Artists: Are you Consistent? A Gallery Owner’s Perspective

How Developing a Strong Style and Laser-Like Focus is One of the Most Important Things you can do for Your Fine Art Career

A number of years ago, I was approached by an artist who was seeking gallery representation in Scottsdale. She had been into the gallery during an opening and after striking up a conversation, had asked if she might stop back by the gallery and present her portfolio to me when I had more time. I had agreed and she was now back in the gallery on a quiet weekday afternoon with portfolio in hand.

The moment I saw the portfolio I knew I was in trouble. I am not exaggerating to say that this portfolio was at least two inches thick and must have weighed a good eight or nine pounds. After a brief conversation and reintroduction, she handed me the portfolio and said, “this is really only a small sampling of my work – I’ve been painting for over forty years and I have hundreds more images.”

I opened the portfolio and began randomly paging through with the artist looking expectantly on.
There was simply too much work in the portfolio, and I felt as if I were taking a survey of the entirety of art history. The work literally encompassed every style from cave painting (granted, an abstract take on it) to the Renaissance, the impressionists and all of the modern movements since – expressionism, minimalism, and pop, to name a few.

“You’re work is quite diverse,” I said.

The artist took it as far more of a compliment than I intended. “I’ve always felt,” she said, “that it’s important not to get myself pigeonholed into one particular style or theme . . . I like to keep my work fresh.”

I don’t remember the rest of our conversation – although I’m sure I politely waved her off with a stock “we don’t have any room right now,” or “we’re not the right fit.” Looking back, I wish I would have taken the time to give her feedback on her presentation and body of work, as she surely went on to have a very difficult time persuading a gallery to carry her work using that all-encompassing approach.

While this is an extreme example, I encounter variations of this approach quite frequently. Now that I have been in the business longer and have more experience working with artists, I always try to  have a conversation about the importance of consistency (not to mention the importance of creating a concise portfolio).

So why is it important to develop a consistent body of work?

 . . . the decision I am ultimately making is whether I am willing to invest in the artist and their work . . .

Step into my shoes for a moment and view your art through the eyes of a gallery owner. You will quickly see that as I consider an artist for representation, the decision I am ultimately making is whether I am willing to invest in the artist and their work.
I am going to devote expensive wall or pedestal space to displaying the art. I am going to have staff spending time and resources promoting and selling the work. I am going to spend advertising dollars informing potential clients about the work. In order to make this kind of commitment, I have to feel confident that I can see a return on the investment.

This is not to say that I am not willing to stretch and take risks with unproven artists, but I am far less likely to make such an investment if I see inconsistency in the work. My concern is that I will make the investment and begin to build a following for the artist’s work, only to have the artist make a sudden and drastic change in their style, forcing me to start over again. It can sometimes take years to build a following for an artist, and during that time a steady stream of consistent work is key.

Of course, there are many other considerations – quality, creativity, and confidence – but consistency is actually one of the first indicators I look for as it often speaks to the other factors as well.

In fact, 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.

So what do I mean by “consistency”? Many artists hear the word and feel a cold-sweat break on their brow. Most artists can understand the importance of consistency almost instinctually, but when it comes to actually creating a body of consistent work, they’re not sure where to begin. Does this mean they should only have one style and one subject? Does it mean they don’t have any latitude to experiment and evolve? Does consistency become a straightjacket to creativity?

To answer these questions we need only delineate our goal. While my ultimate goal is to sell an artist’s work and create a base of collectors who will sustain the artist over the long-term, the immediate goal in terms of consistency is much simpler: when someone walks into my gallery, I want them to see a number of your pieces and have them be able to instantly recognize all of the work as having been created by one artist. I want the artist (you!) to give them a strong thread running through the work that ties it all together. From the first piece they encounter to the last, I want them to look at each and see its relation to the others.

Furthermore, when that same client walks into the gallery a year from now, I want them to see and recognize the new work in the gallery at that time as yours. In the marketing world they call this “branding” and that is exactly what we want to accomplish with your work.

Seeing consistency this way, you will realize that you do have some latitude to vary your work. You can paint landscapes and still-lifes as long as the style or presentation ties the work together. You can sculpt figures and animals as long as the visual language is consistent across the work. You can even vary the media you employ to create the work if the subject matter and theme are unified.

A few illustrations from artists in my gallery will help to illustrate what I mean:

Guilloume. Even though this artist works in oil and bronze, his figurative subject matter and his consistent style translates across the mediums. There is no doubt in a viewer’s mind that this work was created by a single artist with a clear vision of his work.

 

An Evening Out by Guilloume
An Evening Out by Guilloume
Mutual Thinking by Guilloume
Mutual Thinking by Guilloume

 

Lorri Acott. Lorri produces in both bronze and clay mediums and sculpts both animals and figures, but her style is consistent and clear. Through the use of elongated limbs and a “cracking” in her forms, both humans and horses are easily identified as being Lorri’s work.

Conversation with Myself by Lorri Acott
Conversation with Myself by Lorri Acott
Deja Vu by Lorri Acott
Deja Vu by Lorri Acott

 

John Horejs (full disclosure, this artist is my father). Though creating desert and mountain landscapes, florals and still-life work, Horejs’ style and presentation tie his work into a cohesive body.

Salt River Vistas by John Horejs
Salt River Vistas by John Horejs
Colors of October by John Horejs
Colors of October by John Horejs

 

Dave Newman. Newman’s nostalgic Americana inspired style is both unique and consistent.Though Newman relies on random found objects to create his imagery, he has a very clear vision of how he will give these objects context and how the objects relate to one another. Again, presentation becomes an important part of the equation in creating consistency in Dave’s work.

Taking The Scenic Route by Dave Newman
Taking The Scenic Route by Dave Newman
V8 Road Trip by Dave Newman
V8 Road Trip by Dave Newman

 

Jeanie Thorn. It is easy to identify Jeanie’s work by the materials she consistently employs. While she varies the size and shape of her sculptures, there is an obvious unification amongst her work that allows visitors to the gallery to locate her work with ease, even when it is scattered across multiple walls.

 

Mandala by Jeanie Thorn
Mandala by Jeanie Thorn
Cross Cut by Jeanie Thorn
Cross Cut by Jeanie Thorn

 

“But Jason,” you object, “I’m afraid I am going to get pigeonholed into my current style or subject matter and frankly, I just get bored quickly.” I understand these concerns. Here are some considerations that will allow you to live with (and embrace) consistency:

  • Edit. The great allure of being an artist is that you get to try new things and you are your own master. I’m not suggesting that this has to end, that you are stuck for the rest of your life creating the same art over and over again. What I am suggesting is that you make a conscious decision that the work you are preparing to present to the public or to galleries must be consistent. You can do the abstract work if you are primarily a landscape painter, but don’t include it in your public portfolio. Edit your work down to only the work that is congruent.

 

  • Give yourself parameters. Allow yourself one experiment out of every 20 pieces – 19 are going to be the consistent, the twentieth can be whatever you feel like doing. This twentieth piece might end up hanging in your private collection or might become a gift to a friend or family member.

 

  • Evolve. “Look at Picasso”, you say, “he didn’t just stick with one thing throughout his life.” I will agree with you, but if you look at the arc of the lifetime of work Picasso created, you will see an evolution over years and decades. What I want you to avoid is the bi-monthly reinvention that many artists experience on a regular basis (you may be going through this now).

 Now here’s the secret about passion: passion isn’t that feeling you get when you first try something. True passion comes after you’ve sacrificed and devoted yourself; after you have been true to your commitment

  • Choose. Sometimes a lack of consistency comes not out of a love of variety but instead out of a fear of commitment. You might have three or five (or twenty!) different styles you have dabbled in and you’re just not sure which one is the right fit – which one will engender success and sales. I am often asked what style of art sells the best. My answer is simple: the style which any individual artist is most passionate about. Art taps emotion and you are going to be far better at selling if you can make a primal connection with your viewer. You are going to be far better at making this kind of connection if you are creating work that you are passionate about. Now here’s the secret about passion: passion isn’t that feeling you get when you first try something. True passion comes after you’ve sacrificed and devoted yourself; after you have been true to your commitment. There are no two ways about this and you are eventually going to have to make a decision when it comes to your direction – so why not make it now?

 

  • Cheat. If you have work that is close but not quite consistent, you can fudge a bit by simply using a consistent presentation. You would be amazed at the variety of work that can show together simply because it’s in the exact same frame or has an identical base. There are limits to how far you can push this cheat, but in a pinch it can maintain your portfolio’s consistency.

I met another artist several years ago who had made a commitment to consistency. She decided to focus on one subject for a year. Instead of becoming bored with the subject, she reported that the more time she spent with it, the more she began to see that there is an infinity of variety in the nuances of any subject.

If you have a problem with consistency, I encourage you to make a similar commitment. I promise you that this commitment will have a revolutionary effect on your work and your success as an artist.

What do you Think?

Do you feel consistency is important? What have you done to maintain consistency in your work? What are your greatest challenges as you seek consistency in your work?

Starving to Successful

StSBookSHave you always wondered what it takes to show your work in galleries? Is your work being seen by qualified collectors?

In his Amazon.com best-selling book, Xanadu Gallery owner Jason Horejs shares insights gained over a life-time in the art business.

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About the Author: Jason Horejs

Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of Dad was an Artist | A Survivor's Story and best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of reddotblog.com, and founder of ARTsala. Jason has helped thousands of artists prepare themselves to more effectively market their work, build relationships with galleries and collectors, and turn their artistic passion into a viable business. Connect with Jason on Facebook

300 Comments

  1. Great site and great, familiar read. This is two stories about me. As a Brand Designer I had to I tell my clients this very same thing. As a Professional Artist, for so many reasons, I’m still not changing. Great advice otherwise. Keep up the good work.

    1. After applying for a solo show, many moons ago, I recieved a letter of rejection with a small note from the gallery owner (whom I knew quite well). It said, “In the future, I advise you to stay consistent with your theme.” Shortly after, a friend went to a gallery talk by a prominent owner in NYC who advised the audience of artists not to have “artistic schizophrenia” when applying for gallery representation. Those messages stuck! I have a consistent road series, as well as a “beach” series. These are what I use to present my work to galleries. All my other explorations can be categorized as well, into portraits, animals, landscapes, etc., but as a strong consistent body of work, it is these 2 genres that get me in just about any gallery I apply to!

    1. Thank you Jason this was extremely informative .I do many subjects as I get bored .I am currently working on 12 pieces all consistent and comments are very encouraging.This must be the correct road to follow.
      Big Thankyou

  2. Jason, you covered all the consistency questions and rebuttals. I know that when looking at a publication, the work of certain artists is immediately identifiable, and I love that. I work only in pastels, and prefer figurative work. Sometimes I take a break into landscapes or flowers and have wondered if that takes away from the people work. But I think the type of strokes and the colors chosen still identify those as being my work. Really appreciate this article from you. Thanks.

  3. LOVE this article Jason! So true and spot on. I recently met with a gallery owner after seeing samples of my work that I emailed him. This was on the heals of reading your book “Starving to Successful” and also on a recent introduction to another gallery owner. I only brought in 20 samples of my work, but after putting together and editing what I included, I could see where my strength was and I actually innately knew it. I was immediately accepted into two group shows and I was beyond thrilled. The gallery owner was surprised that I hadn’t shown before and was kind enough to express how much he loved a particular style that I do, and encouraged me to do more. He truly saw from my portfolio what I was most passionate about painting. And when a particular subject is a passion, you truly never get tired producing it. You have given me much needed confidence from your books, and sound practical advice. I can’t thank you enough!

  4. Jason,
    You are so right. When I first joined an artists’ co-op and rented wall space, the Director advised me to be sure that my work was consistent. I have stayed true to that advice and now I know that it was some of the best advice that I got when starting out. My friends and clients always say they can spot a Kay Hofler!

  5. Jason, That is excellent advice that is penetrating into my core. I do a whole lot of diverse forms of art. Now I am looking at making it into a cohesive whole. Thank you for your consistent writings.

