Stages - The Word with
Heather René Dunaway

Written by: Heather René Dunaway
December 2023
Photo of "Golden Hour" by Heather René Dunaway first shown at the 2023 WetPaint Party and Art Sale, currently on Display in the City Gallery for the Winter Art Showcase with the Greater Augusta Arts Council

As I am getting ready for my next solo exhibition at the Gertrude Herbert for Summer 2024, I’ve been updating my artist CV, bios, etc. It really makes me think of the stages of being an artist. There’s emerging, mid-career and established. It can take different amounts of time spent in each from artist to artist, because our journeys are all different, but what does it all mean?


I tend to think there aren’t 3 but more like 5 stages. They can apply to all types of creatives. Writers, musicians, dancers, actors, visual artists, etc. we all go through these stages of growing our creative talents and making our own little paths in the world.


Obviously, the first stage? The Beginning Stage. We all start somewhere. The Beginning is when you are new on the scene. You haven’t been in any shows or performed anywhere, let alone had a solo or headlining experience. Or maybe they do, but you’ve switched genres and it’s a new beginning. Either way, you’re making new connections and applying for shows and gigs left and right. Your resume is pretty light.

The second is The Exploration Stage. In this stage you are finding your niche and testing different materials, styles, etc. You’re still working on who you are as an artist and what you are trying to get across to the viewer or listener. You are exploring new ways to share your work, maybe participating in your first group show, opening for another performer, or creating a social media and web presence. 

Then you have The Consistency Stage. Now that you have found your niche, are making work, building relationships out in the art community and sharing your work with others, it’s time to stay consistent and start planning for the future. Using your new connections to start building up your fan base and creating a demand for you and your work. People outside of your circle might be asking for commission work or to perform at their events now.


The Break-Out Stage comes out of all the hard work of maintaining a consistent momentum. You know your audience now and have found great venues to show your art off. You’ve even had your first solo show! Yay! Now you are showing your work regularly and it’s your best yet. You’re still growing your art and your art business. It’s super important to maintain this new level and set attainable goals. I feel like I, personally, am teetering in this stage. Though, I’m still experimenting and finding my niche. I don’t think growth is linear. Sometimes you might grow more in one stage of development than another, or back track. Everyone is different and that’s ok.

The WetPaint Party and Art Sale is a great way to get into a big show! Click the photo to find out more.

The final stage is The Made-It Stage. You’re recognized in the streets. You’re getting paid the big bucks for your art and you’re showing in bigger and better places. You’ve won awards and have a book deal. You met Beyonce. Well, maybe not that last one, but I mean… Maybe you have. Why not? You’ve made it.


Knowing these stages might help you think of next moves or where you can improve. Atleast, that’s my hope.


Ok, thanks bye!