Setting art goals -

By Christine Graefe Drewyer

As we artists find ourselves at the beginning of a brand-new year. Visions of successful sugarplums fill our heads and a renewed vigor at resolutions to do better, be better, and accomplish so many unseen benchmarks ruminate on what we envision for ourselves with the creation of our art . . . right?

If you’ve chosen art as anything other than a part-time dalliance then you’ve probably pondered, as I have, is it of any value to set art goals? Is that even realistic to do this in a profession where phrases like “feast or famine” and “starving artist” come to mind relatively frequently?

Now, make no mistake, I was grabbed by the heart in the most persuasive of ways early on and driven with a fierce desire to make this my living as it was already my calling. This isn’t always an easy process, and hard work must be rewarded by compensation. When you align yourself with the energy of giving the highest value, your compensation is inherent in the act itself, but tangible compensation must be a necessary outcome too if you are to be able to continue on this path.

There are, however, some breadcrumbs that show up in the moonlight, which I DO follow when the path is looking scary or bleak.

Setting Art Goals

This year, as I have always done (as far back as I can measure my artistic career), another artist buddy and I like to set the tone and direction of our course at the start of each fresh new year with our expectations, hopes and yes, goals for ourselves. We evaluate where we are in relation to last year’s map and evaluate what did work and what didn’t.

Now, you don’t have to have a partner in crime to practice this with, but I can assure you that it surely does help to see that YOU aren’t the only one that didn’t make your financial expectations. It’s also a way to dream it, speak it, and then make it so!

It’s imperative to realistically know where you are on your path; your goals and expectations would not be the same as they were when you just came out of art school, all filled with lots of dreams and budding skills that you had yet put into practice.

The beginner might wish to set an art goal of producing a body of work in which to approach a gallery, where a more seasoned artist might want to either add additional galleries or begin to start entering national art organizations to test their skills against a broader competitive set of players.

One critical goal to set for yourself, regardless of your level of expertise is as simple as making a place for yourself to create in. Perhaps you have another full-time job and can only paint or sculpt on the weekends and evenings. Like anything we are passionate about, we must carve out the time and the space for it. This won’t be a chore or an obligation because usually the creative journey is a joyful one that finds us in our happy zone when we’re doing it. Having quoted the obvious, it does still require the efforts to make this happen.

I’ve painted everywhere from inside a closet, to the kitchen, to my back porch. If you’re a plein air painter, then you might consider joining your local community of plein air painters.

[Editor’s Note: The Plein Air Convention & Expo is the world’s largest gathering of plein air painters – perfect for learning and networking. Join us in San Francisco in April!]

If you are fortunate enough to prepare a studio space for yourself, then, by all means do that. When I finally, and I mean like in the last five years, decided that I could build a studio space that was designed exactly the way I needed it to be for me to achieve optimal production, it was a miraculous thing.

Setting art goals -
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I suspected that it would change my art but was thinking that it would mostly be a convenience thing. I knew where my brushes were and my reference materials and had a special place for my canvases.

A funny thing happened through this process, however, and I actually began to see myself as more professional, my artwork as more important, and the value of the time spent in that space even more sacred. When you invest in a thing with the best energy you can imagine, you change what you imagine with all that positivity and the outcome is much more likely to happen as you envisioned.

Goals are only accomplished with a few simple points of structure. It doesn’t matter if you’re building a railroad or painting a masterpiece, the same theory applies.

The first step is Desire. NEVER underestimate desire. Desire IS the spark, it is the very essence of being inspired! So, if you can dream it, well, that’s only the first step. I’ll warn you though, the saying “be careful what you wish for” is not to be underestimated.

Desire is nothing more than a pipe dream if it doesn’t have discipline and action behind it. Begin to organize your dream.

Some useful tools for achieving your art goals are:

  • Make a space for yourself.
  • Have a plan for what “highly productive” might look like, regarding where to place what you need.
  • Purchase an online art organizational program; if you can’t afford that, then set up folders in your computer by year and put all pictures labeled with size and price, and the gallery that piece has gone to. If you don’t have the computer skills, the old-fashioned file folder system does still work.
Setting art goals -
Get organized!

Key rule, GET ORGANIZED. With no action, we’re just talking about it. This works exactly the same way a new exercise regimen works, ya gotta get that treadmill out from under the bed and get on it!

When you invest your time, money, and mind in a painting or piece of art, know at the get-go that not all are going to be a masterpiece. You will agonize over these so-called failures and also learn from them.

Trust me, I’ve got lots of Frisbees. We all do! So many rejection letters, so many no-thank-you notes, so many attempts that didn’t end up matching what we saw . . . That’s okay. Keep going, these are far more valuable that the ones that demonstrated exactly the goal that you’d hoped for. We all tend to remember the failures and disappointments far longer. I had a fabulous instructor that used to peruse the classroom and pronounce, “This will NOT go in the Louvre!” I love that, because, they mostly will not!

A helpful and humorous tool was given to me several years back when I had attended a national art competition. While we were there it was to be announced if we had been juried into a different one. Now, make no mistake, we were all waiting, and no one was interested in blurting out that they didn’t make the cut. That is, except for this one dear soul. She came out of her room, looked me square in the eye and said, “So, did you also get your ‘you suck’ letter?” Well, that had just the effect it was intended to have. I laughed out loud and now we still call each other across the country and ask this silly statement, which lets us know that we ALL get them occasionally! It’s nice to know you’re not the only one.

The final way to accomplish your art goals is to ACT on them. Dream and dream big but more importantly, and I know this would seem obvious, but often overlooked is the acting part. Do the paintings, make the plans, enter the art competitions, find a way to advertise your work (even if that’s on your very own website or social media), keep track of your mailing lists, evaluate at the end of the year what sold, what didn’t, what won awards, what got juried into competitions, which galleries worked for you, and anything else you can do to stay focused and learn from your experiences.

It may surprise you just how many of these goals will stick, how many wonderful creations will come pouring out of you when you make them a priority, and just what a precious body of work will be added to your inventory of accomplishments this year. The more you feed and fuel your dream, the more it takes on a life of its own. I hope you will plan, I hope you will get inspired, and become consumed in the desire to create beauty and sprinkle your own special unique BRAND OF LOVELINESS INTO THE WORLD. DO set those goals and GO for it!

Share your 2019 art goals in the comments section below!


  1. Great reminder, I would like to suggest, as a amateur that yearly I review my past work and attempt to see both the skill gain and to critically review where I need to focus more attention. This empowers me to establish new goals with a bench mark of knowing I am improving.

    • Agreed Karin, this IS a critical skill and we tend to focus on the height of that mountain. Sometimes you need to pause and turn around and look back and see just how far you’ve come and yes, where you want to go. I also like to evaluate if any particular subject matter did better than another during that process too. One of the great things about being an emerging artist is that you will experiment with lots of different genre and mediums and an end of year evaluation can help you to focus on the most productive and successful works. Another great tool with that evaluation is reviewing the national art publications. Snip a pic of your own piece and place it directly next to a piece that you felt was particularly accomplished. It’s a real quick way to measure yourself against others that you admire! Keep on going and never loose that initial enthusiasm you have right now where ANYTHING is possible!


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