Now I'm not going to lie, doing activism with your art before you're an established artists is a scary prospect. I feel like I'm providing people a way to say no to me before they see my art properly, based on the perspective on an issue that I take with my pieces.
It is something that has good and bad in many ways. For a start the same fear I mentioned of being controversial before you're established may infect enable me to stand out and gain an immediate following by those who appreciate the message of my piece. Who knows... but the artifice of art would be at stake if I didn't in fact apply myself in this area, something that is an essential part of me.
As I write this my animal rights activism painting is in a gallery receiving high praise apparently already even though exhibit doesn't officially open until tomorrow. Also the same piece along with one of mine called 'Mothering swan' are part of the Art of Compassion dining out cards, to raise funds for viva. The feedback so far at least has been great. So it seems the risk has been successful. But it is a tightrope, and not necessarily always conducive with typical art clients that may be interested in my impressionistic style. I do probably put some people off, but it is the price I pay for keeping the expression and subject matters I choose in painting, remain authentic and meaningful. It gives my work credibility, at least to myself, because I'm doing pieces I believe in and not just painting something simply because I am capable of painting it.
The matter of how effective it is may be another matter that I don't feel I could adequately answer, but the bonus of art activism is that often the audience seeks it out, so they are more likely to engage with it and be receptive to the cause or expression inherent within the piece. This is an advantage that many forms of protest do not have. It involves the audience taking the first step in being there and seeking art out in the first place, so in being passive or active, the audience is already active by initially searching the art out. This in and of itself makes art activism at least wort trying because you've got people's attention.. the rest is up to you. Does your imagination and talent come together to help further your cause, in my case veganism and animal rights? I can't really answer that one, I'll let you decide.