Recently, a fellow artist friend was struggling to find a direction with her work. She would paint incredible masterpieces in oil, which would take her quite some time. Then by the end of it she would doubt whether or not they had been worth painting as they didn't sell immediately. Struggling to feel 'popular' she asked my advice about what she should do.
This is my reply to her, which upon reading, said I really must share it with other people too!
Ok… first up, I have no idea what people like, or what will be popular, or what will sell. Every time in my life I’ve tried to think of that, I play it safe and people don’t like my work.
Things I’ve learnt on the way are:
1) what can I do day in day out that excites me to get into the studio and paint
2) what work do I do that gets the most comments along the lines of “I love this because it makes me feel [insert feeling here]
3) my paintings compared to paintings I love that other people have done are very different, and that makes me feel like I’m not hitting the mark. However, I can’t really seem to paint any differently, I’ve tried!
4) I like my work to feel contemporary (although sometimes it ends up being a bit sweet) - are you wanting classical or contemporary? Your current paintings feel classical. That second image you posted is more contemporary. Which feels more you?
5) people want more of you, not more of what other people do. Lean into what lights you up, people feel it (in some crazy, how do they know?? Kind of way)
6) being different to other people helps you stand out.
7) a teacher would probably say, dig deeper into yourself, what lights you up, and that’s what makes work unique. Your work is amazing. Are you trying to make [your paintings] look like how you think they should look? Or are you painting what you love?
As Seth Godin would say, (and I'm going to paraphrase here, in the absence of a direct quote): The biggest obstacle isn't being original enough, it's about not being noticed at all.
Produce more work that lights you up. Dig deeper. Try not to compare yourself with others. Be more you.