Do you struggle with nailing down your style?
Do you find yourself jumping from one medium to the next, and finding yourself frustrated that all your work looks different?
This post is for you!
The most frequent lament I hear from beginner artists is that they don't know how to find their style. They feel like every other artist has it in the bag, and they're just floundering.
Here's the big secret no one is telling you: Every artist with a unique style has probably been exactly where you are, frustrated and unfocused. It was only through years of practice that they arrived at their style. And guess what? Styles change! Chances are, if they're a good artist, their style won't look the same in five years! So, take heart.
Here are a few tips to help you on your creative style treasure hunt:
1. Practice, practice, practice!
Almost no one is born with pure creative talent. There's a steep learning curve! If you go weeks without painting, you'll never reach the level you want to achieve. Put in the daily work, even if you don't feel like you are progressing. You are, I promise.
Try different mediums. Your art WILL look different when you switch mediums, and that is totally ok! Each medium has lessons to teach you. You'll find that some come more easily than others: some will frustrate you, and some will keep you endlessly fascinated. Go toward your fascination.
3. Ask yourself, "what comes naturally?"
Does abstract painting make you want to rip your hair out? Don't paint abstractly! It sounds simple, but many artists try to force themselves to paint like the artists they admire, all the while overlooking mediums and subjects that actually come quite naturally to them. Don't force it.
4. Use materials that fit your lifestyle.
If you have a small child at home, toxic materials might not be your bag. If you have limited space, that will inform the tools you use as well. I became a watercolor painter mainly because I had a baby and didn't want to use oil paints, epoxy, or anything with fumes.
5. Make the art you want to see in the world.
What kind of art would you hang in your home? Would you proudly display your own art? If not, ask yourself why? If it's not a matter of technical skill, it might be that you need to try different subject matter, colors, etc.
6. Ask what you find yourself returning to.
Is there a subject or medium you find yourself drawn to repeatedly? That's an important clue that you should follow that trail! For me it was florals. No matter how much I tried to ignore it, it was what I found myself doodling when my mind was empty and relaxed. I spent years avoiding my perfect subject!
7. Research what gaps you can fill.
With the current reign of visual social media, it can feel like there are no gaps in the market, but this simply isn't true! Think both small and big. Are there local spaces in your town or city that need art? Is there a lack of good representational art on your instagram feed? Do you see the need for smaller, more affordable art where you live? Try to be the one to meet those needs.
8. Niche til it hurts!
Once you find something that feels really good and natural, niche down. Don't do this until you've spent years experiementing! Maybe architectural drawings have always been your thing. Can you niche even further? Maybe you could draw only abandoned buildings. Or perhaps you could draw homes for new homeowners! Be known for one thing and do it EXCELLENTLY. This doesn't mean you can't change in the future. Of course you can! But it's better to be known for being an expert in one thing than to be ok at a bunch of things.
9. Notice what people are responding to.
Are there one or two things that you've created that have gotten amazing feedback? Pay attention to that. You do not exist in a creative bubble. Art is a two way street between the creater and the viewer. Deliver art that brings joy not only to you but to your potential patrons as well. Selfish art is no way to make a living!
I hope these tips help you discover a style that feels so good that you won't want to stop creating! Let me know if you find value in them!
Today I'm going to share with you five AMAZING podcasts that keep me entertained, inform my business skills, and truly make an impact on my career!
Let's dive in.
1. Artists Helping Artists.
This podcast is stuffed to the brim with useful information about growing your social media presence and levelling up your business. The co-hosts give practical tips in an easy-to-understand format, without all the jargon of a traditional marketing podcast. It's been running for seven YEARS, so they're obviously doing something right!
2. Savvy Painter Podcast.
Do you wish you could peek inside of an artist's studio...or head? This podcast gives you those insights! The host, Antrese, interviews fascinating guest painters every other week, covering their processes, their struggles and victories, and the nitty gritty details of why they do what they do. A must listen!
3. The Creative Empire Podcast.
Business nerds, listen up! The ladies who run this podcast want you to make MONEY off of your art! They interview creative professionals who are doing just that, and offer tons of ideas of how to scale and market your creative hustle. Truly smart women!
4. Art For Your Ears.
Have you heard of the Jealous Curator? Of course you have. She has a podcast, and it's every bit as fantastic as you would guess! Every week she interviews a creative talent who is doing interesting and fresh things in the art world. Also, she could read recipes and I'd still want to listen. Her voice is that great!
5. Creative Pep Talk.
I just started listening to this one, and I love it! Andy J. Pizza (not his real surname, obviously) wants to encourage you to make great art and get it out into the world! His podcasts are like a cheerleading squad that hangs out in your studio while you work. He's delightfully quirky, and his analogies are just weird enough.
I hope you give these podcasts a listen and let me know what you think! Get ready to be overwhelmingly inspired!
I've always been a list-maker. Let's just get that out of the way from the beginning. My ADHD-addled brain LOVES the concrete activity of writing lists and checking things off. I'm not, however, always so good at staying on top of things, despite my many lists. In my art business, I find it essential to keep 6 lists in particular, to keep me on track toward my goals!
