Your Art Career Part Five - Unpacking Ideas

Get Niche – The Niche Guide to Art Markets

Cover image for blog unpacking ideas
Your Art Career Part Five - Unpacking Ideas


In part five of my “Your Art Career” series, we take a look at what buyers really want from art in an ever-changing world. Finding a niche audience who are actively on the lookout for very specific subjects can be a lucrative business opportunity for artists if it is tackled in the right way.

The Challenge!

Finding a niche that appeals to buyers searching for specific subjects and genres can provide you with a readymade buyer base and entice new buyers to take a look at your regular work too. But just how difficult is it to find a niche that is perfect for you and what niche do you even choose?

It’s a challenging question to answer but it’s worth saying that sometimes we do have to think very much outside of the proverbial box to find a market for our creativity and sometimes, we need to have the crazy idea that we can begin to unpack so that we can shake out the bits of the idea that will stick.

The Changing Landscape…

We’ve spoken about the pandemic a lot over the past four articles, but we can hardly ignore how much the world has changed over the last year. I think most people would agree that it has not only changed the world, but it has also changed people too, and especially when it comes to their artistic tastes.

Weirdly, many people I have had conversations with during the pandemic have been telling me that they have become even more exposed to different genres and art mediums as they have been discovering more art online rather than visiting physical art spaces which  often have limited choice or a bias towards a particular medium or genre depending on the collections on display. To me, this was initially a little surprising because I would have thought that people would be making a beeline towards the familiar but then I noticed I was doing this too.

Our tastes, behaviours and actions are defined by what we are exposed to, so it makes sense that widening the breadth of art that you consume will widen the breadth of artwork you begin to appreciate. What you begin to appreciate will, if you’re an artist, begin to influence the work that you create, even if it does so subconsciously.

When it comes to buyers, it also makes sense that as their appreciation for artwork evolves and as they begin to become exposed to more art, they too become influenced in their tastes and ultimately in their buying decisions, and I expect that the pandemic itself is responsible for deep psychological changes that have changed how and what and even who we want to connect with.  

Africa yin and yang art image
Africa - One of my recent creations!


The markets have definitely changed too,  and as we have been seeing over the previous articles from the employment market data and the data that surfaces the number of state benefit claims, in the short-term at least, the economic impact of the pandemic is going to continue to affect some buyers ability to buy, or rather, it will in the typical markets that the majority of working artists are working in, and this can manifest in all sorts of ways.

Buyers might not find themselves in a position where they have quite as much disposable income as they once did pre-pandemic and it’s important that we don’t forget those buyers, we need to ensure they remain engaged in the interim because we desperately want them to return. Making our work affordable in different formats is one way to keep those buyers engaged, but also engaging with them is the prompt that reminds them that you haven’t forgotten them.

Having said that, as I have written over the previous few articles, buyers are still out there, but they might not be the same buyers or looking for the same thing.  Equally, we shouldn’t forget that not everyone will have been financially impacted by the pandemic in a negative way but it might make it more challenging for artists to keep track of where their market is, at least for a little while longer.

Some buyers will have discovered a new style of art that they have now fallen in love with, and because we have mostly been hidden away at home for the best part of an entire year where entire countries have been placed into lockdown, people have been finding more and more things to keep them occupied at home.

A quick glance through the latest videos on platforms such as YouTube or the pins on Pinterest and one would be forgiven for thinking that everyone has become an interior designer as many people have turned to home improvements to spruce up their space, especially as more and more people work from home.

Video conferencing, as much as I am no longer a fan and I’m not convinced I ever was, has presented opportunities for artists. One of the things I have noticed throughout the many hundreds of conference calls I have been forced to endure over the past twelve months is that people are actively looking at the Zoom factor in the art that they are selecting to hang on the wall behind them, and that’s something that I had never even considered pre-pandemic.

I think it’s fair to say that there were more than a few of us who became self-aware of untidy shelves, even I moved a bookcase to another wall to avoid the camera, and I’ve noticed a lot of people who are now definitely curating the books on their bookshelf. What really highlighted this for me was when one of my long-time collectors got in touch with me to pass on some compliments he had received about one of my pieces that had made its inaugural appearance on Microsoft Teams! Psychologists looking back on this time in years to come will probably have a field day analysing our lockdown behaviour!

yin and yang art with cogs and steel
Clockwork by Mark Taylor - Available from my store now!


There’s something else in that, I really don’t think we should underestimate that the Zoom factor could very well be playing some kind of a role in artistic choice which is in itself, a sentence I never ever thought I would ever write, but here we are. I suspect that some artistic choices have been influenced by the need to Zoom.

Having witnessed a few familiar works on conference calls of late I would think that video conferencing has certainly influenced sales of some artworks where celebrities have appeared on camera with an appealing work in the background. It would be fascinating to dig into the data to see just how much Zoom and other conference platforms have influenced art buying decisions lately, I can picture it now, reruns of zoom calls to collect business intelligence on art trends.

This changing behaviour and the resulting sea-change in artistic taste has left some artists and graphic designers somewhere between a little and a lot exposed and others perhaps wondering why they didn’t take a new direction with their work much earlier.  

Throughout the pandemic, many artists have had to be creative in their approach to the business of art, others have lost entire markets and with them, the artists have lost their revenue streams. This has meant that in many cases, the  pre-pandemic business model where there was a heavy reliance on offline face to face interactions has either had to dramatically change or the artist has had to consider new ways of working to make sure that the financial gaps continue to be filled.

