Playing Up

by Carolyn Edlund

Years ago, my friend and tennis instructor Rick offered some sage advice. He said, “If you want to improve your game, make sure the person on the other side of the net is better than you. Play up.”


Play Up


“Playing up” challenges us to rise above the usual way of doing things and stretch ourselves to reach a higher level. It works for artists, and most small business people, as well as tennis players. You know the names of artists you admire, and you may aspire to become their peers. Make connections, build your network and seek out those who have accomplished what you seek to do.

Then, prepare yourself mentally to uplevel your own art business. Only through consciously taking your business to a higher level now through deliberate action, will you be prepared to move forward as opportunities present themselves.

Not long ago, a sculptor mentioned to me that she had registered to attend a workshop which intimidated her a bit. Although she knew that her work was solid, the techniques being taught were advanced. Other artists who were attending had already reached the level she sought. But afterwards, she was thrilled. The workshop challenged her. She said the others at the event were very nice to her, and they were encouraging.

This is not uncommon. Artists who are successful are quite often very supportive of those trying to find their way. I’ve witnessed many examples of this; some devote themselves to running online discussion groups or in-person salons to help other artists. Others mentor those just getting started. “Playing up” means you get to connect and benefit from the experience of those a bit further along the road.

My personal experience

When I started this blog back in 2009, my goal was to provide really useful information for artists who wanted to grow their businesses and sell more of their work. Did I know everything? No way! I knew that I needed to “play up” to create a true quality product.

So I approached experts in various fields of the art business and asked if they would be willing to share their knowledge through interviews and guest articles. The response was incredible; most people were delighted to receive my request. I never once received a negative remark from anyone who was asked to freely share their expertise. They were flattered, and pleased to contribute.

For many people who have reached their goals and been blessed with success, gratification comes not through more conquest, but through helping others. That’s a sign of a true accomplishment – we see it in leaders of all types. They are happy to help others “play up” and act as their biggest fans. It’s one of the best win/win scenarios I can imagine, and is a real opportunity for artists.


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  1. Great food for thought, Carolyn! Thanks for sharing it with us.

  2. That was very helpful advice. I recently spoke to a couple of successful artists , who were very helpful. Thank you.

  3. Nice. Made me feel good inside to read this. I have been on both sides of the coin.. and as we change our life’s and take on new directions it is sometimes difficult to find a helping hand. There are many good folks out in the world that can help … don’t be scared to take hold of the little threads that come your way… cause it might pull you into some Cashmere !!

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