  6. Jason,
    Thank you for all the info you share with us artist! I have a question on the subject. I couple of years ago I requested representation into a gallery in Soho, New York. The Gallery owner emailed me with this comment: “Thank you for the disc and the images that convey the cogency and exhuberance of your work. Unfortunately your subject territory has been exploited by three of our regular exibitors.” If my body of work is the same as three peoples does that mean the work is not consistent? My work is all Photorealistic in style, all painted in bold color, and has a Pop flair, isn’t that consistency?

    1. I’m sure jason can answer better but what i would take from that is that your work is consistent but the subject is so similar to the other 3 artists they already have in the gallery- that they are looking for another “subject”? The territory has been marked and over marked in their space. 😉 does that make sense? i would go and try other galleries. 🙂

  7. Great advice, love the description of passion!
    I always have trouble focusing, never feel like I’m working on the right thing, (no matter what I’m working on), but when I push through it and do it, it really feels good and satisfying.

    I did a project on Flickr in 2010 where the members of the group had to make a ‘Ring A Day’ for a year. It was amazing the thoughts and feelings and the things you learn when you stay consistent with a project like this. I did it because I needed to prove to myself that I could commit to something and follow through. It doesn’t necessarily make it easier to do again or keep doing it, but I saw that I could do it and work through all the feelings of doubt and that I can focus if I set my mind to it. It is constant work!

    I really appreciate your insights and sharing them.

  8. Since I participated in your excellent webinar I have tried to follow your advice and develop that ever ellusive consistency. I’m afraid it’s going the other way: I get paid to do watercolor and oil portraits, I am represented in two galleries that specialize in maritime paintings, and I just wrote and illustrated a book for children about a little dog in Vietnam. I have also recently sold several large oils of thunderstorms over the Everglades. But perhaps there is a consistent theme running through all of this. A couple in Zurich, CH, just bought a large watercolor of freighters on the Miami River through my web site because they had seen another of my freighter painting in the lobby of their bank – in Zurich -which I had done 14 years earlier.
    Your advice and comments are always welcome. Not only are they well written and a pleasure to read, but the material is fresh and sincere and obviously based on personal experience.

  9. Jason, Thank you so much for this information. You make excellent points and I have forwarded your email to our Local Colors Art Gallery co-op members here in Salt Lake.
    I appreciate your books and your ongoing generosity in sharing your knowledge. Thank you!

  10. I have been struggling with this issue for awhile, and I know it is because I am afraid to choose. (Actually I’m trying to figure out how to incorporate everything I want to do into one style!) Anyway, I think this article has been very helpful.

  11. I totally agree with consistancy. When I see a solo show of a diverse body of styles, subjects, mediums etc., I wonder just who this artist is. I wonder if this artist is new to the art realm and is just trying to find his/herself or maybe these works are almost copies and not too origional. Many negatives enter my mind. Another sugestion is for an artist to only select a collective body of work for galleries of the same quality. Not one outstanding work and most good, but not exceptional and several almost inferior. Eliminate the lesser quality and the one exceptional piece and just submit the consistant good steady quality. At least that works for me.

  12. Thank you this was very well written article. As I start my 2 year journey into building a new portfolio after being on hiatus for nearly 6 years I realize I love to create so many different things using so many different styles and mediums, but this article is helping me to decide what to create for my portfolio and what to create for me and me alone. I think if I work that way I can get my fix by experimenting with 20 different mediums/styles and share only one style with the rest of the world and hold dear the experiments in my own privet world.
    Thank you for the encouragement and clarification.
    gabriele

  13. I’ve just realized that the so-called constriction of setting parameters has freed me tremendously. I have often felt completely paralyzed and blocked when faced with the many possibilities, ideas, styles, mediums I could choose.
    The freedom that came with restrictions completely took me by surprise. It also brought a deeply felt relief that I need not feel paralyzed or blocked ever again. Indeed, the more I dwelt on a couple of images, two or three colors and paper size (for monotypes), the more I realized the “infinity variety” that lay hidden in a well-delineated set of parameters.

  14. Thanks for sharing this, it is very helpful! I also do diverse work but my latest work is more consistant and has more of a cohesion to it in the particular subject I love. It is great to have this insight to what the the gallerys are looking for and I know now that I have to stay consistant.
    Thanks again!

  15. I agree with painting what sells and then being reconciled in ourselves with any personal sacrifice we as the artist makes to make sales the first commission. We all need compensation. But to deplete the gifted spirit and dull the passion so we lose our edge in our artworks is costly indeed. What remains or our confidence and passions if we fail to please those selling our works? Takes real confidence to overcome rejections. However, I fear living up to expectations to paint a style and to stay in those bounds poses a more real danger. This draws a hard balance to maintain, but one the artist knows well. Many a singer has had to comply with a contract to do works for legal reasons at the costs of their fame, fortunes, reputations and self respect. Many lose themselves. We can learn from this also what is too far away from the truth of what artworks truly represent us. In the end, we take the biggest risks believing in ourselves and we need to understand our boundaries as an artist firmly. Quality and talent speak for themselves and to me those two things define the artist. Keeping in style is a marketing tactic as much as it is a true representation of an artist. Might be smart. But how many artists were told they were smart to make a living with art anyway? It is our talents we must harness, discipline and develop. Then let the business sector do their part. I personally am glad God was diverse in His creations.

    1. Cecelia, your comments ring true with me! I am relatively new to painting, having become serious six years ago. I paint because I am passionate about color and creating a landscape which represents God’s great outdoors. I have won several awards in juried shows, including a first place, much to my great surprise. I am happy to be represented in two local galleries and grateful for the 15 paintings which I have sold. But it is difficult to paint something thinking about those who might buy my paintings as opposed to that which I am passionate about painting. My favorite landscape season is winter, and I was introduced to Walter Baum, a Pennsylvania Impressionist, when a fellow painter told my work is similar to his!

      I have studied some of the great impressionist such as Pissarro, Sicily, Monet and attempted to copy their work and brushstrokes for my edification, only finding that it doesn’t feel like who I am artistically.

      This is obviously not my bread-and-butter, but has become a great passion for me. I hope to become represented in larger galleries, but feel I could never paint only thinking about whether or not my paintings will sell.

      Brenda Brokaw

  16. Thankyou thankyou thankyou – this is the wake up call I needed! Although in the last year my work has become more consistent in both concept and style, I have I the past wanted to try everything and much of what I have tried hangs in my gallery (tiny gallery in small isolated town, not flash) and I have often wondered why people seem so shocked at the diversity. After reading this article I am thinking of taking down anything that doesn’t sit well with the majority..again thankyou – regards Denise

  17. I am represented by 4 galleries, two of which are in New York and Philadelphia. I also teach drawing and painting and am always telling my students not to rush into the idea of being represented by a gallery, unless you have a consistent and concise portfolio. So many are resistant or simply don’t understand that concept! Being a professional artist takes years of consistent PRACTICE as well, another thing I find many students resistant to–if you don’t have time for your art, why do you want to be an artist?!

    Anyhow, I thought your article was great and I will definitely share it with my students on my blog (http://kullaf.wordpress.com) during the fall semester. All the best, Anne

  18. Once again, an insightful read. But I will take exception in one small way: working in diverse media, subjects and themes can be invaluable for a young artist (from grade school to full adulthood) as they must traverse a broad field before they can establish an articulate visual vocabulary. Until then, they have neither the sensibilities or tools that form the cornerstones of mature artistic expression. Trying to create “consistency” too early damns a potential artist to work that is unimpressive at worst and simply marketable at best. This begs the question: how long does one have to stay diverse? Well, for some only a few years, for others a decade or more. It’s a time of early building, of preparation, and it should be given the time it needs.

    1. David I agree with what you said. For me it is finding that which is me. Experimentation with different mediums and flow is where I am at. Started painting later in life and am enjoying the journey of allowing things to manifest intuitively. I understand the consistency he talks about but I can see the need for some individuals to continue until that spark finds them.
      Thanks again for your input.

  19. Thank you so much for the wonderful article about consistency in your art. My art is pastel still life. In the past I have become known for my paintings of fruit. I have in the past year and a half started a series of still lifes that include fruit, ceramic vases, and antique doilies or tablecloths. I love to paint these items and incorporating each in my set-ups is a challenge and a pleasure to paint. These paintings have been accepted into many of the important shows in the west Michigan area. I enjoy hearing people refer to me as “the painter of such realistic-looking fruit”, or as “the one who paints those beautiful doilies”. Lately, at my group’s “Critique Night” the members are looking forward to “Gene’s” latest painting. It is certainly a thrill to be recognized by what I paint! I have begun to wonder if I am becoming “stifled”, but I always love setting up my work, and I truly love painting this particular subject. Thanks for confirming that I doing the right thing by sticking to what I know and what I love to paint! Gene Sampson (a woman artist, in spite of the spelling of my name).

  20. Jason, thank you for this article. I am not a painter, but artists in all mediums face the same challenge. My question, and it may have no answer, is this; how does an artist know if they are simply making junk, or if like Van Gogh, just in the wrong place at the wrong time? We all know that Van Gogh was doing something right all along, but it just didn’t fit what the buying public expected, if he had tried to change into what the buyers expected, he may have sold something during his life, but we would have never heard of him because the canvas would have been “dead”.
    Thanks.

  21. I don’t think of it as consistency. It’s just the way I think, construct images and produce. It looks cohesive because it’s all coming from the same place: my vision, my mind and my hands.
    I am very deliberate painter so with any new elements that appear in a single work that also raises the bar , I know that I must incorporate that new elementinto my painting mannerisms and find it a home in my paintings. My goal is to be the best painter I can be. I will not allow shackles of a repetitive consistency to translate into a formulaic paintings. Where are the surprises and the discoveries? I keep it fresh for me and for my clients. When I go back to familiar subject matter, I go back to it with an advanced skill level and a fresh eye. And it still all distinctively mine.

    1. Marian, I tend to agree with your comment to “not allow shackles of a repetitive consistency to translate into formulaic paintings.” An instructor 40 years ago pointed out another student who had developed a style and it “showed” in all his paintings (pastels, at the time). The instructor said that the student would never “make it” in the art field because he was afraid to experiment, to try new things. I tried new things for many years but am finally doing what I know I like to do and in the style I am best at. But I am still experimenting on many of my paintings. I am primarily a hobby painter and do not expect to sell my work. I do it because I want to. I love to paint realistic portraits in oil or watercolor, from life if possible; if not, from photographs I take myself.

  22. I enjoyed your article and appreciate the information about consistancy, which I’m not sure I have. most of my
    sales seem to have been moody scenes likd a dark window scene or a dark sunset or a winter scene mostly is
    shades of blues. My style is a combination of photography and oil painting. I do a lot of photo restorations.
    any comments that would help my sales would be greatly appreciated. Thank you for your internet sessions also
    I try to watch them all. I have your book on how to sell art and the book on print art market. Gil Carvalho

  23. Thank you for the great article on consistancy. I have found that most of my sales have been on the moody side
    by that I mean on the darker side , like a dark window scene or a darker sunset or a hazy winter scene almost
    monotone (lots of blues) My style is very different in that it has a combination of photography and oil painting
    and I do a lot of photo restorations. I could use some advise as to which way I should go. P.S. I have your book
    on how to sell art and also how to profit in the print market and I think the internet programs are also very helpful.
    Thank you again, I respect all of your opinions

  24. If an artist has been painting for over 40 years and all their work is “consistent” I would say that is a dead artist. An artist’s work should change and evolve. Any dramatic changes in an artist’s life (relocation, marriage, divorce, death, etc.) would be cause for major changes in their art. A true artist would go with the flow and allow the work to change. A “commercial” artist would stick to what sells. As a gallerist, why wouldn’t you take the time to actually look to see if there is any good work that would suit your market and focus on that? Picasso is considered the most important artist of the 20th century. Why? One of the reasons is because he constantly experimented. His body of work cannot be considered “consistent”.
    I have been painting for over 30 years and have a diverse body of work because I have had many dramatic changes in my life. I have a strong base of collectors who are eager to see what I will be producing next. I have managed to find galleries to represent me who are supportive of my experimentation and are able to select and sell work to sell to their clientele. I would give up making art if every day I had to limit my expression to what would suit my galleries and clients. I would hope that quality would be more important than consistency to a gallery or collector.