Whether you are an established artist or someone who has found the creative sector after previously working in an entirely different career, finding any market for your work can be arduously difficult even in the best of times. In a pandemic, the reality that many artists and indeed many small businesses have faced has often been a scenario of fight, flight, or adapt and steer an entirely new course.

jungle print art yin and yang symbol
Flora - another work in my recent Yin and Yang series!


Getting Niche…

As always, when it comes to providing any kind of artistic insight or advice, there’s a proverbial gorilla in the room that has to be addressed whenever anyone talks about deviating from your main body of work, but deviating from your forever niche is often uncomfortable and it’s a subject that is often avoided, but I’m not sure we can. If you have lost a market, you have to adapt.   

Today we’re not really discussing the niche that is in itself offering prints or offering your work on anything other than a canvas, we’re talking about figuring out what work might sell better than the work you usually create given the unprecedented times we all find ourselves in.

There will be a few artists who will be nervous about creating anything other than their ‘norm’ for fear of appearing inconsistent and upsetting the purists, but to counter this, the other piece of advice I generally issue out to the artists that I mentor, which is a little blunt is that the purists aren’t generally having to pay any of your bills.

Consistency is something I have written about previously and to summarise, there is an opportunity for artists to work on very different creations, so long as there is no ambiguity or confusion introduced and you continue to keep the promises you previously made to existing collectors. A good example is in, not selling previously sold work as a print when you long ago made a promise to collectors that you wouldn’t, or it could be adding another ten pieces to the limited edition of 100 you have already sold.

Consistency in art is important, but there is more to consistency than consistently producing the same type of work, consistency is about much more than that. Consistency means all kinds of things depending on the market, it could be, not turning up to an exhibition with twelve very different works with all of them in very different frames so that they appear to be created by twelve different artists, or it could be creating collections of different work outside of your usual body of work and not providing any separation between the new and the old which can confuse buyers.

Consistency is an interchangeable term, it could just as easily apply to the quality of your work regardless of the medium or subject, or it could be consistency in how the work is presented, or the message, it doesn’t and shouldn’t default to meaning that an artist will forever be compelled to produce one iteration of one thing.

I don’t really think that producing one thing over and over is really healthy for an artist because we have to evolve, we have to figure out new techniques, and we have to make sure that our main body of work is always fresh, we can’t always find that freshness if we never get to stretch the creative muscle beyond our comfort zone. Even if you never publish the work you create outside of your usual body of work, it’s really important to have the ability to stretch your creative muscle in other ways and even more important to strive towards mastery of your technique.

That might sound a little blunt too, but, there will be purists in the art world who would baulk at the very idea that an artist would ever deviate from their main body of work, but you also have a responsibility to those who have previously collected your work to ensure that you not only survive in uncertain economic times but that you also thrive because that’s good for collectors too. There is nothing worse for a collector to hear than the news that their favourite artist has lost their passion or has given up.

If you have any doubt about switching to a completely different medium or genre, or subject, the trick is in ensuring that there is some delineation between your usual work and your new niche or niches. Creating collections as an aside from your main body of work is perhaps one of the best ways to go about separation, but with so many great platforms online, it’s entirely feasible to utilise a different platform to reach different markets.

When we talk about niches, we’re not necessarily talking about limiting yourself to your previous or current portfolio, the right niche can be the complete opposite of your usual work in terms of medium and subject. I know a few artists who selected a niche and stuck with it for many years but then got backed into a corner where they became frustrated with the subject, and that’s never a good place for an artist to be.

summer landscape in yin and yang image artwork
Summer by Mark Taylor - another addition to my store!


Finding a new niche is not necessarily about figuring out a way to remarket what we already do either, although it could be. You might want to create smaller or larger works to attract new audiences or offer your work on alternative products, but it could be looking to create something entirely new. That’s essentially what we are covering here today, creating something very different from your usual work and if you have lost your zest in one subject but have found it in another, it’s probably a sign that you are ready for a change. Think about the likes of Jackson Pollock and there is already a precedent to change, artists have been doing this throughout art history, so you certainly won’t be the first artist to jump in a different direction.

That’s really the point here, finding a niche is about finding something that you feel passionate about.  As a professional artist, that also means that you need to ensure that there is a market, the two do go hand in hand sadly because ultimately, you do need the ability to generate the funds needed to carry on producing your artistic first love. That’s often another conversation that is avoided, but when you are creating art professionally and it’s your livelihood that’s at stake, if it’s not working it has to change, or the marketing has to change or the market itself has to change, just as it would if any business starts to flag behind.

What generally stops us from making a move into a new niche is either fear of the critic, or the inner critic, or the thought that we’re selling out to cash in, and yes, every artist I have ever met with very few exceptions would say that they produce the art they produce out of passion. Of course, that passion we have is exactly what makes us artists, but when you are a professional artist, there is this dark sad reality that to professionally deliver your passion there is a financial outlay that needs to be recovered.

So with that uncomfortableness out of the way, the next step is to give yourself permission to begin exploring new niches so that you can decide if they might work for you. Just as I have been doing over the previous articles, I have been looking at the data, carrying out the research, and asking the questions, not just over the course of writing this article, but over the course of taking a deep interest in all of the various art markets over the past decade, something that the economic crisis back in 2008 taught me to do.

deckchair on beach art
Empty Deckchairs - There is something more poignant about this work given the times we are in.


You still need to find an audience and a market for your work…

Dropping your usual body of work, even temporarily, to create something that you believe will sell better isn’t without its own set of challenges. You still need to find both an audience and a market for your new body of work rarely does anything magical happen without expending some effort. Just painting something that appears to be popular right now doesn’t necessarily mean that it will instantly sell, so whatever you decide to focus on will still require you to do some homework to figure out where the marketing needs to be focussed.

