Color Style Kyle

Combining art, creativity, design, family, health, humor and books.

The Artist’s Spirit: A Marketable Talent – Starting Out Part 4

Posted by Kyle Design on April 12, 2007

So, you want to be an artist. How do you know you have what it takes to make a career of it? This is the fourth in a series about what it takes to survive by a woman who has so far managed to make a living as an artist for 25 years.

A Marketable Talent – To run a small business takes many skills, but to make your living as an artist you also must be able to create objects people want to buy. Sorry, it’s a fact. If you don’t have “it” you aren’t going to survive as an independent artist. You might get recognition and that’s great if that’s all you’re looking for, but the bottom line is that your work must sell if you want to elevate what you do beyond being just a hobby. It may be beautiful or controversial or eye-catching, but it also must have that magic something to which people respond, that creates desire in them, that brings them joy or fills a need. The reaction can be very subtle and complex. It is not like you can embed the words “BUY ME” as a subliminal message in a border print or tell people they should buy your work. They have to want to own it.

It would be wonderful to just design whatever you wanted with no care as to whether or not it would sell. But unless you’ve already you made your money in another field and are happy to blow it on self-expression (not that there is anything wrong with that – I’m just trying to be practical here), you really have to consider who you imagine buying your work. Would you buy it? Would you spend that much on it? Could you imagine giving it to someone you know as a gift?

Not to say there is only one message or one target group. The wonderful aspect of art is that there is a message for every type of person out there. You just have to think about who your target market is and whether that group is large enough or has enough disposable income to support the arts. You need a talent as a designer that appeals to this target group, or at least to enough people that you can eek out a livelihood. Remember, you have to approach this as a business – it is just one of fundamentals.

What if you are designing artwork that you personally could not afford to buy? YouNand-Pianted Silk Wall Decor have to imagine the type of art patron who would be interested in it. Will this appeal to them? Is it an exceptional piece of art? Is it making a statement that a wealthy supporter of the arts would endorse? Is there a compelling story behind it? Will the colors mesh with a patron’s decor? I used to design large silk wall graphics, but they tended to be too colorful, too bold. The more subdued colors sold best, but were not my favorites to design. I eventually moved away from designing large scale pieces and instead concentrated on smaller gift pieces that retained the bold and colorful feel of my silk paintings.

My approach now is to create beautiful functional art. So many of the items I have designed came about as a direct result of something I Decorative Vines Business Card Casepersonally needed. I had business cards but couldn’t find a case for them that I liked. Back then (remember, I’ve been at this for 25 years now), most cases were either plain or designed for men. With the increasing presence of women in important positions in business came the need for business card holders with a more feminine look. Mind you, still distinctive and professional but without looking like it was bought at a men’s store or swiped from a husband or boyfriend. Cases with a sense of style, a beautiful, personal fashion accessory customized to suit one’s tastes.

Another example is night lights, which I started designing when I was pregnant with Parker, now 11. Three Cats Night LightAny women who has experienced it knows how often you get up at night during pregnancy. (Of course that was nothing compared to how much I was up after she was born!) Nothing I had seen was quite the right style and was always the wrong color, so I developed my line of etched metal night lights to be strong on design yet still allow customization (select a design you like, tell me what metal finish you need to match your hardware then pick the color matches the rest of your decor.) Anyway, I was sure happy to have my night lights so I didn’t have to stubble around! Also gave me something visually interesting to look up at when my neck got stiff from looking down at my baby while nursing or trying to rock her to sleep.

So again, these are just my thoughts and my approach as a mom and an artist to a diverse, creative and wonderful way to live and work.


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