What Makes a Good Artist? (20 Traits + Expert Insights)

When we think of great artists, names like Leonardo da Vinci, Vincent van Gogh, and Frida Kahlo often come to mind. These icons have significantly impacted art, leaving legacies through their masterpieces that still move and intrigue people in modern times.

But what truly defines them as great artists? Could it be their technical skill, their knack to dream the unexpected, or perhaps their exceptional way of telling stories through their art?

As someone who’s always been drawn to the power of art, I’ve always wondered this question. And through it all, I’ve come to realize that there’s no single formula for artistic greatness.

Great art, like beauty, lies in the eye of the beholder. But there are certain qualities that seem to be common among the artists we consider the best of the best. So, what’s the secret?

Let’s find out together.

They Are Passionate in Their Craft

The best artists aren’t just in it for the money or the fame—they’re in it because they genuinely love what they do with every fiber of their being.

You can see it in the way they talk about their work—the sparkle in their eye, the excitement in their voice. They could go on for hours about the intricacies of their craft, the joys and challenges of the creative process, and the deep sense of fulfillment they get from bringing their visions to life.

It shows in their work. When an artist truly loves what they do, it infuses every piece they create with a sense of energy, authenticity, and soul. You can feel the passion and the dedication that went into it, and it’s impossible not to be moved by it.

They Possess a Unique Style That Sets Them Apart

In a saturated world of art, it’s the artists with a truly distinctive style who capture our attention and captivate our senses. These are the creative mavericks who refuse to blend in, who forge their own path and defy the conventional.

Whether it’s the vibrant, expressionistic brushstrokes of Van Gogh, the hauntingly surreal landscapes of Dali, or the minimalist elegance of Rothko—these artists have an unmistakable signature that sets them apart.

And it’s not just art enthusiasts who are drawn to this individuality—collectors, galleries, and the general public all gravitate towards artists who have the courage to be unapologetically themselves.

They Show Exceptional Technical Skills in Their Chosen Medium

While passion and style are important, let’s not forget about the technical side of things. After all, a good artist needs to have the skills to bring their vision to life, right? And that’s where exceptional technical skills come in.

Now, what exactly do we mean by technical skills? Well, it depends on the medium.

  • For a painter, it might mean having a mastery of color theory, brushwork, and composition.
  • For a sculptor, it could be about understanding form, balance, and texture.
  • For a digital artist, it might involve knowing how to use various software programs and tools.

But here’s the thing—developing exceptional technical skills takes time and practice. It’s not something that happens overnight. Even the most talented artists have to put in the work to hone their craft.

They Have a High Level of Creativity and Imagination

Good artists don’t just copy what’s been done before—they take risks, push boundaries, and bring something truly fresh and original to the table.

Great artists don’t just see the world as it is—they see it as it could be. They have the ability to take the ordinary and transform it into the extraordinary, to find beauty and meaning in the most unexpected places.

They’re the true visionaries, the ones who challenge us to see the world in a different light and expand the limits of what’s possible.

They Have a Strong Sense of Self-Expression

Art is all about expressing yourself—your thoughts, your feelings, your experiences. And the best artists? They do it with a boldness and authenticity that’s impossible to ignore.

Think about it: When you look at a piece of art that really moves you, what is it that you’re connecting with? More often than not, it’s the artist’s own emotions and experiences that are shining through.

But self-expression isn’t always easy. It takes courage to put your innermost thoughts and feelings on display for the world to see. And it takes practice to learn how to communicate those things effectively through your art.

"Great artists know their values and make art that aligns with those.

The difference between an artist-for-hire who simply creates what others request of them, and a great artist who dictates the direction and subject matter of their work, is someone who knows what matters to them in the world.

These artists have strong convictions, understand what they are not willing to tolerate or condone, and they create work accordingly."

— Marley Errico | Arts Professional | Director of Operations, BAIA Agency

They Are Able to Tell Stories Through Their Work

At the end of the day, art is a form of communication—a powerful one, for that matter.

There are so many different ways to tell stories through art.

  • You can use color, composition, and symbolism to create a mood or convey a theme.
  • You can use characters, settings, and narratives to explore complex ideas and emotions.
  • You can even use abstract shapes and forms to communicate something deeper and more profound.

You see, a good artist doesn’t just create pretty pictures or cool sculptures. They use their work to convey a message, to evoke an emotion, or to tell a story that resonates with their audience.

They’re Innovative and Not Afraid to Experiment

If every artist just stuck to the same old techniques and styles, art would never evolve. We’d still be painting like the ancient Egyptians or sculpting like the Greeks—don’t get me wrong, those are great works of art, but you get the point.

Good artists are always asking themselves, “What if?” What if I tried this new material? What if I combined these two techniques? What if I approached this subject from a completely different angle?

Sure, not every experiment is going to be a success. But that’s okay because the best artists know that failure is just a part of the process. They learn from their mistakes, they keep pushing forward, and they never stop exploring.

