Why am I Doing This Again? Six Artists Define Success
By Sydney Walters
Every day an artist chooses to renegotiate societal structures in order to make their creative habit a profession. Because this kind of exercise drastically differs from the reliability of structured professions which grant dependable income, artists must also calibrate what it means to be personally successful. As every artist has a different studio practice, likewise his or her means of measuring success is different. Below, six seasoned artists weigh in on what success means for them.
While I was in graduate school I looked around me at the other artists and art students. I wanted to answer to the following questions: “What do I care about when no one is here? What do I care about when everyone is here?” As a graduate student, now 20 years ago, I realized that the response to each needed to be the same thing. It seemed to me that people who had long-lasting careers had aligned their inner and outer lives in a way that was authentic. In graduate school, my answer to what I cared about privately and publicly was reading and literature. Those two activities are still at the heart of what I do.”
So I would recommend to any young or young-at-heart artist to ask themselves what they care about, both when nobody is there, and when everyone is there, and do their best to align these answers.
Alexandra Grant is a Los Angeles based painter, draftswomen, and sculptor specializing in collaborations. She received her MFA from California College of Arts in 2000 and has been featured at the Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles (MOCA), the 2010 California Biennial of Art at the Orange County Museum of Art (OCMA) and many more. Additional information and portfolio at http://www.alexandragrant.com
Success has never really been a motivator for me…I create for personal happiness. It’s an amazing feeling knowing others also like what I do, but I’d be doing the same things I do now even if no one liked them and I needed to work a second job to pay bills. I live a pretty quiet life and I only leave the house a few times a month, so I think success is probably still the same for me: success is a feeling. It’s like an inner glee- a bubbling inside when I know I’m creating something “right”. When a piece comes together perfectly and I get a huge sense of peace. I’m always striving to elevate my craft and get better, so the success bar raises each year, but the feeling is still the same.
Mab Graves is a Contemporary Pop-Surrealist artist and illustrator based in Indiana. She is a self-taught artist and has been shown in galleries nationally and internationally and published her first book in 2013. Additional information, portfolio and online shop at http://www.mabgraves.com
I was very young when I first started showing. Looking back I was trying to stay alive so selling work, getting a review or an exhibition was success.
Now I am more invested intellectually and what amounts to success is far more simple.
Rachel Lachowicz is a Los Angeles based artist whose professional career has spanned over thirty years of work that has been featured at the Whitney Museum of American Art, the Israel Museum in Jerusalem and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and many more. She received her BFA from California Institute of the Arts and is currently the chair of the Art Department at Claremont Graduate University. www.lachowicz.com
Camilla Taylor :
Initially, success meant making your income entirely from art. I’ve revisited this definition as I know few in the LA area who are able to live off of art alone–nearly all the artists I look up to also have day jobs of some kind. I make art that is frankly depressing to many people, and I don’t know that I’ll ever sell enough to live on it alone.
At the graduate school I attended, there was a sign up in the print shop that just said, “Do a better job.” I’ve replicated it in my own studio, as it is the best advice. So, success, am I doing a better job than I was before? Have I improved my exhibitions, personal discipline, studio output, conceptual frameworks? If not, then “do a better job.”
Camilla Taylor received her MFA from California State University at Long Beach with an emphasis in printmaking. Her work has been shown nationally and internationally and when she is not in the studio, she teaches people the art of printmaking at colleges and schools. For additional information, visit http://www.Camilla-taylor.com
It has become far more expansive and simple. It is so much bigger then the way it is talked about in Art School. Those conversations are wonderful and so very necessary. Success does have to do with those things but it is so much more.
Success is your continued excitement (and occasional dread) and sense of necessity to make your work. It is the delight to be the first viewer and the impulse to share it with another. It is the realization that it is all a profound gift. And it is a lot of fucking hard work. It is being in a community where who you are and the work you do matters and that the community in turn matters to you. To know and be known, in your work and outside your work. It is the realization that you are part of something much bigger then you and the work you do. Success is the urge to stop writing and get back to making.
After receiving his MFA from Claremont Graduate School, now Claremont Graduate University, Dan Callis has gone on to have shows in the United States and abroad. Besides teaching at Biola University, Callis maintains an art studio in Orange County and has recently exhibited his paintings at Jason Vass Gallery in Los Angeles. www.dancallisart.com
Success is a state of mind…mind over matter.
Gisela Colon is a Los Angeles based artist who has developed an art practice of “organic minimalism.” Her unique Pods, Slabs, and Monoliths are in the permanent collection of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, the Butler Institute of American Art, Youngstown, Ohio and many more. To see her portfolio and for additional information, visit http://www.giselacolon.com