Diversify Your Artistic Style

FINDING YOUR NICHE AS AN ARTIST

Over the last couple of months I have written about ways in which you can improve your art sales. Hopefully some of you will have tried out a few of those methods and found some value and even more hopefully, that you have by now started to see an increase in either visitor views and/or sales. I say visitor views because these are important too, you are getting your work seen by more people who may not have yet made a purchase, but they could be potential future clients.

Artistic Voice
Find your artistic voice!

 

You can have the greatest artwork or you could have some not so good artwork, but who’s to say what is really good or bad? Art is subjective and just because one person doesn’t like what you do, there are billions of people in the world and statistically speaking, someone is out there who loves what you do. You just have the minor task of finding them.

With the advent of online art sales, artists have many options to get their work noticed. Although I am a firm believer that you need to also have offline options to market your work, as I covered not so long ago, artists do have more tools than ever to get noticed, it’s just not all that easy because there are so many artists who will be travelling down the same path.

The fact is though that sometimes if you are doing everything you can to sell your art and it’s not selling at all, you may want to consider expanding your artistic repertoire. If you have found a niche and it is working then stick to it, still experiment with other styles, but having a niche that works is the best position to be in. If you haven’t as yet found your niche, and it is surprising how many artists despite being in the business for many years will say that they haven’t as yet truly discovered what their niche still is, then you have literally a blank page.

A good friend of mine is one of the best abstract painters I know, although a few years ago he said that he didn’t enjoy creating them as much as he once did. Knowing that the passion for the genre was cooling, he decided that he would try something new, and now he is one of the finest sculptors I know. What’s more he works only in recycled materials and mixes wood with metal, and even plastic. Very abstract materials, but his work is far from abstract.

This had two impacts on his work. His early abstracts increased in price, a classic case of supply and demand, and his new sculptures have been picking up sales from all over the world. Not so many that he can sit back and relax on a tropical beach, but he is doing well.

So diversification of the artistic portfolio is clearly a strategy that we might want to carefully consider. I say this not from just hearing of one example, the same has happened to many artists over the years. Sometimes we put ourselves in tidy little organised boxes, we create what we feel comfortable with, but the essence of being an artist is that you also explore. I liken many artists to great adventurers.

THE GREAT ADVENTURE

So if you want to widen your portfolio and bring in some new ideas, there are some things that you will need to consider.

Artist
Change the medium not necessarily the style

 

Firstly you need to have a very firm knowledge of what it is that you actually do now. It is much more difficult to try new things if you are not clear about what it is you are actually already doing. If what you are already doing isn’t working for you, then the last thing you want to do is make the same choices moving forward.

If what you are doing does work for you, then maybe the process of widening the portfolio is easier. Maybe it is a case of changing the medium used to create, or maybe those honed sales techniques will benefit whatever it is that you decide to do going forward. I often talk it through in my head, asking myself questions.

ONE WAY STREET

As artists we often have a tendency to do things one way. In part because it is comfortable and familiar, and it reduces anxiety that we sometimes feel when working outside of the comfort zone.

I have written before that no markets can be ignored, solely selling in a gallery might work for some, selling online will work for others, but you have to let go of the idea that there is only one way in which things should or can be done. That is also true in life more generally.

The same is true of the creative process, exploring new mediums is always exciting. I create digital art although that wasn’t always the case. Pencil drawings, oils, watercolour, acrylics, and mixed-media have all at one point in time been in my life. I favour digital now because I also have a day job that often takes me to different destinations. It is the practicality of digital and how it means I can create away from home that has moved me to this particular medium. That doesn’t mean to say that I gave up on using other mediums, it is simply that it suits my life better at this moment.

For many, exploring new possibilities is predicated on past experience. If you no longer like the medium you are working in, and didn’t like using oil paints previously, you are more likely to dismiss oil as a potential new medium to use. That still might be the case, but it is worth revisiting it.

If you don’t like interaction with galleries ask yourself why? When I first started with engaging with galleries I had what could only be described as an awkward shyness. Willing to accept a 90% commission, and in awe at just how much the gallery owners actually knew about everything art.

Now I am confident, I know that 90% is not the industry norm, and I too have learned a lot about the art industry in the time since my first engagement with a gallery owner. Now I have confidence to negotiate, but not so arrogant to not know when it is a good deal. If I had thought about engaging with galleries three or four years ago, I would have been less confident and my dislike would have been predicated purely on those initial experiences. Now I even frequently go and have a coffee with a local gallery owner who I once almost feared!

THE FEAR FACTOR

That brings me nicely on to the fear factor. Maybe we paint in a certain style because we don’t believe our skills are on a par with others if we were to try out a new style. Over the last couple of years I have been confronting those fears and I have come to the conclusion that I really don’t have to be on a par with Matisse, or on a par with Van Gogh, I am me, and this is my style.

I believe experimenting is actually a part of being an artist. If I had to lay down my two most comfortable disciplines it would be abstract and traditional landscapes. Now some of my most popular works are seascapes and sci-fi.

The reality is that we often hide from ourselves but we needn’t. Facing challenging subjects really does open the mind. Since I have been creating seascapes as opposed to more traditional land based landscapes I have learned more about shading, using CGI has taught me to visualise better in 3D. The more I create, the better I will become. What I have discovered over the last few years is that it wasn’t the fear of not being able to produce something that was holding me back, it was the fear of learning something new.

