How Many Different “Hats” Should an Artist Try to Wear?

By Karen Middleton in Art Business Advice > General Art Advice

Most art marketing coaches will tell you to focus on ONE style or type of art. One “hat” so to speak. I never could.

Over the last four years I’ve created artwork in three fairly different genres. I began in the feline art genre, then moved to fairie art, and finally started marketing some of my sensual/feminine work under the erotic art umbrella.

At one point I was active in all three genres at once. That’s a lot of marketing, creating, and selling. . . three different markets, three different audiences.

It also meant that my budget and expenses (not to mention time) were stretched all across the board as well. Literally.

So why did I do it? Partly because each area grew organically and I went with it, and partly because I had unexpected successes. This fed my passion to keep going and I found no need to let any of them fall by the wayside.

I’m certain though, that had the situation not been brought to a close, I would have eventually had to make the decision to sacrifice at least one area, in order to retain some kind of quality to my work and sanity to my life. My work is fairly detailed (and I’m quite perfectionist in my nature) but I enjoyed each genre and wanted to see how they would all pan out.

At the time, it looked like my sensual/feminine style of artwork brought me my biggest successes. My style was “tame” compared to others in the erotic art field, and I enjoyed creating a style of cute, cartoon pin-ups that were quite unique. I was often told my work was beautiful, and had to pinch myself to believe it.

Within just two years I was an ES Book winner, meaning my art was published in their Limited Edition The Greatest Erotic Art Today Vol. 3. I was also the runner-up artist of the year in a UK art group, listed in the Top 10 female erotic illustrators, and I was generating good sales.

I was even compared to the greatest pin-up illustrator in the world (in my humble opinion, anyway) Olivia de Berardinis, more than once. I met some of the most inspiring and creative people, most of whom were also artists, photographers and collectors.

I therefore would have happily—and possibly successfully—continued in this genre had it not been for the unwanted attention, misperception, and subsequent judgment I received from those outside of the genre.

Over time it became too much. I closed down my website, threw away the marketing materials, and stopped creating art. I simply became afraid to market myself and my art to the loyal following (mostly female) that I’d steadily built over the last two years. The remainder of my pin-up work now lies in a portfolio in an unused area of my studio.

All that to say, I’ve worn several hats as an artist and I know that it brings both high points and low points. Would I advise others to create art in more than one area, too? Yes, I would, because I’ve done it and I know you can make it work.

More importantly, though, if you don’t try, you’ll always be left wondering. If it doesn’t work, just bow out. . . you’re in charge. If one of your specialities takes off more than the others, go with it for a few months! Keep life interesting. You can always go back.

The benefit of wearing several “hats” is that even if one area doesn’t succeed, you have other options to explore; alternate avenues that might work for you.

And when all is said and done, perhaps like me, you might just like creating different types of art.

It’s your time, your expense, your vision. It’s YOUR ART.

So go on. Use the creativity you’ve been blessed with, and try on a few different hats. Hindsight and regrets can arrive all too soon.


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