We had the good fortune of connecting with Liz Hovley and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Liz, what is the most important factor behind your success?
The most important factors behind my success are my support systems, my self-talk, consistency, and healthy habits.
Support Systems: The support system I refer to is the people I’ve surrounded myself with. It’s important to find kind people who are nurturing and sensitive. Sometimes, finding positive people can be as easy as messaging/emailing someone you admire and asking them for advice. Over the years, I’ve learned to send lots of messages to people and I have been surprised by the positivity of the responses. It’s important to find people who leave you feeling energized, not tired or sad or depleted. You want people in your life who will lift you up, rather than kick you when you’re down. It’s also important to become the type of person you want to be around and nurture the people around you.
Self-talk: Cultivating positive self-talk is both extremely important and extremely difficult (at least for me). I’ve been writing in a positivity planner for years to help me remain optimistic. I will write out daily positive affirmations, my goals, and things I’m grateful for. Keeping my heart in a good place helps me be more productive throughout the day and helps me jump back on my feet after discouraging pitfalls. There are other methods that can help someone improve their self-talk, but writing positive sentiments has been helpful for me.
Consistency: Daily consistency is defined differently by different people. To some, it means doing the same thing every day at the same time and building a routine. Unfortunately, my personality tendencies have proven that level of structure virtually impossible for me to accomplish. As a result, to me, consistency means not giving up and staying focused over the long run. I might take breaks from things for a few days, weeks, months, or even years…but I will always get back up and try to chase my dreams again. Taking breaks on your dreams can sometimes be necessary, but not giving up and consistently trying again is the key.
Healthy habits: Everything improved for me when I started taking care of myself. I value my eight or nine hours of sleep each night more than anything. When I was younger, I would paint all night long and sleep all day. As a result, I was constantly in a bad mood when I was awake and I drove a lot of great people away from me. I attracted lots of negative people into my life who were as unhealthy as I was. The nights of great painting turned into years of being a grump! Now, I paint my best work during normal day hours, spend time with friends and family in the evening, and I’m more happy and productive than ever. It was hard work to get to a point where I could develop healthy habits, but it was worth the effort!
Alright, so let’s move on. How did you get to where you are today professionally? Was it easy? If not, how did you overcome the challenges? What are the lessons you’ve learned along the way?
I think one of the hardest things I overcame on my journey to become a professional artist were stereotypes about what an artist ‘is’. I grew up with very supportive parents who didn’t expose me to the stereotype of a ‘starving artist’ or any of that toxic nonsense. My parents were always supportive of me and encouraged me to have a business mindset. My dad always told me I’d be well-off if I worked hard at my craft. He enrolled me in lessons with a positive art teacher who told all of her students, including me, that we could be very wealthy and successful if we worked hard. My childhood and teenage years were spent looking for opportunities and developing my craft.
The first time I was exposed to toxic art mentalities was after high school when I started interacting with other artists in the professional art world. To say that the new ideologies I was exposed to put a sledgehammer on my self-esteem and productivity would be putting it lightly. The weight of the negativity, hopelessness, and poor health culture crushed me. All of the positivity I’d been exposed to as a child disappeared for a while. I was so discouraged I actually decided I didn’t want to be an artist anymore.
To fill my time, at age 22, I decided to go to college to study business. Business was my second love behind art so it seemed like the logical choice. I chose business because I wanted to study something I loved and to take a break from anything artistic. Fortunately, my Dad could see what was happening to me and gave me a career enhancing speech I’ll never forget.
“The best athletes quit.” He told me one afternoon while we were in the backyard. He told me about an article he read about high school athletes who dropped out of sports, even though they were star players. They gave up too soon and missed out on opportunities waiting for them. He then said, “There are poor dentists too, ya know. There are successful and unsuccessful people in every field. It doesn’t matter what you go into.” He encouraged me to keep painting, even though it was difficult for me at the time. He told me that my success, in whatever field I chose, would be determined by my choices. He told me there is always light after a storm.
In response to my dad’s words of encouragement, I decided to continue painting while I attended classes. The actual painting part was agony – I still felt discouraged and uncreative – but I kept painting somehow. For business essay assignments, I would write about successful artists who made it ‘big’ in the art field. I read books on successful artists. I entered business competitions with my art being my business idea. I started pitching really abstract art ideas to business owners to see if they would invest (I got lots of rejection, which helped me learn great lessons). I literally married my passion for art and my business degree while I attended school.