Many who start out on the creative path have to very quickly work out who the audience and the market will be for whatever it is that they produce, although, for the most part, that’s something that isn’t always worked out upfront and in some cases,  it’s something that isn’t worked out for quite a while after. I get why it’s not always possible to commit to a specific subject and medium that will become your forever choice, at least at the beginning of an art career and this is one of the reasons why you might see new artists testing the water by creating a horse portrait one day and an abstract the next and then attempting to market both pieces to the same audience.

Testing the water though requires a little more than dipping in a single toe, it might, in the above case require you to produce twenty or thirty of each genre or topic, maybe less, maybe more, and it also requires you to work out where the marketing should be focussed for both the abstracts and the horse because those would be two very different markets. Remember what I keep saying over and over, you can market your art all you want but if there aren’t enough of the right eyes viewing it, it’s just not going to sell.

Being a newcomer in the sector is more than a little challenging, we create some art, make it available for sale, but at least initially, we might not have an idea about the type of person who might fall in love with it enough to buy it. It’s one of those perpetual circles, it’s also a trap because it becomes impossible to define a marketing strategy until you know exactly the kind of person you are marketing to. Art careers should come with a warning label that says, be prepared to walk in circles, until you figure stuff out, but with niches, the right ones can come with an almost templated audience and market giving you at least a clue about where to focus your marketing attention.

The benefits of multiple niches…

The world is very different today, with the relative ease of getting work out there, it is possible to work in multiple niches that have a touchpoint with multiple markets. The only caution I would add is that the more niches and markets you work in, the busier your life will be, and it won’t always be good busy, nor will it be easy juggling that many balls and spinning that many plates whilst maintaining any level of quality. But, in the midst of a pandemic the artist who strives, thrives, just don’t get too carried away, and maybe explore one additional niche at a time and never underestimate the additional workload.

So long as your messaging is clear and you’re not confusing your audience, multiple niches are a good way to cover multiple bases in terms of finding buyers who can subsidise the work that you have a real passion for creating. I am going to add in a caveat right about here, never try to be everything to everyone, it’s impossible and you will end up pleasing no one. This is something I learned quite late on in my art career, I previously thought that there was little merit in deviating away from my regular landscape work which I have always been passionate about creating and then frantically running around getting excited about the two hundred ideas I had, that needed to be created there and then.

I began dipping into work beyond the landscapes just after the last financial crisis, although I had always had a little side hustle on the go with my video game artwork, but back then, the market for 8-bit art was limited. It was my designs for restaurant menus that had come about initially as a favour for a friend, that made it financially possible for me to create my 8-bit retro computer and arcade game art which back in the day didn’t have a huge commercial market,  but which I still really enjoy creating to this day.

As retro gaming is one of my hobbies and has been since I first picked up a computer in 1979, I’m able to work on those pieces without it feeling anything like work, I am never more in my element than when my mind is travelling back to my childhood! Today, I’m less reliant on subsidising that work and over the past year I have seen an increase in commission requests and although I rarely promote my work in this area, it’s generally word of mouth from a long-time collector base who are equally into the retro games scene.

1980s vintage technology art
Tear Down This Wall by Mark Taylor - One of my favourite works ever!


It’s the same with book covers which are definitely not my first love when it comes to design projects, but they do serve a purpose that makes other art and the purchase of art supplies and technology to continue creating my regular work a little easier to fund, and the pandemic has meant that everyone who thought they had a book inside them decided to write it. Last year I was having to turn work away for book covers which given the situation is remarkable.

So we can clearly see the benefits of adding a niche or two to our main body of work, it is possible to work across genres, mediums and subjects, but you do kind of need to want to do it.  Unless you are really not bonding with your usual style, subject or medium, I would certainly suggest that you keep going with that in parallel, there are never any guarantees in the art world other than the guarantee that art supplies will keep increasing in price.

There are a few caveats as usual, bear in mind that not every region will lend itself to every niche, neither will every niche lend itself to any single artist, and any success still depends on the amount of effort you expend on marketing and figuring out the markets, and of course, how you approach the business end of art.

Any niche requires you to work out the how and the who and the where, but as I said a little earlier, niches can at least give you a slightly better clue about where to begin, but you absolutely do have to be passionate about whatever niche you select otherwise it shows in what you produce, even if you can’t see it yourself.

The following should provide you with at least some idea of the art of the possible. It’s not meant to be the defacto, this is what you must paint to sell art and make money list and you might not bond with any of the subjects at all, but that’s not really the point. This is to get you thinking, not just outside the box, but thinking about how to create an entirely new box because sometimes, that’s really what it takes to thrive and in some cases, survive.

Outside the box or a new box?

While I was writing this article my good friends at Artfinder reached out to share what they had been noticing on their website in the way people were changing their behaviours and searching for different art, they had been finding out that the most popular searches since last year had been for uplifting scenes of nature.

Here’s what they had to say:

Whether it's a painting of a dreamy coastline, a lush green forest or even a National Health Service (NHS)-inspired rainbow, here are the top searches on Artfinder and Google UK over the past year:

 

  • Searches for artwork containing beaches and trees increased 94% and 74% respectively on Artfinder during the first lockdown (March-June 2020) as many looked to replicate a part of the outside world in the face of uncertainty

 

  • Spiking during the first lockdown, Google searches for forest-themed art grew again as restrictions tightened in the autumn, increasing by 91% during September and October compared to the same period in 2019

 

  • While we might normally associate paintings of beach scenes with summer decor and holiday homes, the term ‘beach artwork’ saw a 24% jump in Google searches during the second lockdown in November 2020 compared to the previous month, 53% more than the same period in 2019

 

  • Unsurprisingly, artwork containing rainbows also enjoyed a sharp rise in interest thanks to new connotations with the NHS fight against Covid-19, seeing a 370% rise in searches on Artfinder during the first lockdown period.

