“You can’t get it wrong” and 7 other thoughts about making a living as an Artist

One of the great mysteries of the Universe for many Artists is how to achieve success making a living doing the work we love to do.  We each have our own struggles (resistance) to overcome and have to find our own way.  But how to do it, where to start?  


“LineScape #27″, 20″ x 18″, Textile painting (cotton fabrics hand-dyed by the artist, batting, cotton stitching) © Ayn Hanna.  $414 – available in my online store.

Below are some thoughts and practices that have helped me as I’ve been making my way.  Writing them down helps me remember and get clear.  Maybe it will also help others who are facing similar challenges.  

1. Contrast Exists to help us get clearer about what we DO want 

Pay attention to how different experiences and interactions make you feel.  When you identify those that feel good and that you resonate strongly with, you get clearer about your own vision of what you want to do and who you want to be.  Focusing your energy on all that “good stuff” helps draw more of it to you – that’s the Law of Attraction.

2. You’re not Alone

Find the tools and supporters that can help you do what you want to do and USE Them!  I’ve achieved many successes, and I didn’t do it all by myself – I’ve engaged numerous coaches, frameworks, tools, and supportive resources and continue to do so.  Christina Merkley’s SHIFT-IT framework helped me put my “1.0” first rev creative vision and plan together.  I believe in this framework so strongly that I became a Certified SHIFT-IT Coach myself.  Using this set of visual coaching tools has added rocket-boosters to my Art career development.  It is one of the best supports I’ve found for helping individuals develop their “next selves”.

Another framework, one which I’ve helped develop (as a volunteer curriculum committee member), and have used (to develop my next “2.0 rev” of my vision and plan), and found incredibly powerful are the Arts Incubator of the Rockies (AIR) SHIFT and EVOLVE programs.  SHIFT is a weekend workshop that helps participants shift core beliefs about the viability of Art in our Communities.  EVOLVE is a 6 month long program that teaches Creatives the skills needed to launch successful creative ventures.  As a participant in both programs, I’ve made another huge leap forward with my Art career, launching my new Hanna-Dyed line of work, and starting my new Playshop offerings.  This is another program I believe so strongly in that I’m continuing to participate in the delivery of SHIFT and EVOLVE as a facilitator, trainer, and coach.

Artbiz Coach Alyson B. Stanfield’s book, “I’d Rather be in the Studio” and Art Biz Blog are invaluable resources for those building a creative Arts career.  So are her workshops.  I’ll be attending her “Art Biz Makeover” workshop this fall, using what I learn there to develop my “next rev” of my Art career plan.

Use all of the tools, coaches, and supports that resonate with you to help you do the following:

 3. You Can’t Get it Wrong

 Wherever you are is right where you need to be, so start where you are.  Listen to your inner voice, it knows things.  Set your Vision, hold tight to that, resonate with it, and trust the Process.  It will come.

 4. Deconstruct the Black Box:  Make a Plan and Build the Runway

Make a plan, break it down and lay out your first steps to reach the furthest point on the horizon that you can see from “here” (let’s call that point on the horizon “there”).  Start taking steps down the path.  Once you’ve moved from “here” to “there”, you’ll be able to see further, a new horizon point emerges, and along with it, new ideas, actions, tasks will emerge that become the next steps you need to take to reach that new horizon point.  And so on and so on.  Soon the energy and excitement will keep carrying that motion forward – what fun!

My "Hanna-Dyed" booth at the Spring HorseShoe Market in Denver.

My “Hanna-Dyed” booth at the Spring Horseshoe Market in Denver.

5. Track and Measure Progress with Meaningful Metrics

It may be fun to look at Facebook every 10 minutes to see how many new “likes” you’ve gotten on your Fan Page (as of now, I only need 1 more to reach 400!), but is that really a meaningful metric?  Nope.  But recognizing that I’ve eclipsed my previous year’s total annual art income through just the first six months of this year sure is.  This shows that the work I’ve been doing to build my art business is paying off.  Make sure that you track progress in a way that is meaningful to you, and celebrate your successes!