They Have a Strong Work Ethic

Being a good artist takes more than just talent—it takes hard work, dedication, and a whole lot of elbow grease. Because let’s face it, creating art isn’t always easy. It can be frustrating, time-consuming, and downright exhausting at times.

But the best artists? They don’t let that stop them. They have a strong work ethic that keeps them going, even when the going gets tough. They’re willing to put in the long hours, to push through the creative blocks, and to keep working until they get it right.

And that’s because they know that creating great art takes time and effort. It’s not something that just happens overnight.

"Good art is made not through grand inspiration or inborn talent but through time-consuming repetition. An artist's craft is developed and perfected simply by doing.

One must show up every day and do it, whether they are inspired or not. They must try new things, experiment, get bored, and get frustrated, all for the sake of ultimately crafting a signature style worth sharing with the world."

— Marley Errico
 | Arts Professional | Director of Operations, BAIA Agency

They Are Resourceful in Overcoming Creative Blocks

Every artist knows the feeling—you’re in the middle of a project, and suddenly, you hit a wall. The ideas stop flowing, the inspiration runs dry, and you’re left staring at a blank canvas or an empty page, wondering what to do next.

But here’s the thing—great artists know that creative blocks are a normal part of the artistic process. The key is to be resourceful in finding ways to overcome them.

Maybe that means taking a break and stepping away from your work for a bit. Go for a walk, listen to music, or do something completely unrelated to art—sometimes, the best ideas come when you least expect them.

They Feel a Sense of Purpose in Their Craft

There’s something profound about artists who find their ‘why’ in their craft. 

  • Maybe they want to use their art to raise awareness about important issues or to give voice to marginalized communities.
  • Maybe they want to create works that inspire joy, wonder, or reflection in others.
  • Maybe they simply want to express something true and authentic about the human experience.

Whatever their specific purpose may be, one thing is clear—good artists are driven by a sense of meaning and intention in their work. They’re not just creating art for the sake of creating art—they’re doing it because they believe in the power of art to make a difference in the world.

They Are Constantly Curious About the World Around Them

Good artists are never satisfied with what they already know. They’re always hungry for more—more knowledge, more experiences, more ideas to fuel their creative fires.

That’s because they understand that art is a reflection of the world around us, in all its beauty, complexity, and diversity. And the more an artist understands about that world, the richer and more meaningful their work will be.

So, good artists are constantly curious. They’re always asking questions, seeking out new perspectives, and exploring the unknown. They’re not afraid to step outside their comfort zones or to challenge their own assumptions and beliefs.

They See Beyond the Surface of Things

Good artists have a gift for seeing the world in a different way. They don’t just look at things—they really see them in all of their depth, complexity, and hidden meanings.

Their gift is a reminder to us all to look a little closer, listen a little harder, and feel a little deeper. Their artworks might feature a common scene—a bustling city street or a quiet room—but they bring out the layers of emotion and humanity that we often overlook in our daily hustle.

They Have a Good Eye for Detail and Aesthetics

Attention to detail is a hallmark of good artists. They have a keen eye for the small things that others might overlook, and they understand how those details can make a big impact on the overall quality and effectiveness of their work.

This might mean:

  • Spending hours getting the lighting just right in a painting.
  • Obsessing over the placement of each element in a composition.
  • Choosing just the right word or phrase in a piece of writing.
  • Paying close attention to the way different colors and textures interact in a design.

Moreover, it’s also about aesthetics. Good artists have a strong sense of what looks and feels right, and they use that intuition to create works that are visually and emotionally compelling.

They understand the power of balance, harmony, and contrast, and they use those principles to create art that is both pleasing to the eye and meaningful to the soul.

They Can Handle Criticism and Can Be Self-Critical

Creating art is a deeply personal process, and it can be difficult to put your work out there for others to judge and critique.

But good artists understand that feedback—both positive and negative—is an essential part of the creative process. Instead, they look for the kernel of truth in each critique and use it to identify areas where they can improve and refine their craft.

At the same time, good artists are also their own worst critics. They have high standards for themselves and their work, and they’re always striving to be better. They use that self-awareness to push themselves to new heights.

They Have the Courage to Challenge the Norms

Breaking traditional norms is not just about being different for the sake of being different. Good artists do it with purpose and intention.

Sometimes that means tackling controversial or sensitive topics or expressing opinions that are unpopular or unconventional. they might also try fresh styles that are outside the mainstream or create art that is intentionally provocative or confrontational.

They know that by focusing on the hard stuff—the stuff we’d often rather avoid—art can really change our view of the world and how we understand ourselves. It can help us question what we thought was true, see things from different sides, and move us to think and feel more deeply.

They Never Forget Their Roots

Great artists remember where they came from. Their art often reflects their beginnings—where they grew up, the people who influenced them, the experiences that shaped them. No matter how far they travel or how much they change, their art retains a sense of home.

