It's a hard road of being an artist, but it is one worth living.
You must be dedicated, determined, passionate, unrelenting, and unwavering. You must be confident, independent, self-motivated, and strong-willed.
/\\\ I could go on but I think those are great ones to start with\\\/
There is no clear cut path towards "making it as an artist" - in fact many art schools and programs don't ever even talk about the outside world. Instead, we focused on making and looking, and critiquing and making some more. It was a safe womb-like world of art - a beautiful fantasy that I am happy to have lived.
The other side of graduation proved that "making it as an artist" is a free for all. You must discover your journey on your own.
And, this is what I have been doing.
You think you need to do this and need to do that - to emulate what others are doing and have done. And, of course that isn't the answer but in thinking that I have learned a lot. In the end, everything is up in the air and there are a million directions you can go and a million you don't have to. You see what's out there, you try different things, and you figure out what works best for you.
I had some teachers in school who inspired the hell out of me, and a couple who critiqued the hell out of me. Everything that you hear and becomes utterly uplifting or destroying, why? Well, because art is life and life is art - if you are an artist.
I've been rejected by galleries and grants and opportunities and welcomed by others. What I have learned from the best is that you don't ever give up. The denials have set my motivation back, but the passion inside of me will never let me quit. I am an artist always and forever and if I chose to put it on the back burner my life will be lived with less love and energy.
I push on. And, forging ahead has meant that I delve and dip into different styles at time (although I've heard you're supposed to find your style and stick with it). To me, art is exploration. To me, success is authenticity.
As a teacher I don't recommend to any of my students to try and fit into any kind of existing box, because it truth there is none in art nor in life.