It’s an issue a lot of artists struggle with. Do I make the kind of art that I love making? Or do I make the kind of art that I know I’ll sell?
This all came about as a question from somebody in the Thriving Artists Business School Facebook group. As soon as you move out of the hobbyist mindset into something slightly more professional, it’s easy to get stuck in this dilemma. Of course, when you are just doing it as a hobby, you do it purely for the love and purely for the joy of creating. You don’t have to worry about any of the business stuff. As soon as you flip into that business mode and need to start earning an income from it, it’s easy to suddenly start to change your mindset and think, “Okay, I need to think about what the customer wants, rather than what I love creating”.
In other businesses, you definitely start with what the customer wants, and how you can best serve them. With art it’s different.
I can’t say this enough, and I can’t emphasise it enough – you need to paint what you love, what lights you up, what really ignites you and what you’re passionate about, for two reasons.
Number one, as an artist, you will lose your mojo from time to time. You get to the end of a collection and starting a new one feels overwhelming. You might feel like you don’t want to do, or can’t get the motivation to get back in the studio or to start another series. You might feel like you are feeling around in the dark for some inspiration. If you are painting from your way, from your true purpose, all the time about what inspires you and what you love doing, you are much more likely to connect with that, be inspired and be able to move forward quickly.
If you’re painting because you think somebody else will like a certain thing, but it’s not lighting you up, then you’re on the backfoot straightaway. Also, you can see the passion when somebody is enjoying creating something and they love every minute of it.
One of the main reasons to make art you love is that you don’t need any persuasion to get started. You’re just so fired up and excited to get creating that you’re having to hold back as opposed to the other way around. That passion, that love and that kind of joy, that inspiration, comes across in the pieces of art you’ll create. They’re much freer, they’re much more inspired. You can just sense the energy, so much better than a painting that’s just being done to make money or to serve a purpose.
Another reason to make art for you is so that you can communicate that with your potential buyers. If you are passionate about something, and if it really motivates you, and if you feel strongly about it, you can then share that in such a way that also attracts similar like-minded people who are also inspired and passionate about the same thing. It’s kind of a marriage that happens from the work and from the customer’s needs, and they come together.
If you are painting according to your customer’s needs and just making art you think will sell, then you are chasing something that doesn’t exist. Every person is different. Every person is going to be changing their mind from one day to the next, liking one thing one weekend, one thing another week. Trying to keep up with fashions and trends and other people’s requirements is exhausting. There’s a definite sure-fire way to burn out and lose the mojo.
Stay on track painting what you love painting, instead of thinking what you will sell. And if you do that and stay true to yourself and stay honest, you will start to communicate it and you’ll start to attract people that naturally align with the same thing.
Now this person in the Facebook group said something really interesting as well, which I think we all suffer from. If I paint what I like, I don’t think it’s going to sell. Whereas if I paint what will sell then I’m pretty sure it’s gonna sell and quite often is actually the other way around. We think it might not sell We think it might be too niche or too specific, but because it’s come from that heart centred place and it’s really driven by passion and enthusiasm it sells like hotcakes or it sells much easier.
So don’t put obstacles in your way thinking that something won’t sell just because you enjoy doing it. That’s often the complete flip side of what actually happens!
Stick to what you love creating, what inspires you, what really moves you. That passion will come across to your ideal buyers and you will end up attracting the people that are aligned with what you love. What is better than serving people that love the same thing that you love?
If you need support moving forward with your art journey, get in touch! On the blog there are loads of resources to encourage your confidence in your art (such as the free Artists Roadmap to help you figure out your next steps) and my FREE masterclass ‘4 Simple Steps to Consistent Art Sales‘.
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