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Recognizable Style or Variety of Art - What's Better?

Recognizable Style or Variety of Art - What's Better?

Tara Reed |

When I was a part of the smARTist Telesummit, I got a question that I seem to answer a lot:

Is it better to have a consistent, recognizable style or can you create a variety of art and still succeed in art licensing?

I have talked with a lot of coaching clients about this decision and, while there is no right or wrong answer, I can give you my perspective and hopefully others can dialogue in the comments and create a great discussion.

I believe there are many successful artists who develop and stick with a consistent style; there are also those who have a bit more variety in their portfolio (the average person wouldn’t recognize the art was created by the same person if put side by side). In the end, you have to decide what seems right for you, your business and your goals as an artist. My goal is to help artists consciously decide — not decide by default like I did.

Option 1: Create a recognizable style to build your brand

If your goal is to create a name-recognized brand – like Mary Engelbreit, for example, you have to develop a strong, tight and recognizable style. People have to see it and know, “Mary Engelbreit.” Mary is known for her black and white checks, cherries, cute characters and use of quotes in her work. If she started painting landscapes, it would confuse the market.

Paul Brent is another great example of an artist who built his brand with consistent, recognizable art. His coastal watercolors put his art and name on the map and are the cornerstone of his brand. As his brand has evolved, he too has moved into other mediums and themes, but still creates new coastal art because that’s what the market expects of Paul Brent. Paul is an advocate of creating a look that is unique from all the other artists in the field.

I believe that this way of working is vital if your goal is to eventually build a strong brand that is known by consumers as well as manufacturers in the industry.

Option 2: Build your portfolio with a variety of styles

Another way to go, and the way I went by chance and not by choice is to do a variety of themes and styles. I don’t span the entire spectrum of art from pure realism to completely abstract, but there is enough variation that not even my sister always knows my work is mine. Some of my work is more whimsical than others and some leans a bit more traditional. It happened by chance; I would try things and see what manufacturers liked. It turns out that many of my best clients like that all my art isn’t obviously from the same artist, that way they can use me more than an artist who has a tighter style.

However I believe it limits my ability to become a huge, consumer recognized brand. I enjoy the freedom of being able to play with a variety of styles, themes and techniques.

I like to bring these issues up so artists can make a choice and not choose by default. My brand is becoming known within the industry – with manufacturers – but I don’t think I will ever have a Mary Engelbreit or Paul Bretn sized brand with the general public.

So it’s up to you to decide what will make you happy and keep your creative juices flowing!

I welcome your comments and opinions on this — do you agree or have anything to add?

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