For many artists, this means using their work to shed light on the experiences and perspectives of their communities or to give voice to the stories and struggles of those who have been marginalized or oppressed. It means creating art that is not just beautiful or entertaining but also socially and politically engaged.

"Art is an expression of one's unique identity, story, and perspective. No one else has lived the artist's experience, so it is their responsibility to create from their own life, to tell their story, and to tell it well.

This means knowing who they are, what they stand for, where they come from, and what their vision for the future is. All of these factors inform the artist's work and the messaging around it, regardless of whether they are part of the subject matter or not."

— Marley Errico | Arts Professional | Director of Operations, BAIA Agency

They Appreciate and Support Other Artists’ Works

Great artists know the value of community and the importance of lifting each other up. It’s tough out there, and a kind word or a bit of encouragement can mean the world. They understand that art is not about competition, rather, it’s about sharing and growing together.

Support can look like many things:

  • Attending each other’s shows.
  • Posting about their work online.
  • Offering advice over a cup of coffee.

When artists appreciate and support one another, it sets a tone of generosity and kindness. This camaraderie is a beautiful aspect of the art world that often goes unseen but is felt deeply within the hearts of those who create.

"Many famous modern artists tend to take reference from certain artists and adopt their styles into their works. 

In my case, I often take references from Van Gogh and Claude Monet and highly appreciate their works in both impressionism and post-impressionism. I adapt their art styles, recreate my own variations of works, and educate my students accordingly."

— Celine Chia Hui Xuan | Artist, Teacher, and Founder, Ccmonstersart

They Make Art That Has Its Own Soul

When great artists create, they pour a piece of themselves into their work, giving it a life of its own. They create with sincerity and intention, and this breathes a soul into their art.

This quality is hard to define, but you know it when you see it. It’s the feeling you get when you stand in front of a painting and find yourself lost in its colors and textures. When you listen to a piece of music and feel your heart swell with emotion.

This kind of creation is what many artists strive for—work that stands on its own, that continues to inspire and evoke emotion even after its creator is long gone.

"My most successful sculptures touch people viscerally because they are their own entities. They "speak" to people from their depth. It's like writers who say their characters took control of a story. Good art has its own life."

— Kevin Caron | Artist and Sculptor

They Find Beauty in the Madness

Art isn’t always about capturing the perfect sunset or the most beautiful flower. Sometimes, it’s about finding something stunning in the chaos.

Think about a photographer who captures the raw, unfiltered emotions of a street protest or a poet who writes about the bittersweet joys and sorrows of love and loss. These artists are not shying away from the messiness or complexity of life but rather embracing it as a source of creative fuel.

By finding beauty in the madness, good artists are able to create work that is not only aesthetically compelling but also emotionally honest and relatable. They remind us that even in the midst of chaos and confusion, there is always something to be learned, something to be appreciated, and something to be created.

They Are Humbled

Despite their talent and creativity, good artists often carry a sense of humility. They approach their craft with respect for the art that came before them and a sense of gratitude for the ability to contribute their voice to the conversation.

Artists with humility stay grounded, even as their work soars. They remind us that in the ever-expanding universe of art, each creator is both a student and a teacher—always learning, always evolving. Their humbleness in their craft keeps them open to new experiences and ready to welcome whatever comes next on their artistic path.

"I think a positive mindset, and friendly, grateful attitude is the hallmark of a great artist. Sometimes this involves answering the same questions from fans over and over despite it being frustrating at times...

Being able to remind yourself that every fan interaction is something you should be grateful for is vital. Fans love to feel in touch with an artist and understand a little about what makes them tick!"

— K.K. Hammond | Blues Singer, Songwriter, and Slide Guitarist, Curse of K.K. Hammond

Two Cents

At the end of the day, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to what makes a good artist. The qualities that make one artist stand out may be quite different from another.

But through it all, we often see common threads—a deep passion, a unique vision, a commitment to craft. These are the hallmarks of the artists who leave a lasting impact and whose works continue to inspire.

Great art is highly subjective. What moves one person may leave another unmoved. And that’s the beauty of it—art has the power to touch us in personal ways.

So while we may not be able to definitively define what makes a “good” artist, we can appreciate the ones who challenge us, make us feel, and expand our perspectives. Isn’t that what art is all about?

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Clariza is a passionate writer and editor who firmly believes that words have great power. She has a degree in BS Psychology, which gives her an in-depth understanding of the complexities of human behavior. As a woman of science and art, she fused her love for both fields in crafting insightful articles on lifestyle, mental health, and social justice to inspire others and advocate for change.

In her leisure time, you can find her sitting in the corner of her favorite coffee shop downtown, deeply immersed in her bubble of thoughts. Being an art enthusiast that she is, she finds bliss in exploring the rich world of fiction writing and diverse art forms.