Thoughts on Sticking to a Style for Working with a Gallery

Many Artists Have Genuine Struggles with Style   

Best explanation I’ve heard on this subject. 

Tina Swindell

This post began as a reply comment made in the public Older Artists Facebook group I founded. I created a graphic and reposted it in the group rather than leave the reply buried as a comment in the thread. The post’s growing stats show 4,000+ post reach, 165 comments, and nine shares, which indicate significant interest and varied opinions.

I understand and sympathize with artists who want the freedom to make any art by any means they like. The reason for publishing this information is to help artists understand why galleries work with artists whose work is recognizable. I also aim to help self-representing artists because they deal with the same challenges as gallery owners when marketing their art.

What do galleries like?

Replying to a post by artist John William Smith is the genesis for this article. He mentioned, “I think one of my failings as an artist is that I paint in quite a few different styles, and this quite often confuses people!… I think galleries like a more uniform approach to your work when staging an exhibition? They don’t seem to like a mixture of styles from one artist hanging together.”

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The following is my reply…

The pros and cons of sticking to a style.

What you make as an artist depends on your expectations for your art once it is complete. If you want gallery representation, you must fill its needs. Having worked in several galleries and advised artists on marketing for three decades, I can say that having a distinct style matters when creating interest and demand.

It’s a big challenge to find an active buyer from a pool of potential buyers with similar interests. And you can’t count on crossover interest when you are in the business to make a profitable living from selling art.

It takes considerable time, money, and talent to develop a pool of potential buyers for a style of art. Gallery owners don’t have the resources to build unique collections of potential buyers every time an artist changes styles. Plus, whether rational or not, it can confuse and even anger previous buyers who wonder why the artist is no longer creating in the style they purchased.

There are no wrong decisions here.

Make all the art you like in as many styles as you wish. But understand the marketplace will rarely embrace diversity. And that brings us back to your expectations. If your priority in making the art you like to make is all over the board, you should know it will limit a gallery’s ability to build a cohesive audience that is likely to buy your work more than once. And the same if you are a self-representing artist.

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Nothing is impossible, but the degree of difficulty goes up depending on artists’ decisions about what they make.

My best advice for artists who want steady sales is to find the look or style that generates the most sales fast. Go with the country saying, “Dance with the one who brung ya!”

There are no rules that say you can’t keep making different art. Just realize it’s probable you will need a new group of prospective buyers or other galleries to market it.

Jumping styles may inhibit mastery.

A final caveat. Just as creating unique prospect pools for different styles waters down your ability to get your work to market, it also taxes your ability to take your skills in making a particular style of art to the next level.

The paragraph above marks the end of my reply on Facebook. I hope it clarifies why a consistent style is beneficial to galleries and artists in marketing their work.

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In many ways, the intent of this post exemplifies the mission of the Art Marketing Toolkit Project (AMTP). It emphasizes creating harmony between family, finances, career demands, and artistic desires. Its goal is to educate artists about their marketing options and to help them use them.

AMTP members use the group’s resources to develop a plan for living a rewarding life that balances their competing demands. Members get practical advice on how to market their art to match their personality and needs. They learn to make intelligent choices on which tools and techniques are the best for their plans.

I intend to help visual artists lead well-lived, joyful artist’s lives.

I’m not trying to compete with anyone else. I’m very much at peace with selling access to my information at the giveaway price of $4.99 per month with no contract for two reasons:

  1. I believe gaining access to world-class marketing training should not be expensive.
  2. I believe I can do the most good by applying the philosophy of no artists left behind.

If you would like to enjoy a community of like-minded artists and help with marketing your artwork, please consider joining the AMTP. You have much to gain and virtually nothing to lose. Hit reply if you have questions or if I can help you.

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    1. Thanks for your reply and additional comment. You’re spot on with it. I see 2D art and sculpture from Guilloume in the Xanadu Gallery. Collectors buy both. The key is they are recognizable as his work.

  1. Spot on, Barney! Thanks, as always, for your insights. I discovered the truth to this discussion years ago, and thankfully I love to continue to paint in my signature style, which galleries that represent my work exhibit. I do have another body of work I have developed for many years, and I have a special page on my website that showcases this separate style and medium. It doesn't interfere with people viewing the work they have come to like and expect. So far it lives in my studio. Someday I may market it as well, but it would be as a separate body of work, not mixed in with my recognizable style.

  2. Hello Barney, My name Cynthia Jackson. Suddenly, lights go on while reading your article! I am so "guilty as charged"!! What would you charge to mentor me by looking at my clumsy progress, and with a few phone calls to straighten out my YouTube Channel; my website: accidental; my website, and my art in general? I am thinking that I will indeed join your AMTP, post haste! But I have gone off track now for so many years that I critically need help to get back! Either way, thank you for the article. Very helpful! Cheers, Cynthia Jackson cjn.

    1. Hi Cynthia, Thank you for your comment and question. You are not alone. Many artists find themselves off the tracks now and then. The good thing is you can fix it. I am happy to help you. I see you have joined the AMTP already, so welcome, and thanks for that too! I am flexible when working with artists because each person and situation is unique. I suggest reviewing this page to learn more about how I work with artists one-on-one. Please let me know if you have questions or how I can help you. All the best.

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