    1. Completely agree. Either you are a fake “dead” artist, or you grow through over years… Picasso is just one of the many examples of artists who experienced over the years and developed series in many different styles… You either are a one trick person or you are a true artist… style does not define the work, the artist defines it. This is what is so completely wrong with the entire art scene these days…

  25. I wish I could take your advice but after 45 years of “practicing” and creating and learning and working…. my work is consistently diverse!!! Thus trouble for any Gallery Owner.. I totally understand what you are saying here, and agree with the concept for retail Galleries at least. The one time I did have a large Gallery opening my director had me ship basically everything I had in my studio and proceeded to show each and every piece, to my horror as I assumed she was professional enough to curate and exhibit with out my personal input!!!!!! what a disaster for 3 years of work that I had worked on and not shown to anyone but closest friends …….. broke my heart and when the show opened she hadn’t even finished hanging the show and my early excited clients (all my clients from years of having my own shows) were not permitted to view the work until she finished hanging it!!!! nightmare after 2008 stock market crash…. which she blamed it on!!! No more Galleries for me!!!! there are 2 sides to every storey!! sometimes the Gallery Owner is inconsistent!!!!

  26. When I began painting full time I was all over the place. That worked for me because I needed to find what subject and style I loved. One thing I did not expect was to discover tulips, and once I painted a few, I kept coming back to them. Now, I can’t get enough. I’ve been painting tulips for three years and you’d think I’d get burned out by painting the same flower for so long, but I feel I am *just* starting to do my best work.

  27. Jason,
    This summer has been an epiphany for me, and the body of work I create has become a common theme, but unique to me. The lightning struck in June, and I have produced a body of work called It’s Elemental, depicting the basics of landscapes, geological formations, and even atomic particles with handmade paper, watercolors and gold leafing. Before applying brush to paper, I wrote down what It’s Elemental means to me on one sheet of paper, a launching pad that is serving the creative springs.

  28. Good professional advice, but be prepared to get skewered by some critics. There are different subworlds in the art world. Jason’s advice definitely applies to the artist who wants to make a living. There are, however, artists who don’t want to make a living or who don’t have to or who are targeting their work for critical review. I specialize in landscape painting of my region in a very unique and recognizable style. I am a professional artist. I was accepted into my city’s last triennial which is usually dominated by university faculty artists and other non gallery artists. I was the only landscape painter accepted, out of scores of those working in my state. The critic who wrote about the triennial, who was familiar with my work, referred to me, dismissively, as having a “fetish” with my subject matter. Well, the museum guard told me she loved my painting, and my painting sold.
    Artists don’t talk much about it, but there are definite divisions in the big art picture. They don’t always get along and rarely cross their divisions. You have to make decisions about which of those subworlds you want to try for success. If you want to make a living as an artist, Jason is spot on.

  29. Although your alticle was interesting and I’m sure informative to those artists who don’t already know that a signature style is important to the success of their work (both creatively as well as financially),nevertheless as an artist myself,having worked in the area of 3-dimensional art (mainly assemblage) over along period of time, and having already developed a strong, consistent style, this article (again,while interesting and well written) was not of much value to me.

  30. I have been painting the same subject matter and style for 30 years. I was getting bored with it and it showed in my work. My solution was to try something new. BUT I also marketed my “new” art to different galleries. I don’t mix the two in the same gallery.
    Working on the New has also renewed my interest in my Old subject matter giving it a new life.
    Also in my New art I’m currently working on one subject matter to build a cohesive body of work

  31. Jason, we appreciate your sharing the other side that we artists are less exposed and are in denial about. As far as consistency is concerned it still fits into passion. When you find what pours from the pit of your stomach, depth of your soul, flows from your heart you remain consistent to it. The only problem is many raods lead to Rome. And some of us love to explore.
    I can see Jason shaking his head, “Nader, this is romantic aspect of painting. I am talking bread and butter, buddy.”
    I hear you Jason. The consious decison is the key. Has not totaly worked for me. I will try harder. Maybe write it hang it around my neck while painting.

    Warmest regards.
    Nader

  32. Jason,

    I agree with almost everything you said and I think it is sound advice. Artists do tend to be all over the map sometimes! My only hesitation about your article is when you said “why not make a commitment now?” It took me several years to find my visual voice, and I’m only now starting to really develop the kind of art I want to continue to do and to deepen my expression. As unsatisfying as it was, those years of casting about and not producing the kind of art I wanted to, the searching for the right kind of style or self-expression, were really much more productive than I realized at the time.

  33. I agree with David Beers that shooting for consistency too early is a false approach. I think one settles into discovery of what your consistency is, over time. I believe art is like handwriting: over time and years of functional experience, if you are being natural to yourself, your mark-making is easily recognizable as yours. You don’t have to force yourself to get there, and I’m not sure who it would serve if you did. However, I also agree with Jason: If, over time, an artist has not discovered great passion in a certain direction, then the artist has probably not done their true “homework” in finding their voice. Once you find your truthful voice, all the freedom in the world is yours.

    I was very gratified to receive this note from a museum curator after he visited my studio, which speaks to both of these points: ” I had seen a few of your pieces earlier, as you know, but I hadn’t realized how wide-ranging and yet consistent your style is. Of all the things you showed me, I think only one pair of paintings seemed related to one another; yet all were distinctly yours.” A few months later, he offered me a big solo show at the museum. In preparation, I set out all my pieces that were candidates to choose from (OMG paintings were everywhere). That was a very revealing and satisfying afternoon, seeing how lushly the paintings all supported each other in their differences and sameness — and how, after spending some time with them, I was able to discern which ones did not carry the level of quality that I wanted to hold in my show. I was able to pull those out and become much clearer on the nature of the work that I do wish to generate now.

  34. Roshan, you said it. I’m so glad that I am not represented by a gallery. I want the freedom to create, learn and change. I don’t think making art needs to be about consistancy. In Picasso’s time there was no “branding” only the drive to make somthing new and fresh. I’ll never make a living creating art but the challenge of it makes me happy. I make art for me not for a gallery. I feel lucky to have that freedom.

  35. Thanks SO MUCH for this wonderful article, I couldn’t agree more! There is NO bigger compliment to me than when I hear someone say “I saw your work in _____ . I knew it was yours because it ‘Looks like you’.” Doesn’t matter what subject(s) we choose to represent, it’s just glorious when others recognize our style stamped on each piece we create.

  36. Hi Jason,
    Just to give another perspective I would like to acknowledge the tender, gentle, insecure inner artist. The issue of not having my own style has been a worry, a problem, a knot in my stomach throughout my life as an artist. Having you address it brings forth in me tears just behind my eyes. I find people don’t generally talk about emotion but for me I think this has been the number one blockade for me. I am at once filled with enthusiasm for making beautiful work and scared to death. I do think that through trying oil, acrylic, encaustic, sculpture, figure, abstract, floral watercolours, oil pastels, I am slowly learning where is True North for me. But it takes so long!
    Thanks for your clear vision.

  37. Jason, what a great and empowering article! Although I have been tempted, from time to time, to dabble in other venues than my “Abstract and Geometric Architectural Explorations,” I have kept extremely close to my passion for architecture and geometrics, and find that it keeps developing into better and better paintings. When I show my work in gallery exhibits, Open Studio events, and the Tucson Museum of Art’s market, people always tell me that they would know my work anywhere they see it. Funny thing that happened at one market was that a woman looked at me and said, “You look like your paintings.” I thought that was a great comment and a wonderful compliment. Although the work continues to evolve, the paintings always look like something created by Judith A. Kramer, Tucson, AZ. Thanks again.

  38. Fabulous info. It’s all laid out for the using! I experienced most of the above issues when trying to get gallery representation. Consistency, Consistency, Consistency, Consistency and more is the key. I book by Cay Lang “Taking The Leap” greatly schooled on how to make a credible presentation to galleries and how to develop an impressive portfolio. When I focused on consistency I had to look at my current work to see any consistency within them. I have spent the last year creating a new body of work which I can look at and see me in each one. Now that’s consistency. If you can see it, it’s there.

  39. Very thought provoking article, Jason — thank you.
    I would like to use this as a springboard for discussion among my friends as we are all striving better ourselves as well as the way others perceive our art!

  40. I have read “Starving” to Successful and think it offers some wonderful advice. But I still need help!!! I have been working hard at focusing on one perticular style since 2010. Last year, I thought it would be good to keep 3 different styles (different techniques) and group them up as series. But now, I’m thinking that even that may be too inconsistent. Which leads me to these questions:

    – What happens if I make changes to my website to only feature one style but have been sending portfolios for the last year that mention my three styles?

    – What do I do with all this work that I won’t be showing anymore? I have too many pieces to start giving as gifts…and only have so much space in my house…I would love to be able to sell them. Is there anyway to do that without compromising branding ?

    Looking forward to reading what you or anyone else here has to say about this..
    Thanks!

    1. I feel that everyone should have more than one style. Today’s world is dynamic and we should strive towards that. No need to be jack of all and master of none. One should be master of some, that’s where one can diversify their work, no matter whatever domain you are in. Having said that, the nature of work, style and subject depends on the region, location and demand. Tell me if i am wrong, if there was a “silver bullet” for anyone who teaches or guides anyone, wouldn’t we all be millionaires? Whatever worked for others might not work for me, same goes for others too. Jason has shared us his experience and not the rule.

  41. Jason… this is such a valuable conversation starter with the local artists that we work with! Thank you so much for taking the time to put your thoughts into a written form that we could all contemplate and absorb. I love the awareness that if you could go back and do it all over again, you would have had a more direct conversation with her about consistency! I have found that some artists go through “spurts”. They produce a nice body of work. We promote and sell it… then there is nothing to replace it. Another form of consistency.

    Once again – Thanks… This is timely

  42. I’m not sure how I got on this mailing list, but am I ever grateful! I live in New York City where there is a glut of art outlets and where artists get lost in the misguided shuffle to become an “art star”… but this column always consistently hits on everything artists need–wanna-be art star or not. Jason, thank you!

  43. A fresh article. I’ve found over the years that the image and situation dictates the art work while heart and knowledge informs it. There is a dreadful consistency to my work. No matter what I paint it is there.

    I agree that working for a gallery with a product one’s art must be cohesivly coherent and a series that has a relevance to itself that is relateable. Finding that takes adventure and not a few paintings turned to the wall.

    So narrowing the focus can be expanding as you become free to paint within known boundaries…if you know how to paint, It will be a consistent body of work. Pmj

  44. As Barbara Kahn wrote I also do a lot of diverse work. I was told by an outstanding Artist Fran Larson several years ago that my work was good enough for gallery’s, but was it all CONSISTENT? At the time I was rebellious about it and now I understand the importance of HARMONY. Thank you for your article

  45. I have heard you say this many times before, but this article certainly resonates more clearly and is a great stimulus to achieve the goal. Many thanks for your unflagging support of the artist!

  46. Jason,
    This was a wonderful bit that many artists face–including myself. Even my students within the university have struggled with the concept of being consistent and having a theme with a portfolio. I love the idea of …creating 19 works that are connected, then the 20th–is a free one.

    It is true that if you work with one subject for a year–one sees the theme or subject differently and the works become
    deeper.

    Wonderful suggestions here. I greatly appreciate your approach to this and will pass this on to students!

  47. A major point of Jason’s that seems to have been missed by many of the responding artists, is that if you use the same style of MATTING AND FRAMING, it helps to unify a diverse body of work…

  48. Great article and very relevant for artists choosing their jury images when applying to art shows. For years they’ve been hearing submit a uniform body of work. You’ve described and shown examples of exactly what they need to know.

  49. Thanks, Jason, for your sage advice about developing a consistent body of work. I must admit that I have been one of those artists who dabbles, although my most successful paintings are in a series, (Windows on the World — acrylic abstracts) begun in 2003 and which continues, and a more current series of small collages (Pastiche), successful both in terms of juried shows and awards, as well as in sales.

  50. Style or reproductions? – I see so many artist with a ‘style’ and I find I can’t tell one painting from the next. Yes there all different and often amazing but so similar to one another, none are memorable. So desperate to find a style many border on hobby craft, a formula like a harlequin romance; they sell well. I’m not appose to an artist making a decent living, anyway they can, just galleries holding style out as the holy grail, rather than the commercialism it is (not a bad thing). The great artist of the past didn’t often listen to the gallery owners of their day they found gallery owners to listen to them with an eye for quality rather than the novel. As artist we need to learn our craft, find are muse and continue always to grow. Style is the way ‘I’ talk, with paint!

