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Can You Even Handle Success?

by Gary John Gresl

So! You want success as an artist? You want to be in demand? You desire your work to be displayed in major venues around the country…in dozens of states? You hope for inquiries from museum personnel, newspapers, magazines and television? Are you even prepared for the hard work required if success finds you?

Think about how you currently handle whatever modest amount of success you currently have? Are you able to juggle the schedule and demands which are put upon you when it’s still pretty simple? Are you willing to drive or send your work to venues that are actually require time, expense and effort due to distance? Is Chicago too far? Minneapolis? Hell…is Madison or Milwaukee too far? Than what do you do when your work has to get to California and New York? Where are the venues and galleries that you approached? How many and how far?

I ask these questions as a result of hearing a few fellow artists voice their hesitation and frustrations because some exhibit or event is taking place outside their small personal comfort zone. 100 miles seems too far to drive. Expenses amounting to over $50 seem like too much to pay for shipping or travel, and arranging for packaging or delivery of work seems like exhausting work, too time consuming. These artists have low thresholds for risk and investment of time and energy. Is success going to walk in their door? They dream about finding champions and servants to do their work for them. Their art work might be terrific, but their energy, risk and endurance levels are not.

Some of us know artists from our region who have achieved significant success outside of our local areas. Ask these people about the efforts that they gave in order to maintain broader exposure, to get their works out of state, to fulfill the obligations that come with success. This sort of achievement requires hard work…and has all the appearances of a “real job”.

Imagine that! Hard work? Investment of time, planning and energy. Expecting that there will be problems and then coping with them. Running your program as if it was a real “business”. Working over the long haul and adjusting due to barriers and disappointments. These successful men and women are not dabblers, dilettantes or amateurs. In some fashion or another, they are art professionals, and they can serve as our models…right here, in our own back yard.

Success has different connotations to different people…but a few elements that are absolutely necessary to achieve it include hard work, willingness to overcome obstacles, and endurance. To get there you have to leave your comfort zone, extend your goals, and commit time…and perhaps even monetary capital. Success does not merely come to those who wait.  

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