 

Following the announcement of the most recent lockdown in January, Artfinder also saw a rise in interest for abstract artworks, suggesting we are now looking for an alternative escape from reality. From intense volcanic landscapes to boldly coloured sunsets over rolling hills, the peak and troughs for particular searches reveal just how significant global events continue to be in the shaping of art trends.

 

Michal Szczesny, CEO of Artfinder says “Pablo Picasso once said that ‘art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life’ and all over the UK, and indeed all over the world, we can see that people have been washing away the dust of stay-home orders by seeking out art that depicts soul-soothing settings such as beaches, forests and oceans.”

“By the beginning of 2021, we can see that buyers are turning from familiar, often comforting scenes, to artworks that may in some instances feel more intense, more profound, and which are not rooted in those sights that people are missing as a result of still being stuck indoors.”

 The largest online marketplace for art, Artfinder is a VC funded startup, backed by the investors behind Spotify and Zoopla and growing fast, with 110% growth in 2020. Investors include Wellington Partners, Oxford Capital, Cambridge Angels, plus private investors in the UK, the US and Switzerland. In August 2019, Artfinder became the art world’s first B Corp, solidifying its commitment to its values to support artists and make art affordable and accessible.

Other Niches…

The Artfinder findings are also a really good indicator that buying behaviour has changed, abstracts, landscapes and rainbows, in particular, are amongst the most popular artworks being sought out by buyers, at least in the UK. Abstracts are interesting, but as an artist who has been painting abstract works for a few decades, I have to say that they’re not the easiest of genres to pick up and run with as an artist. They can be deeply emotional and exhausting works to create, and I tip my hat to any abstract artist who can make a career out of creating them.

My own deep dive around niches has drawn some similar conclusions of late, abstracts have been much more popular recently, and I haven’t noticed any slow down in my own landscape creations, but as I indicated earlier, there are a number of other niches that seem to becoming more popular of late.

Art supplies fabric art
Art Supplies by Mark Taylor - one of my digital fabric creations and the glitter doesn't get everywhere!


The retro revival…

Retro demands its very own article to be written (I have already made a start), but I’m not sure if the pandemic has had anything to do with it, although I expect it has, but lots of people are becoming increasingly interested in rediscovering their childhood memories.

Nostalgia has always sold, yet I remember reading an article in Popular Science magazine not all that long ago that suggested that nostalgia was thought to be a disease in around 1688 with the term nostalgia originating from Johannes Hofer who coined it in his medical dissertation describing it as a combination of the Greek words nostos, or homecoming and algos, or pain. It was a type of homesickness associated with soldiers who fought far-off wars.

Today, nostalgia, vintage, retro, are all terms that can take us immediately back to childhood memories, either through a visual cue, smells or sounds. For me, there is nothing that takes me back to my childhood more than the sound of video game arcades and the pings of Pac Man or Galaxian, and the mere mention of 8-bit or Atari has me weak at the knees, but then I am the stereotypical geek, and probably one of the originals because I was involved in the scene at the age of ten.

I also remember those day trips we had at school and certain places always remind me of the days pre-the responsibility monster showing up at the door. What I wouldn’t do to just go back for a week or two and relive some of those experiences, although I’m sure they wouldn’t be quite as I remember them, maybe the memories are better!

Regular readers will recall that I have written about my early days creating video game art for 8-bit home computers and an early video game (that wasn’t particularly great and didn’t particularly sell!), and today, with podcasts such as the Ted Dabney Experience (those hot tub stories from Atari are true), Retro Asylum (which is a superb UK based podcast about the UK microcomputer scene from the eighties), and Maximum Power Up which looks primarily back at the home computer magazines from yesteryear, the stories of the time are being retold as remembered by the people who were there at the start and these podcasts are creating not just a buzz, but an entire retro community.

There are a lot more people getting involved in the retro gaming scene today than there were pre-pandemic, but I think retro is also heading some way beyond gaming. Childhood toys, home décor, eighties music, retro TV shows from the seventies and eighties are all popular when you look online and one only has to look at the prices for vintage toys and tech on platforms such as eBay to notice that there is rising demand.

Surprisingly, this is also a niche that seems to be attractive to those hard to reach millennials too, four of my 8-bit commissions, last year came from the millennial generation who probably wanted one of the original dinosaurs to create their art.

Of course, retro is not just about the golden days of video games, although if you ask me, retro is all about the golden age of video games, there is plenty of choice in choosing a topic, subject or theme that goes far beyond video games.

Retrofuturism is also a niche that is worthy of some exploration. This is a genre that looks back at how people in the past thought the future might look, and I’m still waiting for my flying car. One of the classic examples that always stands out to me when retro-futurism is mentioned is the Tomorrowland area at Walt Disney World. This to me, really sums the genre up and even watching a video of the area is like watching a living piece of retro-futuristic art.

