What Does a Successful Art Career Look Like? We Asked 15 Artists How They Define Success

Paige Simianer | April 1, 2024

Portrait of Artwork Archive artist Nicky Myny in the studio ©bynouchka. Photo courtesy of the artist

Are artists looking for fame, fortune, or something else?

Too often, society measures success in terms of sales figures, fame, and financial gains.

But, when we turn to the artists themselves, a more profound, nuanced picture of success emerges—one that recognizes the importance of financial stability, sure—but prioritizes personal fulfillment, the power of connection, and the impact artwork has on both its creator and community it's shared with.  

We chatted with dozens of Artwork Archive artists to get a peek into what success means to them, beyond the spotlight and dollar signs. 


Here's what 15 artists had to say about how they define success for themselves in their art careers:


Steffanie Lorig, Vibrational Symphonies, 72 x 47.5 in

Success for an artist can mean...

Fulfilling your vision and potential as an artist

When I started painting in earnest, it was truly a means of self-expression—getting the stress out of my head and body. It was centering and calming.

But, then people started reacting to my work and buying paintings. That was pretty exciting and led to many shows.

Success, to me, is when you give time and energy to the thing you love to do and it gives you gifts in return.

Steffanie Lorig 



Tribambuka, Nowhere to Go but Anywhere - Artist Book, 21.6 x 14.4 x 8 cm

Success for an artist can mean...

Finding your creative sanctuary

Success is being able to work as a full-time artist in a well-lit studio in a place that inspires you. 

It involves doing the work you want to do without thinking of money. Your artwork should be valued, needed by people, and make a real impact. That's it in a nutshell!




David Atkins, Evening Light and Incoming Tide, 35 x 50 cm

Success for an artist can mean...

Relishing in the daily joy of creating art

Success is about making great paintings—it’s what makes me jump out of bed each morning because there is so much to do and learn. I live in hope!

David Atkins 



For me, success as an artist in its purest sense means getting to make art every day.

Yes, selling my art and knowing people like my work enough to have it in their homes is an amazing, humbling experience.

But, there are instances when I find myself sitting in my studio, pausing, and realizing wow ... I'm making art, I'm really doing this, and I love it—it makes me so happy.

What could be more successful than feeling happy and content in what you get to do every day?

Marce King



Nicky Myny, Legacy Unveiled, 91 x 152 x 4 cm, 2024

Success for an artist can mean...

Making meaningful connections through your work 

Personally, success as an artist means staying true to my own creative vision and making work that resonates with others. 

It's about creating pieces that evoke emotion and inspire people.

I don't necessarily measure success in terms of sales or social media following (although those things are certainly important), but rather in the connections I've made with others through my art.

When I receive messages from people saying that my work has touched them or helped them in some way, that's what makes it all worth it.

Nicky Myny 


I  hope to inspire and hopefully bring joy to people through my work—it’s a little piece of my soul that someone can connect with.

Dominique Fierro


Artwork Archive Tip:

Your artwork sparks a connection with people, but Artwork Archive makes it easy to STAY connected with them. Directly respond to inquiries from your clients, manage all of your art career relationships with our intuitive CRM, and send exclusive Private Rooms of a curated selection to whomever you choose. 


Eltono, 3 PA Belvès, 84 x 111 x 30 cm, 2022


Success for an artist can mean...

Gaining recognition from your peers

For me, there's only one truly important factor to gauge an artist's success: it's recognition from your peers.

Economic success is when you sell a lot of artwork, but artistic success is when fellow artists recognize your work as relevant, important, and inspirational.




Annalisa Barron, Skew Series No. 36, 18 x 15 x 30 in, 2021


Success for an artist can mean...

Pursuing an evolving set of goals

I have reached goals that meant "success" to me at a certain time, and in my experience, once you accomplish one goal there is immediately a new one! Finding balance outside of that kind of thinking has been very helpful. 

At this point, I am more concerned with why I make the work and what it does to my life. 

Will it create new experiences or connect me with new like-minded people? Would I still pursue a project even if no one ever sees or talks about it? Asking myself these questions has been very rewarding.

So, I suppose, success to me right now is to be able to continue to follow the work, wherever it may go, while remaining healthy and available to loved ones. 

