Back in 2007 and until 2008, I was painting my "Nature" series. It consisted of hand drawn leaves in between layers of colored wax. It was mostly abstract work, despite having life-like leaves in them. I had a few galleries show the work but no one really interested in taking me on as an artist on a long term basis. I didn't really feel this series. Most days in the studio was a struggle. Somedays I wouldn't even paint. I hadn't found my muse yet and there was no way I would have thought about quitting my job and doing art full-time. I was kind of happy that no galleries wanted to represent me because then I would have had to continue this series longer than I would have been able.
Then I started painting people. I knew it was a complete 180 from what I was doing before and I risked having my previous clients not like it. I felt so strongly about the new work that it didn't matter. I needed a new direction in my art that was going to motivate me to paint more and make me happy as an artist. This work did that. I did lose a few clients but in the long run, I had a lot more people interested, and galleries too. So now that it has been two years and galleries are finally taking notice, should I then pull a "fast one" on them and change my style completely? Can my just-budding career survive such a change?
Those of you who have been following my blog know that I have been a mess these past few posts. I have been excited and depressed about doing new work all at once. My decision on where to go next with my work has seesawed back and forth so often that I probably frustrated and confused a few readers. I have been doing some serious thinking about this and consulting with other professional artists about my dilemma. What dilemma am I talking about, you may ask? The dilemma of what to do when you are known for one style of painting (and that's what your galleries represent you for) but feel the need to try something new.
I am "known" for doing paintings with the bars over the eyes. It's what makes my work standout from other figurative work. It's my "thing", I guess, and it makes my work different, more interesting. That's not to say that there aren't other things about my work that is good. But I am known for painting bars over the eyes of my figures. So how do I keep my galleries satisfied yet also make myself happy? A very wise artist, who I probably pester way too much on a regular basis, (eh hmm....Jeff Schaller) passed on a rule of thumb. Paint 80% of my standard and 20% new and explorative work with the hopes of later it becoming 20% standard, 80% new work. Smart guy, huh? (You should see his work!)
As a professional artist, who is showing in galleries, I have a responsibility to the galleries that take a risk by showing my work. It is too early in my career to be switching up styles on them. I hadn't planned on abandoning my "Forgotten Memories" series altogether anyways, but this was important to hear. Later, when I am as famous as, perhaps, Gerhard Richter, then maybe I can paint whatever I want and people will love it regardless. But until then....
Thanks to all the fabulous artists, you know who you are, who have given me their advice and have allowed me to talk this process through with them. I value your opinions immensely and am grateful for our friendship.