Some of the techniques that do seem to be becoming increasingly popular when creating retro art are the use of blur and grain to highlight and shade text and add more depth to an image. The use of faded fonts, typeset font effects and hand-drawn brush fonts will give even modern pieces a retro vibe. Colour palettes are just as important, get the palette wrong and the work can look too modern, get it right and the colours used can trigger emotions and memories that will hopefully sell the art. Check out websites such as Adobe Color and Pantone who do a fantastic job around summarising the most on-trend pallets.

sunset over a dry stone wall
Glow Over A Dry Stone Wall - One of my traditional landscapes - That wall would have been quicker to create if I had built it out of stone, each piece was created individually!


Symbolism…

A symbol can speak louder than any words. Symbolism in art has been used throughout art history, and I think in a similar vein to retro, we’re all at least on some level, looking for deeper meaning. Designers are utilising symbols more and more frequently and in a lot of cases, the symbols, rather than being an addition to work as we might see in more historical pieces, are becoming the central focus.

Throughout art history and even to this day, symbols would be used to convey some deeper meaning.  No, it wasn’t a UFO, those star shapes and symbols that looked like our ancestors were frequently visited by alien life forms were mostly never related to aliens at all.

Symbology was used as a way to describe something that was difficult to show in a picture, a peach for example, often symbolized virtue and honour, a beetle, eternal life, and colours were used to depict certain conditions or situations, so to put a twist on a phrase, it probably wasn’t aliens.

But here’s another niche that can be unpacked a lot more, symbols can elevate clothing, be tied into social causes which we will come onto in a moment, and even made up logos of non-existent companies can give work a retro-futuristic feel. There’s lots of depth within the genre to explore and allow your creativity to stretch a little further.

Authentic Representation…

This is certainly a niche that many artists have jumped into, but there is a fine line between authentic representation and cultural misappropriation, it is a niche that needs to be approached with care and respect. Work that authentically depicts diversity can be immensely powerful, and because all people are different, the artwork doesn’t have to be bound by stereotypes or sameness.

Highlighting various cultures, beliefs, ages, and identities, gives artists a truly blank canvas on which to create some truly one of a kind works, but as I said, it’s a niche that also needs to be approached with care, consideration, and respect. It’s not something that should be used solely as a mechanism to generate quick cash because buyers and viewers will see through it and you could very well lose any credibility.

Back to nature…

Nature has underpinned much of my art since the mid-nineties, but I don’t think I can ever recall a time when nature hasn’t felt so important. Maybe this is due to lockdowns, maybe it is a yearning to get back outside into the fields and forests, and maybe because we are seeing the dramatic effects of climate change more than ever before.

Where retro provides the feeling of security, nature provides the feeling of relaxation and calm and in many cases even a sense of escape, something that we could all do with a little more of after the past year.

Looking back through my own data and numerous notes, there is something that has specifically changed in today’s nature-inspired artwork, it’s now much simpler than it was even just a couple of years ago.

Nature is being used more often in product design, even when the product isn’t at all related to nature or where it has only some very tentative links with the subject. Packaging design is certainly something that is being outsourced more than it once was, so there’s another opportunity for artists and designers. But you might also want to think about the not so obvious products that need outstanding design to attract buyers. Beer and alcohol can design, particularly with the small micro-breweries that have been springing up over the past few years has seen some beautiful works of art featured on the products, often using psychedelic vector-based line art. Whenever I look at certain beer cans, why do I immediately think of Adobe Illustrator, maybe it’s an artist thing!

abstract artwork
This work has the title of 'SOLD' - you wouldn't believe how many people congratulated me on the sale - even before I released it! Maybe the title really was too symbolic or deep! Anyway, it is available as a print in my store!


Wildlife, Conservation and Social Change…

Wildlife is always popular, and more so when it can also support local wildlife and conservation groups. When you create work with a specific purpose that also has the potential to raise funds for various worthwhile groups, it not only comes with a ready-made audience, often the charity or organisation that the work supports will assist with marketing.

Word to the wise here though, whenever work is created for charity it needs to be created out of love and respect for what the charity stands for rather than virtue signalling or as a way to easily put work in front of an audience. In short, it has to be done for the right reasons because when it isn’t, buyers can see right through this too.

Equally, the charity or organisation involved needs to be on board, and any agreements reached around sales need to absolutely be written down and agreed upon by both parties.

Wildlife and conservation also tie into art with a socially conscious design. The past couple of years have been filled with socially conscious artworks, often works that support not just local charities but local communities raising and championing awareness of local or even international issues. 

These works particularly appeal to those who are conscious of the growing crisis that is climate change and recently, socially conscious design has been increasingly used to highlight regional issues and politics, and whilst it always has been, the work feels more prominent than at any time I can recall. I have seen some incredibly powerful work around the Myanmar protests but I am seeing much  more work created with renewable materials, great art doesn’t have to cost the earth it seems.

This is also exactly the kind of art that has been creating discussions on social media, not just the regular social platforms but on platforms such as Reddit which really is a platform that knows and understands how to do engagement well. Brands have been using social consciousness more and more to rally around various issues and challenges that affect their buyers, even outside of their core marketing efforts.

What you perhaps need to remember with socially conscious artworks is that this isn’t anything new. Artists throughout art history have documented almost anything and everything, and even modern artists such as Banksy have put social consciousness front and centre of the art that they produce.

Yeti holding a cell phone artwork
We have a real problem with electronic waste when a Yeti finds a cell phone near base camp! Yeti Selfie is available in my store!


Pop Art…

Pop Art is another niche that looks easy, but can feel impossible as an artist to master, though it can be lucrative when they find an eager audience for it. The simplicity of works from Warhol was never really that simple, and nor were Warhol’s most famous works as recent as many would think. His Cheddar Cheese Soup Can from the Campbell’s Soup Can series was created back in 1962, yet it is at least in terms of its concept replicated frequently even today and I’m certain it will never be bettered.

