7 Common Mistakes You May Be Making as an Emerging Artist

Paige Simianer | August 14, 2023

Artwork Archive artist Jeanette Innala in her studio. Photo by Anders Augustsson 

Running a successful art career is anything but easy—there's no clear-cut route or foolproof recipe for guaranteed success.

As artist Tina Psoinos says, "This field requires heart and talent, but to do it professionally, you need more than that."

Luckily, artists are becoming more connected each day, making it easier than ever to learn from and lean on those who’ve come before us.

While hiccups and making mistakes are part of the journey (not to mention a big part of how you learn), tapping into the experiences of artists who've been down this road can be a huge help as you forge your artistic path.

We caught up with a handful of successful artists to gather their insights for emerging artists and what mistakes to avoid. 

Take a look at seven common mistakes you may be making, and keep reading for some inside knowledge you don't want to miss out on!

Artwork Archive artist Nino Yuniardi working in his studio. Photo courtesy of the artist

Mistake #1

You're Underestimating the Business Side of Art 

Don't make the mistake of only focusing on your artistic skills.

You need to learn about the business side of art. 

"While creating art is essential, understanding the business side of the art industry is equally important. Learn about pricing, marketing, and promotion strategies. This will help you navigate the art world more effectively and make the most of the opportunities that come your way," Nino Yuniardi explains.

Things like pricing your artwork consistently, managing your finances, and marketing yourself effectively are crucial. 

Accept that being an artist makes you an entrepreneur. This means "you need to be willing to handle the 50/50 split between the creative side and the business side," Dirk Guidry says.

"Make a business plan," urges artist Marce King. "Write a 2-5 year plan on how you're going to get there and make it SMART: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-boxed."

We've put together a guide to laying a business foundation and building a successful art career from the ground up. You can access that for free here.


Mistake #2

You're Skipping Out on the Power of an Online Presence

Don’t sleep on the power of the internet. It could be your golden ticket to reaching a much bigger audience. Without an online platform, you could be missing out on valuable exposure, networking opportunities, and the chance to connect with potential buyers and collaborators.

Artist Fiona Smith expresses that "it's easier now than ever to build a career as an artist. We can now use the internet and social media to sell directly to the public and (if you're a younger artist) using your Gen Z skills to do that successfully will have the galleries knocking."

"With the rise of social media and e-commerce platforms, it's easier than ever for artists to showcase their work to a global audience,

Use social media platforms like Instagram to share your artwork and build an online following. Also, consider building a website."

—Nino Yuniardi

Social media, artist websites, and online portfolios aren't just fancy extras.

These platforms could be exactly how you can expand your reach and connect with your target audience.

Think about your online presence as your megaphone—use it to showcase your creativity worldwide. You never know who you'll connect with! 

Artwork Archive artist Fiona Smith in her studio alongside her painting entitled 'Tree of Life, Black Swan', 90 x 60 cm, photo courtesy of the artist

Mistake #3

You're Prioritizing Your Comfort Zone Rather Than Leaning Into Artistic Growth

You may fall into the trap of staying within your comfort zone by creating art that feels familiar and safe. Here's the truth though: real growth, the kind that makes your art pop and your skills soar, often happens when you step outside that comfy bubble. 

Don't get us wrong; consistency is key.

It's how your audience recognizes you from a distance—like your creative fingerprint. Consistency builds your brand, your vibe, and you as an artist. "Create work that reflects your perspective and experiences. If you are genuine, you’ll be able to amass an audience that truly connects to your work," says artist Bao-Khang Luu.

Finding your genuine artistic voice is where the magic happens.

We know it sounds a little counterintuitive, but that magic of finding consistency and your authentic artistic voice is ignited by stepping outside your comfort zone. Growth often happens from pushing boundaries and experimenting.

"Stretch your boundaries. Work big! For years, I was encouraged to work larger. I had a dozen reasons not to. I recently started creating masks in the 4-5’ tall range. The impact on viewers is profound." 

—Chas Martin

"Also remember, they can't all be bangers," artist Eva Sturtz adds. "Do not expect everything you make will be exceptional. But, every piece of artwork serves as a stepping stone to the next, making each one necessary." 

So, find your consistent style—that which makes your art recognizable, but don’t forget to leave room for evolution. Stay rooted in your artistic voice but don’t be afraid to branch out from that established base with artistic experiments. Otherwise, you could be stunting your own growth (and you don’t want to remain a stump).


Mistake #4

You're Not Embracing Ongoing Learning

The art world is dynamic, and trends and techniques evolve.

Make it your mission to seek out workshops, courses, and all kinds of resources that will fine-tune your skills. 

 But, "don't just study art," warns artist, curator, and art educator Zsudayka Nzinga

"If you post on social media, watch videos about how to use social media. Revisit your artist statement at least once a year, and think about if you still create the same things or have the same message.

Read other people’s artist statements. Go to galleries and museums, and look closely at the artists who have work you love and work that is similar to yours. Study the artists while you are there! Who and what are they going to show? Where are they showing? And, who is buying their work?"

