Success, redefined

Last week at Thanksgiving, my extended family was incredibly sweet and enthusiastic about what I’ve been doing to get my art up and going. Multiple family members – aunts, uncles, cousins – congratulated me on what they called “my success”.

I didn’t know what to say.

I stammered through a few explanations along the lines of, thank you, I appreciate that, and it’s funny to think that this is what success looks and feels like.

When I think about succeeding with my art business, the first thing to pop into my mind is financial success. After all, a business that just breaks even is just a hobby. The whole reason I created a small business instead of just occasionally painting, like I have for the past twenty years, is because I want to build this passion of mine into something that eventually turns a profit. I want my art to be my life, and vice versa.

The other equally integral piece in my definition of success is making sure that this is what I really want. I’ve chased a lot of goals only to arrive and realize the reality isn’t the fantasy I’d built in my head. So, I run constant (and scary) gut checks with myself, to see how it actually feels to create art and run a business. Am I chasing an ideal, or is this really panning out day-to-day as something that is gratifying to me?

What I think my family is picking up on, success-wise, is that I have been fastidiously putting pieces in motion to build this thing, and so far the ideal matches the reality.

That alignment seems to be coming through when I’m talking about Alli Harvey Art. This is awesome feedback for me because most of the time I’m in the day to day.

And frankly, the day-to-day doesn’t add up to an enormous profit – yet. When I do turn a profit, I typically put it right back into the business. I buy more art supplies, more greeting cards to sell, purchase the new software I apparently need, pay for some Instagram ads, host an event and buy a bunch of box wine and snacks. This coming year – 2020 – is the first year I want to take some of the profits and use them to propel myself further into the world. I’m hoping to make enough from the art business that I can travel somewhere new, at least once if not a few times throughout the year.


Maybe success is simply what it feels like to walk into this little studio that has taken months and the help of many people to make into a reality.

This is part of that painstaking work I’ve been doing to build the dream. Which is why, maybe, I have a hard time embracing the word success. It seems to be implied that success is a destination, and I think while that’s part of it, it’s also an ongoing and forever process. I do feel successful. I feel almost overwhelmed daily with amazement and gratitude for all of the pieces of this whole endeavor that life has afforded me, and I don’t take that at all for granted. But I also feel I have a lot more to do, and in many ways right now I’m only laying the first parts of the foundation of where I’d like to go.


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