Tips for How to Be a Famous Painter in the 21st Century

By Tiara Ogabang

There might be certain members of the general public who feel that painting, and museum-worthy visual art in general, has faded from relevance over the last few decades. After all, how many famous painters are there today that most people would recognize? 

But contemporary artists know better than that. Of course, visual art is still relevant. Of course, museums of every stripe are still valuable to our society. Of course, it's possible to become a famous painter today. 

How to be a famous painter, however, that's a completely different question, and one that we're going to try to answer right here, right now. 

What can you do to stand apart from the crowd? How does one even approach the idea of showing work at public exhibitions or in museums of contemporary art all around the world? Will you need an agent? How much work should you aim to create each year?  

We can't answer all of these questions, but when it comes to promoting your work and your own abilities as an artist, we definitely have a few key tips that you should try to carry with you as you work your way toward art stardom. 

Laying it down 

To be a famous painter, laying down paint is extremely important. In other words, you need to do the work as often as you can. 

Even if you're just practicing a new technique or sampling different color combinations that you'd like to use in the future, spending time with paint and canvas just needs to be a part of your routine, and a big part at that. 

By the way, even if your main medium is oils or acrylics, you don't need to stick to those materials at all times, especially when you're just practicing. 

Digital art is not only popular but accessible, both for the artist and the viewer. Drawing and painting on a digital pad will never feel quite the same as the real thing, but this will still give you some great practice while also giving you the opportunity to create work that you can very easily post online. 

Laying it down 

If you already have a fairly busy daily schedule with school and/or work, then you can try to start out by giving yourself a solid hour each day during which you can practice your craft. 

Over time, you could easily extend this practice period bit by bit. You may very soon be spending two or three hours each day during which you can practice any aspect of your art that you'd like. 

Moving forward, you can also use this time to research agencies and look into local galleries that may want to accept your work. 

To be a famous artist, it's so important to take your own work seriously, and when you dedicate a little bit of time each day to that work and to improving your craft, this will signal to your brain on a regular basis that this is vital. 

Building a dedicated audience 

In its most basic form, fame is all about cultivating, and maintaining, a consistent and dedicated audience. 

No matter how famous you are, there will always be people who are aware of your work but don't enjoy it very much. However, even this is helpful to your overall image. 

As we mentioned very briefly at the start of this article, it can definitely be difficult for contemporary painters to earn fame either within or outside of the larger art community. 

Some contemporary painters will only ever be well-known among the museum crowd, while a precious few will break through into the realm of the general public. 

But regardless of which version of painterly fame you're looking for, it all starts with a small group of fans who are willing to pay attention to your work and potentially even share it with others. 

Now, in the past, finding that initial, small group of fans probably would have had to come from gallery shows and in-person appearances, and we'll be talking about those later on. 

But today, the internet is always going to be ground zero for earning some small level of fame. Posting work online is not only a low-cost way to gain attention but also easy to pull off. 

Curating your social media presence 

Social media, in particular, is simply your best option for growing an audience. But how should you present yourself, and your work, on social media? 

Cultivating a specific image is commonly referred to today as 'branding.' Yes, each famous person is much larger than their brand, but a simple and straightforward brand can help attract newcomers and let people know what you're all about. 

Curating your social media presence 

If you want to cultivate an image with a certain amount of mystery, maybe don't show yourself in any of your posts, just the work. 

If your work tends to be very political and disruptive, don't be afraid to post ancillary content about subjects you care deeply about. 

Over time, you'll learn how to present yourself online and how helpful it can be to have a powerful brand behind your work. 

Participating in exhibitions

Actually showing your art in-person will always be an important part of establishing an artistic career. 

Art galleries are vital to the art scene, and in many cases, it's how future famous painters get discovered by those with power and sway in the art world. 

You probably won't be able to get your work into larger museums for at least several years, but local galleries are often hungry for new work, and in many cases, you'll be able to get into direct contact with the curator or owner of each gallery. 

If you have a series of pieces that you feel all play into a similar theme, make that very clear when speaking to a gallery representative. 

This is really just another iteration of branding. Your work should speak for itself, but it never hurts to provide important information when trying to sell that work. 

Best of all, if your work gets purchased while on display at a local art gallery, then you'll earn a decent amount of money that you can put toward future pieces.