Will Following Art Trends Help or Hurt Your Art Career?Looking for art trends is actually just looking for inspiration, isn’t it? Chuck Close has a pragmatic take on inspiration. It is how almost every post I publish for this blog is written. I start with a single thought and let the words come to me through the process.
“The advice I like to give young artists, or really anybody who’ll listen to me, is not to wait around for inspiration. Inspiration is for amateurs; the rest of us just show up and get to work. If you wait around for the clouds to part and a bolt of lightning to strike you in the brain, you are not going to make an awful lot of work. All the best ideas come out of the process; they come out of the work itself. Things occur to you. If you’re sitting around trying to dream up a great art idea, you can sit there a long time before anything happens. But if you just get to work, something will occur to you and something else will occur to you and something else that you reject will push you in another direction. Inspiration is absolutely unnecessary and somehow deceptive. You feel like you need this great idea before you can get down to work, and I find that’s almost never the case.” ― Chuck Close
There is no easy answer to whether a particular artist should pay attention and incorporate art trends into their work. Some artists will look down their nose at anyone who would consider art trends for aesthetic or business reasons. They embrace creativity as something sacred.
On some level, I guess I understand that high-minded stance, but I mostly think it is wrong. Picasso, as with so many other things, had it spot on when he said, “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” What can inspiration can you steal from current art trends, or cultural trends?
Unless you live in an uninhabited location with no media, no advertising, and no culture, you cannot avoid influences from what is going on around you. You see your friends, or television shows or movies where certain fashions are on display. It might be skinny jeans, skinny ties, or shiny jewel tone colors. You could find yourself influenced by a trend toward the retro look in graphic design, or art trends that emphasize social change.
Have you noticed how much more white space you see in graphic design – even in newspaper ads for grocery stores. Have you noticed how colors in current graphics are flat, and the type is unadorned? Have you observed how typography and iconography graphic elements have lost much or all of the Photoshop tricks? You saw it in last summer’s Olympic signage, Windows 8 and now IOS 7. If you are making graphics, you are going to be acutely aware of what is in and what is not. Trends such as these and many others will filter into other areas of art, design and architecture.
Maybe you read reviews from Art Basel Miami where emerald tones, transparency, mirror images and reflective materials were found throughout the show. That happens because artists are taking clues from their contemporaries. Whether you consciously act on taking in these trends, they are likely in some way to seep into your design and style sensibility.
If art trends work for you, use them, don’t abuse them.
Let’s say you are working in a genre or motif that has or is gaining traction with your galleries and collectors. If so, then bully for you for having tapped the zeitgeist in your art circles. Where your challenge and creativity comes in is how many unique and different ways can you riff on and shape what you are doing without losing your audience in the process. But, there should never be any shame because you are part of a movement.
You are reading this post, so I am going with you are making art you want to sell for a profit. If you support yourself and your family making art, that is a noble thing. It is one heck of a lot better than starving. To my mind, wanting to be profitable means you should not only be open to looking for trends, but thinking proactively how to use them in your work – with one caveat. That is, you have some sort of connection to what the movement represents.
Your relationship could be emotional, or personal, or both. For instance, you observe religious themed art continues to sell well, and your faith inspires you to contribute your take on the genre. Conversely, perhaps you have noticed that the resurgence of Vegas as an adult playground resonates well with some art buyers as it does with you. This might be your entrée to create a series of images that reflect that freewheeling lifestyle (at least while you are in Vegas 😉 ).
If you are putting something of yourself into your work, it will be apparent to your collectors. They will not care one iota if you find inspiration in emerging or current art trends. They buy because your work speaks to them in some way. If your buyers are not bothered by the source of your inspiration, then neither should you.
Use all the tools you have available to make, market and sell as much of your art as possible. If your art career success comes because you took Picasso’s advice and stole just the right ingredients, including influences from art trends, then consider yourself in illustrious company.