings attached. If you have no expectations, you cannot be disappointed. Next time you do good, do it so only you know you did it. Make that knowing good enough. It’s also good to give knowing there is a quid pro quo with your gift. I scratch your back; you got mine. Happy people are givers. They’re getting back all the time because they fill the emotional bank accounts of those around them. It’s the reverse of “Paybacks are a bitch!”
  3. Don’t Make It about the Dough – You already know this in some way, right? Ever notice the word miser is the root word of miserable? Focus on achievement, not money. The money will follow your success. It’s advisable to be thrifty and frugal as they are good traits. Being all about the cash throws up a wall against being joyous. Be not a Scrooge.
  4. Don’t Make It about the Stuff – We live in a material age. We surround ourselves with doodads and shiny objects that don’t bring us happiness or joy. Every cord in your home represents a repair waiting to happen. The less stuff you have, the fewer things you have to set up, calibrate, use, insure, repair, and let sit there to remind you what a dumb purchase that was. With stuff, less is better.
  5. Don’t Make It about Others – Envy will eat you up; make you bitter; run you dry and leave you worse off because of it. Besides, you can’t have someone else’s life. That’s a good thing.

    Be yourself, everybody else is already taken. – Oscar Wilde.

    It is senseless to measure yourself against other people. There is always, always going to be someone taller, shorter, slimmer, with more hair and with better hair. There are those with more brains, more talent, more money, great teeth, and a spouse you still can’t figure out how they are with them, and so on. Accept who you are and what you are without comparing it to anyone else. At least, unlike Jon Morrow, who jokingly laments you can pinch a nice butt when the occasion arises, but he never will.

  6. Be Grateful – Happy people have gratitude. They are conscious of what they have and have real feelings of gratefulness. Your tiny one-bedroom apartment can be your castle. My wife, Mary, and I started married life living in a 700 square foot single apartment in West L.A. I worked from home. My office was the bedroom. Our bed was in the living space. We ate from a folding table, and despite the circumstances, we were thrilled. Still are. I think if we were unhappy back in the day in our tiny place, we had no chance for happiness later on. Happiness doesn’t just drop in on you once you start making more money. More money and more stuff don’t make you happy. You make you happy. Your choices in partners and spouses make you happy. To be grateful is to be happy. Mary and I were grateful then and are so today.
  7. Be Compassionate – It galls me no end to see someone take glee at the misery of others. It is the same thing with gossip. These traits have an addictive quality to them. The more you talk smack behind someone’s back or share those juicy tidbits of knowledge that are harmful to another, the more you want to do it. It’s bad karma to rejoice at the expense of someone who is suffering. Perhaps you feel they earned it. That does not mean you should blacken your heart by being happy for their downfall. You know actions like these will not help you lead a happier and healthier life. So don’t do them.
  8. Don’t Fly with the Turkeys – If you want to fly like an eagle, you can’t be hanging around with the turkeys. You get to choose who you have in your life. This includes your blood relatives. If someone is toxic to your life, you need to get them out of your life. Like Stephen Covey’s first habit, “Be Proactive.” This is sometimes harder to do than say. You can find yourself emotionally, financially, or in some other way attached to the wrong person. It can take an enormous amount of courage and strength to break free. It can upset many people around you when you do find the conviction to make such a change. In the end, it’s your life, and you only get to live it once. Surround yourself with happy and uplifting people. Get rid of those who will bring you down. It’s your choice to make.
  9. Know What Happiness Looks Like for You – You can be dead serious about everything in your life. You can be tough and not suffer fools. You don’t have to smile and say, “Have a nice day” to everyone you meet. You don’t have to like everyone you meet. You can be unsatisfied with your current job, relationship, location, or anything else. You just have to decide not to let any of those real things keep you from being happy. It usually means you have to make some changes once you have the full acknowledgment in your mind about how things are, or who people are. Lack of action is a cause of angst. You can make yourself unhappy with yourself. Say what? It happens when you know to do right and find yourself sitting on doing it. Maybe you need job counseling, mental health counseling, marriage counseling, addiction counseling, or some other form of help. As long as you put off doing something you know needs to be done, you drive down your happiness quotient. Stop that. Get on with what you need to do now. Whatever is holding you back is not worth overcoming it. Be your own Dr. Phil. Ask yourself, “How is not doing the right thing working out for me?”
  10. Live Your Life in the Present – Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow may never get here. You cannot afford to have your awareness of your past stop you from taking decisive action today. Historical knowledge is good in this respect. As someone said, “Experience is what lets you recognize a mistake when you make it again.” You have to have hope for the future. If you are living in the present with misery about what was, or fear about what will be, it’s time to be happy. You have to let go of what’s happened. You can’t change anything that’s done. The more you dwell on how things were, or what you should have done, the more your misery kicks your happiness in the butt. Having a content perspective and outlook on the future is the best way to be. Choosing to live in the present means accepting and acknowledging your current circumstances as they are. Elect to see how the actions you are taking and plans you are making are going to improve your life and your career. If thinking about that does not make you happy, you need to revisit what you are doing and get on revising your plans for your future.

