10 Rules for Being a Professional Artist

You may have been one of the lucky readers who got their hands on a hot magazine that Artists Network published several years ago: Acrylic Artist.

Acrylic Painting by Mark Gould

My Neighbor’s House 816 (acrylic on panel, 24×36) by Mark Gould

If you didn’t happen to get a copy (digital issues of Acrylic Artist are still available in NorthLightShop.com), then you may have missed the work of Mark Gould. I was browsing through an issue recently, and his acrylic landscapes once again caught my eye, such as his painting My Neighbor’s House 816 (above; acrylic on panel, 24×36). In this feature article, Mark shares his philosophy for professional creatives that I thought was worth passing along here:

Mark Gould’s 10 Rules for Being a Professional Artist

1. Creative efforts take priority over other activities whenever possible.

2. Simplify all aspects of life in order to think and act creatively.

3. Ensure the creative process is always challenging and enjoyable; always balance a risk of failure with the potential for success in order to keep efforts honest and engaging.

4. Be the eternal student, always willing to learn.

5. Welcome other opinions—good, bad or indifferent—but never relinquish final judgment to another.

6. Seek out people who are positive in their approach to the creative process and welcome their constructive critique. Avoid negative people and their attitudes, even when personal sacrifice is required.

7. Think before committing time, money or other resources to any future aspect of the creative endeavor. Be certain that both feeling and logic regarding the decision are sound.

8. Release to the public only those works that are fully “competent and satisfactory,” those that are properly executed with a high degree of creativity.

9. Never become problematic for any gallery or collector. Be sincere and forthright in all gallery dealings. Require absolute honesty in return.

10. Be truthful and self-aware in regard to your creative efforts. Only then can artistic vision be trusted and improved.

Acrylic SolutionsGreat reminders! If you’re ready to take this advice to heart, especially the points that are on the creative side, Acrylic Solutions: Exploring Mixed Media Layer by Layer by is a great resource. In it, Chris Cozen and Julie Prichard share more than 30 painting lessons to keep you actively moving toward your own art goals.

Until next time,

Cherie Haas, online editor**Click here to subscribe to the Artists Network newsletter for inspiration, instruction, and more!



You may also like these articles:

One thought on “10 Rules for Being a Professional Artist

  1. Cherie Haas, Online Editor Post author

    Hi everyone! It seems as though Number 8 is felt strongly by some, and that some completely disagree. I think this makes it worthy of discussion, and would like to invite you to share your thoughts! Artist Richard Cooper recently submitted this letter:

    “Dear Cherie,
    I have been one of the very, very lucky ones that have made a career in creating art. I spent the first 15 years as a freelance illustrator and the last 20 as a fine art painter. You would think that after all that time I would never hesitate to show my work to people. The truth is that I still feel that my work just isn’t good enough. If I work a little longer on it or if I wait a little more… That is why I wanted to scream when I recently read Mark Gould’s 10 Rules for Being a Professional Artist.

    Number 8 will be the kiss of death to many an artist’s career. It should read: 8. Get out today with your portfolio. Show it to EVERYONE you can think to show it to and then show it to ten more. Do it now. Don’t wait because until the day you die, your portfolio will never seem good enough.

    As a longtime member of the Board of Trustees at Kendall College of Art and Design, I have counseled thousands of students heading into careers. Sadly, the most talented don’t always make it. More often, it is those who live by MY rule number 8.”

    My response:

    Dear Richard,
    First, I’d like to thank you for taking the time to write to me about this. I admire your passion about sharing one’s work, and believe that others probably feel the same way. Ironically, another reader had responded that rule number 8 (Mark’s version) was the most important.

    Personally I have to say that I agree with both you and Mark, in that some artists need to work on their art and continue to improve it (of course, without overworking a piece); and some need to be convinced to get their art out in public. The challenge and beauty is to find this balance. I’ve seen quite a few drawings and paintings that were “almost there,” and needed to be “more.” But thank goodness for those of us, like you and I, who are both bold and confident in what we do. In any given field, it’s this that pushes our culture further.”

    Let’s keep the conversation going – what are your thoughts?