    On the other side of the coin there are those that try everything like a weekend course but not really learning or incorporating, just copying.

    2¢ from a painter, out in the dark trying to find ‘my way’

  51. Great subject and well put. It seems to me at this point that the consistency of good artwork is largely a by-product of a long-term serious focus on one’s work. Having good professional training or schooling or guidance is an almost essential focusing agent – why so many professional fine artists get their Master’s degree. Great article, good to shake my brain up a bit and look closely at my work, again…and again : ) Appreciate it!

  52. Mr. Peter John Reid said it the best.
    An artist needs to develop a style and paint with abandon. Having a gallery owner tell you what they want is ludicous.
    If you are good, people will find you if you put your work out there. Whether it be on the internet or at art shows. So many galleries feature terrible art work just because it falls within a certain genre that the owners of the gallery think the general public will like. This of course is nonsense.
    An artist is supposed to show what they’re understanding of the world is and to represent it in their work.
    I’m sorry to pick on this particular image but I see so much of this kind of garbage in galleries… makes me sick, but one of the featured images “Mutual Thinking by Guilloume” to me represents the worst of what I see out there in the United States Art Galleries.
    I assert that everyone step up and show dynamic work that is not only well thought out, created in a manner that is substantive and professional, not what some gallery owner thinks of as commercial.
    I’ve been a professional artist who makes a terrific living for the last 30 years this way and have had too many experiences with this kind of gallery owner. I’d rather show in a museum.
    I know an incredible amount of very talented and original artists who should be not only in galleries but in museums as well. Many of them have done brilliant background and concept work for Disney, Pixar, Dreamworks and BlueSky. Yet, they don’t bother because all the gallery owners want something decorative to go with someone’s couch instead. They hold their own shows and get big sales.
    My advice: Find a space, call other artists who know how to create incredible works of art and have your own shows. Promote like crazy on the internet and in your neighborhood.
    Peace.

  53. Excellent advice. Right now I am in the process of following Jason’s advice. I started by reviewing the artwork that I have created over the last 10 to 20 years and have asked myself various questions to narrow down what genre I wanted to create to have a consistent presentation. First, I asked myself, if there was a fire and I could only chose one piece of artwork to take out of my studio, which one would it be? Two, my wife and I have a son almost 12 years old. I asked myself, when I pass away, what body of work would be most important to leave behind? Third, it just so happens that my wife and I are having our 25th wedding anniversary this week. Practically every anniversary, I have created some type of artwork for her. I asked myself what am I going to create for her this year? Fourth, I said a prayer about it. This has been the result: I am presently a school teacher, so I have had the summer to work more intensely. The result so far is over 25 drawings of scenes celebrating our Anniversary. One for every year we have been married. I have found that this theme is very inspiring to me. Shortly after we got married, my wife and I purchased a Chagall poster of a “married” couple on a large rooster walking across the street of a small town. This painting is very important to us. We cherish it. So it has been a joy creating these drawings. I have compiled them into a book from http://www.blurb.com and will give it to her tomorrow night. I have also created other drawings now in the same style of different subjects, that I can also paint and create an even larger body of work. Thank you so much Jason. I have to say, it was not easy committing to one style, and I had some earlier trepidation, but I am very glad I have done so.

  54. I have struggled for decades with different sides to the issue of consistency. My own arguments have left me still conflicted. I found your thoughts immensely illuminating and a great help to my thinking on the question. You have accomodated various angles of approach in a practical manner, while yet respecting the dedicated, mature artist’s experience in the studio. I, too, will happily share this with my University students in order to stimulate their individual ideas and insights. Thank you for sharing your obviously broad experience.

  55. I had this exact conversation with my dear artist friend. She said that she wanted to collect my paintings so that she could pass them on to future family members because one day they would be worth a lot. Nice to hear and consistent when talking to a friend who always gives encouragement, but what you are saying is true. She says that she is always able to recognize my work. I’m not so sure a stranger would be able to do that.

    Why we had this conversation was because I have never been able to do a series as she has. And her work sells much faster then mine. I had sold a piece this year that I loved and wanted to do more like it and literally couldn’t make it work. But she pointed out that my pallet and brush strokes do show consistency, if nothing else. Also I find that when life sends you a twist, your art reflects the change. When you have a solo art show as I’m trying to prepare for now, there needs to be fresh and consistent work, just as with gallery work. Another friend told me to make sure to show my watercolors. He likes them better then my oils. Well, I haven’t done a watercolor painting in 15 years. It tends to confuse the viewer if you show everything you have in your inventory that you’ve done for the past 30+ years. Not to mention that if you still have it, it probably isn’t going to sell any better now then 10 years ago. A perfect example with the artist’s 10 pound portfolio. This only works when you are a master artist, dead and are being collected. Then early work done is, inconsistent or not, valuable. And I’m not a master or dead yet:)

    I always enjoy your depth of insight. It’s valuable information. Thank you for the time you put in to helping all of us.

  56. Hi Jason, You may recall that I sent you my portfolio a few years ago, specifically seeking your opinion of its consistency. Your comments were very helpful that time, but the images showing different kinds of consistency in this article added a lot to my understanding. Consistency is something I continue to work on. Your comment that working on something a long time helps bring your passion into it because you really pay close attention and get to know it very well. Reminds me of something I heard elsewhere–that if you pay close attention to something and get to know it very well, you often fall in love with it.
    Mary Ellen

  57. I appreciate your perspective about presenting a consistent body of work. I have struggled with it for years, but have found over time being disciplined and keeping a focus improves my craftsmanship, refines my thinking and commitment to my vision. I end up being more confident with my ability to articulate my ideas visually and verbally. It helps me narrow the gap between I want to do and what I am able to do.
    When I am stuck or bored with a direction I give myself permission to take a break to play, experiment and explore something new. When I return to the work of building a consistent body of work I have a fresh eye and a renewed sense of purpose.

  58. Thank you for the information you put out there regarding the issue of consistency. I really appreciate it. I have been guilty of trying to get into some galleries and did what you referred to in your article…., I gave them a presentation of all the different type works that I paint instead of being consistent with one style or type of work. I’ve taken awards on my abstracts and have had other artists tell me they don’t like abstract but would love to own one of mine. I paint/draw etc. in all mediums and all kinds of stuff. My abstracts are the largest content in my website and I now know, that when I give a presentation to the next gallery that I will only submit a presentation of my abstract art work. It’s very different from any one else s and unique.
    Have a great day and keep the articles coming. Thank you again.

  59. Apparently not only do you have to have a consistent body of work, but it has to be consistent with the other work represented in the gallery. Just like a portfolio that is all over the place, the gallery must have similar styles for a consistent overall look.

  60. Hi,

    I received a very helpful response to my recent comment, however I cannot locate it. I would appreciate it if you would re-send it, as I want to focus on your advice, as I move forward with my painting. In your response, you had made some very nice comments about my painting, “The Performance”.

    Thank you,

    Delores Peffley

  61. You can pick out a Van Gogh, a Manet, a Hopper, an O’Keefe or an El Greco immediately not because of the subject matter but because they have developed their own style. How you interpret what you see is the clue. Find your own unique brushwork or proportion or color palette so collectors will yearn to have one of “those”. I love the way N.C.Wyeth does clouds,Winslow Homer does ocean waves, Maxfield Parrish does blues, Cezanne paints apples, Fra Angelico does hair, Yasu Eguchi does foaming brooks., Dan Naminga does mesas.
    I once had a class work on translating pine trees. Some students chose vertical strokes of varying greens, some did broken strokes, some produced fluffy clumps some worked with strong outlined shapes until by the third or fourth experiment they established their own style and were delighted when their work could be readily identified in a group exhibit. Since then, driving by woodlands, I am occasionally struck by a scene which has the look of Donna’s trees, Al’s colors, or Jim’s structural shapes and I chuckle inwardly and enjoy the association it brings to mind. In varied light, time of day, and weather your interpretation is out there; you need to find it. Don’t always paint on sunny mid-days in summer !!!!

  62. @Mr Crankypants ~ I so agree with you on every level! I’m sick to my soul of seeing the simplistic “formula” paintings that big selling galleries exhibit…I liken it to T J Maxx Homestore art. Check out a copy of Florida Design magazine sometime & you will see exactly what I mean. It’s been done; I’ve seen it; I’m bored. One of my university painting teachers, Barbara Westerfield (fantastic artist & educator), would simply walk by and whisper in a student’s ear “it’s been done”, if one of us was unconsciously being uncreative. I can still hear her if I feel that in my own work, to this day. It forces me back into my soul and what the cosmos is showing to me only.
    Jason’s article DID jerk a knot in my tail and forced me to objectively look at each piece on my site, edit, and re-evaluate my path. Just because I’ve done something that I really like I won’t show it if it doesn’t fit with my thread of continuity.
    There is truth in both opinions…somewhere we can find our personal spark of unique creation that resides in all we do. Some just have a more in-depth message than others. That’s the way of the universe.
    I am forever a work in progress.

  63. Thank you for this insightful article. I enjoy reading your writings. Your articles seem to be thoughtful and concise, and it’s good to hear things from a gallery owner’s perspective. Now, I’m off to think about things…..for a while…..

  64. Everyone can buy into the commodification of the soul if they like. Money and sales are great if you are looking for a way to rationalize your impractical choice for a career. Of course, having food on the table is a perk to creative prostitution. But everytime, I will choose being true to myself, my personal creative journey and not the journey prescribed by salesmen and so-called “art lovers”.

    We all need to go deep into ourselves, search, experiment, and if we find the toe on a body of work that captivates us, then we need to operate by doing what our intuition tells us to do.
    Period.
    Exhaust one concept, one style if that is what you need to do. Or let the chaos take you. Whatever the case, let’s resist the urge to buy into the gallery desire to turn us all into a recognizeable commodity where our talents are diluted, sold into slavery, or worse, custom tailored to fit into the category of “safe investment” for a gallery patron.

  65. While I understand your point, I have to say not every gallery owner understands this correctly.

    If you want to sell you art, and you’ve taken the step of going to a gallery in the hopes of getting representation, then you need to admit to yourself you want to sell and do so in a gallery, otherwise you are wasting your time and the time of the gallery. So it’s nice to hear advice from a gallery owner about what can help your body of work sell. And I agree, a certain thread of style needs to connect your work. It doesn’t need to be as “over the head” as only one subject, palette, material. It can be as subtle as preference in light or composition choices, so subtle that when the viewer sees it, they can say “Oh that’s by…” but they cannot tell why they know that.

    And yes, that can help you sell and build a name for yourself, and isn’t necessarily a creative block. As a matter of fact it can be seen as a launch pad for more creativity. I find that placing rules and restrictive disciplines on a project can make me want to solve that problem and this brings me to a more creative place. Like restrictive palette choices, single brush paintings, a time limit, size choices… all these things can kick your brain into a creative storm.

    BUT on the other side of that, I recently went to a gallery (Sidenote: I am painfully shy and very bad at going to galleries and need to actively employ friends to make sure I don’t panic-wuss out of showing up for show openings, I have a strong work ethic and have never missed a deadline, but I am pretty shy about going to openings, although I have gone to them all, there’s always been a moment of “EEEK!” just before, lol. So just going to a gallery for me is a bit of a moment of bravery) I brought my portfolio and two or three physical works as asked and was on time for the appointment. I’d been referred to him by a friend of his who saw my work, and hadn’t actually seen the gallery before, so when I walked in I was a little unprepared for what I saw.

    The walls were CRAMMED with literally no wall showing between works, of pretty much the same exact work by different artists, landscapes of a particular palette and style and all in these horrible giant gilt confectionery frames. While I found this more than a little disconcerting, it did at least prepare me for what he said on looking at my portfolio which was “Do you have any landscapes, Landscapes sell really well, I like this particular style of landscapes.”

    I pointed out, politely, that he seemed to have that landscape already in droves, and wouldn’t it be a good idea to offer something different as well.