Zsudayka Nzinga

By seeking out these learning opportunities, you're giving yourself a competitive edge as an artist. 

Plus, there's something genuinely thrilling about learning new things.

Take a course on art licensing or chat with an art tax expert—you will leave better equipped to navigate the complexities of all that goes into your art business.

Yes, there's always so much to learn! But the good news is we've made it easy to find resources that empower you to continue your learning journey.

Take a peek at Artwork Archive's blog for more artist tips, career advice, and interviews with experts from every part of the art industry. You can also sign up for our newsletter to get all of it sent directly to your inbox.

Inside Artwork Archive artist Kris Davidson's studio. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Mistake #5

You're Ignoring the Art of Networking

We'll always say this—networking is a game-changer. Building connections with fellow artists, gallery owners, curators, and collectors is like planting seeds that can turn into exhibitions, collaborations, and even mentorships.

Skipping out on networking is like shutting yourself into a solo art bubble.

Now, if you're more of an introverted artist, that might not seem so bad. But, "developing these connections over time enables more people to be exposed to the art you create," reasons Judi Tavill.

"Networking is kind of a strange word. It sounds very businesslike and contrived—but it's really just about making friends and finding like-minded people in the world that appreciate what you do. In turn, you appreciate what they do. 

I believe there are collectors for all mediums, types, and artistic voices. It's all about finding those individuals that connect with what you're doing, be it a single piece, an installation, or an exhibition, one step at a time.

—Judi Tavill

"Attend events, join professional organizations, reach out to people you admire, and use social media," Bao-Khang Luu recommends. 

"Cultivate relationships with other artists, vendors, galleries, and collectors, but don’t discount those who don’t appear to be part of the art world. You never know where your next introduction, opportunity, or sale will come from."

Think of your network as a lifeline of support that's got your back

You do not have to navigate this field alone—you do not have to do everything. Your network doesn't even have to be completely made of people from the art world.

Your network can contain your friends, your family, or even your partner—anyone who supports you and what you're doing. So, lean on that lifeline when you need it! 

"It’s okay to enlist others to help. It’s okay to need an editor and pay for one. It’s okay to get someone to look at what you’ve done and organize it. It’s even okay to expect your husband to make dinner because you are working," assures artist Carolyn Wonders.

It’s the realization that no one achieves their goals alone. We all need the communities we create around us. That network of yours is a reservoir of encouragement, inspiration, and yes—even a dinner-making partner—when creativity strikes.


Mistake #6

You're Letting the Art World (and its Challenges) Get to You

We know, this industry is hard. And, you're not alone. Many emerging artists face creative blocks, self-doubt, or external pressures that lead them to give up. 

"Stay positive and persistent, and remember that rejection is part of the process," Nino Yuniardi insists.

Rejection is normal and something that every successful artist has experienced. 

Every time you face it, you're simply refining your trajectory as an artist. "Keep creating and do not be discouraged by the no's," maintains artist Miles Regis

"Sometimes a no is the best answer, as there is a better path waiting for you."

Rejection teaches you resilience, a tool that's sharper than any brush. It strengthens your artistic muscles, showing you how to bounce back, adapt, and emerge even stronger. Flipping your perspective and actually viewing rejection as a redirection—and as a gift—can do wonders for your art career. 

Rejection is often the start of opening new paths, clearing the way for something bigger just down the road. 

So, keep painting, sculpting, drawing, crafting—whatever calls to you. You chose this path for a reason. Each wave of self-doubt or creative block can be conquered with a little persistence and a lot of self-belief. Painter Dominique Fierro reminds us, "art is meant to be created and shared. Just create and share your work. Don’t overthink it." 

Your artistic journey is uniquely yours, and it's okay to pause, reflect, and then forge ahead.

"Make art, then make more art.

You can't exhibit, sell, or share your work if it doesn't exist :)"

—Marce King

Artwork Archive artist Judi Tavill hand-building in her studio. Photo courtesy of the artist.

Mistake #7

You're Letting Chaos Prevail and Not Staying Organized

You know this by now, but the life of an artist involves way more than just making art. Failing to stay organized can lead to missed opportunities, rushed work, and unnecessary stress.

"Having your administrative affairs in order allows you to respond to requests quickly and professionally," insists artist and filmmaker Eliachi Kimaro.

We know it's easier said than done. "Staying organized is a practice in itself,"  Kris Davidson reminds us, "but it becomes easier with the right tools like Artwork Archive."

A reliable platform that manages and tracks your art business will allow you to direct more energy to artmaking.

Bao-Khang Luu advises to, "Start using Artwork Archive sooner rather than later. It’s easier to set up and get all your work and records into the platform while your body of work is smaller."

"With Artwork Archive, inventory management is so streamlined and easy, I no longer procrastinate doing my admin work. And the best thing—there’s nothing hanging over my head when I enter the studio.

I know my business is handled, so I’m free to create. As it should be." 

—Eliachi Kimaro


A little bonus nugget of wisdom:

"You are right where you are supposed to be at this moment. There is no hurry. You are doing exactly what you are supposed to be doing, right now."

-Carolyn Wonders

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