To your question about defining success for the artist, I think success comes only from failure—and a lot of it. So to ask “what is success” does not benefit one nearly so much as asking, “what is failure?” If you study the concept of failure—the appropriate way failure is to be understood—then you are free to pursue success. Study success (and forego a good analysis of failure) and you will fight discouragement all the way. It would seem, then, that learning to accept what we call failure, (that is, failure properly understood), would give to an artist the best hope for success. This I have believed for the entirety of my career.
But what is it we often call Failure? I don't use the term failure, I always say "fall short" because our culture today misapprehends the true meaning of failure. So let me try to clear this up. What Failure is NOT are the typical things we all endure that challenge us, put us to the test, and they are almost always event-focused or time-focused situations where we have fought a good fight, and perhaps are fighting still, but are not failures even though they are commonly called this. These include:
-A weakness or handicap of some sort is not failure.
-A lack of skill is not failure.
-A setback is not a failure.
-An improper upbringing is not failure.
-Finding your true vision for your life when you are older is not failure.
-An earnest effort that falls short, this is not failure.
-That people initially do not believe in what you are doing, this is not a failure on your part.
-Mistakes are not failures.
-Etc. and etc., on the list can go and it can be a list made from every part of your life.
For me, failure exists (it does in fact exist) but to me it stems from negative choices, such as:
-Laziness. (Not doing what you know is required).
-Irresponsibility. (Choosing pleasure over edification ).
-Lack of Belief. (No one can believe for you, this is up to you).
-Cruelty. (I’ve not met a more failed individual than one who is outwardly cruel to others).
-Deception. (This is a form of “brutality”).
-Etc., you get the idea. True failure is a choice some make to live unethically.
If you are not doing that, you are not failing.
So then, what about success?
I think we talk about it too much. I'm a simple man and this is really I know about success:
-work your intellect,
-keep improving your skill,
-keep after your goals daily, like in pursuit, or on a hunt,
-study your mistakes to learn where you need to make adjustments
-expect to "fall short" in your pursuit much of the time; this is called falling forward.
Last, and I set these last two thoughts apart from the rest because when it comes to painting, they are all I know about success:
-focus on your strengths and the weaknesses will take care of themselves.
-paint outdoors as much as you possibly can.
We never reach our full knowledge and are always learning. So when you focus on your strengths, you will always find something new that must be learned along the way, and your whole body of knowledge and skill inch forward. Your strengths will always guide you, learn to trust them and what they tell you.
Have a Happy New Year,