    Now I do have landscapes in my portfolio, just not the landscape he apparently wanted to have the most of ever in his gallery.

    Also, he said some things that rubbed me the wrong way, like “Only landscapes sell”, “Well yah, you’ve sold for that much online, but in person this work would only sell for 50$” , (that one I did not get at all, since the piece was not vanity priced or anything it was priced following the rule of three times the materials/time/overhead formula, and I’d already sold multiple prints of it online for more per unframed print than he wanted to price the original at, and also, wouldn’t it be in his best interest as someone who would want to make money off of my work to price it at a reasonable level?)

    The real capper for me was, standing there surrounded by this perfect graveyard of excessively florid frame chops, I mean everywhere you looked there was half foot thick curls and gingerbread dripping in leaf, was he said “Also that frame will never sell, artists never know how to frame their work right! Always use a gold frame!”

    So while I agree on the consistency point, there is such a thing as going too far the other way. No one will stay engaged in a gallery that is too much of one thing. I walked out telling him I would get back to him on his offer. (he did end up asking for a few of my works) But in the long run and after thinking about it, I felt he was probably a bad choice for me, and ended up declining.

    About 6 months later the gallery was closed. So my knee-jerk “This guy’s saying only landscapes sell, but it looks like he can’t sell a single thing” to his inventory, was probably pretty accurate.

  66. Thank you, Jason, for your fine comments. This blog is always helpful in one way or another. Landscapes are nearly the only subject matter I am moved to paint, primarily the Grand Canyon since it is so close to where I live. I may paint an occasional still life, but it seems it’s my landscapes that are recognized. After painting about five years and two of those in a gallery, I was surprised and very pleased to hear someone say they recognized my style in a Jerome gallery. I hear that consistently now, so I guess I’m on the right track. And now I have the assurance that such consistency is the right path to take.

  67. This is a very thoughtful article. I see the work of many artists and they are instantly recognizable. I’m not sure if my work is, but through the use of mixed media and my consistency of using it, I believe I am coming to that stage. The series I am working on presently is gelling into a specific way of working with the materials, which will provide a cohesive structure for these pieces, and I believe they segue into the previous series. I’ve found that forcing a theme on my work and working that theme out through many different images within the theme is improving my work remarkably. Thank you for your article. Food for thought and striving.

  68. …. after reading this information on the importance of consistency a reflection came to light in these few words that Jason wrote…. “love of variety or fear of commitment” … (I suppose my personal character came into the light. )
    “Now here’s the secret about passion: passion isn’t that feeling you get when you first try something. True passion comes after you’ve sacrificed and devoted yourself: ” — So, as I push on and re enter the studio, rearrange and clean it up…. I go back into it …out of love, pleasure & anticipation, I will try not to be so fickle but stick with my flight towards “wings of nature. ” Thank you for this awaking to why I have chosen solitude with my paint brushes.

  69. Great article. I am a new artisan jeweler and a friend (and mentor) suggested I read this Article. It was time to get serious about creating a collection that had consistency…. I needed a tool, although, to stay the path. I consulted with a designer friend of mine who has knowledge in branding and he suggested I create a style guide. My guide is a simple 2 page document that has my vision statement, a list of materials (I’m a jeweler) ,colors, shapes, forms, and techniques , etc. I basically go into my studio and open my box, so to speak, of materials, refer back to my vision and start making. It has been 4 months and I can say that I now have a collection of work that has a unique vision and a distinct style. My skills are more finely tuned and I am 10 times more productive. I also found I was more creative. Each piece informs the next… (They are all one of a kind pieces, I don’t do production runs), I guess you could call the process “serial imagery”. I gave myself a year to build a collection and will be doing my first major art festival this summer. And yes, I am now consistent! Thank you Jason !

  70. For the first time in my career I’ve found something I WANT to be consistent with. My sculpture from the beginning in the 70’s has been a smorgasbord of styles but just this year I was convinced to do more painting and I’ve found a real love in urbanscapes. I’ve done about fifteen pieces so far. Some big, some small, but all with the same concept behind them. And you know what? It feels good. I finally feel like I’m accomplishing something. There’s something about creating a consistent body of work that makes you want to create more. I’m a big fan of both your books Jason and they’ve inspired me to take a more professional approach to my art. Thanks. ps. I posted my latest piece on Facebook, as I usually do, and it sold within an hour.

  71. Jason, thank you. As a writer as well as an artist, I appreciate your ability to craft and illustrate exceptional articles that are so helpful to your followers. Consistency is a great worry of mine because I work in more than one medium. I have always created pastel drawings and often use them as working resources for acrylic paintings. I also work in experimental water media which I love. The results are two completely different types of painting. A series of pastels featuring some of the wonderful National Parks is quite different from the abstract water media paintings on Yupo or canvas that I also create. Do I need a pen name to create consistently as two different entities?

  72. My work does have elements that are instantly recognizable even though I use mixed media. Mostly based on my specific drawing style and the way I use natural materials, which does provide a cohesive structure for my art work. Thank you for the well written article, David Back

  73. Jason, as usual a great article! Thanks for the mention on my work as well. I might add it goes both ways with consistency with the gallery. Like following up on leads, keeping good records and treating the artist with respect. I feel that you and the entire Xanadu staff has done this quite well. I have been with you almost 7 years with no complaints! That is what all artist look for ,really just doing whats right and doing your job. I feel fortunate enough to be part of it!
    Artfully,
    Dave

  74. When I was in school taking a ceramics class my professor said we have to pick one method of working with the clay for the whole semester. I being a young artist at the time thought, oh this going to be so boring. I discovered because I was bored that it forced me to be creative. My work for that semester was so consistent and so creative and I did get an A in the class.

  75. While I agree with your views on consistency, it can have bad results for some. Twenty years later they’re producing the same art, just faster. Their facility with materials is quick and constant and the result is likeable enough to sell. There is no growth.

  76. Hi Jason. I attended one of your workshops in Columbus, Ohio a few years ago and am glad to still be on your list to get great advice! This article applies to -possibly- my biggest problem. I have a difficult time pinning myself down to “doing the same thing” but I had already been thinking that consistency is a major factor in me trying to promote my painting. A smaller issue is, though, when I complete one I REALLY like, geez, i hate to get rid of it~~. Perhaps that might be fodder for your next article. Anyway, thanks for your “consistent” effort in herding us cats toward success!

  77. Interesting article Jason. I really enjoyed it. Many artists both living and dead have worked in approaches that vary from their trademark. Artist normally experiment with different styles to challenge themselves in various ways and progress as artists. Whether an artist then chooses to show these other approaches or styles is up to the artist and what he believes is best. Artists have chosen to several ways to deal with this some show their different styles and approaches in separate art galleries. For instance I have a friend showing landscapes in a representational style on the west coast and abstracts on the east coast. I have another artist acquaintance who works under several different pen names for the different styles he creates. Whichever approach you use a person does want to keep your artworks consistent for the gallery you are approaching and limited those samples as discussed in the article.

  78. A very valuable read, Jason. Thanks for the gallery’s perspective. I tend to be an artist who experiments with techniques in my artwork…I love the freedom to experiment, but I see the importance of a consistency as well now, with your explanation. Thank you for that!!

  79. You know it took me years to become consistent and develop my style. If you are a technically good painter you can pretty much copy any style you want, but that’s not the point. Collectors want authenticity in their artists and they know it when they see it.

  80. An excellent article Jason. These are things anyone wanting to show in a gallery should know.

    But then here is an interesting question. Very recently you published your most recent survey on “Artists who are Selling Well” who are making $50K or over a year, and it reported that there were more artists selling through direct sales than selling through galleries. Now of course what is not reported is whether those selling directly to buyers are consistent with what they create or not, although I would reason that they also need consistency in their work to develop a following who recognizes and buys their art.

    I suppose it comes down to why the artist makes art in the first place, what they get from it, and most importantly if they want to earn a living at it or at least make some sales and create a reputation. As soon as one decides reputation and sales and making a living with art is their goal then consistency gains enormously in importance. But if these are not their goals then perhaps experimenting and trying new things and being all over the place is a lot more exciting and satisfying.

    I do know of artists who avoid the gallery world and don’t sell a lot and are mostly unknown and really enjoy their art wherever it goes who are quite happy…. don’t we all.

    1. Great points of view Stan. It’s easier to decide from the get go what exactly you want to do with your works of art. Sales or experimentation. Perhaps there is a happy medium somewhere where both meet.

  81. I agree consistency is so important and can have a huge impact on an artist’s success. Something I would like to add is that when we follow our heart and tune in to what moves us the most, our style always comes through. As one of my professors, John Killmaster said years ago “you can’t get away from your style, even if you try.” This brings me much comfort, that my style will never be lost, no matter the media or subject I wish to portray. As an artist I often feel I am a conduit that gives form and shape to a message, feeling or quality. Continuing to follow the forms that flow freely, refining them over time, is what distinguishes our work from the rest and brings consistency. There is a huge trust required. Thank you Jason, and all who shared here.

  82. Jason, I didn’t read this the 1st time around so thanks for reposting it again. Good information and visuals. Developing your style takes some time, it evolves over time but the basic elements stay consistent. And I agree that Picasso and other artists changed their paintings over time but it was a very gradual time span and it could still be recognizable as their work.

    Thanks for all the work you do to educate us artists. Greatly appreciated.

  83. Good article. But in my case, variety sells. The more various work I have, the more I sell. I have seen artists doing the “consistent” thing for years and their work still looks the same many years later. Are they selling? No. Not as much as when they first did that particular style of work. It is the rule of diminishing returns. I can see it helping a gallery to be consistent as they have a stable of different artists so they have a built in variety of images for patrons to choose from.
    Good quality imaginative work sells. Regardless if it is one of a kind.

  84. This might ruffle some feathers, if anyone reads this…

    Galleries are valuable to Artists, no question about it. They afford Artists opportunities that are hard to come by in our society, namely, a venue that just might enable them to sell enough of their work to make a living.
    Because galleries are subject to the way society functions, they must conform to the limitations of the human mind in the business environment. For example, a product must be consistent to have value. Fashion designers build their reputation on consistency, as do products like Ford, Coca Cola, and Dominoes Pizza. Not just consistency of quality, but consistency of style. Ford has a look, as does Coca Cola. Because Art also finds itself in a business setting, it also has to play by business rules. It must be similarly consistent. The great irony to all this, is that a business environment, by nature, is very conservative and Art is (or should be) the opposite. Coca Cola has taken risks with its products, and failed, only to go back. Ditto for Dominoes. Then again, when a company changes its image entirely and reinvents itself, it gains a vitality lost over the years, and may lead to innovation. JC Penney did this. Target did this. Dominoes did this. So why don’t galleries allow for this? Why can’t an artist change it up on a regular basis? Art is all about re-invigoration, experimentation. That is how they keep their finger on the pulse of human growth. It is often said that Art anticipates or inspires pivotal changes in human accomplishment. Forms of revolutionary Art are often compared to advancements in science and technology. For example, visionary physics such as Einstein’s relativity intersects with Picasso’s Cubism. What would have happened if Picasso only ever created work that sold in galleries? Where would we be in our cultural development if Georgia O’Keefe would have bent to society’s dictates?
    It is essential that galleries release their stranglehold on artists and allow and encourage them to refresh who they are on a continual basis. The world will be a much more interesting and vital place as a result.

    1. Mario,

      You make valid points. I’m not suggesting that there isn’t room for an artist to push limits and break bounds. In fact, I agree with you that the world is a better place for those artists who have been willing to pay a personal price for their art. I think that points to a different issue however. There are indeed galleries that show work buy artists who are pushing boundaries and those galleries and artists are anything but conservative. My point is that the most successful artists are those who had a consistent voice in their work. You point to Picasso, and I would say that there is a great example of an artist who was very consistent. Did his work change over time? Yes, it did, and he went through a variety of phases, but underlying all of the variety in his work was a very consistent aesthetic. I suggest that Picasso would have been a far less effective (not to mention the financially successful) artist if he had not been consistent in his approach to his work.