Over the past couple of years I have noticed a resurgence of art with a slight twist on Lichtenstein’s famous works such as Drowning Girl which was created back in 1963. Hang a print of that piece on the wall today and it wouldn’t look out of place in the most modern of interiors. Great pop art, love it or hate it as many people do, is timeless and that in itself is difficult to master.

Pop Art is a movement that originated right here in Britain in the 1950s and became popular elsewhere in the late 50s and early 1960s. There are distinct nuances between pop art created in disparate geographic regions, as one would expect when art is representative of the popular culture that it portrays. That’s exactly what lends pop art to more localised markets but perhaps that could also be a reason as why some artists fail to find any traction with it, there is a risk that any local cultural references can become lost on a wider audience, so if you do select this niche, think carefully about which markets you intend to place it in.

Comic Art…

There is an element of comic inspired art that sits quite neatly with or in between retro and pop art. Utilising halftone dots, an effect that was introduced into the 5X update to the art creating application, Procreate on the iPad, which reinforces perhaps just how popular halftone has become. Comic art is about much more than halftone dot effects, it’s about telling a story with bold colours and strong composition and it’s not always about creating cute or angry characters and surprisingly, it’s not all about anime.

As a genre, it also lends itself to a fusion of pop art and retro, with limited  but bold colour palettes, grainy textures, halftone effects, and aged fonts that maybe have a retro-futuristic feel, there is plenty for artists to dig their teeth into with this particular genre.

Pet Portraits…

Perhaps one of the staples of the niche or side hustle for many artists has the potential to become the main source of income if the marketing is on point and in front of the right audience. This is one area I have written about on this site previously, and it’s also one of the niches I have been keeping a close eye on over the past half a dozen years or so.

Pet owners and I count myself as one of them, love their pets, they’re part of the family, oh, and they rarely answer back! It is though, a little more complex than offering a portrait of a dog or cat. Going down the pet portrait rabbit hole can see you specialising in specific breeds, specific animals because it doesn’t always have to be about dogs I guess, and exhibiting not just at art shows but at major dog and horse shows if you are painting horses.

There is often both a local and wider audience interest in animal art so it lends itself to very well across every territory and that’s something that not every artwork subject gives you the freedom to do. But, bear in mind, there is a high bar set for pet portraits and some seriously great work already out there.

jungle art with animals
Garden Party - Still one of my popular works even after all this time! Every single flower and leaf was created as a separate artwork for this piece!


Florals…

I wasn’t sure whether or not to include florals as a specific niche, in part, because this is another area where there is already a high bar and plenty of art, and with a slightly heavy heart, I have to say that there might be too many artists attempting florals with the misconception that they’re easy and quick and appeal to a wide audience.

Where florals become challenging is when you surface them in front of an audience, there’s a lot of noise in this space and to pull florals off, you have to do them really well. Not every artist can master the shape and form of floral designs and do it consistently well and very few can achieve the delicateness that florals need. Once again, I tip my hat to any artist who works in floral design because to do it consistently is challenging.

Having said that, florals can be absolute gold if you get them right. Flowers and floral designs have always been popular and if they can be marketed in the right place and aimed at the right audience, they too can be a lucrative source of income, but it is a highly competitive market and as I say, there are genuinely few artists who do florals really well but hey, art is supposed to be subjective right?

Get them right and the market can be opened up to include many of the special days we celebrate each year such as Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, and it also opens up new spaces to place your work in. Think about garden centres, high-end gift shops particularly those in tourist hotspots in the countryside, and it’s a niche that lends itself to much more than traditional paintings. Clothing and gifts, serving trays, mugs, dinnerware, home décor, it’s another deep rabbit hole with plenty of rewards possible, but remember, the bar is high.

Building the new box…

The niches above should give you an appetite for the art of what is possible and as I intimated earlier, these are not necessarily the niches that will categorically work for you and your artistic style, or even your geographic location.

They are niches that I have been observing over the past decade and they are niches that I have noticed have been particularly strong throughout. I have been looking and collecting all kinds of business intelligence during that time and above all else, it’s really beginning to tell me that we don’t always have to look to the obvious.

However, this next part is, I think, it is fair to say, on a slightly higher level, but if you are looking to take your creativity in a completely different direction as an aside from your everyday creations, or in a direction that has the potential to create an impact outside of the traditional art space, we need to look towards building that entirely new box.

The example I’m going to use for this, as I say, is on a very different level to selecting a new medium or genre, but it does I think, demonstrate that an artist or designer or creator has the potential to utilise the skills they have in other areas. So whilst I’m not suggesting that you unpack what I am about to fly through and run with it, what I am suggesting is that we don’t always have to think in linear ways about how we apply our creativity to make a living. We don't have to immediately dismiss the crazy idea!

When we begin thinking in non-linear ways, we can then more easily expand the idea out to work out if it fits with the skills we have or the skills we wish to master. My advice to anyone looking towards any new niche is to think of a hundred crazy ideas, and if you have some confidence in your own ability I am pretty sure you could pull 99 of them off regardless of how crazy they might seem.

parrot artwork
Tropical Parrot by Mark Taylor - Also available now!


The Content Creator Example:

As artists, we immediately think about new subjects to paint and draw but the creative sector is much broader and wider than painting and drawing, or being what I can only term as being stereotypically creative, think sculpting, pottery, ceramics, or anything else that might immediately spring to mind if you were asked to list what a creative does.

