Are you a success? Am I? How do we know if we are or not? Should it matter? What does success mean anyway? There is the textbook definition, but then there is what it means to us personally. Our personal success can be loosely defined, a floating feeling or it can be measurable and marked by certain milestones. As we work through our art and grow into our process, our personal ideas of success will hopefully change and grow just as our work evolves over time.
Is success about money, acclaim, a studio downtown, or is it about leaving our mark in the hearts of people who come across our work? Is success quitting the day job and painting full time?
Success for some, could be as simple as believing in themselves enough to not flinch when they tell people they are an artist. Success is so personal and abstract, yet at the same time we may tell ourselves stories about what it should mean, making it rigid and unattainable.
When I was much younger, I thought success was to have a simple life of my own creation, free of complications, while being able to see as much live music as possible and just being happy or just having fun. A very loose definition. Then as an art student, it became about getting good critiques and respect from peers and professors, and an occasional showing of my work with no expectation of sales. After school, success became about getting into juried shows, getting more exhibitions on my resume, and finally taking a risk and deciding to quit my job to focus on my art. The focus still wasn't on selling, but on building my body of work, name recognition, and additional lines on the resume. After a couple of years, naturally the next step was the gallery route, this is where my personal definition of success got fuzzy. Success here becomes more rigidly defined as I entered into business relationships with various galleries, this brought on an all new set of rules, expectations, demands, and of course pressures to sell, to have a viable product. This wasn't necessarily created by the galleries, but by myself within the gallery structure. I experienced a heightened sense of being a professional and being responsible not only for myself, but to the galleries taking a chance on me and my work.
It has been suggested at times, that I might want to re-evaluate my personal definition of success, so that I can gauge my progress and celebrate my milestones along the way. However, I find myself a bit stumped. I have at times, lost sight of what my original purpose was, or what I truly desired when I first started showing my work. Not uncommon, I fear it happens to us all.
Is success a certain number of paintings created in a month or a year, or a certain number sold in that same time period? Is it earning a specific yearly dollar amount? Is it painting consistently even if only a few times a week? Is it being picked up by a major NYC gallery, having a solo show and selling out on opening night? Is it being on the cover of an international art magazine? Perhaps it is simply having lots of adoring MySpace fans from all over the world. I don't really know the answer.
So, I am asking- what is success for you?
Please share your ideas with me in the comment section.
For more information about me and my work and the galleries that represent me, please visit my website www.meganchapman.com
For my affordable small works on paper please visit www.artmaven.etsy.com
Hover Like Ghosts
Mixed Media on Canvas
Megan Chapman 2008
Currently on display at the River Market ArtSpace
Little Rock, Arkansas