  85. I read your essay with great interest, as I have a reputation of being one of the most diverse artists in the world (I chalk it up to insatiable curiosity and a short attention span). Being diverse is a double-edged sword, for sure. I’m never bored but it makes my work difficult to pigeonhole and/or recognize. Be consistent and your work will be more recognizable, making it easier to become “famous” — a crucial element when it comes to breaking through the glass ceiling of pricing limits. But being consistent also puts you in danger of becoming the “Flavor of the Month”, ending up with a short burst of popularity followed by being ignored and abandoned as soon as the next “Flavor of the Month” is discovered.

    I began as an illustrator with a reputation for being able to perfectly duplicate any art style. Eventually, I developed a few styles I could claim as my own. I still like to experiment and try new approaches to art. A sort of consistency developed as I found some styles much more comfortable to work in than others. While being more consistent than I was decades ago, I still produce work that’s all over the map stylistically, from comic book-style art to well-researched oil paintings of prehistoric life for natural history museums to ink and watercolor portraits of blues musicians and everything in between if I so feel moved.

    For the past two decades I have developed a healthy fine arts career, while still taking the occasional commercial commission. I differentiate between illustration and fine art this way: With illustration I do my absolute best work in the time allotted to me. With fine art, I do my absolute best work no matter how long it takes. With illustration, the subject matter is often dictated by the client. With fine art, I do whatever the hell I want.

    I have many fine art painter friends who complain that their galleries dictate their subject matter (“Your barn paintings sell; paint some more of those for me”). My response is that if they follow that advice, then they are commercial artists — not fine artists. I’ve found there’s a big difference, though, in openly being a commercial artist as opposed to being a commercial artist disguised as a fine artist. The commercial art world is much more honest. You do the job, you get paid. In the fine arts world, everything is on spec. You do the barn paintings your gallery requested, then hope they sell — without any guarantees you’ll ever get paid for your work.

    I went into fine art bass-ackwards. I had over a dozen one man shows at museums while I searched for a good gallery to represent my work. That search for a good, honest gallery took decades. Many galleries wanted my work but I didn’t want them. They either had a bad reputation, wanted too big a cut (some galleries now demand 60%!) or wanted to dictate what I would paint, down to style and subject matter. I quickly discovered that ANYONE can open up a gallery. There is no degree necessary, no license (other than a business license) necessary and, in many cases, no apparent knowledge of art seemed to be necessary. Many of my colleagues have been cheated by unscrupulous gallery owners. Many galleries suddenly close, with the gallery artists’ paintings going to the gallery’s creditors if the artists didn’t keep a careful paper trail of ownership and consignment.

    Happy Ending: One facet of my array of styles (what I call my “storybook” or “fairy tale” style) is now represented by a great gallery, American Legacy Fine Arts (we courted each other for years prior to our signing). I’m prolific, so I have no problem supplying the gallery with a flow of work in that style while still experimenting with many other graphic and creative approaches to art (i.e., I recently worked designing a major motion picture, I just drew a cartoon T. Rex atop a stylized chopper for a museum exhibition on motorcycles in art, followed by a CD cover for the artist-formerly-known-as Cat Stevens, followed by a ten plate folio of images of the characters from Peter Pan for my gallery).

    Thanks again for the essay and the chance to respond and participate in the discussion.

    I offer up my experiences here to show to my comrades in diversity that there is a way to make both worlds work for you.

    1. A good read William. Thanks for sharing your experiences and successes in the world of diversity 🙂 … there is hope for me yet!

  86. This is a good, helpful article for those of us who want to sell fine art through galleries, Jason. It increases our influence as artists to develop consistency in our work. Consistent quality, consistent style (which is basically the manifestation of the way we as individuals think and manipulate and make choices about our medium), and consistent production, so others know what to expect of our work, including a continually renewed supply.
    I’ve been interested, reading through the comments, by the references to Van Gogh. When I visited the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam last year, I was startled to see how many examples it displayed of his experimentation with many of his contemporaries’ techniques. He was investigating possibilities that he could incorporate into his own work. Those techniques (Dare we call them styles?) are recognizable as being typical of his colleagues’ work, but we don’t normally connect them with Van Gogh. What we DO recognize as Vincent’s is his own more mature, more consistent style (and techniques) that had developed, and were continuing to develop at the time of his death, out of those experimental forays.
    Still being in the experimental stage myself, I can understand that need to try out new approaches and media. But I also recognize the importance of establishing a consistent approach to our work.
    I’m still confused, though, by the concept of maintaining “thematic consistency.” What does that mean? Is that the overall philosophy or concept behind our work? Our drive and our motivation for putting brush to paper or canvas? Or some consistent message that we’re trying to convey?

  87. I absolutely agree with you. I am transitioning from plein air landscape to figures in Mixed Media. I have the landscapes up on my website but the focus of the site is definitely on the figures. Should I consider removing the landscapes entirely or market them selectively as prints on an OL site? Opinions and experience with transitions would be helpful to hear.

  88. Hi Jason, Last year I made a personal commitment to a particular subject matter. I did wonder how many iterations I could make of one theme, and the delight continues to unfold. I realized I have been “doing” this impress for decades, but calling it into a thematic focus has been rich and gratifying. Thank you so much for sending this great post! Cherilyn

  89. Oh my goodness. I have had a wake up call here. Thank you.
    Have read through your book and now I am rereading it
    To let it sink in. Insights into the gallery world are very
    Enlightening. Thank you

  90. All good points. I will personally use this info & pass it along to the artists in my gallery. As a photographer I enjoy a variety of subject matter. I enjoy landscapes & gardens scenes most of all. I often do some digital changes to these two areas. I uses spins, repeats, geometric changes, etc. to change a typical photograph (even some I don’t like) into digital art, per art category definitions used in judged shows.

  91. This topic is very relevant to me at this stage of my career. I am re-emerging onto the art scene and after having my first show which was a grouping of drawings and paintings some of which were inconsistent work ( I was experimenting with materials/styles that I love to reacquaint myself with being an active artist) and the pieces that sold were mainly the ones I was most passionate about. This validated all of the work I had created and confirmed that I am marketable which pushed me into the direction I should follow. I am now painting a series of work that I feel is consistent and am very passionate and excited about.

  92. Hello Jason:

    Excellent article… I do agree with you regarding consistency… I was told by another artist that I should try abstracts, I paint landscapes, for the simple reason they create more freedom in my landscapes, which I find to be true. I do find abstracts a challenge, because subject matter for landscapes is much more readily available… or at least, that’s my way of thinking… anyway… always interesting delving into more aspects of the art world!

    Thanks, Elle

  93. I think it makes good sense all of it. I love my multi-media art and it seems to bring smiles and joy and I do have my passion after the work is done not so much before. I love what I do, just am looking to make more time. It’s tough but I paint mainly on my free time. I am now looking to paint at home and have paints and another here at work so I can utilize all of my time wisely. I do understand what you mean about sticking to what your niche is along with trying new things in between as well as continuing to grow and try new things…I want to try oil crayon, and have only used acrylic paint for far. I started out by channeling my very first piece of Art for a story I wrote called Cosmic Kiss. Which did have much to do with what lead me to feel the connection to I AM, the documentary talked about what my story is about. hence that connection…I channeled to because I love the idea of Argon that minute snooty element that never ever leaves …It is in all air that we breath…Science love it. So you are breathing in Mozart and Van Gogh, Jesus, Mohammed you name it. So that’s why I believe in channeling like so many other artists do as well. So my first two were channeled and you can see the similarity…then came a few that I had a specific idea in mind, about six after that then came the multi-media. but you can see that all the work is mine in that they are all similar…You would know how to find my art as well that way…I feel like my niche is my own and that is what separates us all….I am grateful and love what I am learning here and it is helping me along the way to growing with my work and growing in understanding all the in and outs of how it all works…One lady I met on line her oils were just beautiful and she told me Yolanda do not ever stop. So many folks start but they always stop…So I took that to heart and am always working on something and always will….My portfolio might be two pages for now lol I am growing little by little as I feel it is going in right direction for me …little by little thanks very much loving the info…taking it to heart…yolanda…

  94. Great article Jason. I think over the course of my student career we have talked about this constantly. I have always had it said that, ” We need to be able to tell the same person is producing all of this work. Be it architecture, landscape or still life. If we can tell the same artist produced it all, it’s consistent” I’m not sure how true that is but I think it is generally true.

  95. It took me a while to find my passion, which is creating paintings of rocks and boulders and I love that people can identify a painting as mine. I am often baffled and amused (perhaps a little annoyed) at how many artists in my local art association comment, “oh, you painted a rock painting again? When are you going to paint something different?” I know I’m on the right track exploring this theme inspite of the digs.

  96. I signed up for the Starving to Successful e-xourse and will admit up front that I have been painting (and drawing in charcoal and pastel) a variety of subjects ranging from no more than 1-4 similar pieces before moving on to something different (started about 2 years ago with 4 courses at a local art league and then decided to experiment on my own). BUT, this subject on consistency really hit the spot. I have shown some local artist with studios my work and they all respond with similar words of “hey, pick something that you like and do it over and over”. Now I get it. Thanks Jason

  97. There is a short story by Nickolay Gogol called The Portrait. The story talks about a young, promising, penniless artist that stumbles upon terrifyingly lifelike portrait in an old art shop. The painting is magical and offers him a dilemma to become rich and famous or find his own ways based on his own talents. He chooses the first and in a short time gets a constant stream of commissions where at first he could use his given talent but with time his clients become more and more demanding asking him to paint only what they want. He paints what’s asked of him sells a lot becomes trendy, famous and very self-absorbed, until one day many years later he sees work of one of his art school buddies who worked hard through out the years, starved, but kept true to himself and his passion. This work is heavenly beautiful- and all of a sudden our “artist” realized that all of these years where wasted for him, because he chose to paint “what sells” sacrificing his passion and his talent .

    1. Wow! That is a good story! You just inspired me. Thank you! I went to Amazon and bought it for my kindle. This has been my struggle. And obviously, it is an age old struggle.

  98. I understand what you are saying, however I have been on both sides of the fence. I purchase art and I paint in oil. As a collector, yes I have noticed that artists tend to stay with a theme. But I get bored after so long a period of time with the same thing over and over. Such as Thomas Kinkaid. Judith Dickinson. Thomas painted houses, cottages. The cottages, rivers etc. look the same. The bricks look the same, the color combinations are the same, just different pictures. And the same thing with Judith. She paints African Americans and American Indians. The colors, skin tones etc. are all the same. I often wonder if they can’t paint anything else. Too much of the same thing in my house gets boring. So, I quit purchasing that painter. And as an artist, I get bored doing the same theme over and over and over again. Another one is Bob Ross. His art all looks the same. Yes, it worked for them, and perhaps it will work for me. Maybe I just need to paint more and see if I find consistancy within myself. Any comments?

    1. There should certainly be evolution and progress over time. I’m not suggestions you’ll be doing the same thing five years from now, I would just want to see that evolution happening slowly.

      On the other hand, all of the examples you point out were huge financial successes. This goes back to my recent post on defining your motivation. I tend to agree with you, however, that commercial success is a factor, but it’s not the only factor.

  99. Jason, What about when working in different mediums. I see that Guilloume does very similar images with in sculpture and oils. I work with pastels and wool to render landscapes, my felts have a more abstract look but the colors are pretty consistent and many people say my felts look like pastels. When I work with colored pencil my images are even more realistic in style and are usually close ups of natural objects. Doesn’t some consistency come naturally just from the artists personal preference for certain colors, lines, subjects, etc.? I tend to be in the ‘easily bored’ category but I working with different mediums fixes that. I assume that in a case like mine I would just show those pieces that look similar when making a pitch.

    1. Yes, you can work in different media if you have other, overriding points of consistency, like subject or theme.

      I agree, you would think that some consistency would come naturally, but you would be surprised how many artists have to work to cultivate it.

  100. I’m affraid my previous comment sounds a little vague
    What I meant -it’s great if our your vision sells, but asking
    “What sells” and become a chameleon whithout artists own
    Identity is going to bring regrets and dissappointment in the long run.

  101. In the past 16 months, I have totally changed my medium and style of painting. Going from realistic watercolors to abstract oil and cold wax has been eye opening. I work with lines in a variety of sizes, textures, shapes, and location in the painting. The Art Critic I Live With says they are becoming boring. I say they are my thing right now and I continue to look for ways they are not exactly the same but are still here. Maybe I should be telling him that I am being consistent. Jason, thanks for the thoughtful e-course.