The talent you have for being creative can be applied in all sorts of different ways, but we’re not always aware of how our creativity can be used in other disciplines, maybe because we wouldn’t necessarily think about using our creativity differently from the way we have always used it, sometimes I think we’re creative until we’re not.

One of the biggest areas I have been seeing rising demand for, in part because it has been a major focus of mine for a number of years while I have been assembling and leading a major project to deliver three studios to do it is that of content creation.

Whilst I’m applying that caveat again that this might not be an area that would suit you, it does demonstrate how to run with an idea and then unpack it until you discover what you can do with it. Sometimes the crazy idea needs a deep dive to work out if it has legs.

When we think about content creation we might think about creating social media posts and yes, it can be that, I always love to see social media profiles of graphic designers who take their craft to the nth degree on social, and some social media folk in big organisations are becoming lockdown rock stars. Think Wendy’s and the infamous and often brutal tweets, or UPS suggesting that if you were wondering where your parcel is, try next door. The self-deprecating responses that have a ring of truth are always the ones that seem to resonate the best.

Content creation or specifically the design of content can also be a lucrative business that supplies e-learning content and resources into multiple industries. This is also a career that I have found to be more attuned to creatives than traditional technology developers, so it really does have a great fit with the creative sector.

Working from home has seen a significant increase in demand for e-learning and interactive content creation. Businesses that have staff working from home still have a responsibility to provide those staff with training and the most effective way to do that in the midst of a pandemic, and I would suggest even outside of a pandemic, is to deliver that training online. The difficulty most businesses have is with the price that they get charged for commissioning a professional content author to create it.

Yes, it is another specific skillset that you will need to learn if you were to decide to follow this particular route, and it’s not straightforward to master either, but there are also openings that allow artists and photographers to get involved in other ways. Think about what I said about matching the skills that you already have to different disciplines, most things involve some element of art and design these days.

If you didn’t want to engage in the process of building content, you could look to supply the market that does build it with the things that they need. Image licensing can bear fruit if your portfolio is strong, as can sound effects and music, but if you did decide to try your hand in the actual creation of content then you will find a lot of support and tutorials available online and much of it is freely available.

If you were to follow the creator route, then understanding things like learning management systems such as Moodle and Canvas and how they can be integrated into websites is kind of mandatory, and if you can get to grips with professional authoring tools such as Articulate 360 or Adobe Captivate and pull those skills together with an understanding of accessibility standards, suddenly you have a brand new enterprise that can quite happily sit alongside your usual creative output and probably even take over from your usual creative output.

Articulate 360 and Adobe Captivate are the tools that I have been using for a while and the tools that I installed in the three studios I recently set up, but having other tools such as Affinity Designer, Affinity Photo, Affinity Publisher, or Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator is essential because you will need to create the assets that get used within the learning packages. So once again, thinking your next niche through and unpacking it might help you to develop more options to use your creativity in a market that is growing at quite a click. If you can use Illustrator, why limit your audience, content creators need those services too.

Flamingos in water art
Pool Party - One of my most searched for artworks! Yes, also available!


There is though, another niche that is ideally suited to those who have been offering creative tutorials over zoom or skype or social media, but it’s only when you begin to sit down and unpack these niches and the demand for them that you can then begin to join the dots and apply your own creativity and skills to them.

Tutorials delivered over social media or video conferencing are fine, but if you need to scale the business, technology quickly becomes limiting. Embedding an e-learning management system into your website allows you to add students, enrol them in units or courses, track and manage their progress, set assignments and keep in touch and even grade them and there are automation options to reduce the amount of input and time needed to manage the process of managing students.

We can begin to see the potential with something like this but let’s really unpack that niche a little more. There’s also ample opportunity for the upsell, personal one to one video tutorials, providing additional support, access to a podcast or private social media group or forums, and these are generally the things that students expect, they are also seen as a premium service.

But you could go even further, selling the instructional videos, templates, patterns, even the equipment that students might need to use which can often be found online as white label products which you are then able to put your own branding on. Beyond that of course, there are the obligatory conferences once we’re out of the pandemic, live webinars, and sampler courses offered at lower price points, and it’s a model that can lend itself to yet another subscription. More than this, you never only offer the course once, it is a repeatable model that can grow exponentially and it allows either fixed date enrolment or roll on roll off course starts to keep the flow of students when you are using a tool such as Moodle to deliver it.

So we now have a completely new niche and in this example we’re looking to professionalise the tutorials we have been offering, so let’s unpack it a little more. Maybe we could offer the model as a franchise for other creatives to run with their tutorials or offering your learning packages which are then syndicated. 

You could then go even further taking the entire model a step further by getting your teaching resources certified by an official awarding body so that they are recognised as an official qualification or recognised as official CPD so that what you offer has some value and academic worth.

That then becomes the value add, the premium price point, and the difference between what you offer and what everyone else is relying on pay per click to never quite deliver.

Can you do this on a limited budget, in truth, probably not, or you can but not on any level that is scalable. So once again, let’s unpack that thought too. My advice is to maybe look to other creatives to form a partnership and share the workload and initial costs, ultimately, you will need additional hands anyway so you  might as well begin with having them in place from the off.

Unpacking any ideas that you have, no matter how crazy those ideas might first initially seem rather than dismissing an idea as too complex, too samey, too far out there to be remotely possible, before exploring the depths of that idea to see if there is anything that might stick, allows you to better visualise the idea or the niche you want to explore.