When my college graduation was only a few months away, my spark for art bloomed again. I began to paint with the same passion from my childhood I thought I’d lost forever. I had finally come to the end of my agonizing eight year artist block.
To close this section, I want to dispel ‘popular’ myths about what a ‘true artist’ is like.
These lies are perpetually told to artists (unfortunately, I’ve even had a gallery owner tell me some of these):
-True artists suffer for their craft
-True artists are unhealthy, into drugs, don’t sleep, don’t eat well, or are estranged
-True artists don’t sell their artwork for a profit
-True artists die young and don’t live to an old age
-True artists are in debt
-True artists have bad relationships with others
-True artists have poor mental health
-True artists can always reach flow and constantly create great art
-True artists can only create art when they are in flow
I don’t believe there is such a thing as a ‘true artist’. I believe people are whatever they grow and cultivate in themselves. There is such a thing as natural talent, but, like my father said about the high school athletes, natural talent doesn’t mean anything if you quit. Likewise, my art teacher always told her students hard work and consistency can surpass natural talent. She shared stories about an ‘ungifted’ artist at her school who graduated at the top of their class with the highest-paying salary because he worked harder and more efficiently than everyone else.
My biggest tips for developing a healthy, happy, and productive art career are:
-Take care of your body. Get at least eight hours of sleep each night, work out, and eat healthy. Love and respect your body. Your body is what helps you create your beautiful artwork. If you appreciate and nourish the gift of your body, then your work will improve. I’ve found all-nighters might create one or two pieces of good art, but the perpetual cycle of self-neglect will ultimately destroy you and your craft.
-Take care of your mind. Encourage your efforts, no matter how small they might be. Write down a gratitude list. Keep a close watch on your self-talk cycles to make sure they’re positive. Seek professional help when necessary. Surround yourself with happy, loving people. If you can’t find happy, loving people nearby then seek them out and find them. Take yourself to get a candy bar if you finish a special painting. Get a candy bar if you finish a bad painting. Celebrate your small victories/losses. I’ve found I will have more energy and creativity when I’m kind to myself.
-Consistency is key. I read a quote once by the artist Chuck Close, who said, “Inspiration is for amateurs — the rest of us just show up and get to work.”. This one hits close to home because I could describe from the time I graduated high school to when I was almost 27 as an artist block. Painting was agonizing during that time. So, I would turn on my favorite TV show while I painted to help me enjoy the creative time in at least one way. I’ve grown so much during that eight year artist block. My art has gotten better and I don’t need flow to paint. It sucked getting to this point, but consistency (and not giving up) is more important than flow.
-Keep learning. Making a living from your work isn’t magic. Sometimes, the art gods randomly pick people to bless, but it’s more likely there’s a lot of work and learning behind a person’s success. Read about successful artists (the ones who don’t starve and have happy lives) and break down what made them that way. Some of them, like Leroy Neiman, even had rough starts in life and got out of bad early life situations. Email successful artists and ask for tips or advice. Keep developing your craft. Learn new techniques and skills. Set aside non-creative time to think through the business side of your art (honestly, an hour or two a week is good enough to get rolling). Get out of the house to experience new things and find new inspiration. Life is an opportunity to learn and find joy while you create.
If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
I’m always open to taking road trips with friends and family through my home state, Utah. My artwork has been heavily inspired by Southern Utah’s red rock landscapes! I have also had several Antelope Island inspired paintings.
Utah Travel Itinerary:
-Antelope Island to see the bison (but ONLY in early spring or late fall because there are biting gnats and giant spiders when the weather is warm. Call the park ahead of time to see if the gnats are out. I also don’t encourage swimming in the Salt Lake. These are my helpful tips from a local.)
-Arches National Park
-Bryce Canyon National Park
-Zion National Park
My article is dedicated to my parents, my wonderful husband, my friends, my siblings, my in-laws, my grandparents, kind strangers, and my teachers.
Ken Hovley for the image of holding the bison painting. Jason Yeaman for the image of holding her paint brush.