Pursuing Style and Success as a Visual Artist

So, if your yen to stretch your creativity is there, you need not despair; just be as creative in pursuing different distribution points as you are in making your art.

Measure Success Many of you have read my book, How to Profit from the Art Print Market, so you know one of it main tenets is to have the ability, temperament and willingness to paint thematically. While this is true for artists seeking gallery representation for the their originals, I believe it is crucial for artists who wish to have a successful career in the print market. Basically, you have to be known for something.

Robert Genn's recent post in his Twice-Weekly Letter reminded me of this with his topic, A Methodical Pursuit of Style. Here's the first paragraph that gets the ball rolling for him:

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"In 1947, the eclectic French author and theorist Raymond Queneau wrote a small classic called 'Exercises in Style.' It tells a simple fictional story over and over in 99 literary styles. Introducing writers to an almost mathematical formula for creating style, journalism and authorship hasn't been the same since. Queneau's demonstrated styles are loaded with fun. The concept may have benefits for visual artists."

I don't know about you, but as a writer, that sounds like a fun, challenging and stimulating exercise to me. But, only if I got to do it my my time and terms. Standing over me waiting for results would kill the fun.

Expand your style, just not at the expense of your audience

What Genn is getting at is to try different styles to expand an artist's talent and ability. He is suggesting pushing oneself to grow as an artist. This is laudable and I commend the idea. How boring would The Rolling Stones have been if they stuck to covering the blues instead of venturing into rock, country, reggae and more? Yet, despite their shifts in sampling other forms of music, they always were undeniably recognizable for their unique sound or style. When they did get to far out of bounds as with some Middle Eastern influences, their fans did not follow.

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Painting using various styles is different than painting thematically, but it is closely related. It is hard to imagine getting gallery or collector attention if one is noted for painting graffiti art such as with Banksy, or marine-based art as with Christian Pierre Lassen, or even Thomas Kinkade's cottages if each piece came out as an experimentation in style with a succession of realism, impressionism, primtivism and so forth. Can there be significant influences of style on an artist who steadily mines a vein? Absolutely, the hallmark of successful artists is they manage to change, but do so in a way to bring their collectors and dealers along with them.

There is no shame and lots to gain by sticking to your knitting

Perhaps those at the pinnacle can do whatever they want and still have success. The reality for most artists working to make their art pay is they don't have the luxury to not feed the beast. The beast being their own creation of a marketing machine comprised of eager dealers, galleries and collectors who have their own expectations.

For most artists, this is not really a burden. They got into the business because they enjoy what they do. Having to paint yet another beautiful still life, landscape or portrait is not a chore. If it has become one, then paying attention to Genn's thoughts on expanding a methodical style will be the respite from the mundane they seek.

Different theme, different name; a time-honored practice

More than one artist has found the way to beat being pigeon-holed by painting under a "Nom de Brusse", if you will. I've known poster publishers who had artists with a range of talent paint widely different styles using another name. A gallery where I worked in Scottsdale represented several artists who were also in other local galleries, just under a different name and style at each. So, if your yen to stretch your creativity is there, you need not despair; just be as creative in pursuing different distribution points as you are in making your art.

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Art Business Book Club

Barney Davey

I help artists and photographers find buyers, sell more art and operate profitably.

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