Whilst it is probably easier to pick any number of other niches to pursue as an artist than the example I used with the content creation above,  that’s not necessarily the point of the example, the point is very much that when you think about niches in the creative sector, you don’t have to be limited, and if you spend some time unpacking the possibilities of whatever niche you choose, you can quickly come up with ideas that can support your existing creative endeavours or you can more easily begin to identify things that can become new creative endeavours in their own right.

I think one of the best ways of unpacking any niche to see if it has a fit for you is to think about it as if a friend is setting a business up in that niche, all you then need to ask yourself is what can you do to help, what can you bring to the table that will help them and that is what will help you.

In short, if you’re not selling because the market isn’t there right now, it might be time to unpack some of those crazy ideas you have had over the years to see what might have enough legs to carry you through.

Your chosen niche could be anything at all, it’s a brave soul who takes on the learning curve of using a platform such as Articulate, but art and design is used in so many aspects of life that there will always be a market that can be accessed and if you can solve or make a problem easier and you feel passionate enough about it, that’s the niche you need to be in.

ocean landscape art
Twin Sails is one of my earlier works and still available as a print!


Research the niche…

My advice to anyone regardless of the niche they decide to follow is to first make sure that the niche is something that you have a passion for, and secondly, make sure that you fully research what you’re getting into.

My very first foray into book covers just over a decade ago was a learning curve that wasn’t easy to master, I had no idea about ISBN codes and spine widths, trim and safety lines, today most designs can be produced using templates depending on who is publishing the book.

Think about the markets and indeed whether or not there is one for whatever niche you decide to pursue, and explore who is already working in that niche. What are they charging and what are people already paying, and how strong is the demand. These aren’t questions that you need to ask just because you have a new direction to work in, these are the very questions that you need to be asking regardless of whether you are selecting a new niche or not.

Master the Niche…

You will need to be mindful that any new niche, subject or genre will take some time to master. There’s plenty to do while you build up any new techniques and skills but mastering the art of patience as always with art is the key to setting out on the right track.

Market the Niche…

Marketing is just as important with your niche as it is with your primary work, but you might want to consider if there should be any form of separation and how you might apply it. I know for most people who set out on the path to professional art that marketing is the one thing that most of us never really enjoy, but it can be fun. It comes down to having confidence and thinking about marketing as being a core part of the creative process.

I do know the pressure that marketing can put on artists, it’s something that has often made me feel like a drowning soul waving his arms frantically in a raging sea, but without marketing and seeing it as an essential part of the creative process, we wouldn’t get too far.

Boats on water landscape art
Adrift at the Golden Hour - From my Adrift Collection of seascapes with empty boats!


The art of the business of art…

It really comes down to the art of the business of art. I have heard so often from artists that they would much rather be spending all of their time creating, but if that’s what an artist really wanted to do then they would be working as an artist for someone else. The business of art is an essential part of being a self-employed independent creative and when your confidence in this area grows, it becomes almost second nature.

Over the past five weeks we have broken down the skills that artists routinely use every single day and judging by the emails and messages I have been receiving each week, many of you have been surprised at just how epic you really are, so I have every faith in your ability to take forward a new niche, add it to your portfolio and become an even better artist for doing it.

Coming Soon!

Hopefully, this article will have certainly got the wheels spinning and provided you with a few useful pointers in working out exactly what your next creative challenge might be! If you have tested out a new niche or already create in multiple niches, let us know what your experience has been like by leaving a comment below!

If you have found this series useful, let me know that too so I can plan on spending more time pouring through the data, meandering my way around the interweb and spending a few sleepless nights pulling it all together, it’s worth it for me even if it only helps one artist make a success of their business!

What’s next? We’ll be taking a stroll down memory lane as I unpack the niche that is retro. For the eagle-eyed amongst you and for those who managed to get past the first paragraph this week, you will have noticed that I completed an eighties inspired retro piece which appears above,  so I will be unpicking that to give you a little insight into all of the visual queues that you might have missed in the work!

So until next time, as always, stay safe, stay well, stay creative, and above all else, look after each other!

Mark x

About Mark…

I am an artist and blogger and live in Staffordshire, England. Like every blogger, I have two dogs and enjoy country walks! Unlike every other blogger, I really do enjoy country walks!

You can purchase my art through my Fine Art America store or my Pixels site here: https://10-mark-taylor.pixels.com   and you can purchase my new works, special and limited editions directly. You can also view my portfolio website at https://beechhousemedia.com

If you are on Facebook, you can give me a follow right here,  https://facebook.com/beechhousemedia  You can also follow me on Twitter @beechhouseart and on Pinterest at https://pinterest.com/beechhousemedia because it’s always great to connect and sometimes I even have mildly interesting things to say!

If you would like to support the upkeep of this site or maybe just buy me a coffee, you can do so at my Go Fund Me link right here

Any donations received are used to ensure I can continue writing independently for independent artists. I self-fund this website through my art sales on Pixels and Fine Art America, so any donations, even the cost of a coffee through Go Fund Me helps to relieve the pressure of maintaining such a regular schedule.

  

Comments

  1. Thanks Mark! Packed full of ideas and inspirations to take in and your eighties inspired pieces are so well done. I am yet to read your last post, funny, now that I am having extra 40hours yet I am less productive lol.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Jane. Yes, there's something about having extra time, no matter how time we have we will always use it all up. They call it Parkinson's Law. I hadn't realised this until recently so I started setting strict limits for everything after estimating how long I thought it should rather than would take. Seems to work, although I'm now filling in the extra time with other things and still using all the time up but I am getting more done... until I get distracted at least! My next article is all about the retro revolution, so I get to bring out some of the work that I do behind the scenes!!

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