top of page
  • Writer's pictureNoura Boustany Jost

What Makes a Successful Artist?

Updated: May 25, 2021

As an artist, I have heard the term “making it,” forever. As an actress, that always meant having consistent work, starring in big movies, getting to a point where I didn’t have to beg for work. However, the more that I moved forward in my life, the more I wondered, what exactly is “making it”? Does that definition look different for everyone? What is it for me now? I started to redefine what success might look like.

I reached out to a few different types of artists to try to find out how I was going to make it as an artist, and what exactly would make me a success.

Emerson Hiller

Painter and Artist Extraordinaire

1. How do you define yourself as an artist?

I define myself as an amateur artist currently exploring mediums, trying to find my niche. My favorite pieces are often multi-media pieces that use a variety of mediums in one piece, a collage of 2-D, 3-D, and possibly photography, so I strive to create pieces that involve multiple concepts and mediums. At the moment, I am teaching myself to paint, but spending most of my free-time using modge-podge to collage boxes and containers; it is much less stressful and more likely that someone will buy them than one of my paintings.

2. What do you consider a successful artist?

Someone who puts in reasonable effort to create work that stirs their audience emotionally in some capacity. Obviously, "reasonable effort" is relative. There are many pieces of art (specifically Modern Art) that people often lament they could have created themselves. I do sometimes share this sentiment, but every once in a while, you find a piece that might have not taken long, but teaches you a lesson or makes you look at the world differently. Marina Abramovic is a performing artist, and in one of her acclaimed pieces "The Artist is Present," which took place at the MoMA in 2010, she sat on a chair for hours, simply staring at whomever sat across from her, silently. Viewers were encouraged to sit across from her. Some cried of happiness, of sadness, even frustration. Some felt like she had given them an energy that they couldn't quite name. Each person who made eye contact with her had an experience. This concept, while simple, involved restraint, design, and patience. Thus, she was successful, for she created something that had an impact on everyone involved despite never picking up a brush.

3. Who is an artist in your field you look up to?

I love painters like Alice Neel and Jordan Casteel--modern women who capture everyday people and their character as if they were royalty. The same could be said for Kehinde Wiley, but there is something homogeneous about his work, whereas Neel and Casteel play with color and texture in each piece.

Ebon’e Williams

Choreographer / Dancer

1. How do you define yourself as an artist?


2. What do you consider a successful artist

For me, a successful artist is someone who is able to use their gifts and talents, while being compensated for them. Art is beautiful. Dance has definitely shaped me and saved my life, but being able to have the financial standing to show for it is huge.

3. Who is an artist in your field you look up to?

Tanisha Scott was one of the first dancers I recognized and thought so highly of. She was in every music video you could think of in the early 2000s. She is now one of the hottest choreographers in the industry.

Margaret Montagna

Sound Designer

1. How do you define yourself as an artist?

I define myself as a sound designer.

2. What do you consider a "successful" artist?

I consider a successful artist someone who has found fulfillment/happiness in what they create.

3. Who is an artist you look up to?

I guess my Godmom? She's a composer/singer/teacher/musician and she's always seemed to enjoy what she does and be happy while doing it. I don't think I've ever really met an artist where I've been like "wow I wanna be like you when I grow up." Maybe Lizzo? Or Trixie Mattel and Katya? I feel like I really admire/look up to people who seem like they're authentically expressing themselves through their art and are enjoying their life in the process.

Quentin Madia

Multidisciplinary Artist

1. How do you define yourself as an artist?

I am a generative Director, Producer, and multidisciplinary artist. I try to be as well rounded as possible!

2. What do you consider a “Successful” artist?

Defining success has always been difficult for me! I definitely do not have all the answers, but I consider being successful with several attributes. 1. Doing work that excites you, 2. Having collaborators who challenge you, 3. Finding the balance of work that supports you financially, but also gives you the time and energy to do the work you want to do (this is the most difficult).

3. Who is an artist you look up to?

Oh there are so many. Most recently, Dan Levy. He performs, writes, directs, and produces which is what I want to do!

Reading what these lovely people had to say, I was so blown away by their answers. Success wasn’t being in a Marvel movie. It wasn’t the day my book becomes a best seller. For some, it’s just about fulfillment and joy, for others, it’s even just having a little bit of money made off of what they do.

Here are my answers:

1. How Do You Define Yourself as an Artist?

Ah I actually struggle with this a bit. I'm a writer / actress with a joy for all art. Always trying new things, I paint, I do editing, I just consider myself as a person to be an artist.

2. What do you consider a successful artist?

Someone who feels happiness and fulfillment through art. Ideally, there would be a financial component, but I don't think someone is not creating art if they aren't getting paid for it.

3. Who is an artist in your field you look up to?

This is so tough. I literally look up to so many artists. For poetry, Rupi Kaur, For acting, Viola Davis, For writing, Mindy Kaling.

Inspiration is drawn from authenticity, and from talent. For others, the art speaks for itself. We are so hard on ourselves as artists, and its possible we’re inspiring people without even realizing it.

These are just four artists that I admire, but as you can see, their answers for success and who they look up to are so different. If you’re waiting to make it, maybe re-think in the terms of what these lovely individuals are thinking. Maybe, you’ve already made it.

Noura Boustany Jost is an actress, writer and videographer currently residing in New York City. Noura is passionate about social activism, and is often creating work that has political and social impact on today's society. She jumps into the hard topics, and helps tell stories for those who can't tell them themselves. Noura is currently working on publishing her poetry book, "Be My Ocean," and writing her novel. When Noura isn't working, you can find her gaming, hanging out with her two cats, or trying very hard to learn how to rollerskate. For more information on Noura please visit


Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page