It's something many of us struggle with as artists. Maybe you're like me - I'm one of those people who is blessed/cursed with being able to work in many styles. There are days when I want only to do abstract paintings and then there are days which I long to go outside and paint plein-air. And because I'm also a graphic/ product designer, some days, it's typography and package design I'm fixated on. I guess this has served me well, I'm able to meet the needs of plenty of different types of manufacturers from crafting to gift and homegoods, while satisfying my own creative needs as well, which is very, very important to do in order to grow and expand as an artist.
What I've realized in this past year is that my unique vision comes in the form of color. No matter what art I'm working on, for me, color is the message. The palettes that I use are what bind all my efforts together. Whether it's pattern, icons, type, graphic and even jewelry making, color is the most important component to my work. Now I know that. Finally. Gheesh. It's like Dorothy and her ruby slippers, it was there all along. I spent way too long trying to decide my "style". MY STYLE IS COLOR.
I read posts and see images on facebook of many emerging artists, from Etsy and elsewhere, who are basically trying to be someone else in their work. A recent success story of an Etsy artist being discovered by a big gift manufacturer has spurred all kinds of wannabes within that community. This artist has tons of "followers", almost in a bizarre way. The artist doesn't have the years of experience that many of my artist friends have. Nor does this artist have years of business experience. But, because her art hit a note by being at the right time and in the right place with the right message, people want to know her secrets and are willing to pay big, big money. It's an odd phenomenon, really. I wonder just how long it will last? It has a lot of people scratching their heads... including me. I hope they really are getting their money's worth, not a bunch of hype and wishful thinking. Making a living as an artist is HARD WORK. When I meet someone new and tell them what I do, the inevitable "oh how fun!" response comes out of their mouth even before I've finished my sentence. Yes, when you have a big hit, when the money comes (actually, it's more like if the money comes ) there is that feeling of being so blessed to be able to do what you love. I am grateful for this - many people get in their cars and go to a job they hate every day of the work week. sad. But, they know that there is a paycheck waiting for them on the other end. Oh, and benefits like paid vacation, medical, dental, 401Ks. It's awesome to be an artist but don't let anyone tell you it's easy. It isn't.
If you're a new artist, the best advice I can give you is to make A LOT OF ART. A. L.O.T. - fill your basement with mistakes, as I have. Don't worry about being trendy, don't copy others, just be your own true self while learning technique. Look at many different models of success, not just one. Enjoy the process, even though sometimes growth is painful. Learn from it. I've been making art since I could hold a crayon. I've never even considered being something other than an artist. But guess what? I still learn every day and yes, I throw away more work than you will ever know! You've got to let the ugly out in order to get to the beautiful...just let it out.