Something else I realised was that I needed to understand what it was that I wanted to do. When I first started selling online it was a far cry from my previous completely offline strategy. Once I had decided to go down the print on demand route I could start working on a strategy. What I didn’t quite realise was that there were so many other artists going down the same path.

Prior to print on demand my life was based on trips to a local gallery with three or four new paintings each time a few had sold. They were generally watercolour landscapes of the local area, and it wasn’t until I took in an abstract that the gallery owner asked me if I could produce more. The abstract sold within a week, my landscapes would sell a few times each month. Suddenly I had to move out of my safe zone and start producing abstracts. That made me consider creating other artistic styles and that is when it got really interesting.

Colour
Try out different effects, be bold!

 

I wanted to try my hand at everything. When I say everything I still have many half-finished pieces. It became almost paralysing to try out everything I wanted to attempt at once. On a weekend I would start and abstract on a Saturday morning to feed the gallery with new stock, and then by Saturday afternoon I had moved on to attempting a metal art installation.

On Sunday morning I would dabble with a collage, and on Sunday afternoons I would be working with Photoshop. It was wonderful to be so creative, I was never bored, except I achieved absolutely nothing.

Whilst you should experiment I wouldn’t recommend attempting everything at the same time. Decide what types of new techniques you want to start experimenting with and add them one by one. Then after you have found your new style, media, or genre, make a strong choice around which you are more likely to focus on. Too many options can put buyers off, so focus on what you feel you are stronger at producing.

If you feel anxious when attempting new mediums that is to be expected. Moving from painting abstracts to using 3D rendering software was a huge leap. Often I had no clue about what parts of the program actually did what. It is nothing to be overly anxious about, it is a learning curve. Sometimes it is really steep, but it should never make you overly anxious.

The question you will ask yourself, or maybe the suggestion that you will make to yourself when exploring new mediums is that you feel like you are a beginner again. Transitioning from abstracts to using Maya and Cinema 4D and despite being already versed in Photoshop made me feel like I was a complete newbie to the arts scene. However, when I started to get to know how the various functions worked in place of a paint brush, the artistic knowledge acquired before was of tremendous value and it made the transition so much easier. The reality was a steep learning curve and it would have been easy to go back to more familiar ways of working. Keep in mind that the end result will be that you are a better-rounded and experienced artist and it is never too late to learn.

There are those who constantly change styles to adapt to the market. Whilst it makes commercial sense at times, you do need to consider that your portfolio should be relatively consistent. My landscapes and abstracts are what I feel most comfortable with, but I also love street art, and I love surrealism. I don’t necessarily think that having multiple genres and styles is an issue, but you do need to be careful about having too many. Your landscape collectors will be disappointed if you give up landscapes, but if you can evolve a subject and present it in new ways, maybe they will collect those new pieces too.

SOMETIMES IT IS ABOUT YOUR VOICE

More to the point, sometimes it is about your artistic voice. Sometimes an artist knows that certain works that she or he have produced have not been all that interesting. Some of the greatest artists of our time have these feelings. Replicating some of the more traditional artistic styles means that you could be at risk of basing anything new on the previous successes that you feel comfortable with.

You may be able to create visually stunning sunsets but that doesn’t mean you should always produce a sunset. Art can be about what you want to say over the technical ability to get something exactly as you envision. Use your skills and include them where you can, but never silence yourself.

So many times I have started a piece of work and left it uncompleted. I have managed to get to a point and had a feeling that the piece is not working out. On reflection that was the wrong strategy because you will make more progress by pushing those feelings to one side. Actually finishing a piece of work rather than giving up is the key to building the confidence required to explore new avenues.

When you start considering new subject areas it is so often easy to forget what your genuine passions are. Art trends come and go and each year I spend weeks considering what might be the next big art trend for the year ahead.

What we can sometimes forget is that we spend so much time replicating specific subjects, updating, and then continuing to paint what you know will be liked or sold that we sometimes forget what else we are passionate about in life.

So when you start considering any new subjects it is always better to create a list of your passions in life. If none of these are what you are currently painting then these become the possible candidates for new pieces of work.

Maybe there was a time when you created abstracts and separately you created realistic landscapes. At some point you may have decided that one style worked better for you either technically or commercially, but maybe the answer when looking at new subjects is already something you have done before. By merging an abstract and a landscape you could be creating something that collectors have been waiting for. If you then add in a new style too, it will make it even more exciting.

What you might end up with initially is something that makes you stand back and gasp. Something that no one has seen before. It might look ugly, or it might look beautiful but give the style some time. Revisit it often. Your true artistic voice may then be heard.

THE RESULTS

So you have expanded your portfolio and skills, presented a new style, and found your artistic voice. Along the way you have learned new skills and you will at the point of achieving something probably be feeling very pleased that you decided to explore beyond your usual level of comfort.

There is of course one major thing that you need to consider. It is your marketing strategy. Suddenly your new found love for something other than a watercolour landscape of your local area might not be shared by the local gallery.

If you limit your vision to the marketing strategies you usually take you will miss opportunities. Although the local gallery might have no interest in your genre or style, there could be multiple galleries around the world who do want to put your new work on display.

Remember too that many of the great master’s tasted more failure than success in their careers. Claude Monet’s seminal work “Impression, Sunrise” is now studied and appreciated in art schools around the world, yet it was widely derided by critics at the time. Also remember that Vincent Van Gogh only ever sold one painting in his lifetime. If you have already sold more, well you are already on your way to greatness.

If you have any tips and suggestions for exploring new styles and subjects, feel free to leave a comment. Next time I will be covering the beginners guide to art and craft fairs.

 

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