1. Wall Calendar:
Ok, so it's not a checklist, per se, but man is it essential to my well-being! I like a plain old GIGANTIC wall calendar personally; the kind that I can rip the pages out of and tape to my wall. I need to be able to see about 4-6 months worth so I can get a feel for what's happening now and in the future. On this "list" goes: gallery openings, show dates, submission deadlines, appointments, set-up dates, and literally everything else!
2. E-mail List:
I make this one easy for myself and just use a mail service you likely know about: MailChimp. Whenever someone signs up for my list, I add them to the subscribers list immediately! Whenever I teach workshops or do shows, I always bring a paper list along, inviting people to sign up for my emails.
3. Available Work and Locations:
This one can be a doozy if you don't stay on top of it, especially if you're prolific! List every piece you create: the dimensions, the title, the price, maybe even the colors, date or theme. Then, I highly suggest writing down where the piece currently resides. Is it at home? In a gallery? Has it sold? Make a note! The worst thing you could do is forget where a piece of yours has gone, and potentially lose the piece! I have heard of galleries not returning work. It happens, guys. Excel spreadsheets work fine for me.
4. Gallery and Show Submissions:
I learned this one the hard way! Keep a record of which shows, publications, and galleries you submit to. Story time: I once submitted my art to a gallery via a form on their website. When they emailed me saying I'd gained entry into the show and asked me to mail the pieces, I had to admit that I had no clue which pieces I'd entered! It was SO embarrasing! Please don't make this mistake. Galleries really don't like it. This will also keep you from submitting the same art to multiple galleries and getting yourself into the pickle of having to choose between shows!
5. Income and Expenses:
It's not sexy. It's certainly not fun. But it IS vital. Keep a record of everything, and I mean everything that you spend on your business, and everything that you earn. This includes supplies, shipping, submission fees, advertising, studio rent, etc. This will really help you when tax season rolls around! It's also essential to know what bringing in vs. what's going out, so that you can keep on top of your budget. I use Excel spreadsheets for this, though a program like Quickbooks would be even better.
6. Customer Details:
This one is really helpful for getting repeat customers. It will help you build and maintain relationships with them so that they feel that they will want to purchase art from you again! First I suggest making a note of every sale, the date, and the client's name. Next to that, add where they found out about you. Was it on facebook or Instagram? Did they see you at a gallery? If you have their mailing address or social media handle, write it down. You want to be able to find them in the future.
Why? Maybe you created a piece you know they would love and you want to let them know. Or perhaps you want to ask them if the piece arrived ok and if they need any help with framing ideas. And obviously, if they order from you a second time, you'll want to have their address handy, so you don't have to ask them to repeat it! They won't soon forget that you made an effort to be kind and helpful.
The cherry on top of all this is to keep record of birthdays and anniversaries, or other special dates. Sending a good collector a small gift: a handmade card, or a print for example, keeps you on their mind and lets them know that they are important to you! This is all about making customers feel valued. Another nice idea is to send them a thank you card, maybe on the anniversary of the day they bought their first big piece from you!
Well, those are my lists! I hope that THIS little list was helpful to you and that it saves you some grief in your own art business. If it was helpful, please let me know!
Wow, what a year!
In April of last year, I was out of work, disorganized, and frustrated with the trajectory of my (non-existent) art career. I decided to take the plunge and dedicate myself to my art fully, which was the best and scariest decision I could have made!
Without any knowledge of what I was in for, or how to go about it, I haphazardly started throwing together photographs of my work (bad ones, I might add), and cold-emailing galleries. I think I emailed every gallery in Kansas City!
Well, my tenacity paid off, and I landed several shows, including my first solo show, which was scheduled a year out. The gallery owner asked me if I had large pieces that could fill an entire gallery, and like every artist ever, I LIED. "Of course!" I said confidently. Never mind that up to this point, I had only created work that was 11x14 inches or smaller. I'd make it work!
In a total frenzy, I began painting large pieces that quickly took over my dining room table and my small apartment. I used what little money I had to buy beautiful frames off of Amazon, and googled how to frame art myself! Painting large was a (pardon the pun) HUGE challenge, and stretched me in amazing ways! Having the goal of a solo show also forced me to narrow my focus, and to hone in on the subject matter I was truly drawn to: florals.
I'd always resisted pigeonholing myself as a floral artist, and had previously experimented with painting everything from still lives, to architectural pieces. I'm glad for this long period of exploration, as it gave me my footing in what I do now. I think every artist goes through this when they are trying to find their style.
Fast forward to nearly a year later: I had nearly 20 floral pieces ready to show, a growing instagram and facebook following, and several group shows under my belt! In a sudden panic, I pulled out my old paintings from last April, and realized to my horror, that I hated them! They looked washed out and amateurish, and I realized in that moment how far I'd come artistically. I pulled off the frames of these pieces and started reworking them, with a lot of fear I might add! What if I completely messed them up? Thankfully, they came together and now are some of my most special works.
As of today, I have been in eight group shows, and had three solow shows! Wow! I can hardly believe it! I've also won two awards for my art, and booked shows for 2019! I've also begun to teach private art lessons, do commission work, and sell on social media. I don't say this to toot my own horn...not at all. I say this because I want to encourage and inspire others to manifest their OWN dreams and see their artistic career blossom! If I, business and tech-challenged Kelly, can do it, SO CAN YOU!
Go out their and make your dreams come true!