  102. Jason,

    I’ve taken a mental consistency check. My last 10 paintings (not counting plein air paintings) are all on gallery wrapped canvas. I personally think a gallery should also have a frame shop and provide the frames for paintings. Why? Simple, frames are HEAVY and it costs a lot to ship them. They get damaged easily, and they are included in the price of the sale, also customers sometimes want a different frame. If the gallery provides the frame, they make the profit off the frame, and the artist doesn’t have to ask an excessive amount of money for the frame. The customer saves too since the artist doesn’t have to tack on more price to make a profit on the frame. It’s a win/win/win situation.

    By using gallery wrapped canvas I don’t have to buy and ship frames. If a customer wants a frame, then the canvas can be removed from the stretcher bars and applied to bars that will take a frame.

    I first became interested in gallery wrapped canvas when I had a battle with cancer in 2010. The cancer center had many paintings on the walls and they were all gallery wrapped canvas and the painting was extended around the edge of the painting. I thought it was a very cool touch, so I’ve painted most of mine that way as well. WOW! is it ever hard to wrap a painting around the edge of the frame, especially on really big pieces. A well known artist that I’m acquainted with, recommended that I just paint the edges black, that it is much easier, and that is how he paints his.

    If I change to painting all the edges black, would that be too much variation in my consistency? The other option would be a new style of frame I’ve seen but not tried, where instead of a sharp 90 degree edge, the frames are beveled at about a 45 degree angle. You still have the 1 1/2″ depth, but the outer edge tapers back towards the wall to make it framed.

    Thanks!
    Donald

    1. Hi Donald,

      I have found the same thing if paint on gallery wrapped canvas & carry the picture
      right around to the edges it looks good & you don’t need to frame it. But there is a
      frame called a floating frame that is made just for this type of canvases. And they
      look great framed in them. Betty Mitchell

  103. Thank you Jason for the article. I am very consistent in my work and feel that other’s will think it is boring. Thank you for this eye opener on being consistent and why it is important. I feel much better about my body of work now and don’t feel so bad about doing the same thing consistently. I know now that I can just create what I love and not worry that my work all looks the same.

  104. Wow Just today 4/8/14, I discovered the style that I’m committed to. And then to read this. Law of attraction at work!

  105. What Jason write in this post makes surely sense, especially from the gallerist point of view, as he proclaims.
    It is really important though to understand the concept of consistency as a whole and not to apply it in a literal way, as it might do more harm than good. First of all an artist as to be interesting. True Art brings new perspectives on the world and on the soul, despite the kind of media or style chosen. Think about some of the most preeminent, famous, and rich artists of our time like Jeff Koons, Damien Hirst, Matthew Barney or Gerhard Richter. Does consistency come up in your mind at first? Hardly. As a matter of fact consistency could easily be at the bottom of their priorities. You might like them or not but this guys are superstar artists that moves millions in sales and that every gallery and museum would die for to represent. So consistency alone is obviously not the most important key to success. In my mind the most significant trait for an artist is vision and style. Real consistency is the capability of let your own unique personality coming through any subject, style, or media you might choose. Painting everything in a square format or using always the same framing style is not really artistic consistency if not supported and needed by the message you want to convey. Differentiate between consistency and repetition, between a series of “products” that feels all the same and a unique style and vision that define you as the unique artist that you are. Then be honest and objective about the quality of your works and put aside what is not up to the standard, that’s the best consistency.

  106. The way I see it, DO WHAT YOU LOVE and let that be your guide. The poor artist in the original post either fell in love a lot or was trying to be an artist by copying the styles and ways of other people. Who were said to be great artists. So that other people think you’re a great artist too.

    The whole thing with being an artist is that you do YOUR THING. Your own thing. That thing is what turns you on, fully, sexually, makes you come alive. Anything you make from that state becomes totally YOUR THING as you get into it and the mystical experience that is the creation of art ensues.

    Doesn’t matter if you get there by spending ages over teensy brush strokes to get that breakthrough into total photorealism or if you want to take all your clothes off, start screaming and thrashing around naked in colours on a huge canvas – and everything in between.

    As long as you do what you love, what you want, what you NEED to do right now, you can’t go wrong.

    If you want to paint barns to order because barns sell and you can paint a barn, fair enough. But that’s not being an ARTIST.

    Completely concur with the story quoted by Svetlana Piltingsrud.

    And if you haven’t found your “style” then perhaps you’re thinking way too much about style, galleries, critics and technicalities and nowhere near enough about your own passions and how to really go for it, no holds barred …

  107. I appreciate your post about consistency and it really made me think about my own work and caused me to also think about the art I have purchased over 30 + years of collecting. As a fiber artist I am still experimenting with style and technique. However, since beginning my journey a couple of years ago I have created 8 large and 5 small pieces that are consistent in style and technique – I call them Syncopation pieces. Their consistency is illustrated because they are abstract in nature, highlight my love of bright colors, and utilize curved lines in piecing and quilting. In art quilting, this describes “working in a series.” Although I have created other works in between, I keep coming back to this style as it still speaks to me. I strive to vary the shapes and sizes of pieces, the palette, and emotional content but still celebrate curved piecing and a bold palette. I do think that viewers would imagine these pieces came from the same artist, and not tire of looking at them.
    Thank you for the great insights.

  108. This article is very encouraging to me. I shoot a lot of different subjects as a photographer. From family portraits to heavy metal bands to construction equipment. But I try to keep a consistent style- big and bold. When I got into photography decades ago, out of college, my goal was to shoot really cool pictures that could be used as wall posters.

    Years later, I’ve refined myself considerably. For my fine art images, I’ve narrowed the subject matter down considerably (basically, three themes). I keep it simple, big, bold. I like to use aluminum as my medium but will also print on metallic papers. Glossy, reflective, big, bold colors.

    So, I’m new to this fine art thingy… but I’m encouraged that I’m on the right track with my work.

  109. Even though people tell me that they can identify my work as mine, I have struggled with consistency. I totally get it and have been seeking that spark to lead me to a style that I love. I am close. Superb post!!!
    ~K

    1. Karen, I have been going through the same thing. I have struggled and struggled with consistency. Some people have seen my work and said they can tell it’s all done by the same artist, even when I don’t see it myself. I do think it is starting to come together with my newer pieces rather than my older ones. Now I just need to create more!

      1. I had a solo show last year of thirty pieces. People were startled to learn they had all been done by one artist.They thought that the paintings had been done by at least a dozen different artists. At the end of the year, a coffee shop owner asked me to show in his shop, but only my paintings of horses. In May, another place asked me if I’d hang in their shop for two months. They, too, asked me to show just my horses. I think that says a lot about consistency.

  110. I have been following your online workshops and love your advice … Thanks you! I was excited in 2011 to stumble into a process that I felt I would never be bored of. I am excited to continue evolving as an artist and have narrowed my passions to one consistent body of 2d and one of 3d but this article is making me realize it still may be too diverse. I wonder if you would recommend separate portfolios or web pages for both. Can’t wait to learn more from you and maybe work together someday. Take care!

  111. Hi, this has been one of the best parts for me to read. Recently I saw an artists website and she was doing the same thing over and over, some on canvas, some on paper. I have made abstract photographs for several years now, photo grams, and now paintings. Each show I have and each body of work is consistent within itself, but there is also a common theme. I guess what I don’t know is if you can tell it’s my work or not, the theme of water pattens may reveal it , so I am consistent with subject, passionate about it, but I try new presentations with each exhibition. Black frames… Then photo pigment prints on canvas stretched and now painting on canvas stretched and loose.
    I have decided photos are on watercolor paper and paintings on canvas. Trying to be true to each medium. I could easily show my paintings with my photos, I think they would have a terrific conversation. Plus the photos need to be photos. They are recording a temporary experience. The paintings let the time record permanence.

  112. Great article… . So far I must be doing something right, because people are always telling me they have seen my work at a friend’s home or on exhibit somewhere. My framing is also professionally done and consistent. My portfolio, however, is probably as thick as the one in your example, but at least all the images have a consistent thread. So, time to do some ‘weeding’. Like many artists, I am always afraid that the images I leave out will be just what the customer is looking for!

  113. I am guilty of trying lots of new things, but the last year I had a clear thought that I needed to get a body of work that all related, in a pinch my work can all hang together because I use the same materials to make my work, but the new paintings are clearly consistent. Everyone tells me that they could spot my work anywhere and that makes me feel better. I have been editing my website to reflect the new focus. I feel I am finally doing the work I was meant to do and all the playing around with styles was in order to get me here.

  114. Consistency and painting what you love were both informative lessons. The examples were great. Style and approach to placing the image on canvas equals consistency. I never thought about it before. My goal is to place the image I see in my mind on the canvas with paint and brush. It is obvious to me it will always be consistent as I know only one way to produce an image. I was glad to hear it did not mean subject matter or design but more on how a person lays the paint on canvas.

  115. I went to a sit and crit event this week and that’s pretty much what I heard: make a consistent body of work. For example, within the same palette or techniques or subject. I am still working at that one!

    I think one could be a signature item. For example I used translucent handmade paper in some mixed media work and this gives more than one of the same kind. I was thinking today of doing more in that direction. The palette’s colors and subject may vary for the circle are still there!

  116. I have really enjoyed your lessons. For the past few years I have been working on a single style with seascapes and landscapes. I look forward to more lessons and finding ways to improve my creative abilities. Thank you so much.

  117. Great article and it gets to the heart of what makes a successful artist. Can you recognize their work from across the room? For about 18 years I did medium size oil pastel landscapes in bright colors. Then I got tired of the framing issues and switched to acrylics, and now oil. Last year I did a full year of on line mentoring in oil painting where I learned the basics of very academic art. I learned a tremendous amount about what goes into a good painting, especially in color mixing. But towards the end of the year I began to feel pretty discontent and I couldn’t figure out what it was. Then for a national juried show I submitted three of the little landscapes I’d painted, as well as a large non typical painting of a horse. The horse got in. That told me that the big, bright painting was what worked. The jury could see the passion in it. I want flat areas of color in my paintings. They work. So now I’m returning to the horse paintings I started several years ago, combining my passion for them with the new color knowledge I have. It will be interesting to see how the new landscapes play out. I have my work cut out for me. I’m thinking of going back to do an oil pastel or two to loosen up so I can return to the colors and ideas I had.

  118. This all confirms what I’ve be wanting to do for years. When people find out your an artist, they come to you in droves wanting to hire you to do peices for them. Problem is it takes away from your own creativity and passion.I have vowed to spend my time doing my own creative artwork that I have passion for. Not that I didn’t find some passion in works that people hired me to do. I am consistent and people seem to recognize my peices. Especially now that I spend more studio time working on my imaginative work.

  119. Thank you Jason! That was a most informative read that allowed me to discover the importance of consistency in my art along with a thirst for passion in its achievement! I was also very pleased to learn that my progress has naturally drifted in a consistent direction.

  120. I agree consistency is essential but it would be after many throw aways and experiments in search of one’s unique style, and it’s too bad you were a bit too haughty and judgemental when you could have given some feedback which may have helped.

  121. Wow, we do live in a consumer society. As a business, as a gallery owner, I totally see where you are coming from- there is a formula for art-making and success. But as an artist I’d rather shave my arse and sit in a bowl of gin rather than let a gallery owner influence the intent and direction of my work. Back to patronage!

    1. I didn’t get the impression that the gallery owner was trying to influence the intent or direction of the work. I think he was saying just the opposite. Consistency is something that can only come from artistic authenticity.

      1. Well said, Jim. Artistic authenticity doesn’t have to mean branding one’s work to the exclusion of creativity. Take, for example, a decision I made the first day of January, 2013: to interview, photograph, and write a blog piece on local art guild painters every two weeks for a year. The pieces got picked up as front-page news by the local paper, and each article was consistent in theme but wildly and amazingly diverse because each painter was so wildly unique. That year, with its 26 themed pieces on Owen County (Indiana) Art Guild painters, taught me that branding–or consistency–is an education in focused creativity just as each subject, each scene, each new conceptual project presents its own unique challenge. One’s “style” or creative authenticity is not at risk. We don’t have to be boring, just consistent.

