What Traits Do Successful Artists Have In Common?
ImagineFX|January 2020
Bigger picture Besides skill and talent, Tom May asks what other qualities you need to make it as an artist

Can artists succeed on talent alone? Perhaps. But in the real world, certain personality traits make the art journey a great deal easier.

One, believes artist and teacher Bobby Chiu, is having clear goals. “When I started out, I had small aspirations,” he recalls.

“I just wanted to work in an art department. It didn’t matter what I did: sweep people’s floors, sharpen pencils, or whatever. But that mindset led me nowhere.”

His career only took off, Bobby says, when he started setting bigger goals, and urges others to learn from his mistake. Most importantly, your goals need to be clear.

“You may say, for instance, ‘I’m going to spend this many hours on my art’, but how are you spending those hours?” Bobby asks. “Are you practising effectively? It’s like going to the gym to sculpt a ripped body, but only doing the treadmill. Just ‘doing art’ isn’t enough; you have to be specific in your training.”

Setting goals, of course, isn’t enough: you also need the tenacity to achieve them. Pablo Carpio, a Spanish concept artist working at ILM, offers a good example. As a youngster, he headed to Hollywood with no job or contacts, but kept going for a full year until he landed his first job.

It was a tough slog, but every time his portfolio got rejected, it just made him more determined. “Instead of punishing myself, I looked for reasons and solutions: what am I doing wrong?” he recalls. “Should I meet more people instead of sending portfolios online? Should I improve a particular aspect of my work?”

Ultimately, going out and meeting people at events became his turning point. And Pablo’s advice to anyone in a similar position is: “Make sure everyday counts in the process of becoming better. The time you spend waiting to get a job can be used to learn a new technique, experiment with a new workflow, or study the work of an artist who you like.”

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