How Can Artists See That They’re Making Progress?

By Cherie Hanson in Art Business Advice > Motivation

Do you ever wonder if you’re actually “making progress” in your artistic journey?

While I frequently feel that I am not moving forward quickly enough (i.e., not making the kind of money that I need to finance my career) what I can point to is the fact that I am getting my work into more shows.

This year alone my work has been in juried shows in Chicago, Toronto, and Ferrara Italy—and I have also recently been accepted into the Stroll Project.

This, for me, is progress, and I’m continually working on changing my mindset and seeing that progress in my life. Here are two methods I use:

Focus on how your journey is changing.

I read a wonderful blog post the other day which I wish I could remember and link to. . . basically the artist said that you should start by working on your technique, then work on your own artistic “voice” and lastly try to get your work out of your studio in any manner that you can.

All of these steps are important, and none of them are more important than the others. The secret to seeing progress is by NOT attaching yourself solely to a single step, or place, in your journey.

As Pema Chondra says, very simply, “keep your seat.” Meaning, we should be aware of our journey (the potholes, the turns in the road) instead of being so focused on a desired outcome that we fall off balance and never arrive there at all.

Focus on yourself, not how others view you.

If our desired outcome is an action that OTHER people must take (like buying our art) then we run the risk of never truly being happy with our accomplishments on our own. Instead, we become puppets, waiting for others to pull our strings a certain way.

Yes, of course I would love for people to throw themselves into my arms weeping over the beauty of my vision. . . all the while shoving thousands of dollars into my pockets to purchase my latest work.

But that is not necessarily progress.

Far better to be yourself, continually creating art that resonates with you, while (for the most part) ignoring how others react to it.

Other people’s reactions and opinions may change. It’s much easier to see how far you’ve come if you’ve always stayed true to one course of action—your own.

Remember, progress is different for each one of us.

Making progress as an artist is more about living artfully than being validated by others. Some of us create art. Some of us create art that sells. Some have yet to understand that they are artists at all.

It doesn’t matter what life you have—progress can be found no matter what.

For more articles by Cherie, please visit her website at


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