Ask Yourself These 8 Questions to Become a Better Artist (and Business Owner)

Artwork Archive | February 15, 2024 (Updated March 19, 2024)

Artist Jai’ Lon Lightfoot is pictured with glasses and braided hair and is painting a large canvas with a portrait of a person's face adorned with yellow roses. The piece is entitled "Black Boy Joy" She is focused on her artwork, holding a paintbrush delicately in hand,

Artwork Archive Artist Jai' Lon Lightfoot working on her piece titled "Black Boy Joy".Photographer: Gregory Elion Jr. Photo courtesy of the artist. 

How do you define success? What is your strategy for coping with criticism? Answer these 8 questions routinely to keep your art practice (and your art business) going in the right direction.

You know how to lay down the perfect brush stroke. You know the right proportions, rule of thirds, and color theory.  You have mastered the “how-tos” of making your work.

Have you laid out the “whys” of your art practice and business?

Setting a clearly defined personal manifesto of sorts can help guide your art business in the right direction.

Take some time to think about your answers to the following 8 questions and let them inspire a deeper understanding of how you perceive your art career.


Question 1

What is the driving force behind what I am currently making?

Identifying the core message or emotion you want to convey through your art can serve as a guiding light—especially during moments of doubt. 

When you have an artistic mantra to work with, it helps the smaller and more mundane tasks seem like they are part of a larger picture.

Ask yourself these questions as well:

What are you trying to achieve with your work? 

What themes or subjects are you drawn to and why?

Answering these questions in your artist statement can bridge the gap between your creative process and help you articulate it to not only yourself, but your audience. 

Artwork Archive Tip:

Store different versions of your artist statement in the My Docs section of your Artwork Archive account. You can store, share, and organize all of the important documents needed for your art business including your Artist Statement, Artist Bio, Resume/CV, and more. Even better, you’ll be able to send these documents directly from your Artwork Archive account to the people who need them. 


Question 2

What are my goals for my art career for the next year? The next five years?

Ask yourself, “As an artist and an entrepreneur, where can I improve over the next year?” Art coach and co-founder of ArtNXT Level Yanina Gomez suggests that artists only compare their work with where they want to be. Instead of looking at where other artists are in their careers or what they are making, give yourself concrete goals.

Set specific S.M.A.R.T goals for the next six months, the next year, and the next five years—it will lead to a healthy and realistic approach to your growth.

Gomez's advice? “If you want to grow, only compare yourself to yourself.”

Artwork Archive Tip:

Successful goals are goals that are well thought out and doable. SMART goals are specific, achievable, realistic, and timely. Fill out these worksheets to clarify the goals you have for yourself and for your art career. 


Question 3

How do I define success for myself?

Take the time to commit to paper how you define—and continue to redefine—your artistic success. The idea of “success” is a loaded concept that varies from person to person. Challenge both your own assumptions and others about what it means to be successful. Is it landing that big solo show, being financially independent, or creating work you feel proud of?

Or perhaps take the guiding, poetic words of author Paulo Coelho, What is success? It is being able to go to bed each night with your soul at peace.

Whatever success means to you, take time to celebrate even the tiniest accomplishments that contribute to your overall success. Each accomplishment is a reminder of your capabilities and the steps you're taking toward realizing your vision. 

A woman with long light colored hair in a floral dress sits on a sofa with a laptop on her lap and a notepad in hand

Question 4

How can I diversify my income streams as an artist?

As an artist, financial stability doesn't have to hinge solely on the sales of your artwork. If you're feeling the pressure of financial uncertainty, especially during those times when your art isn't selling as expected, it may be time to start thinking of more ways to bring some cash in. 

There are many sources you can tap into—whether it's taking on commissions, selling prints, or diving into art licensing. You can also share your expertise through workshops, classes, or online courses, all while generating additional revenue. 

Diversifying your income as an artist is really about getting clever with what you're already great at. Think of it as expanding your art into new territories, not just for the cash (though that's a pretty sweet perk), but to also reach more people with your work.

Artwork Archive Tip:

Get an accurate picture of your art business by staying on top of your different income streams and expenses with Artwork Archive's revenue/expense tracking feature. You can even use the platform to generate comprehensive income reports.


Question 5

What are my creative strengths and skills and where do I need improvement?

What do you feel most confident about in terms of your achievements and artwork? Being honest with yourself about what you are great at, and what you are not so good at, can help inform your direction as an artist. Have you spent years mastering a very specific technique that blows people away? Capitalize on that by holding workshops or seminars.

Alternatively, perhaps you know you're terrible at accounting. That’s okay, too. You can't be good at everything. Knowing where you need to ask or outsource others to help you is as important to your business success as making the work itself. Remember, entrepreneurs are not afraid to outsource or hire outside help for tasks where they may require additional support. You're an entrepreneur too—or rather, an "artrepreneur."

If you're just starting as an artist and can't afford to outsource just yet, there are plenty of online resources to help you brush up on the skills you need to run your art business. 


Question 6

How do I respond to criticism, and what can it teach me about my art practice?

Being criticized definitely doesn’t feel good. But, criticism is an inevitable part of being an artist. How you deal with criticism is especially important both for your well-being and continued success as an artist, especially when a negative critique is paired with rejection. 

Coming up with a plan for coping with criticism can help you avoid crumbling in its presence or letting it hold you back from taking risks. Ask yourself how you can take in feedback healthily. Do you need to separate yourself for a day or two from the critique? Do you need to remind yourself what your goals are with a certain piece? Or ask yourself where the criticism is coming from?

Develop a strategy for how you deal with these blows to the ego, so that you can process them and move on. Try shifting your perspective. When you view criticism or rejection as a learning opportunity, you can transform what might initially feel like a setback into a stepping stone for growth and improvement.


Question 7

What systems do I have in place for managing the business side of my art?

There's a reason why you're called an "artrepreneur". As a professional artist, you are indeed running a business, and like any business, there needs to be systems in place to manage every aspect efficiently. From inventory management and financial tracking to client relations, these systems don't just keep things organized; they assure that your art business will thrive in a competitive landscape. 

The act of balancing your creative passion with mundane business tasks can be daunting, but it's also what can set you apart in the art world.

This is where Artwork Archive comes in as the system you need to manage the business side of your art. It acts as a central hub for all your business operations, simplifying tasks that might otherwise take up valuable time you could spend creating.

Artwork Archive Tip:

With features designed specifically for artists, including inventory management that allows you to track your artworks' details and whereabouts, financial tools for monitoring sales, expenses, and profits, and a CRM system for managing client communications and sales history, Artwork Archive streamlines the administrative side of your art practice. Click here to create your free account.


Question 8

What do you want your artistic legacy to be?

Think about what you want to be remembered for both as an artist and a person. The incredible thing about being an artist is that you leave physical objects for future generations to interpret, hold, and admire.

In good condition, your paintings or sculptures can last hundreds or thousands of years. What do you want these paintings to say about you, your life, and the world around you? It’s, of course, a big question. But continuing to ask yourself this question will help guide your artistic practice.

Artwork Archive can play a pivotal role in preserving your legacy as an artist. By allowing you to document the details of each piece you create, including the story behind the work, the inspiration, and the techniques used, Artwork Archive helps protect the context of your art from being lost over time. 


By answering these questions and leveraging tools like Artwork Archive, you can gain clarity, improve your practice, and navigate your art career with confidence.

Let these questions inspire you to reflect, plan, and achieve all of the goals you have for your art business. 

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