How does an artist maintain success throughout their lives? I remember seeing an interview with Don Henley of the Eagles once. The interviewer was asking him about success. Henley said he thought success was the ability for endless repetition. I always took that to mean that success is as much about servitude as much as it is about talent. Service to your audience or your clients, for as long as you can do that willingly you can be successful. That seems easier as a musician, where if you are willing, you can make a career out of a handful of songs or tunes that you are known for.
Good advice it seems but what about changing tastes? How does that work for visual artists? Sometimes you can reinvent yourself and your audience will follow but most of the time that isn’t true. What if the things you become successful for no longer satisfies you as an artist? If you decide to keep doing the same things you still run the risk of losing your clients because of them changing and growing older.
Some artists can split their time between what pays them and what satisfies them; making two types of art. That’s fine if your industry grows and thrives but what if it doesn’t? Remember album cover artists? Some artist don’t have to make a living from their art, they have a spouse or an inheritance or are retired with a pension. Some decide to not make their living as artists, settling for a steady paycheck and pension as teachers or even work outside the art field completely.
I have been reading a couple of different posts online from younger and older artists struggling with these issues. It seems everything is fine starting out, things are still fresh enough that they can enjoy it even if it isn’t completely satisfying. How do you hold on to that though after ten or twenty or thirty years?
Most people will live into their eighties or longer. If they start their careers in their twenties or thirties, that’s fifty or sixty years. Think about that. Think about how much the art markets have changed in that time frame in the past? If you work as an artist now think about what your market looked like forty or fifty years ago. Magazines, comics, books, TV, Movies, Games, ten years is a long time for most genres. As an artist do you change styles and mediums to keep current? As an artist can you even do that successfully?
I’ve seen some artists do it, Dean Cornwell, Meade Scheaffer, Norman Rockwell, Kelly Freas, Jon Schoenherr. All evolved their styles throughout their careers It seems the more successful ones adopt new trends and make it their own, so they reinvent themselves but stay recognizable to their audience. Others like Syd Mead or Alfred Munnings manage to keep going and even though they improve they change their style very little. I’d like to hear people’s thoughts on this. What are your plans for keeping your career going if you have one now?