How to Determine Your Artistic Career Stage: A Guide for Artists

February 6, 2024

As an artist, understanding what stage your art career is at can be both empowering and insightful. Whether you’re just starting out or have been creating for years, knowing your artistic career stage can help you set goals, make informed decisions and navigate the art world more effectively. So, are you a new, emerging, mid-career, or established artist? Read on to find out…

New Artist

Are you just dipping your toes into the world of art? If you’re in the early stages of exploring your creativity, you may be considered a new artist. Here are some indicators that you might fall into this category:

  • You’re still experimenting with different mediums, styles, and techniques.
  • You haven’t yet exhibited your work publicly or have only done so on a small scale.
  • You’re building your portfolio and haven’t established a recognizable body of work.
  • You’re seeking validation and feedback from peers and mentors.

Embrace this phase as a time of discovery and growth. At this stage, the pressure is off, you have freedom and time to focus on honing your skills, finding your artistic voice, and exploring what resonates with you creatively. Moving from this stage to the next is reliant on establishing your style and format so allow yourself the time to do jus that.

emerging artist at exhibtion

Emerging Artist

As you gain confidence and start to share your work with a wider audience, you may transition into the category of an emerging artist. Here are some signs that you’re making strides in your artistic career:

  • You’ve begun to exhibit your work in local galleries, art fairs, or group shows.
  • You’re starting to receive recognition or awards for your art.
  • You’re actively building a presence on social media and engaging with followers.
  • You’re exploring opportunities for representation by galleries or art agents.

The emerging stage is a critical time for networking, self-promotion, and establishing your artistic identity. Keep pushing boundaries, refining your craft, and seizing opportunities for growth.

art fair

Mid-Career Artist

As you gain momentum and establish a consistent body of work, you may transition into the mid-career stage. Here are some indicators that you’ve reached this phase:

  • You have a portfolio of work that demonstrates a clear artistic style or thematic focus.
  • You’re exhibiting your art regularly in established galleries, museums, or art institutions.
  • You’ve developed a strong following and have a loyal collector base.
  • You’re receiving press coverage and critical acclaim for your work.
  • You may be teaching or mentoring other artists, sharing your knowledge and experience.

The mid-career stage is characterized by a balance between creative exploration and professional development. Focus on refining your artistic vision, deepening your engagement with audiences, and exploring new avenues for artistic expression.

exhibition established artist at museum

Established Artist

At the top of the artistic hierarchy, you’ll find established artists who have achieved widespread recognition and success in their careers. Here are some signs that you’ve reached this pinnacle:

  • Your work is exhibited in prestigious galleries, museums, and art institutions worldwide.
  • You have a significant body of work that has made a lasting impact on the art world.
  • You’re represented by top-tier galleries or art agents and command high prices for your art.
  • You’re a household name in the art community, with a global following and influence.
  • Your work is collected by major museums, corporations, and private collectors.

The established stage is a testament to years of dedication, hard work, and artistic vision. Continue to push boundaries, innovate, and inspire future generations of artists.

Why is knowing what stage you are at so important?

Why do you need to know what stage you are at, you might ask. Well, this will help you to select the most appropriate exhibition opportunities, galleries and funding opportunities. Knowing this will ensure greater levels of success and less rejection. This will in turn ensure that your work is presented to the audiences most likely to purchase it.

Determining your artistic career stage is not about comparing yourself to others or meeting arbitrary benchmarks. It’s about understanding where you are on your unique journey as an artist and taking note for your future growth and development. Whether you’re just starting out or have reached the pinnacle of success, embrace each stage as an opportunity for creativity and exploration. Every stage has its own unique set of advantages. Embracing these is key to maintaining momentum and growth.

About the author

I’m Sheelah, and I’m here to help visual artists like you achieve more sales, certainty, and recognition for your work. I share my decade and a half of experience in art sales, curation and art buying through my Artist’s Pathway mentoring program and workshops. If you’d like to chat about how to get the opportunities you want for your art business, get in touch!

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