Did you ever nip into the supermarket wanting just three specific items and come out with thirteen things you never knew you needed? When you got home you realised you forgot one of the three items you went out for?

That’s not a failing of yours, that’s perfectly reasonable. You’re like one person holding up two fists facing a fully trained army.

It’s an army of marketers. The supermarket employs teams of full time professional persuaders to erase your mind when you walk into their store and fill it with what they want. Every product on every shelf and every brand does the same. Your only chance is to take in a list and stick to it. In other words, decide what you want and go for it.

The problem is not just the supermarket. It’s everything. Your phone, ads, social media, the news, messaging, reminders, emails, magazines & newspapers, posters, ‘suggested for you’. It’s really easy to sail through life thinking you’re following your nose but end up doing what billionaires want your entire life. 

We are not empty vessels to be steered by others, we can decide for ourselves and it doesn’t have to be hard work. So what will you be remembered for? What’s your artistic legacy? What’s your work worth to someone else? What does your art do for people?

If we can crack that, your art will bring clarity to others and remind them what being human is about. One of your paintings could be their touchstone through life. You don’t have to tackle hard subjects to have an impact, if you’re a dog portrait artist it’s still true. If you can capture what they love about Benji, that’s real.

We have our own purpose and we have our own goals. We have things that we want to do and it’s up to us as artists to be clear about that. 

It helps to bear in mind that marketers don’t just aim to distract, they want to influence our goals too. I mean, I would love to drive a new Aston Martin to an exclusive beach and eat Ben & Jerry’s with my perfect partner. Wait a sec. Sorry, no, that’s not what I want, I forgot myself for a minute. A functioning health service and a cure for ME/CFS, that’s what I want.

Artists remind us that there is value in humanity. Intrinsic beauty.

This isn’t sometime. This is now. The world is going wrong and we all know it. It’s like we’re living under a weighted blanket.  

Art can bring us round & remind us what we can be and what we can do. It can be the light. I’m not sure I know where else to find hope. 

We have a responsibility to society. So let’s do this.

I’ve got seven approaches for you. I’m not saying there are only seven. I’m not claiming anything. I’m writing to get clear about this myself, much as you might paint to clarify your thoughts.

I’m going to skip over them and maybe I’ll expand on each in other articles later. But here’s what I’ve got.

1 Imagine your future self is you

We typically treat our future self as if they are a completely different person. “Screw future me, I’m having this kebab now.” (This whole article is not about gritted teeth denial btw. I don’t even know what gritted teeth are.) 

We imagine that future-you will be better; have more resource, more willpower, they’ll do things right. “The diet starts tomorrow.” But future you is you. Same you but actually carrying the legacy or enjoying the benefits of what you do today. “Still, you know, fuck ‘em. Life’s for living now, tomorrow is not guaranteed, right?”

You’re not normal though. You’re an artist. You became an artist because you have a power of imagination most people don’t have. 

You were born with that talent, and you’ve trained it up your whole life. You’re an olympic imaginer.

One way to overcome that natural tendency to disrespect future-you is to vividly imagine yourself in, say, ten years time. 

I never liked this exercise. It comes up every now and then in business training and a clear beginning is “what car do you want to drive?” “Where do you want to live?” “What clothes will you wear?” It’s all consumer stuff .. I don’t want a car at all, I want to commute to my job on horseback. Sure there was a time I watched Top Gear drive a silver Ferrari GT across Europe and I still think that would be amazing. But nowadays I just want clean water and for it not be a fight to get a new wheel fitted onto my wheelie bin. Yeah, that’s funny, but actually what I’m saying is I want to be supported in life so I can be the best me.

So what do you want? To be respected? To be able to spend time in your artist’s studio without interruption. Artistic freedom. Some money in the bank. Maybe you want to live somewhere safe and nice and inspiring. Have friends.

So deploy your amazing powers of imagination and bring future-you to life. 

Then, carry future-you with you. Keep them alive, like a Tamagotchi. Ask their advice.

2 Discover your core values and let them guide you

This is something I’ve spent a lot of time on, Tony Robbins started it (we call him Tony Bobbins in our house just because it’s funny). We are all guided by our values. Every decision we make is in pursuit of (for example) fun or excitement or order. Robbins’ insight was that there’s a hierarchy to that. Some values are more important to us than others. Which means there’s one at the top. What is that for you? What is your most important value?

If you think of yourself as living for adrenaline you will do adrenaline things and you will like adrenaline people and they will like you.

And they will like you.

There it is. How to sell your art. But we’re not there yet, we’re getting clarity and purpose. But know now, that clear you, purposeful you, will be more attractive. That’s at the dead centre of your art marketing strategy. Keep that thought with you always.

3 The power of goal setting: from 10 years to today

What needs to happen for you to end up as the future-you you imagined vividly into existence in step one above? Break that down and say OK, if I’m going to get there, I need to be ‘here’ in three years. And to get to where I want to be in three years, I need to be ‘here’ in a year, so I need to do this this month and that this week and this today. It makes your big goal achievable and bite sized. Plus every time you think about your big goal, it reinforces it.

Some quick advice about your to-do list, start everything with a verb, and make it doable. ‘Learn to sing’ isn’t doable, ‘ask Facebook friends for recommendations for a singing tutor’ is.

