Recently I started coaching an artist who had created what she referred to as “safe and saleable” art for two decades. She attracted a loyal clientele and had a lucrative career. The problem was she no longer felt creatively challenged by the art she was selling. Within the past year she began a new series of work in a different style. She was enthusiastic about it and was also afraid about losing her financial security.
Her predicament is not a rare one. Perhaps it’s happened to you. You may want to know how to stay financially secure when you change your artistic style. Here are a few suggestions that will make your transition easier.
Know You’re Not Alone
Chances are you’ll change your signature style and medium more than once during your career. During the period of uncertainty remember the artists who altered their styles with no regrets. Find mentors among your contemporaries who have been successful.
Remember that Richard Diebenkorn was influenced by Abstract Expressionism. But unlike many artists of his day who were reluctant to change their successful signature styles, he made major shifts during the course of his entire career. Similarly, Chuck Close was surrounded by Abstract artists but was compelled to radically change his focus and pursue his signature style of Photorealism.
Recognize the Challenges
Changing your creative course significantly can be intimidating. It forces you to shed part of your former identity, navigate the unknown, face the possibility of rejection and anticipate how you will manage some financial setbacks.
Most importantly, you want to avoid having these challenges prevent you from achieving freedom of expression and reaching your highest creative and career potential.
Take Practical Steps
Periodically throughout your career create SMART (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely) short and long term financial goals. Set aside a substantial savings to protect you from any temporary decline in sales. Prepare a new art business plan every six months.
Redefine your customer profile when you alter your work. Frequently research new art marketing venues, galleries and art consultants that might be compatible with your new direction.
Create the Work
This is obvious but worth emphasizing. Continue creating the new body of work. You will need to have at least 20 works of art in your new portfolio that comprise a cohesive creative vision before you schedule any public viewing or approach galleries.
Give yourself plenty of time to work out any technical and creative issues. Design a realistic timeline to make sure you can adapt to your creative transition without any stress.
Don’t Feel Pressured to Make A Choice
Don’t feel the urgency to marry one style or another. Many artists cater to more than one audience gaining rewards from each. For instance, a well-paid decorative muralist is equally comfortable painting large abstractions and enjoys having two different markets and two different websites. As you embark on your new style don’t burn any bridges.
Consider different options such as, you may find balance in creating commissioned pieces in one style while exhibiting your art in galleries with another style.
Test the Waters
Social media is a wonderful place to share your new style and get immediate feedback from a range of followers. Post pictures of your creative transitional phases on Facebook and Instagram.
If you have a blog, use it as a platform to introduce your new style. Explain your artistic process as it evolves.
Build A Support System
During times of transition it’s imperative that you create a support system, either from one staunch ally or a group that will soften any blows of negativity or insecurity.
Consider joining an artist’s group that shares your new direction and values or hire a career coach who will motivate you to stay focused and provide experienced guidance and strategies.
Rely on Strong Relationships
Throughout your career what will remain constant is the way you handle your relationships with buyers. Whenever you make a sale, whether it is to a client, or through a gallery or consultant recognize it as the opportunity to begin a long, rewarding relationship with them. Strive to create a foundation based on mutual respect.
Take steps on a consistent basis to stay connected. Strong relationships will sustain your business regardless of any creative changes you make. (Read How Smart Artists Treat Their Art Buyers)
Take Your Customers With You
Invite your current art community to join you on your new creative journey. Offer your fans and collectors a private viewing with the opportunity to purchase your new collection before anyone else sees it. They will appreciate the special treatment.
Remember, even when your style changes you are the same artist at your core. Your basic values have not changed. Communicate that to your clientele. Share your enthusiasm for your new body of work and your passion will be contagious.
Visualize the new series of artwork with confidence and a positive attitude. Expect the best from your creative and business challenges. Enjoy this experience as an opportunity for personal and professional growth. You will emerge from this transition as a more powerful, independent and courageous person.
Do You Want Personalized Assistance?
If you’re trying to face the challenges of creating an art marketing plan, attracting more art buyers and identifying your customer profile, I can help you with these issues and more. Find out about my consultation services for artists.
A similar article appears in the October-November 2016 issue of Professional Artist magazine.
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