Q+A Call In Show— Pros and Cons for artists working in multiple styles or media

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Steve Taylor emailed in the following question for a call in show:

How do you brand/market yourself if your work crosses multiple styles within the same medium? I figure you must have some idea how to do it successfully, given that bottlecap mosiacs and steel fire pits are on different parts of the artistic spectrum, even if they are both are made of metal. I ask, because as I'm coming up with new designs for pieces of furniture, I find that they all don't fit into a single style. Is that something I need to be careful of until I'm "recognized" in my medium or should I "damn the torpedos" - build/sell whatever I come up with? — Steve

The tradional advice for artists is to create a recognizable style and stick to it, to promote the artwork rather than the artist. This made sense when the primary sales outlet for art was galleries and when promoting artwork required print advertising, mailings, and expensive catalogs of shows. A consistent portfolio does make it easier to market an artist— you wouldn't mistake a Henry Moore or a Dali for another artist's work. There are exceptions in the traditional fine art market— Picasso worked in nearly every medium and had a broad range of styles over the course of his career (although that didn't make his work any less easy to recognize).

Most artists, I think, experiment with multiple styles and media. Many limit themselves to promoting just the core work so as to avoid confusing their audience and to focus the cost of promotion on the work that sells best. But I believe this is a model we can let go of, now that the web has made it so cheap and easy to promote a variety of art. There are strategies that help manage a broader portfolio— effective design and navigation, niche content, multiple sales platforms, the long tail of search, strong copy writing skills coupled with keywords. You can make more art and more sales by understanding proper management of multiple styles and media.

Further Resources:

  1. What is artistic style?: ArtBizBlog
  2. Should an illustrator stick to a single style?: Tom Richmond

Show Highlights: Excerpts From the Conversation

Once the transcription is completed I'll include some of the best portions here.

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I'm best known as an artist and designer. Relaxing makes me tense, so I tend to put in a lot of hours on diverse projects.

On the way to a successful art career I've been a poet and writer, a tech geek, a print and web designer, illustrator, industrial designer, musician, teacher, actor, set designer and even a paid guru once.

It's all the same thing in the end— I wake up most days thinking about how I want to change, fix or improve some aspect of the world. And after a couple cups of coffee I get started on it.

My specialty is impossibility remediation: if it can't be done, I'm on it.

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