Stages on the Artist Path - which one are you at right now?

I know, I know, Joseph Campbell may have already mentioned this.

The stages of the artist path is a topic that interests me greatly, as both an artist and someone who knows a lot of them!

I can’t speak for my artist friends, or those who take my courses, but I have noticed some common stages on the artist path, and thought it would be fun – and perhaps clarifying – to lay them out and see if you identify.

I’ve made up some entirely arbitrary signposts that both I and other artists regularly encounter. It applies at both the micro and macro level, from the actual path of an artist’s life, right down to a single painting.

This is not a linear path though; it’s common to stay in one place for ages, or to revisit places repeatedly, and in a different order.

The artist path is really a spiral. 😉

The calling

Maybe you’ve heard it since you were old enough to hold a pencil.

Maybe you heard it throughout childhood and it never occurred to you not to listen and follow.

Maybe, like me, you heard it, then lost it for a while, then heard it again.

Or maybe you never heard it until suddenly one day there it was, saying ‘make something’.

The resistance

Typically the initial – often knee jerk – reaction to hearing the calling looks like this: 😊 ……😱.  It feels too big, too much, too out of our league, not ‘realistic’ for us, too difficult.

I definitely had that moment when it was first suggested to me to create online courses. {And I’m very glad I ignored it and decided to give it a go anyway!}

The {tentative} yes

So you’ve heard the calling, you’ve gone through the 😱  phase {for now}, and now you’re thinking, well…. maybe I could… 🤔

The yes isn’t always tentative of course. I think it probably has a correlation to the strength of the resistance, and where you are in your life and in yourself at that point.

Often a tentative yes is succeeded by more of a hell yes! And for some, it’s a hell yes immediately.

The obsession

So you said yes – you joined a class, signed up for a course, bought or dug out some supplies, and got started.

And now there’s no stopping you! You think about it all the time. Sleep becomes a bit of a hindrance. Meals get forgotten. Dust bunnies abound.

It’s like your inner idea bank had got backed up from neglect, and now you’ve said yes it’s being unleashed full force!

The meandering

At some point the initial frenzy calms down a bit. This can at first – counterintuitively in a way – come with a slight feeling of flatness.

Maybe some small doubts creep in, but the love {or at the very least, the compulsion} is still there, and only growing, so you carry on, enjoying exploring options and trying lots of things.

The demons

These can show up right off the bat, or they can start making themselves known later, when the stakes feel higher.

They don’t ever really go away, and we all have different weak spots for certain types, but they can absolutely be diminished.

‘Demons’ is the word I use for all those fun things like fear, doubt, procrastination, stuckness, self criticism, perfectionism, and so on.

They can get incredibly loud, and the way I see it, part of the artist path {which is to say part of the life path}, is learning to work with them, rather than try to kill them, become fearless, or otherwise do violent things to what is essentially something that just needs a different job and/or a reframe.

The discovery

This typically means landing on something that you know you could explore for a lifetime and never reach the end of it. {It could also mean an idea for a body of work, or even a single painting.}

It doesn’t mean you’re never interested in anything else, or that you stop evolving as an artist.

More that you’ve come into a state of such alignment with your true artist self that you suddenly ‘see’ what it is you really want to say, and also, if not right away, how you want to say it.

Several years ago now, I had an epiphany that all the art I’d made to that point was about freedom, only I hadn’t recognised that until that moment because it didn’t all directly express that, and had been a bit all over the place visually.

A few years after that I connected up my Piscean love of water, a renewed connection with nature, a combination of materials that felt like me {after trying basically everything 😆 }, and, obliquely, my mental health and philosophies about what’s important in life.

My art became an expression of being here, now, immersed in this moment, where life is. {In my case, and in terms of my art that usually means in water.}

So the discovery can be a slow build, a series of epiphanies, or perhaps just something you knew all along. Or all of the above!

The peace

This is what comes as the discovery settles in and becomes simply you, making your art.

It’s about alignment with your values {your true values, not the culturally sanctioned ones}, and with yourself.

It’s where your recognisable artist voice comes forward, and your sense that this is always going to be there for you now.

It doesn’t mean everything’s always fun and perfect and la la la!

Of course there are still times of struggle and stuckness, and here we are back amongst the demons, but now we have more intel, more confidence, more tools to handle them.

This is why I always bang on about being a happy artist.

It’s not that we never find it hard – heaps of things about the artist path are really challenging.

It’s that we evolve to become our truest artist selves, which are easily expansive enough to contain all of it, and navigate whatever comes along with greater ease, confidence, and flow.

Good for us, good for the world!

What stage are you at right now? Let me know in the comments!


The Happy Artist StudioIf you’re in need of a bit of guidance and support in reaching that place of alignment with your true artist self, I warmly invite you to come and check out the Happy Artist Studio.

I gathered together all my courses and learning materials {over 20 of them!} in one place, available with either a monthly or yearly subscription.

It’s best suited to artists who have reached that crossroads where they have the basics down and know how to put a painting together, but are not 100% clear on their unique artist voice or how to take the next steps into the world as an artist.

If you’d like to refine and strengthen your artist voice, clarify your vision for the role you want your art to have in your life, and step into that with confidence, come and have a look!


Click here to visit the Happy Artist Studio