What does it mean to be a successful artist? Being the best? Popular? Selling more of what you create?
None of those things. They’re cheap reasons. The insignificant ones. Or at least, they don’t matter much.
Because they don’t make you better. They’re just outcomes. They may motivate you or drive your passion – but they can’t make you better.When you’re a creative person, it’s crucial to be honest to your work and give it what it takes.
Hard work, persistence, and dedication – these aren’t cheap words. They still hold the same meaning they had years ago.
As an artist, you start imperfect, you try to keep growing, and you become better gradually. All your struggles, creations and interactions with the world, either through your art or directly, mold you into someone wise.
Your experiences induce maturity in you. You don’t always remain an unlearned juvenile. There comes a time you become so aware, so sincere, that you know your art inside-out.
You achieve a state of peace when your only focus remains creating something better than what you have created before. That’s a sign of a mature artist – to be only concerned about creating something magical.
Other things exist. Yet, the upmost priority remains to make something meaningful.
Then how do you differentiate a mature artist from a beginner? You don’t.
Every imperfect artist is always a master in progress. He goes through his journey, slowly ascending and getting close to mastery. As he creates and learns more, he becomes what he wanted to become.
There's something else which enters an artist's life before success does - Maturity.
Once an artist starts treating his work in a professional way and surrenders himself to his art, success follows him.
However, how would you know if you’re becoming a mature artist? Here are the 15 changes which occur in your ways which indicate that you have become a mature artist.
1. You create more and don’t fear to be imperfect
All artists create something that sucks.
If you’re an artist, you know it.
But the quality which makes you a mature artist is how you deal with your imperfections. Novices stop. Mature artists go on in spite of this.
Artists struggle with the bad parts of their talents. It frustrates them. It makes them want to quit and cry. Imperfections are enough to make anyone hopeless.
Yet, all learned artists understand the necessity of being imperfect. They take it easy. Because if they’d stop creating due to the fear of imperfection, they’d create nothing.
You don’t need to be perfect, you just need to get used to being imperfect. If you know this then you’re ascending towards maturity.
2. You don’t take criticism personally
Your art is awful, you aren’t.
Actually, neither is your art awful.
When someone judges your art or points out the flaws in it, it easy to lose your calm and justify all your work. You might even want to start a good debate and drag down the other person.
There’s no point in doing it. You cannot control other’s views. You shouldn’t.
Mature artists allow others to express their opinions about what they create. They don’t ask for appreciation or praise. To them, an honest response is valuable.
People have diverse choices, tastes and perspectives. There’s no one way all people will treat your art. So it might not be your fault when people don’t like what you create.
Rejections are common in the creative industry and all mature artists understand it. They become resistant to criticism, and don’t see it as something to decide the value of their work.
Face rejections, accept criticism and move on – that’s what great artists do.
3. You have found your identity
You experiment, try new ideas and somewhat copy the style of other artists and influencers when you’re new.
In fact, that’s a fine way to learn when you’re starting out, as you don’t know much. No, that doesn’t make you a liar or faker either. Everyone goes through the same process in the beginning.
However, you reveal your own identity when you create more and find out the unique part of yourself. That’s when you achieve purity.
You still learn from others and experiment with your art – but a part of what you do always remains untouched by the external influences.
All artists reach this stage once they’ve tried a lot. They know who they are. They find their own identity. What separates them from everyone else.
4. You have regard for your art
Art isn’t trivial.
Art may be amusing, lively and empowering – but not something cheap.
You may take your work lightly, be insincere and exist happily with your mediocrity. You have no obligations of creating art in a certain way.
But that won’t make you better.
People who create great art are sincere. To them, creating art is holy. They see their talent as a means to serve the world better.
It requires more than blood, sweat and tears. It may take away your soul. But refined artists don’t fear such struggles. They’re used to making sacrifices.
If you respect your work, you’re already close to achieving mastery.
5. You show up, no matter what
Lack of time, planning, having other work to do – doesn’t matter.
There are many excuses or problems you may be having. Yet, nobody cares. What matters the most is whether you’re creating or not.
If you say you’re an artist then it’s you job to bring justice to your work. Sacrifice sleep, replace fun with work, try using some other method – but work.
All mature artists show up each day. They too have their own problems and struggles to deal with, yet they find time to create.
Even if it means to paint a single stroke of brush on canvas, or writing nothing more than a line on a blank page, try to create each day. That saves your belief of being an artist.
If you don’t do that, you slowly start doubting whether you’re really an artist or just another pretender who wants himself to be called an artist but avoids the hard work.
If you want to save your beliefs and your dreams – create. That will keep your hope alive. Mature artists know this.
