What is Success?

By Carolyn Edlund

Artists, what’s your definition of success?

  • Being a full-time artist?
  • Selling your work? How many pieces?
  • Making a certain amount of money? How much?
  • Having your work in a museum collection?
  • Having a long CV of exhibitions?
  • Fame and fortune?
  • Featured in Wikipedia, acknowledged by the culture as a known artist?
  • Being a mentor other artists look up to?

Can you define success? How will you know when you get there?

Sometimes we have a goal, but it isn’t well-defined. Focusing to understand exactly what our goal looks like and putting it into action is the only way we will ever get there. Otherwise, we’re just dreaming about it.

Often, our goals change and evolve over time.

Your career will probably be a series of successes, along your journey, often interspersed with failures learning experiences.

Perhaps your goal is to be happy and satisfied with what you are doing, no matter what that might be. That’s not a bad goal to have.

What does success look like to you?


  1. For my self, I’d define it as being able to live off of what I create. But since I can’t do that right now, it’s most about receiving positive feedback from several sources.

    • Linda, the last poll I posted asked about readers’ goals. Number one was being a self-supporting artist. I think you’re in the right place!

  2. Thank you for those questions…I cannot specifically answer them right now, but that is going to be my homework this week! Off the top of my head, I would like to have a 7 digit income from my work (and have my work working for me 24/7) + sell pieces in the 5 digit range. I am still in a learning curve on some digital work I have envisioned…and I know my ultimate goals won’t be achieved (except for a miracle!) in two years…but that is the dream! In two years I would like to be able to live from my art…

  3. Making a comfortable living as an Artist is my idea of financial success! Of course, there are other factors that define what are life successes! 🙂

  4. I am at the far end of a goal, I’ve had many successes and near misses. Opportunities have and will present themselves. Having the courage to confront them is an ongoing process. Making a quick decision to take a chance has rewarded me. Procrastinating takes that opportunity right out of your reach, and is given to someone else.

  5. I bet you will get a lot of answers along the lines of making a living from our art/craft, and I’m in the same club. We spend so many hours of our lives working, and my intent is to eventually have that work that pays the bills (and hopefully builds a retirement fund) be creative, fulfilling, meditative, fun, and a way to share and bring joy to those who see it, buy it, or learn from you.

    I don’t even know if an inability to achieve that (for whatever reason) constitutes failure or non-success, because I think everything that happens to us here in the”earth school” is a teaching, but to me, success includes reaching a goal, even if that goal changes and evolves over time.

  6. I define success in steps and the goal changes as I reach the goal of the previous step of success. When you break it up like this it looks more attainable because in reality success is won in steps throughout life. If you don’t define the steps and goals along the way, then I feel it may always just be a dream that goes unfulfilled for many. While I may count my success by how many people collect my paintings, there are many steps (and little successes) I have to take before that can happen. Celebrate the little successes along the way too.

  7. I view success as the courage to take and accumulate many many small
    wins coupled with many opportunities to learn.

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