3 Major Challenges Emerging Artists Face (And How to Overcome Them)

Eisklettern_kl_engstligenfallYou’ve made a commitment to being an artist. You’re not hiding your creative side anymore, and when people ask what you do, your art is included in the description (if not leading it). Congratulations! As you march towards your goal of becoming a successful artist – whatever that means to you – you’re bound to face these obstacles in one form or other.

  1. The Catch-22 Problem: You can’t get your work shown, produced, or published because you’re not a name brand, but you can’t become a name brand until you get your work shown, produced, or published. This is the familiar lament of emerging artists everywhere.

    What you can do about it: There’s not a silver bullet solution to this problem and it takes time, but there are steps you can take to get your work recognized.  Do the art for art’s sake first. Then figure out what themes run through your work so you can speak intelligently about it. Get comfortable talking about your work. Create a succinct and exciting description of what you are doing (otherwise known as your elevator pitch) that rolls off your tongue and will make others interested in knowing more.  Socialize with other artists and producers in your medium.  Get involved in an organization that supports artists in your field. Become a fixture in the community. Take the initiative to produce your own small shows, productions, or short films, collaborate with friends on projects, make friends with bloggers and other press on the scene.  All this activity contributes to the relationship building that is essential to getting your work noticed and supported.  It will help others get to know you better and in turn they will contribute to a critical mass around you that is necessary for you to breakthrough.

  2. The Cash Problem: You are overwhelmed by the sheer volume of materials or software you need to buy to support your creative practice. You can’t afford the classes you’d like to take to increase your skill set. The kitchen table or garage isn’t cutting it anymore, and you need a new workspace pronto.

    What you can do about it: Save your money. Being an artist isn’t cheap. You need to invest in yourself before you ask others to do the same. Maybe you cut back on the fancy coffees. Or bring lunch to the office more often. Trim some kind of indulgence and put it in your artist fund. If you have a few shows or publications under your belt, you can begin to apply for grants to support your work. Do a crowd-funding campaign to finance one aspect of a specific project-start small ($5,000 or less) so that you reach your goal.  There are even residencies that provide artists space for their practice. Caution: grant applications can become a job unto themselves! Apprentice with a more established artist for access to advanced machinery. Barter for leftover materials or equipment.  Split the cost of the software with some friends. There are a myriad of ways to get access to what you need.

  3. The Confidence Problem: You are comfortable telling people you’re an artist, but you’re not so comfortable telling them about what type of art you create. You downplay your work by telling people it’s not that interesting or that it’s not groundbreaking and you don’t know why you do it.

    What you can do about it: Bite your tongue. Well, not literally. Every time you get the urge to sweep your creative work under the rug or downplay its significance, say something nice about it instead. If you don’t believe in your work no one else will!  And if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. Change the subject, or tell the person you’re speaking with that you’re far too superstitious about your art to talk about it.  Regularly take the time to go inward and get in touch with why you do what you do and what is good about it.  The more you say positive things about your creative projects, the better you’ll feel about them and the more confident you’ll become.

Are there any challenges on this list that keep you from growing as an artist? Do you have any creative solutions to these common problems that we didn’t already mention?


  1. I like this. Clear, simple overview of the basics but reminds me I’m not alone in these experiences. 🙂

  2. Thanks Amanda! I’m glad that you found it helpful!

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