How to Begin Your Career as an Artist

November 14, 2020 9:51 AM | Ksenia Annis

by Nicole Hansen, Education Director

On my desk lays a small ivory notepad, pink flowers grace opposing corners, and at the top are the following words: “Great things are done by a series of small things brought together.” – Vincent Van Gogh. This is perhaps the quote to remember when focusing on how to begin your career as an artist.

I interviewed a few people in preparation for this article, and the first person I asked about advice suggested that new artists be honest with themselves about how much they practice.

Step 1: Honesty

Be honest with yourself about how much you practice, if you have a formal studio practice, and what that looks like. If you don’t, begin, It’s easy to forget that professionals don’t just deliver finished work. Professionals sketch constantly, create color studies, and explore composition. Be honest with yourself about your route, and practice. After that, practice some more.

I host many of the WAS-H online classes and one of our teachers, Ellen Orseck, recently told her class that if they wanted to grow their careers they should start locally and expand outward.

Step 2: Start Locally

Share your work with your family, your friends, and your community. Enter local competitions or exhibitions to get your work noticed and keep taking steps toward larger and larger opportunities. WAS-H allows all members to submit work to its exhibitions. Start here, with us!

Step 3: Build an Art Network

Find opportunities to integrate with other artists, art societies, schools, and galleries. A network within the local community will help you find opportunities and help promote your work.

WAS-H members have a range of opportunities to connect with other professional artists, and your artwork can be sold from our exhibitions.

Step 4: Persist

Perhaps the hardest step in any career is to continue to practice and continue to persist. This is the time you will lean on your network and your local community to help with inspiration, encouragement, and sanity. A career in the art world requires business skills, marketing skills, networking skills and hard work. Your work is special. Persist.

In preparation for this article, I read dozens of others regarding transitioning toward a professional career as an artist, and I can easily say that every single one, including ours has different advice. So read a few others and then make a plan.

Step 5: Make a Plan with Goals

Make a plan and set goals that are reasonable with timelines. Sometimes we are so busy working that we forget how far we have gone. It’s easy to forget that we have reached our milestones. If you have a plan it will be easier to keep track of where you are going and how far you have come.

Good Luck!

Questions? If you have questions send us an email or contact us on social media!


  • December 08, 2020 10:13 AM | Fred A. Kingwill
    Thanks Nicole! I really believe that besides what you mentioned about persistence, discipline, etc. that the big thing that all artists need (and we are ALL artist) is DESIRE. I ask my students that if they could paint anything in the world regardless of their current skills, "what would they paint" Those without a DESIRE to paint something and answer "I don"t know" or "anything" are probably at risk to grow into the artist they would like to be...
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