4 Meditation for artists: not stillness, practice

I used to think that meditation is to achieve mental peace, but I recently read a sentence that spun me around and got me started. Now, I meditate for 10 minutes after breakfast every day.

Optional rant: My partner discovered she is gluten intolerant a few years ago. One day we decided to try the cafe at a buddhist retreat. After an hour’s drive on a hot day we wandered in, asked about gluten free food and the lass smiled beautifully and apologised. The lady who bakes the gluten free food didn’t deliver today, but hey, happy happy everything’s cool, we’re buddhists, everything for a reason. She probably sold me hardcore business capitalism and just-in-time delivery systems more effectively than anyone ever has. My partner also has dysautonomia and she was flagging, she needed something to get herself back in balance. It had been my idea to come here too, and this place was in the middle of nowhere. Living life like “nothing matters because I can just meditate stress away”, in that moment, showed itself to be entirely inadequate. Conclusion: cake matters more than inner peace.

I basically never really wanted transcendence. I’m a reality guy, I don’t read fiction and think that if you want to be scared look at the world not a horror movie, and if you want to play games invest in stock. I want to get stuff done and sitting around omming doesn’t feel like it will help.

And then I read the sentence. Meditation isn’t about achieving emptiness, it’s about practising noticing when your thoughts wander, and rehearsing bringing yourself back.

It’s like training a muscle. So that’s what I do. And after a few days I found I did notice more easily when I got distracted, and I forgave myself and came back to my task. I recommend it.

5 Harness dopamine and get happy getting stuff done

Dopamine is the chemical that perks you up when you see an easily achievable goal. That’s why we get distracted, but let’s use our existing brain chemistry for good.

Guess what just happened to me? I thought of my emails as an example of a distraction .. and just had to go check them.

Part of the solution to getting distracted is what we did in point 3 above .. when we break our ten year goal down and down until it’s an achievable goal today .. see what we did? We turned our big scary never gonna happen longtime goal into something our brain can turn us on to now.

A mention at this point about ADHD. I’m not an expert, but as I understand it most people find completing tasks pleasurable. But some people are wired for solving problems. Once the problem is solved, actually doing it holds no pleasure. The interest in the task is gone. Hence lots of interesting projects, none of them completed. If that’s you, maybe your tasks need to be phrased as problems to solve to get your dopamine hit.

6 Digital detox: creating space for artistic flow

We talked about distractions earlier, but here’s where we watch for what distracts you and turn it off if that’s an option. An essential for me, especially working with international clients, is to set a sleep time on my phone so that Do Not Disturb is on from say 10pm until 8am.

Unsubscribe to mailing lists you’re no longer interested in. Remove yourself from Facebook Groups. Work out why your phone beeps at you and switch all that off.

The book The 4-hour Work Week recommends setting a time to check your emails, let’s say lunchtime and the end of the day. Not first thing, that’s for you to get done what you need to achieve that day. After a while he says, try once a day for emails. Then try once every couple of days. Does the world end? Find a balance. I quite like SaneBox, fwiw. You could do the same with social media, but a recommendation from Perry Marshall is to decide that you are a professional user of social media, not a normal user. In that mode, you’re there to schedule posts, to advertise, to strategically comment and connect perhaps in half an hour a day. You’re not there to get distracted. Actually because you’ve things to do, you’re really just not interested enough in social media.

The key thing at least is to protect your flow time. Use Do Not Disturb on your phone.

7 Beyond artistic skills, crafting a supportive environment

What’s holding you back? Do you have what you need to make your art? Besides being clear about what you want and having your plan, consider what could be improved in four other areas:

  1. The skills you need to reach where you are going
  2. Your physical environment, your studio, interruptions, lighting, how welcoming does it feel?
  3. Do you have supportive people around you?
  4. Your mental environment, what is your inner voice telling you and how can we improve that?

Evaluating and designing changes to your environment can improve your well-being, productivity and the quality of your work.


Taking control of your destiny isn’t just important for your individual fulfilment. Our head is the main battleground as powerful interests seeks to turn us against each other because it benefits them. So when you get clear about what you want and go for it you’re contributing to a world enriched by creativity. 

These seven techniques can help you cut through the noise, rediscover your focus and create a life aligned with your purpose and your passion. It’s time to reinvent yourself, take control, and embark on a purpose-driven artistic journey.


About me

I help artists sell their work through coaching and training. I’d like every artist to sell their art their own way, congruent with their beliefs, strengths and intended buyer. My best training at the moment is called Transform which aims to help you work out what to say to sell your art. It sounds simple but it really isn’t. If we can work that out together and plug it into a sales/marketing method, you’re good. Check it out here https://sellyourart.blog/transform/ 

I’ve also got a freebie for you in exchange for your email address here.


(Some or all links are affiliate links)

The Willpower Instinct, Dr Kelly McDonigal 

Tony Robbins, Awaken The Giant Within

News From Nowhere, William Morris

The 4-Hour Work Week, Timothy Ferriss

Perry Marshall .. I haven’t read Detox, Declutter, Dominate but I took one of his programmes and assume there’s some overlap

Sanebox helps you manage your email inbox