Today as I was wandering through the San Diego Artwalk Festival I was reminded of the supreme importance for an artist to have a consistent style. There was a lot of mediocre art, a few really inspiring art booths, and a range in between. What struck me most though was that many of the artists clearly had talent that was not fully developed because their work was unfocused and spread across several styles.
Its a well-known concept that is drummed into artists almost continually by art coaches and marketing consultants – be consistent! But why really? Why not indulge your passions and embrace and show all your many artistic voices? Here are three simple reasons why consistency is king.
The first reason is all about FOCUS and it has to do with the concept Bruce Lee was referring to in his universally famous quote…
I fear not the man who has practiced 10,000 kicks once, but I fear the man who has practiced one kick 10,000 times. Bruce Lee
A lot of wisdom in that sentence! A simple translation for the emerging artist might be…
Instead of indulging yourself exploring lots of styles and not mastering anything, you should start by focusing on one style and mastering it to the absolute limits of your ability. A Well Intentioned Observer
Focus is an absolutely essential part of success for any artist, or any human endeavor for that matter. Its something we refer to a lot in our article, 18 Tips To Be The Great Artist of Your Dreams. Success is an alchemical birthing process that requires huge amounts of work and energy – not unlike The Struggle of The Butterfly. The talented and successful artist is a product of both innate ability and focused practice on a specific style and subject.
The second reason is all about marketing. We recommend that you should be able to universally describe your art in one short sentence. Its your elevator pitch and it makes it easier for art dealers and commercial art websites to profile you and explain you to their buyers. It makes it easier for buyers to “identify” with your work.
This came to mind many times as I visited the booths at Artwalk yesterday and I noticed that the really good consistent art could always be described in a short sentence. Some (fictional) examples:
Sarah Brown paints stunning American coastal images that evoke a sense of the post-impressionist era.
Bill Jeffries creates riveting abstract animal sculptures with aluminum wire and house paint.
Melody Jones specializes in hand colorized photographs of whales and dolphins in pristine oceans.
Now just to be really clear, there actually were also a few good artists I saw at the event whose work was not very consistent – extending across multiple styles and/or subjects. I found that while I could look at an individual piece of art and really appreciate it, when I stood back and looked at the complete booth with all the art, I felt literally dazed and confused. I didn’t really want to go into the booth because it was sending me mixed messages. From an art marketing perspective this is really bad news because to be successful you want to send the simplest and most coherent message to potential buyers and dealers.
The third reason that consistency is so important is because its essential to developing the business relationships that will make your art career successful. “No Man is an Island” holds true today more than ever and no more so than in the world of art business, whether we’re referring to a gallery or dealer, a commercial art buyer, or a collector. They all highly value consistency
….when asked what an artist should do to increase their odds of finding gallery representation and building long-term commercial success, consistency would be the very first factor to which I would point. That’s right. Even above quality and creativity, I feel that consistency is the key to long-term success. Jason Horejs, Xanadu Gallery
In an art business relationship, a gallery needs to feel confident that they can rely on you and that your work will sell quickly and consistently. This means that they need to know that they can expect consistent quality and style from you because that’s what their clients expect.
What exactly does consistency mean though? Artist David Kessler gives a good view in his blog post, “Artists Must Maintain Consistency in Their Work”. In the post he singles out four primary areas of consistency:
Consistency of Subject Matter. Example: Don’t mix abstracts, horse paintings, figurative work, and landscapes in the same show. Pick one of those types of paintings and build the show around them.
Consistency in Image Quality. Images are all created by a similar process and have a cohesive look and feel to them.
Consistency in Presentation. Maintain a consistent framing or canvas mounting style for paintings and observe similar discipline with sculptures, video and other art forms.
Consistency in the Message. The message sent through marketing and branding is equally important. The look of the letterhead, business cards, postcards, flyers, emails, newsletters, social media and the artist’s website should all communicate the same message consistently.
Consistency truly is king, especially for emerging artists as they expand into the business relationships that will deliver ongoing success. Be sure to make a little time to indulge all your creative urges in the studio because that’s important for your growth as an artist – but keep your message to the outside world focused and consistent!