6. You don’t let the world stop you
The world is often cruel and ignorant to artists. Even if appreciation is free, the people aren’t much generous in giving it.
They keep noticing you silently and see how far you can go. Sometimes you might doubt whether they notice your existence. They do.
Often, you close friends or relatives don’t support you. They almost end up shattering your self-belief and force you to give up.
Get used to that stuff and move on. Keep creating art in silence. Don’t be sensitive. That works.
The whole world thinks practically, but it’s hard for you to think practically when you’re an artist. Ignore the world; do your job.
7. You always win against your doubts and fears
Creating art is like fighting a duel against yourself.
The other part of you keeps trying to defeat you while you try to save yourself and focus on your work.
Your mind is already filled with fears and doubts which are enough to entrap you in inactivity.
The truth is that all artists are insecure and they fear to be judged. They get uncomfortable and sweat when they think about how others might react.
However, mature artists know that their feelings are nothing more than an outcome of their imagination and insecurities. So they create what they think doesn’t make sense, and take risks. They try out their ideas without the fear of getting judged.
While other artists may choose to play it safe, mature artists believe in risking it because they know that risking is always worth it.
8. Improving is a part of your routine
What makes you credible and a refined artist over time are the tiny efforts you put into your work and the changes which you induce in your habits.
Learning isn’t an option but rather a necessity you cannot ignore. You have to go into the details and study your art.
If you ask other artists for help, learn from every possible option and explore new arenas, then you’re doing what you’re supposed to do.
Do it daily. Make improvement a part of your routine.
Curiosity about your art is a sign of maturity.
9. You don’t try to fit into the competition
Competition. You’re a part of it.
But you don’t need to work in order to survive it. Being a leader of the already existing rat-race isn’t the way to creating something valuable.
When you get stuck in competition, you give up your identity, and soon the motive of getting better than others steals you of your unique perspective.
Don’t let that happen to you.
Competition is invisible to great artists.
If you focus on bringing out the best in you instead of working for the sole reason of overtaking others, then you’re a mature artist.
10. You create art for yourself before you create for others
This is the way to be truthful.
You’re most honest when you create art for yourself. Because then you remain unaware of the external facts which often dilute your work.
As you keep creating more, for others and for yourself, you develop a tendency to fulfil the demands of others without a need to sacrifice your own principles and ways. This might sound tricky, but it happens.
You can give others what they want and yet be yourself – you only learn it after you achieve a certain level of maturity.
11. You don’t judge other artists
Instead, you understand more.
All artists who have mastered their respective arenas know the struggles of being an artist. Although they notice your flaws and imperfections – they won’t blame you for them.
They help you out when you wish to learn more from them. In their hearts, they know that all the beginners are flawed and get better eventually.
So instead of telling you that you shouldn’t be an artist, they tell you how you too can improve.
That’s a trait only mature artists possess. If you help your fellow artists and serve your community in all ways you can, then you’re a mature artist.
12. You put maximum effort in your work
You create whenever you can. As much as you can.
You don’t spare an opportunity and exploit your time. You love working hard and keep thinking about your art most of the time.
You become restless when you don’t create and feel at peace only when you’ve played your part.
You put maximum effort in your work, do you? If yes, then you’re a mature artist.
13. You have made art a permanent part of your life
Not an option – a permanent part.
Although there might be a lot of things going on in your life, art should have its own place in your life. You may treat art like a hobby or a leisure activity – it’s better than doing nothing at least.
However, that doesn’t make you a refined artist.
If you wish to achieve the ability and status of a professional, you’ll have to make art a permanent part of your life. Creating art must be a part of all the activities you do each day such as eating or sleeping. All mature artists do it.
In fact, you might already be a mature artist but aren’t aware of your talents yet. Make the place of art permanent in your life. Keep creating art. Forever.
14. You are humble
You can distinguish mature artists from others by their humility.
Usually, they aren’t among braggers as they know where they stand.
Another reality is that the struggles, hard-work and experiences turn artists into humble human beings. They’re less aggressive. Less flaunty.
If you’re a humble and down-to-earth person who works hard – you barely need to have any other quality to succeed. You’re already a mature artist.
Believe in yourself and grind harder – sometimes you need nothing more than that to succeed.
15. What makes someone a mature artist?
Sorry, there’s no #15.
That’s because I wish to hear from you.
Are you an artist? Maybe you paint, sketch, sing, dance or write.
What’s the role of art in your life? What do you think really makes an artist into a successful one? I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment.
I'm Vishal Ostwal. A writer, content strategist and online marketer who helps startups in designing custom content strategies, and also a co-founder at CodeBlot.