Be yourself rather than what is popular. We hear this all the time. But who doesn’t like popularity? However, being an artist is more than just being popular. It should also mean being artistic in your art.
Why do you make the art that you do? If your honest with yourself and the answer to that question is “Because it sells well.” or “It’s expected of an artist” then it might be time to look a little deeper.
Gauguin, Van Gogh, and Cezanne are very popular. Their paintings sell for millions. The fame! The fortune! Everybody wants to own a Van Gogh. However, these artists are also quite dead. So, being popular artists really isn’t helping them out on a personal level.
Hopefully, your very much alive. That means you still can live artistically by being true to yourself in your art. Work on what you do best. Find your niche and don’t be a dead artist.
Your Style is More Important than Popularity
Catalog what you do in your art. What makes you happy? Upset? What patterns do you find you generally follow when you create your art. Do you gravitate towards a specific medium? Colors? Specific subjects?
Self experiment with your art. Try painting in a different medium. If you’re a painter, try using a camera. If you’re a photographer try using a sketch pad instead. Or use a different method to express your work. If you’re a color based photographer, try using only black and white techniques.
You like painting in Oil? Try doing Sumi-e style painting instead. Whatever you do, don’t throw any of it away. Trust me, you’ll want to. Your inexperience with a new style or technique will glaringly show. But that’s not the point of the exercise.
My personal journey from photography to pastels and then towards watercolor has not been as smooth as I’d love to claim and I shudder to think of my first experiments. Often I’ve asked myself why I put myself through these catastrophic attempts.
But I always remember the main purpose of finding my artistic style. After you’ve tried various techniques and methods look at your work. Yes, that even means that growing pile of trash in your bin of failures.
Try to discover what is common about all of them. For instance, if you’re looking at a bin full of drawings, painting and sketches and discover that there isn’t a solid straight line in any of them, that’s useful information. That’s your style showing through. Did you discover that you painted in 10 different shades of blue but only 2 shades of green? That’s useful also.
Maybe you discover that your photographic field trip to the park doesn’t have a single person in any shot. Or, you suddenly realize all of your pictures contain unconventional angles.
As you begin to identify more with various mediums and preferences you tend to like and start focusing your work on those points. Soon your patrons, friends and colleagues will be able to tell your pictures belong to you without having your name displayed.
You will become popular for all the right reasons. Namely you’ve been loyal to who you are and what you do artistically. Over time this style will change as you change. Popularity is great. But it is much more beneficial to live true to yourself and your natural talents than a fake it to make it strategy. Be yourself. Be a living artist.