How to Fail as an Artist

by Carolyn Edlund

22 Ways to Sabotage Your Art Career


How to fail as an artist


  • Believe in the myth of the starving artist. You don’t deserve success!
  • Take all of your own portfolio shots (preferably out-of-focus with poor lighting)
  • Write a rambling, vague artist statement that no one can understand so that you appear to be intelligent and unfathomable
  • Wait until the last minute to send in applications
  • Don’t return phone calls
  • Ignore visitors at gallery shows – remain aloof and mysterious!
  • Leave your last blog entry of November, 2008 as your most recent contribution
  • Vastly underprice your work
  • Vastly overprice your work
  • Work in isolation and ignore your local art community
  • Avoid business or networking events like the plague
  • Don’t take any continuing art or business education classes
  • Neglect to update your website with current work
  • Find excuses why your work won’t sell, and use them often
  • Apologize for your art – say that you are “not really” an artist
  • Who needs marketing?  You’re not a salesperson!
  • Blame others for misunderstanding your work
  • Maintain a messy and disorganized studio
  • Embrace rejection – convince yourself you are a failure
  • Ignore deadlines
  • Procrastinate
  • Give up


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  1. # Ignore deadlines
    # Procrastinate
    # Give up

    These are the 3 most important things not to do!

    Deadlines will always work in your favor, for your client, and yourself.
    Return business for work sent in on time.
    Procrastinating only leads to not meeting deadlines.

    And no one ever gets anywhere if they give up- but then again
    perhaps they don’t belong in the field if they don’t have the nerve.

    Great article!

    • I agree. You can procrastinate yourself right out of business, and I know artists who have. Lots of self-motivation and persistence are really important!

  2. Love this article. I am going to print it out BIG and put it up on my studio wall !

  3. Nothing like a what not to do list! This list pin points the problem. Good work. [img][/img]

  4. When I started reading this I thought “there won’t be anything here that I do”. Heh. I was wrong! I really need to break out of my comfort zone/shyness and get out there and talk to people!

  5. Wow – Give Up…yep that’s a sure fire way to stifle your art career – if you’re giving up, you haven’t got any.
    BTW how about spouses? My spouse was not happy with the time I spent marketing and calling this a business. It was OK to just paint i.e. hobby but to make it into a business that was upsetting. It was a roadblock for sure.
    But never give up….I haven’t yet 🙂

    • I agree totally, Judy. Keep on painting and promoting your work. Your spouse may change their tune when they see the fruits of your labor. Success is the best revenge!

  6. Carol Curley says

    I’d like to add_
    “Wait for the work to come to you, take no iniative.”

    This works well for failure and keeps you & work unknown for years.

    Great article, thanks for posting!

    • Carol Curley says

      @myself, Carol Curley-
      Make sure you don’t proof your spelling. For example. ” Initiative” would’ve been a good place to start.

  7. Humorous list! I quite enjoyed it, got a chuckle or two out of me.

    I am not an “artist” but I have a couple friends that are, and I can definitely tell that a few of those traits show up time and again.
    (Though I do have to admit that I have the “procrastinate” bit down solid.)

  8. Carol Curley says

    One more quick comment-
    Do not under any circumstances proof your work-wait until everyone has seen or read it and then discover your spelling errors!

  9. Six months late, but this list is dead on! I know way too many artists that write obscenely convoluted artist statements… It does nothing but turn people off. Be as simple and accessible as possible without dumb-ing down your message

  10. So true and always remember !

  11. Victoria Dickinson says


    Super incredible blog post list for artists! When I get my website up, may I have you put this on my site for my artists? Years ago I wrote a similar piece in “Sculpture Magazine.” Congrats, and thank you! Invaluable advice to artists!!

    Victoria Dickinson
    Victoria Dickinson Consulting

  12. Timeless advice, Carolyn. Thank you for the reminders!

    • Thanks for reading Rebecca – this article is one of the all-time most read on Artsy Shark. I guess a lot of people want to know how to fail!

  13. Thank you Carolyn for this! I am sharing on my G+ and Twitter feeds. Reverse psychology works with kids why not artists? 😉

  14. I love the reverse psychology…it hits home.


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