Building a Reputation: Determining Success


Success is often determined not only on the basis of an artwork itself, but by the name and reputation of the artist. A reputation is what is generally said or believed by others about the character of a person. As such, it can be accurate or inaccurate, and it can be manipulated. In fact, there is a whole industry geared toward managing the reputations of celebrities, performers and politicians, employing publicists to do this on their behalf.

It is not just high-profile identities who should be concerned about their reputations. Everyone has an image he or she projects to the world. As a professional artist, it is important to be aware of your position in the art community, and what you are doing either intentionally or unintentionally to affect your success. You have the power to change the way you are perceived.

This article appeared in the March 2011 issue of Professional Artist. For more information on some of the topics discussed here, refer to the following articles:

“Vanity Galleries: Pay to Play at Your Own Risk” by Renée Phillips (Art Calendar, November 2008).

“Sidetrips and Detours: Maintaining a Private Creative Life” by Matthew Daub (Art Calendar, October 2010).

*Art Calendar changed its name to Professional Artist beginning with the March 2011 issue. Digital back issues of Art Calendar can be downloaded for $2.95 each.

An artist’s reputation is built on six main factors:

Quality of materials used in the production of artwork. If an artist has a professional attitude toward his or her artwork, then this will be reflected in the care and quality that is put into its creation. The use of cheap materials will show through flawed works or pieces that deteriorate quickly, giving the impression to collectors that the artist is not serious about his or her work.

Message of the artwork. Your artwork is your unique creative voice that carries your message into the world. Think carefully about how your vision is communicated, as this will also be a reflection of you. The most fulfilled artists are those who project an authentic voice, speaking what they truly believe. It is possible to have a private artistic life as well as a public artistic life. You can choose whether or not you share this with the world. No artist needs to put all his or her secrets on public display.

The company your artwork keeps. The reputation of the venues where your artwork is exhibited and the galleries that represent you will impact on your reputation via association. Having an exhibition in a vanity gallery can do more harm than good by branding you as a desperate artist who has to pay to exhibit work.

How you present yourself. Your attitude and behavior, how you speak and what you say, how you dress, where you go and what you do all send messages to the general public. Think about the verbal and non-verbal statements you make when presenting yourself. Are there any mixed messages that are not consistent with what you are trying to achieve in your career?

How you interact with others. Being honest, approachable, considerate and decent with those you work with will build you a positive reputation. People prefer to do business with those who are pleasant. If you wish to collaborate with organizations like galleries, magazines or corporate clients, then you must adhere to their strict specifications and deadlines. Being unreliable in this context will give you a reputation of being undesirable.

Customer service. Good customer service means promptly returning telephone and e-mail inquiries, being punctual and professional, keeping any promises you make, being polite in all communications and doing all you can to meet clients’ needs. Your clients provide a great source of free advertising called “word of mouth.” If you provide excellent service and a high-quality product, then they will refer others to you. If your service is poor, word will spread just as quickly, damaging your career. When we are passionate about what we do, it is easy to build a strong reputation because we take pride in our art and care in its production, and will be enthusiastic in the way we deal with clients and business associates. Having a positive attitude and demonstrating professional behaviour will build a reputation for success.

Elena Parashko is an artist, teacher and writer based in Sydney, Australia. Her artwork can be viewed at, and she can be reached at [email protected].

Copyright © 2013 Professional Artist

This article appeared in the March 2011 issue of Professional Artist.