I am sure I could add dozens more examples and suggestions here. I could go on about how to live a satisfying life and enjoy a happy career, but I won’t. I will stop here and choose to be pleased that a select few readers will reach this last sentence and be inspired to go on and make changes that will lead them to their contented place as a happy artist. I hope you are one of them.

Spoiler Alert!

If you are that guy who complains he reads things, finds help, but wishes everything was free and came without a sales pitch. Stop reading now.

I Can Help You!

If you are looking for a way to get your career in the happy zone, I can help you. Join the Art Marketing Mastery Workshop. The workshop is a culmination of my best work — and I’ve been helping artists since 1988. I didn’t leave anything out.

I get that for some reading this that all you can afford right now is what you glean free from the Internet.

Here’s a free webinar I did for Artists Network. It covers a lot of the same ground and theory you will learn in the Art Marketing Mastery Workshop.

Watching the webinar will give a blueprint for the Art Marketing Mastery Workshop offers value for you. Feel free to use it to model your successful art career. Or, if you can afford to make a relatively small investment into a lifetime program, please join me in the workshop. Either way, I’m going to be happy you looked me up. 🙂


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  • David Raber says:

    “If someone is toxic to your life, you need to get them out of your life.” I hear this sentiment a lot these days. It essentially means, if someone is not of use to you, get rid of them–like Donald Trump says, “You’re fired!”

    • Thanks David for your thoughts. The last thing I would have thought of when writing this post is that it would cause a comment that included mentioning Donald Trump. That’s what makes things interesting.

  • Thank you Barney for this inspiring post and for taking the time to write it. It’s well thought out and encouraging.

  • What a great article, Barney! I’ve read Stephen Covey’s book and had the same eye-opening moment you spoke of as I too read that Habit One is being proactive. So simple yet so very powerful if we put that one habit into action. That was life-changing for me. I’ve since been pushing myself to do just that – start stepping into my destiny instead of waiting for it to come to me! It’ll never happen if I don’t start doing something to bring it closer to being a reality in my life – even a small step – as long as I’m continually moving forward. “Do not despise these small beginnings for the Lord rejoices to see the work begin…” Zech. 4:10. I’m now a happy artist with a fresh new outlook on my art and myself. Thank you for your honesty and telling us artists like it really is! I adore the frankness and boldness in your articles and I so enjoy reading your posts, even though sometimes they do make me wince a bit – only because you’ve shed light on a dark corner in me that perhaps needed a bit of tidying up! I’m so much like my current art project- a work in progress…

    • Thank you, Anita. You are the second person to quote the Bible regarding this post. I suppose because it is so personal and as real as I could make it, it inspires a level of spirituality I hadn’t intended. But, that’s good. If my words move you and others in that way, I know they are getting through. My mission is to offer ideas, information and inspiration to artists to help them succeed the business of art. From the response here and social media, I feel I am accomplishing the mission with this post.

  • Carol Roberts says:

    Great article. Truly inspiring. Many thanks.

  • Thank you, Dick, for your heartfelt comments on this post, and your unwavering support over the years.

  • Thank you Barney, for this wonderfully inspiring post! And yes I read the entire article. It was beyond just good advice – it reached a deeper place.

    • Thank you Katherine for your kind words. It was not a planned post. I just starting thinking about a couple things going on in my life and some people around me and the post pretty much wrote itself. I’m happy it resonates with you. 🙂

  • Barney I enjoy reading your blog and have your book. Keep putting out this great content. I believe in karma and I know that the more good things you do in this life you will find it coming back in your own.
    Last week I traveled to Newcastle WY and gave a slide show and inspirational talk to 90 inmates at the Wyoming Honor Conservation Camp & Boot Camp about my life and career as an artist. I shared the challenges, struggles and rewards I have faced chasing my dream of becoming a professional artist. There were many inmates who create art in there and they asked me to critique their work. I told them
    I know what it is like to have a dream, and you’re the only one who can see it. There are times when you have to believe in yourself even if no one else does. The secret to being an artist or successful at anything else is, you have to do the work. I think to be great at anything you have to love what you do. You need to put the time in the studio with the materials in your hands. There are no short cuts it is about commitment, hour by hour day by day and year after year. Look everyone faces rejection and difficulties in life everyone gets knocked down. The thing you have to do is never give up. You just keep getting up and do the very best that is within you and that’s all you can do. Because in the end it is not about how many years you lived in this world that is important. It is about the good you can do and what you leave behind that truly matters.

