Creating Artistic Opportunities

Teaching a watercolour pencil class in Bora Bora

Have you ever seen an artist achieve something you have always dreamed of and thought to yourself, “How lucky is that?” But was it really luck? Dictionaries define luck as “chance or fortune.” If you believe being lucky means randomly being favored by chance rather than being affected by skill or merit, this implies you don’t have any control over outcomes. I prefer the more empowering definition that “luck is the point where preparation and opportunity meet.”

Where do opportunities come from?

Opportunities usually appear as a result of some action. No one is going to knock on your studio door and discover you if your artwork has never been shared with the world.  Every artist has to start somewhere to get the momentum started. Usually this process begins by sharing artwork with family and friends and as confidence builds, exhibiting in the wider community. With the technology available today, artists can even start in a virtual way by sharing their creations through social networking pages or by setting up a website. Opportunities will generate as a direct result of all these ever-expanding actions. People will see your work and may directly provide you with an opportunity (like buying a piece) or they may refer you to someone else who gives you information that takes you on a path to unexpected opportunities (like informing you of new galleries or exhibitions). One opportunity often leads to another. Sometimes patience is needed as a period of time may lapse between taking a particular action and an opportunity coming from it. You may initially attribute this opportunity to sheer luck until you make the association between it and the original groundwork you laid. It’s this preparation that leads to lucky breaks.

Recognize opportunities

You won’t even recognize opportunities that show up if you feel you aren’t good enough to move beyond your present situation or if you are closed minded about possibilities. Opportunities are everywhere, but may not be in the form you expect. Don’t limit yourself with preconceived ideas about the kind of opportunities you are looking for. Unexpected adventures can be stepping stones to the things you ultimately want. They may take you the long scenic route rather than the quickest most direct route but as long as you are having fun along the way, does it really matter? To open your eyes to possibilities, you must believe you are as worthy as anyone else to achieve what you want. Practice recognizing how lucky you already are by appreciating your health, the people you love, your freedom to pursue artistic passion and all the wonderful things life has to offer.

Be prepared for opportunities

You may recognize an opportunity but realize you are not in a position to take advantage of it right now as you are not adequately prepared. This gives you clues as to the work that still needs to be done on yourself and your business. Maybe you need a particular qualification for a desired art school posting, a revamped artist’s statement and curriculum vitae for submissions to galleries or high resolution images of artwork ready for press releases. Rather than feeling bad about any missed opportunities, learn from them and prepare yourself for future ones. Remember, luck is the point where preparation and opportunity meet.

What do you do when an opportunity appears?

When an opportunity presents itself, this alone will not translate into good luck unless you follow up with some action to take advantage of it before it disappears. If you are prepared, you will be able to meet the challenge. By acting quickly, even if that just means researching the viability of the opportunity, some energy will be generated around this action that makes you powerful. The longer you wait to act, the more likely your enthusiasm will dwindle as self-doubt creeps in and you have second thoughts.

Don’t let the fear of rejection stop you from taking action. Sometimes opportunities aren’t easy to convert into desired outcomes and you may need to work at allowing them to happen. Just have courage and put your doubts aside, take some action and be persistent if necessary. Sometimes the opportunity you go after doesn’t come to anything. That’s okay. You cannot control every variable, especially other people’s decisions, but you can control your own actions. Sometimes just making a decision and taking action creates a ripple effect that can have unplanned but just as pleasing results.

Create your own opportunities

Painting a space mural on the interior wall of an observatory in the Maldives

You don’t have to just be reactive and wait for opportunities to come; you can be proactive and create your own. After establishing confidence in yourself and your artwork, you will be able to see where your unique skills would be valued. If you believe you can contribute something to an organization or individual; then approach them with your suggestion. Most organizations are open to new ideas and welcome people with an innovative approach. By being proactive you can create your own luck.

People often comment on how lucky I am to regularly have the position of artist in residence in beautiful locations all over the world. The highlights being teaching art classes in Bora Bora and recently painting a space mural in an observatory in the Maldives. I never deliberately went searching for any of these residencies, but I recognized the opportunities when they presented themselves, and then I was proactive in pursuing them because I was confident that I had the qualities necessary to do the job. Usually someone would mention in passing that they saw an artist working in a resort when they were on holidays or they knew of an artist in this position. I instantly recognized the opportunity so I would find out details of the resort and the contact person if possible. I felt confident to pursue this opportunity because I knew I was prepared. I have extensive graduate and post graduate teacher training and over twenty years teaching experience so I’m qualified to provide art classes for resorts. I have a large body of artwork that specializes in the beauty of the natural environment typical of these resort locations so I am exhibition ready. I am also familiar with foreign languages so I can communicate with international guests and teach art classes in Russian, French and English. After having my first residency, I then also had relevant resort experience. Knowing my skills are an asset to these organizations gives me confidence to be proactive and approach them in order to create my own opportunities.

The whole concept of luck has a mysterious quality about it. When it arrives, the form it takes and who it favors can appear random, inexplicable and unpredictable. To the outside observer, whether someone is lucky or unlucky seems to be attributable to fate. But those who have had a “lucky break” will know that factors far less mysterious than chance or fortune had a lot to do with it. It’s often a case of learning to recognize opportunities, doing the work to prepare yourself for them, being brave enough to seize them when they do come along as well as taking the initiative to actually create opportunities. You may find the more you work at it; the luckier you get. If you are doing nothing but just waiting for a lucky break, it will never come.

Elena Parashko ( is a professional artist, teacher and writer and the author of the empowering book Survival Guide for Artists: How to Thrive in the Creative Arts. She contributes articles to Professional Artist magazine as well as numerous publications in the UK and her native Australia.