15 Successful Artists Share the Most Challenging Lesson They've Learnt in Their Career

We’ve talked to countless inspiring artists in our The Makers series, and we always jump at the opportunity to ask them how their biggest hurdles have helped build their success in the creative sphere. 

From learning the importance of self-care to understanding patience is key, below you’ll find the advice from 15 artists on how they’ve managed to turn their biggest career challenge into a positive. Prepare to be inspired.

15 Successful Artists Share the Most Challenging Lesson That’s Helped Them Further Their Career

1. Mafalda Vasconcelos

"To believe in myself. I am still working on that, but it is something I have to work on every day."


2. Zoe Young

"Prioritising what matters and letting go of the distractions. It’s a constant battle. It’s hard to create something that doesn’t exist, so there’s a tendency to procrastinate on painting and do something that exists and needs to be done i.e the washing. But f**k the washing, I’ve got an important job to do. The painting must be painted."

3. Maxine Midtbo

"Learning how to take time off. It was very hard in the early days to take full days off (no email, no social media, no “oh I'll just do this one thing”).

Protecting myself from burn out is really important to me. And as much as I love that my job is also my creative passion, I have a whole beautiful life outside of work as well and holding space for both is critical."

4. Hannah Carrick

"That things take time and to be patient. I think a lot of people can relate to comparing yourself to others at some point in your career but if you just stay true to yourself and focus on your own path, things will fall into place the way they are meant to."

5. Natalie Rosin

"Let it be known, being an artist or running a business has many challenges, no surprises there. I’m learning, and this is a general life skill too, to deal with each challenge in a more accepting way, acknowledging that life isn’t perfect, and that for instance sometimes the clay I need isn’t available right away.

I’m learning that sometimes it is OK to run out of glaze at the last minute, to accept that when a kiln breaks down it isn’t the end of the world and when I’m behind on some emails, that is OK too. I’m learning not to lose focus on the bigger picture which is art, this can be applied to life in general too which is happiness."

6. Lauren Freestone

"Probably putting myself out there has been the most challenging for me – I’m a pretty quiet person so exhibitions and public speaking are terrifying to me. I have gotten a lot better, but I guess believing you can do it is the biggest hurdle."

7. Leah Fraser

"Working alone."

8. Jordana Henry

"Learning where I want my work to be and the kind of artist I want to be has been hugely challenging. It’s hard with today’s world of social media and the ‘who’s cool of the moment’ art scene age that we live in.

Staying true to what I feel comfortable with whilst also keeping in mind that I have a family to feed is a constant juggle and something that I struggle with all the time."

9. Caroline Torquay 

"The days aren’t long enough. And book work is a brain-numbing necessity to running your own business!"

10. Claudia Miranda

"Sometimes people would talk about what seemed to be a great opportunity and I would wait for them to make it happen, like an exhibition or collaboration. Almost like I was waiting for their stamp of approval for me to keep going.

I realized that I was good enough as I was and kept going on my own. Another path would open and better things would come along as my belief in myself deepened."


11. Alexandria Park

"It’s intimidating putting myself out there but the response has been amazing and it’s exciting and incredibly humbling to see it grow. It’s been a learning process and I am still trying to maintain being a full-time fashion buyer and run my own studio. It’s not easy but I am lucky to have both ventures and I remind myself of this regularly.

Personal reflection and finding time for myself have been an important part of this process, they keep me centred and on track with my goals."

12. Isabelle Feliu

"Saying no. I struggled with it at the beginning, but I quickly realized that it wasn’t manageable to accept projects that didn’t inspire me or that I didn’t fully believe in.

In this industry, there are a lot of people who want you to work for free, promising exposure among other things. It is important to say no to these offers if you want to keep your energy for projects that you’re truly passionate about and will help you build your career."

13. Kayleigh Heydon

"I struggled a lot with whether I should keep my business and personal life separate, especially on platforms such as Instagram. I know a lot of artists who use Instagram for their work only and very much see it as a marketing and communication tool so they don’t polarise or isolate their audience, which I really respect.

I ultimately decided on the ‘Dance like no one’s watching’ approach. I’m human, too, and I think people connect with that. I have good days and bad days and I have opinions and beliefs and I think I should be able to voice them rather than silence myself to be more palatable, especially as a young queer artist."

14. Emma Currie

"I’ve had to learn to be strategic and organized with my time. I think that working as a creative can take a fair bit of sacrifice and hard work. For me it has often meant juggling a day job with many late nights and weekends spent painting.

There have been a few burnouts along the way, but I’m starting to learn how to manage my time more effectively and make sure I’m prioritizing self-care and downtime just as much as my work."

15. Lucy Roleff

"I think keeping on top of messages and emails can be tricky sometimes, especially since people have so many different avenues to reach you by. I was very embarrassed by one such mishap where I sold a painting someone wanted to another person. Though I guess these are the sorts of lessons you learn the hard way once - and then are aware of avoiding next time."


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