You Can Be the Exception


Many artists are producing visual art in one sort or another. It is a straightforward matter of supply and demand that not all of these people will be able to make money from their efforts. If you want to be one of the relatively few who do make sufficient money from your efforts, you must prove the exception. Here are five tips for doing just that.

Understanding Why ‘Proving the Exception’ Is Vital

If you have it in your head that by doing what most artists do you can be successful, you will want to have a serious chat with yourself about that faulty thinking. Is it really enough to paint a few paintings, build an average website and open the doors to your studio one weekend a year during Open Studios? Why would you do so little, even if that is exactly as little as the typical artist does? Isn’t it abundantly clear that such efforts can’t amount to enough in an art environment with so many producers and so few buyers?

Understanding How ‘Most Artists’ Operate

If you intend to prove the exception, you will need to learn what is average or typical. Use the evidence of your eyes to distinguish between what most artists are doing and what successful artists are doing. What concrete differences do you notice between the one group and the other? Are the successes of profitable artists more about their subject matter choices, their technical merit, their marketing efforts, the stunts they pull or their sociability? What do you see?

Articulating The Difference Between the ‘Normal Way’ and the ‘Exceptional Way’

As you begin to understand what amounts to an average effort and what amounts to an exceptional effort, articulate what you are learning. Write out your own “10 tips” for proving the exception. Be able to say in a clear sentence or two how you mean to distinguish your efforts from customary efforts. Create your own plan for “proving the exception.” Clearly identify what you will need to do in order to make your plan work.

Stepping into the Shoes of ‘Someone Exceptional’

Once you’ve articulated your understanding of the difference between an average effort and an exceptional effort, you will want to become the person capable of going the extra mile. That may mean working on your shyness, your anxieties, your passivity and your dislike of self-promotion. If proving the exception requires that you do x, y and z, you must become the person capable of doing x, y and z.

Reaching Out

Learn how to send clear, concise, friendly, useful emails and other messages to those people who might be able to help you. Learn not to labor over such missives — they do not need to be elaborate works of art or skillful apologies for why you aren’t further along in your career or more important as an artist. Reach out to three people a day … five people a day … seven people a day. Reach out regularly and continually.

Eric Maisel’s latest book is Life Purpose Boot Camp. Learn more about Dr. Maisel’s books, trainings, and services at or drop him a line at [email protected].