6. Recognize when old beliefs no longer serve you.  Soften and soothe this resistance.

“Any time you have physical discomfort of any kind, whether you call it emotional, or physical pain within your body, it always, always means the same thing: “I have a desire that is summoning Energy, but I have a belief that is not allowing so I’ve created resistance in my body.” 


This might just be THE toughest challenge for artists – It definitely is for me!  Somewhere in my early childhood the belief that artists can’t make a living doing their art was firmly imprinted on me.  So, I’ve been working to soften and soothe that big resistance in me, and I need to do more of this.  Being in pain gets very tiresome.  Thoughts are very powerful.  It’s about reaching for a better feeling place.  And sometimes, the best antidote is seeing the great results from one’s hard work – nothing shuts up the ‘ol inner gremlin like literal bold success!

7. Rinse and Repeat:  Keep Evolving the Plan

You are constantly changing…you’re not the same person you were last year, or yesterday, or even 10 minutes ago.  As you move along your path, the horizon line changes, you see things today that you couldn’t see yesterday.  You know more now than you did last week.  Think of where you were in your career at the beginning of the year and compare that to where you are now – look at how far you’ve come!  What have you learned?  What new things are on the horizon?  What new tasks do you need to do to get to that new horizon point?  Always keep evolving the plan.


That’s me doing a demo while teaching deconstructed screen-printing at the Ah Haa School for the Arts in Telluride.

8.  Enjoy your Success and help Grow the Pie

When you’ve reached the top of the peak you’re climbing, enjoy the view!  Recognize how many more peaks there are yet to climb.  And finally, turn around and look back where you’ve been, and see the others still struggling to make the climb.  Are you going to stand there enjoying the view or reach down and lend a hand?

Leaders help build community.  With an abundance mentality, we can grow the pie and ensure there’s plenty for everyone.  Using Plato’s Allegory of the Cave as metaphor, the prisoner that breaks free, leaves the cave, and sees the truth has the opportunity to go back in and help enlighten the others so they can see it too.  It’s good juju to lend a helping hand.

That’s it!  Easy peasy, right?  There are no silver bullets or magic pills.  Succeeding as an Artist (like anything else) takes a lot of work.  The good news is there’s proof it can be done and many tools and resources available to help you succeed.

You just have to take the leap.

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7 comments to “You can’t get it wrong” and 7 other thoughts about making a living as an Artist

  • Hi Ayn,
    I really enjoyed your site and your latest post! Transform your thoughts and “just do it” is really great advice! I can imagine many ideas in my head about whatI would like to create, if I don’t put the time and investment in, it won’t become fully realized.

    I look forward to meeting you at the Makeover meeting in the fall!

    • Ayn

      Hi Beth, Thanks, I’m often needing to remind myself of this, talking myself down the ledge so to speak. It’s all easy to say, tougher to put into practice for sure. I’m looking forward to meeting you as well in October!

  • nan toskey

    Thank you, Ayn, for your inspiration and practical good sense. Also noteworthy in my book is the value of the “not so good stuff” in the “Contrast Department”. Not to get bogged down with it, but recognize the discomfort … and remain open as to a potential learning opportunity to transform it.

    • Ayn

      Nan, yes, thanks for the reminder to recognize the value of “Contrast” and remaining open to learning from it – certainly one of life’s lessons. Recognizing those experiences and people who most drive us nuts, also often present us with the greatest to learn about ourselves – great stuff, thanks!

  • […] Hanna, printmaker and textile artist, shares ideas about the path to success in “You can’t get it wrong” and 7 other thoughts about making a living as an Artist.  “One of the great mysteries of the Universe for many Artists is how to achieve success […]

  • I love ALL 7 of your thoughts (your practices…our inspirations!), especially #4. I call it defining “the next simple do-able step” and it is certainly the only way I ever get anything accomplished. Thanks for giving me the OK to feature your article on my blog.

  • Shawn McIntyre

    Hi, Love your attitude and your work. Fellow Textile Artist finding my way! Thanks for the Inspiration-

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