    • Hi Chris, Thank you for your incisive and heartfelt response to my post. Your words resonate with truth and experience. All the best!

  • Hi Barney,
    I first read this post on Facebook and what really struck me was the way different people responded.
    Some loved it, some were indifferent and some got angry.
    It really shows that we are all on a different journey; in life and in art. Some people have had incredibly difficult journeys and are still surviving.

    I think the important thing when reading articles like this is not to ‘throw the baby out with bath water’, as the saying goes.
    We can get so annoyed at something that we miss the whole point of what’s being written.
    There’s always some gem we can take away and apply to our life or career.
    As an artist blogger/ writer I know of the hours and hours involved in putting this sort of content together; often with no monetary reward.
    So Barney thanks for your efforts and generous sharing of free advice.
    I’d love to republish this link in my blog if that’s ok?
    Olivia A

  • I want to thank you for the information being shared with those of us just beginning to explore our artistic gifts.

  • Great post and very original content. You commonly don’t read post directed to the importance of the artist’s well being. I mean, in order to keep a career in art you really need to be concerned about your health mentally and physically. I feel like this is a very important topic that should be shared with more artists since it isn’t discussed much. I have seen too many artists suffer from career burn out due to their unhappiness with their career that they lose hope in even trying to find help to get better.

    Great post and I plan to share it with others
    -Princess M

  • Great topic, Barney, and thanks for the link! I run across those sourpusses from time to time, and I find that being incredibly nice to them tends to make them go away. They like the company of other people who engaging in complaining.

    Keep up the good work!

    • Kill them with kindness. A grump hates a cheerful person. But, if you stay cheerful long enough, they often will drop the crabby misdemeanor and embrace you on a more pleasant level.

  • Much of my website and marketing is half baked. Looking forward to getting it all straightened out in the first month of this new year, and finding the courage to ask for referrals. I seem to have no issue touting other people’s businesses, but am having ongoing difficulty getting over inhibitions with mine. Thank you for decades of real time knowledge! Your information is never dated, always on the spot for today’s fast changing world!

    • Thank you, Helena, for your comments and your candid assessment of your website, and most importantly, your acknowledgment with inhibitions about promoting your work. That you recognize the problem is a huge step forward. You can overcome these things. They are neither terminal nor everlasting. Get the book, “Networking for Introverts.” The world is full of accomplished introverts. President Obama is an introvert. Become determined and then don’t let anything, least of all you, get in your way. Make 2016 your best year ever. You can do it!

  • Thanks you for generously sharing information with the artist community. Happiness is an inside job and no one can make me happy but me.

  • Always thankful for the great content on these emails Barney-look forward to them each week!
    It really is amazing the difference attitude and outlook make on your career….can not be overstated!
    A great outlook and attitude is contagious and attractive-it also breeds success!
    Thanks again!

  • There are three kinds of people: Participators, Spectators and Couchpotators.
    It’s up to you to decide which you want to be.

  • Thanks for your comment. You’re right about the hard-wired thing. That only means some of us may be more challenged in making changes, but none of us are blocked from doing so.

  • Hi Barney, 🙂

    Not being unhappy, full of unreasonable expectations, nor an unhappy artist, I nevertheless read your full article because I was just curious what your article had to say. I found it to be most excellent !
    Excellent, because it is not only full of wise and great practical marketing advice for an artist – but also and perhaps more important – on how to have a successful life – not only for artists, but for Everyone.

    Thank you for that.
    Cheerio, Hartmut 🙂

  • Wow, a great article. I will have to read it again tomorrow. So much useful information and food for thought! Thank you!

  • Thanks Barney! Great article, especially the part about ridding one’s self of toxic people. We got similar advice from our awesome teacher, Lesley Harrison, who suggested that we read the book, Boundaries. I highly recommend it to all interested parties for strategies on how to let toxic people go.

    I am also grateful to be a part of the Art Marketing Mastery Workshop community. Very helpful, as are your books and other articles. I am currently reading Success Through a Positive Mental Attitude, thanks to your recent free down load.

    Thanks and Best to you and Mary,

    Steve & Kay Witt
    Strasburg, VA

  • Good article. Sometime all we need is a kick in the seat of the pants to get back in the game. Thank you.

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