Don’t Create This! (Create it!)

I am sure we have all read examples of what artists ‘should do’ in their art studio. For example, art-marketing gurus often suggest that art about death is not marketable OR that anything considered ‘bizarre’ or ‘dark’ will end up unsold. I can only assume these marketing ‘experts’ have failed to notice the HUGE following for dark art and pop surrealism! Other directions could easily be added to the list. I firmly believe that ANY theme or subject under the sun can find a following.

[infobox title=”]Don’t be afraid to stick on the path you are going: YOU must be dedicated in order for something to catch on — you must be willing to teach and spread your visual message with the world.[/infobox]

You don’t have to take my word for it: William T. Wiley is a living legend of the art world. He has long been considered an art world maverick and is still a ‘rule breaker’ at the age of 77. His willingness to break the unwritten rules of the art market serves as a source of inspiration for many artists. William would have never reached his level of market success had he abandoned his inner voice as an artist.

William once warned me that artists should avoid exploiting themselves based on the art market. In other words, you should uphold your inner voice as a creative artist even if that means going against the grain of popular directions within the art world. His message was clear to me: Be true to your work and someone — a collector, dealer, curator, fellow artist will eventually take notice. Keep William’s wisdom in mind when art marketing gurus try to tell you what to create in YOUR art studio!

Remember that we live in a BIG world: There are MANY people in this world, true? Each person brings a set of interests and tastes to the table. If you love something — be it a theme or subject in art — I’m willing to bet that you have a following ‘out there’. There is a market for any type of art you can think of! Granted, the hard part is reaching followers OR having them find you.

Don’t be afraid to stick on the path you are going: YOU must be dedicated in order for something to catch on — you must be willing to teach and spread your visual message with the world. Jumping from one boat to another, if you will, will likely not get you very far. Your following will change as much as your work does in that scenario. Stay the course! You never know what will happen in the future, and you won’t find out if you switch directions in your studio at the drop of a hat!

I read several stories last year on Hyperallergic about artists who were ignored by galleries and critics for decades… suddenly they are receiving attention in a BIG way. I doubt that would have happened had they changed directions constantly in order to try and ‘fit’ the market.

[infobox title=”]You must remember that you can’t please everyone without making your art tame. You don’t want your work to be tame IF you truly believe in the visual message that you wish to speak![/infobox]

Being controversial is fine IF you believe in your work: Your visual commentary may turn some people off if your art is considered controversial. Confrontational work can do that especially when exploring social issues or the ills of history. You must remember that you can’t please everyone without making your art tame. You don’t want your work to be tame IF you truly believe in the visual message that you wish to speak!

I know it can be difficult. I realize that some artists will hide their political views, religious views and so on, in order to avoid confrontation. I suppose my main point is that YOU must accept confrontation if you art is confrontational! Why bother to make a visual statement if you don’t want to stand by it? Think about that question.

Will you lose fans if you start to explore controversial themes? Probably. Will you turn some viewers off straight out of the gate if you tackle controversial subjects with your art? I guarantee you will. Should you care if those people cut your art out of their life over an opinion expressed visually? NOPE. They are not your audience. You must accept that. You don’t need them — if they are unable to tolerate your opinion your art certainly doesn’t need them. You should focus on people who ‘get’ it — that is where you will find your following.

In closing, it is impossible for your art to be liked by every art lover on the planet. I understand that trend chasing has worked for some artists… BUT it is a real gamble! People are fickle. Art market trends change. Doing what you love AND keeping at it is the best way to go after everything is said and done. Being YOU in the studio is a bet you can live with! Your following is waiting…create and they will come.


This article is by Brian Sherwin. Brian Sherwin is an art critic, blogger, curator, artist and writer based near Chicago, Illinois. Sherwin is the Editor of The Art Edge. His articles are featured on the FineArtViews newsletter, which currently reaches 26,000+ subscribers. He has been published in Hi Fructose Magazine, Illinois Times, FineArtViews, Myartspace and other publications, and linked to by publications such as The Huffington Post, The Boston Globe, The Consumerist, Juxtapoz Magazine, Deutsche Bank ArtMag, ARTLURKER, Blabbermouth, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Conservative Punk, Modern Art Obsession, Citizen LA, Shark Forum, Two Coats of Paint, Vandalog, COMPANY, artnet, WorldNetDaily (WND) and Art F City. Sherwin graduated from Illinois College (Jacksonville, Illinois) in 2003; he studied art and psychology extensively.

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