Achieving Creative Success Isn't Impossible—Here's How to Do It

How to become an inspiring artist, according to two curators who know them when they see them.

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Natalie Field and Emily Pittman once struggled to keep track of all the artists they found inspiring. Spread across notebooks and phone memos, their list of artists began to lose meaning. "We got really frustrated with not being able to find inspiration when we needed it," says Field. "We would say to each other, 'Who was that artist that we were talking about last week?' We decided that we needed to do something about this."

A work from the photographic series 'Things As They Are,' by Erin O'Keefe.
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So, the two art students created The Gathered Gallery, an online collection of artists whose work and practices inspire them. They've amassed more than 3,000 Instagram followers since their launch in January and are still growing. Now in their first year out of college, Field and Pittman have plans to create a far-reaching community for artists through their blog, pop-up exhibitions, and print.

The founders of The Gathered Gallery.
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Since Field and Pittman are so attuned to spotting exciting works, we asked them what exactly catches their eye in an artist. Here are their five tips for how to get your art noticed.

Tip No. 1: Keep Your Website and Social Media Up-to-Date

An amazing artist *and* active on Instagram! Erin Loree, 'The Way Inside' (2016), oil on panel.

Make your followers feel like they're your friends by keeping your social media accounts and blog updated. Take painter Erin Loree (@erin_loree on Instagram): instead of just posting pictures of her work, she shares pictures from inside her studio, announces upcoming shows with a teaser image of new work, and shares older paintings to talk about recurring themes in her practice. "We've never met her, but because of how connected she is, we feel like we know her," Pittman says.

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Tip No. 2: Share Your Process

At 4½ feet tall, this cutout work has a powerful presence. Jessica Groome, 'Unfurlled' (2015), acrylic and metallic spray paint on paper.

One way to connect with followers is to share in-progress shots of your work. "Seeing the work as it's being made can be so inspiring," says Field, "especially if the artist talks about new ways of thinking or making work." Every artist has moments of doubt, so it's important to share the triumphs. "We're always amazed that you can reinvent yourself," Pittman adds. "You're not limited by your ideas. You can try something new 100 times—we love that."

Tip No. 3: Even the Simplest Ideas Can Be Eye-Catching

Did you do a double take? Claire Harvey, 'DAL0075–3' (2015), postcard.

Give your followers an "aha" moment by turning a simple idea into a work of art. For example, artist Claire Harvey makes drawings on clear pages and then positions them to interact with the real world. "We love how they're so interactive and clever," Field says. "She could have done this in the seat of an airplane. You don't need an elaborate setup or a huge budget. They're so accessible."

Tip No. 4: Unexpected Materials Are Your Friends

You are here. Shannon Rankin's 'Germinate (5000 seeds)' (2009), paper, pins, and adhesive.

Repurposing everyday materials in a new way is another great technique for making accessible art. In this installation, Shannon Rankin pins thousands of paper-map circles to a wall. "It has a really impactful presence," Field says, explaining that a map isn't something she would have thought to use in her own work. "Maps are a really familiar object," Pittman adds. "Using a common material gives off so much meaning to the viewer."

Tip No. 5: Space Is Not an Issue

'Your studio is yourself,' artist Patrick Cruz told The Gathered Gallery. Patrick Cruz, 'Time Allergy' (2015), acrylic on canvas.

You don't need a studio to make work. If your space is limited, work on a smaller scale. If you don't have room for storage, give your work to a friend. Don't let the lack of space be a constraint! You can work wherever you go.

Keep up with The Gathered Gallery at thegatheredgallery.com, or follow them on Instagram @thegatheredgallery.

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