Annalisa Barron


Artwork Archive Tip:

Accomplishing your goals is a success in itself—and these accomplishments should be celebrated! Take some time to write down your priorities and goals. Goals that are S.M.A.R.T. (specific, achievable, realistic, and timely), help you stay on track better than a generalized goal. We made these free worksheets to help you clarify your goals for your art career.

Download, complete, and then display them in your studio!


Astri Snodgrass, We Can Go Anywhere From Anywhere, 55 x 61 in, 2023


Success for an artist can mean...

Living authentically every day

I think there needs to be more conversation around success in general in the art world.

Being an artist is asking yourself every day how you really want to live.

When you find that you’re continually using that question as a compass to guide you in your daily life, that’s a mark of success.

Astri Snodgrass



REWA, udala | Waiting For the Fruit to Fall. 76.2 x 121.92 cm, 2022


Success for an artist can mean...

Making an impact on your community and leaving a legacy

For me, success means that a viewer learns from my work; specifically, a viewer learns more about the Igbo people of south-eastern Nigeria—one of the three major tribes that form the country.

I would love my viewers to learn about our traditions, our naming conventions, our history—the list goes on. 

Success also means that in the years to come, my works are easily identifiable to my son, his generation, and generations to come, contributing to the canon of West African Art.



Artwork Archive Tip:

By digitizing your art inventory, you're both protecting it and making it forever accessible. Organizing your collection tells the story of your growth and helps craft your legacy. 

With Artwork Archive, you can build an artistic legacy that evolves, inspires, and lasts generation after generation. 


Carolyn Wonders, Night Lights, 24 x 36 x 1.5 in, 2023

Success for an artist can mean...

Discovering peace in your purpose

I already feel like a success.

I have finally satisfied my lifelong search for meaningful work. To have this peace, this knowing, was something I worked long and hard to find. It’s something that eluded me for most of my life.

Now, it’s here, right in front of me. I’m doing it. I’m doing work that I feel called to do, work that never disappoints, and never fails to satisfy, and I adjust according to my needs. 

That’s success to me. A dream come true.

Carolyn Wonders



The ego in me wants to say fame and fortune! But, the reality is far simpler.

I may not be a millionaire as a result of my art, but the fact that I get to do what I want every day and can’t think of anything else I’d rather be doing makes being a full-time professional artist absolutely priceless.

Geoff Cunningham


Jared Hendler, God Lives Inside of You, 12 x 16.5 in, 2020

Success for an artist can mean...

Influencing how we understand each other

To me, success as an artist means creating work that has the ability to transform, impact, and foster a genuine appreciation for how we feel about one another as humans.

Similar to how I perceive the artwork of other artists I collect, I believe success lies in never growing tired of viewing the artwork and continuously discovering something new and meaningful each day.




Success is a balancing act. I want to create works that follow my curiosity about who we are as individuals and our relationships with each other.

I want to present those ideas in a unique, distinguishable style.

Success is connecting with the audience that resonates with what I do.

Chas Martin



Bhare, Grey Goose and Snakes 


And, yes, success for an artist can mean...

Financially sustaining yourself through your art

For me, success as an artist is reaching financial stability and higher emotional intelligence.

Art started as a way to comb through my emotions and make sense of my current reality. Years after I first started, I began to pursue a career in art, leading me to where I am today. 

I want to be able to travel the world freely, using my artwork to open new doors. There is so much beyond my four white walls—it would feel like a waste not to try and pursue it. I’m confident that art will lead me to experience all different walks of life. 




Artwork Archive Tip:

Staying on top of your finances is key to obtaining financial freedom and being able to sustain yourself as a full-time artist. And, running an art business is easier and less stressful if you can understand how your money is flowing in and out. 

 Artwork Archive's Income feature allows you to track artwork sales and any other income or expenses related to your art business. You can get quick insights into how your art business is performing, generate invoices, and stay on top of your budget.


Whether you're aiming to make a significant impact, build your artistic legacy, or sustain yourself financially, Artwork Archive is the tool that adapts to your evolving art career goals and supports your journey towards whatever success means to you. Get started for free for 14 days.


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