Creative Tiers: Moving to a Higher Level

I believe we, as artists, are on different creative tiers of development in our careers and there are always those who are on a higher or lower tier. That tier structure has always been there and will always be there. Our job is to constantly seek improvement to move to the next higher tier. Finding your creative influences and artists/people who inspire you is part of the path to a higher tier. However, doing so is not that easy!

I have always been reluctant to try and contact prominent artists for fear of looking like a groupie—which, in my opinion, is not a good thing. There is admiration and respect for another artist’s work you consider to be very accomplished and successful and then there is groupie-like gushing when you have the opportunity to meet him or her in person. I have contacted select artists I admire and hope to learn from. No response. Nada. Zilch. It is hard to put yourself out there and introduce yourself to someone who is a little further down the road—on a higher tier—in their career than perhaps you are. So, it is really important to acknowledge when the opposite happens.

Recently, on a return trip from my gallery in Cape Cod, I had the opportunity to meet an artist I have followed for many years. I admire him not only for his creative ideas and the trajectory of his career but also for the way he conducts his life in relationship to his career. This artist is on the rise and is gaining well-deserved major museum interest. He is very prolific and was no doubt busy with his next piece but graciously accepted our short-notice request to stop by his studio for a brief visit. We talked casually with him for an hour or so about art, artists and family. I was thrilled to see his paintings up close and personal again. (I had previously seen his work at Arden Gallery in Boston.)

The point of this is to say there are some artists—whose careers are more advanced—who are willing to share their time and knowledge if asked. Maybe not many but you don’t know until you ask. We can’t be discouraged when we don’t get the response we are looking for and we should be gracious and grateful when we do. Meeting this artist, after following his career for so long, was a great treat for me and Jeri. We will continue to follow him and hopefully will return for another visit in the future.

On a personal note, I have been fortunate to have been contacted over the years by artists and other interested individuals about my work. I hope I have been gracious and forthcoming about my work and creative process and have shown them the courtesy they deserved.

So, as you move through the tiers of your career, keep yourself open and put yourself out there. Make the effort to meet artists on higher tiers and lower tiers—or even the same tier—so the knowledge can move in all directions. If possible, seek out those who influence and inform your work. Develop relationships that inspire and cause you to grow. Ultimately, we all benefit with the sifting of information through the tiers. And, always keep in mind the stress and demands of the higher tiered artist. They may even be intimidated by you!

And like I say, I’m just tryin’ to make small talk.


This blog is the beginning of what I hope will be a series of blogs in the coming months on inspiration and influence on an artist’s work. It is not intended to be academic but rather casual conversation about the topic. Hopefully, there will be responses from others who will share their experiences regardless of their tier position.


4 Responses

  1. Another great blog post, Nick. Sorry to see that Facebook took down the link! I just logged on to your web site directly to get to your blog. Just when we artists find a new way to connect, be seen, promote, our internet tools invent new strategies to stop us! It’s hard to keep up with the changes, but we are a determined species!

    Best to you, Nancy Hilgert

  2. Nick,

    Thank you for being willing to talk to me, a lower tiered artist, when I reached out to you a few years ago. You were very kind and gracious to give me some of your time and advice when you were very busy. I will always remember the visit and appreciate it.


    1. I, too, enjoyed our conversation Jeff. It was good to discuss your paintings and I am glad I could be of some help.

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