Monday, December 3, 2012

The Secret To Your Success

How's that for a title? Like I have the answer right?

I often run into budding artists either in person or online that ask me what I think they can do to be successful. Aside from portfolio advice, going to school or getting tutored, blogging, sending out promos, making awesome art & products, etc (all of which are super important) here's what I think the most important thing is:

Drum roll....

I think you have to be committed for life. Some plan on writing and/or illustrating a book but if it doesn't get published they'll move on and find something else to do. Some plan to apply for studio jobs but fall back on something else if it doesn't pan out. Just the other day someone told me they were going to try making a story app to see if it will sell. I think this is the wrong attitude. What if it doesn't sell? Does that mean you didn't learn something valuable for your next one?...and the one after that?

One thing I've come to realize is that the truly successful artists have been and continue to be - committed for life. It's all they want to do. It's all they live for. It's what they do. It's who they are. If they have a set back they accept it as part of the journey. I dare you to show me a successful artist that doesn't have his/her fair share of bumps and bruises. I can't count the number of time I've had to lick my wounds - but they scab up over time and those scars become great stories later on.

Stan Lee - creator of Spider Man said, "Mine is the longest overnight success story of all time!"...he was committed even when his comics were being canceled by his publisher - he stuck it out...what if he had quit? Think of all the super hero movies he's responsible for...

The piece above was a pretty crappy demo in class but I love working on art so much I came home and played with it in Photoshop for two hours. I love art and I'll be making it for the rest of my life.


  1. Great Post!
    Personally, I came to a similar conclusion. I am married to art for the rest of my life.
    When I create I feel freedom and I feel safe so maybe that's why I feel motivated to continue no matter what happens. :)

  2. I've been a lurker on your blog for a little while, and I really like your art. (My almost 2 year old son LOVES your nasty bugs book).

    I love your attitude in this post, and it gives me hope. Because that is what I plan to do. I haven't had any success with my art yet, just a line of failures, but I am still working, and just dipping my toe into children's books. (The first one I illustrated and self published was/is a total failure) But even though my first book I both wrote and illustrated hasn't even been sent off to publishers to be rejected yet, I am already planning and writing out the next two. I am hooked. Successful or not, I am going to do it for me. So thanks for the good advice and encouragement. I need it.

  3. Excellent article Will. Being committed shows in everything you do. You can't compete by just dipping your toe into the pool. Sometimes you just have to jump into the deep end... sink or swim.

  4. Will, I've given up over and over again (most recently, because I couldn't see to draw and create calligraphy (note to self, need to create a calligraphy "nib" and brush for Photoshop...
    SO TRUE. I hope I do well, I hope my stuff doesn't sucketh and eventually sells. Goodness knows I learn a bit more every day. That being said, even if I don't, I can't stop. I've tried, lol.

  5. You are so right! And you have to really be committed and not let the outsiders who constantly ask you, "When are you going to get a real job?" get you off your path.

  6. You come across with energy, drive and motivation. Good job!

  7. Those words: BE COMMITTED FOR LIFE!

    They set my heart on fire and helped me realize that I've been chasing my dreams as an artist/author only half-heartedly. I don't need this for my income, I'm not doing it to impress someone. Ergo, there is no outside source telling me I "need" to do this. So why do I do it? Because there is an inner source telling me I need to! If I don't succeed, I'm not letting anyone down but myself. How can I be there for ANYONE, my husband, my children, my friends and family, if I cannot even follow through for my own personal and greatest desire in life?

    *weilds pen and paintbrush

    (thanks will, your blogs are always worth reading! p.s. I am learning from the pros how to make successful art blogs, you are one of my main sources for inspiration. I feel honored to know you! Keep on keepin' on, dude! love your work, love you. thanks for everything you do)

  8. Great post! I had to break up with art a few times- had 5 surgeries on my right hand rebuilding a ligament and tendon about 10 years ago and had a TIA last year. It was dark and I had to relearn functions but I cant complain as I still can do many things and i appreciate I may never be 100% again but in both instances they told me that I may never draw again- so I am happy to still be able to be an artmaker as it is within your soul. Dyann Callahan

  9. I love hearing all of your experiences - usually I like to respond to each one personally because I feel the connection. As the semester winds down and as I try to keep my head above water on other projects I'm finding it more and more difficult to keep up. Please know that I read every comment and enjoy your experiences, struggles, triumphs, fears, and bravery! Thank you!

  10. At least from this person, I know you are such a personable, giving person. Please do not feel like you have to respond to me, ever. I do enjoy your comments and such, but I understand where you're coming from. I also understand it's so wonderful to hear other people respond otherwise it's easy to feel like we are laboring in vacuum instead of creating connections with our physical expressions, our art. You have been one of the most influential and instrumental in my resurgence at what I love, hence I tend to respond. You don't only affect your students, but some old lady far away behind her computer, lol (and yes I kind of look like Maxine, except I don't wear sunglasses)...

  11. Wow, just stumbled upon your blog and your art is amazing. I do agree with you that one has to be totally committed to their craft. Because that is what will get you through the hard times of being an artist. I know for me I had my share of self-doubt and rejection. I always try to see those as opportunities for development. I will be following your blog now for more great articles from you :)

  12. Sounds about right. But, I get why people ask this.
    You talk about bumps and bruises, but what about those who need to start out?
    I'm freelancing for two years now, but nowhere near a normal income. All the people that see my art think it's great and suitable for children's books and all. Except publishers apparently.
    Sure, I can make a storybook 'app' (not that that is really original anymore) but it doesn't really give me a steady income I think. It gets hard to see what'you're doing wrong when you're still starting out.

    1. Very good insight Petra, there really isn't any easy answer however. Times have changed so that there are more illustrators going after fewer projects. I learned by doing. When I started it was much easier to get freelance work - and boy did I do some terrible work. The only thing I can say is that you have to create art all the time. If you're not making a living with your art obviously you'll have to work doing something else but in your spare time - MAKE GREAT ART! I'm borrowing that phrase from Neil Gaiman. You have to be committed enough to keep working even though you aren't getting paid. This is much like the acting world - lots of work - time and effort must be given with no guarantee of payment.


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