        The only down side? I’m permanently “branded” as an author around here, when I sure would like to be known as a painter!

  122. Very good information, as a photographer I find it difficult at times to narrow down what I would like to present. I think that now I have a direction to go. Thank you.

  123. I have recently dived into painting seriously and full time. I really needed this article and have already bookmarked it so that I can come back to this as I need. I have found that it is very easy for me to get distracted and veer off into other directions with my art. I think this is because I am relatively new. With the help of this article and more studio time for me, I am hoping my issues with consistency will resolve. Thank you for a great article!

  124. I get such varied, and very distinct, praise for a few different directions in my current portfolio of ‘best 10.’ At the opening reception for my first solo show back in February my photographer, who happens to be my husband, decided to do a little theme of ‘take a photo with your favorite piece.” There were a definitely a few standout pieces, which were/are coincidently my current series, and the culmination of a serious exploration in technique. My show, as it came together, became the story of “welcome to my garden.” Everything is distilled from nature, from the geometry of nature and the dimensionality of nature, but the three standout pieces are fairly different in style. My “Dandelion Socks” series star sold right away and easily half of the guests stood by this series. The second star was a floral landscape called Aloe & Aeonium with a very textural/3-Dimensional approach (which is also developed in the Dandelion series). The third star, with some wonderful critical shout-outs is the most out-there member of the show as ‘Jelly Stars” with, again, the very textural/3D treatment, but (almost) totally different subject. This one people either LOVE exclusively or “think its cool but I really love the Dandelions!”

    As it happens the Dandelion/Allium is really what I am loving right now, so I am excited to focus on this, and only this for the next year if I continue to get good response to it. I am really enjoying them and the possibilities do seem infinite. I am not sure how they scale to large pieces like I really love to do, but that seems like a fun challenge to take.
    It is hard to abandon the Jelly Stars because the people who loved those ones, really really loved them…though didn’t love quite enough to purchase (which brings me to the question of pricing. Seriously. I think I need to adjust my pricing for now…but how to do this without limiting its potential for growth? I digress).

    Finally, last bit on the subject (and I kinda know how I feel already) is the recent commissioned piece that I finished, and the resulting series of test panels. This one utilizes all of the techniques that I employ in all of my pieces, but harkens back to a piece I did way way back before I eve decided to quit my professional business career and become a full-time artist. This is an all red abstract piece. Lots of depth and cool stuff happening, but almost a total departure of what I am doing now. I took the commission not knowing how painful the process would be for me. I am a relative infant as an artist and so I didn’t realize how deeply it would challenge me to pull myself back to that piece…but NOW PEOPLE LOVE IT! They have always loved that first piece and always offer to buy it and…I could probably make a lot of money on this as a series. But, it feels like a distraction to me…but people love them.
    Alas, what to do? What to do?

  125. I am impressed with your encouraging the artist to paint where his passion is. I do that – but I struggle with the commitment. There are little gremlins in my head saying that if I painted on canvas or if I painted realistic landscapes or abstract landscapes on canvas I’d make sales – I see what sells. But I take your statement that it takes years to build a reputation and a following – and maybe that is something that I can hang onto. I mean, just to understand that one thing might help to relieve some of the tension I feel. I have been painting for 11 years, a relatively short time – and it has only been the last 6 years that I have been painting from the heart. So… thanks for that one thought in particular – it takes many years to build a following.

  126. so true, until an artist finds what is really them, they go through this dilemma. Hard thing to tell them, and sometimes they never get! your examples are very well put.

  127. What perfect timing. My last art critique was on June 2, 2014. It was astonishing good news for me. I felt the piece was exceptional, but after the critique and reading this article, I knew why I had felt that way. I can see that I have found my “style”, and it was recognized by someone who knows what they are talking about.
    Thank you for explaining the next step in putting my artwork together in a cohesive arrangement. I wish to thank you for the wonderful blog page and advice from the prospective of a gallery owner. Perhaps now I will have more time to make art instead of researching and thinking of what to do with my work.
    My only wish is that I had time to paint during the workweek in my studio.

  128. I have been told my work is diverse as well which I also took as a compliment. As a photographer I am interested in many different subjects but when I stop and think about it I tend to have a few styles I go back too time and again. I always equated consistency with having a consistent quality to my work. This article has completely changed my understanding of the term. It is more about choosing a style and sticking too it. Thank you. I will have to give this some more thought.

  129. As a truthful artist and gallery owner I couldn’t agree more. A consistent body of work is an impressive and inviting experience and a pleasure to show and work hard to sell. Having confidence as a gallery owner in our artists who are prolific in style and productivity makes my job so much easier. As an artist, it’s a fabulous solid confidence of finally connecting the feeling and thinking that goes into creating a body of work and knowing it shows.

  130. Jason, thank you for the time it takes to share your wisdom. Even though I know these things, hearing it again while I’m creating a body of work is extremely helpful.

  131. When I read the word consistency I thought it related to quality. I guess that’s because quality is always my goal. Thank you for clarifying. I can see now that my body of work is very diverse, but I believe that my best work is my landscape and flower paintings. I will be editing my website today. Thank you for the excellent examples.

  132. This article was a punch in the face — which I needed. As I read it, I felt a weight growing in my heart and stomach and felt like bawling. Why? Because 1) what you wrote is right and 2) I’m anything but consistant. I could be the artist in your story. I often wonder why I can’t pick a style and stick to it because I do have a passion and a style I’d love to develop. I’m too easily influenced by what others say. I listen when they say, “Don’t paint like that, it doesn’t sell here,” “Aren’t you afraid people will get sick of the same thing?” “You don’t paint enough flowers, and you should because you love color.” I’m influenced by what I see, too. I get on Pinterest and my eyes are saturated with styles I want, want, want. I liked your suggestion about trying to be consistant for a year — which I intend to do. I don’t know if you appreciate what an effort this will be.

  133. Thank, you, I found this article very helpful, as an emerging artist it is very tempting to try this style and that, and to feel inadequate and unsure of one’s own passion and preference. Having been at a hiatus for a few weeks I now feel a confidence to keep on keeping on.

  134. Thank you Jason, I feel great gratitude for these clear signposts. It really makes me sure of what direction I must take next to become successful. Consistency was a vague notion in my mind looking forward (I am in the early stages of developing my career), but it is great to have it written clearly and its importance stated definitely like this.

  135. When I first read your blog my first thought was no I’m not consistent at all! However I made this rash judgement based on the fact that I some times use different mediums and each medium seems to create through me a certain style. Looking back at the feedback I have had over the years people have always been able to spot my work no matter how different it may seem. So I asked a few people how they could tell and although they couldn’t pin point the exact thing that tipped them off, all of them reported the same “feel”. Something about the expression or particular attention to certain details.. Its nice to know that my art reaches people on this level, even those odd pieces that seem to just pop out sometimes. I have been framing consistently thanks to a tip from the gallery I exhibit in. It makes life easier when you are having a solo exhibition that all your frames tie in together and look beautiful on the walls. I don’t have an issue with galleries making suggestions about what they would like to see. Obviously I will continue with work I am passionate about but sometimes I have a piece I plan to paint in the future I can bump up and do first ( I am usually 40 odd pieces behind my imagination). If the gallery says hey we have had lots of people asking if you have any paintings of xyz and its on my list why wouldn’t I see that as a opportunity to line up the right artwork with the right buyer. I am personally truly touched when someone walks in to the gallery and just knows that piece was mine. It tells me my “message” is getting out there. An emotional connection. Anyway its 3 am here and I have probably stopped making sense but that’s my two cents on the subject.

  136. okay, okay… I need to really look closely at my work. I am guilty of (I believe) these inconsistencies. I am not sure its really a matter of not being committed because I do go back and forth between previous ideas/styles…and perhaps I need to just take the time and resources to register for a full evaluation from you (let me think on that and get back to you..) but I do feel I want to try more things but have lacked the means to try them out more extensively. This may be a bad example but throughout my art I had always been best at my drawings and paintings (regardless if they were consistent), they were my strengths – but in my last semester in my art degree, I had an opportunity to work with welding and the work / piece I completed was fantastic. Had I taken this sooner, perhaps this could have been something…and now out of school its a major investment in the materials and equipment just to see, and I still love what I had been best at… so I let myself try to experiment with subject, with styles, with materials. But I do understand what you are saying. When time to go to the gallery I need to present myself in a certain way…but what if I show strengths in many different areas. Could a gallery say “okay I like more of this instead of that”?? How would they know my OTHER strengths, if I don’t show them a little of everything? (NOT 2 inches thick of everything…but just a few samples of each main area???)
    Up until now, I have been working solely off of commissions (yeah, at least that’s something), so the request has pretty much dictated what subject to do but to say you could recognize them all being mine, I just don’t know and now I am rambling. Thanks so much for the article and advise. 🙂 I look forward to more feedback. Sarah

  137. I think I finally understand exactly what I must do to reach my goal. Thank you Jason. Following your lessons and the recommended reading has kept me intent upon going forward rather than going about in circles trying to catch my tail.

  138. I’ve been painting for more years than I care to mention and for the first few years I studied one master after another to find my niche. After a while I noticed that it didn’t matter what subject I painted or what color scheme (palette) I preferred – all my paintings had a common theme – the application of paint onto the canvas and the frantic brush strokes that made each piece undeniably my own. It wasn’t until I was given some wonderful (non addictive ) pain meds that I discovered that my own unique style wasn’t because of my well studied progression of my art, it was developed by my physical capabilities living with constant pain in my body.

    Now that I have my pain in control, the style remains the same but with a little more finesse. Even when I switched to acrylics from years of working strictly in oils, the brush strokes remain the same. I guess I can safely say – that’s my style.

  139. Hi Jason-

    Thanks for this article. I tend to have a preferred subject- animals in nature. Then I have two separate sets of media watercolor, and acrylic. I can understand how the painting method or interpretation of the subject can create a consistent Artist’s style. It’s pretty exciting to realize. In photography, there’s also style based on subject, vibrance and lighting techniques. Thanks for the time on this it’s really helping!

  140. Thank you for your post. I recently read an article about an artist who discussed marketing and her brand. She determined that investing and marketing her name rather than her product/art because she did not want to be tied to a specific type of art. Is she correct also? I want my name and my art to influence the art world.

    Until reading your post, I never knew there was a difference between having a body of work, from having a consistent body of work. I get it. I have worked making art for specific entries and shows and have not had to work in a particular style. Mostly concentrating on skill, technique and quality finishing. I do want to prepare myself to submit to magazines and galleries. I have been considering a 10 week workshop teaching the concept of working in a series. After reading this post I believe I should become more serious about consistency and pay the fee for the course.

  141. Hi Jason-

    Really appreciate this insight. Do gallery owners ever turn down work because there have been several pieces that look like the ones we chose to show? It seems like it would be more profitable to have some art that is new and fresh, as well as the old reliable paintings that are sure to sell. In photography I can see branding in subject, choice of lighting, color and vibrancy. Thanks for sharing this it’s getting me thinking : )

  142. Really appreciate this insight. Do gallery owners ever turn down work because there have been several pieces that look like the ones we chose to submit? It seems like it would be more profitable to have some art that is new and fresh, as well as the old reliable paintings that are sure to sell. In photography I can see branding in subject, choice of lighting, color and vibrancy. Thanks for sharing this. I’m gaining some confidence now. : )

  143. I have been taking private lessons in acrylic paintings for about seven years now. I had a very heavy work schedule and art was my great relaxation. With some discussion with my teacher who was an artist for many years and has retired and now just teaches individuals and small groups, I pretty much selected my own subject matter. I like flowers and animals and landscapes, and it became evident over time that my major attraction or motivation is color = bright colors and lots of them. Three months ago I took some classes in abstract painting and I have done nothing but study and paint abstracts since then. I am going to send you the 1en paintings for evaluation and I think that I will send you five of my nature paintings and five of my abstract paintings. Although I am still in the early learning stages of painting abstractly I hope to continue to improve and refine my techniques. I hope you agree with my assessment and I look forward to hearing your opinions.

  144. Hello Jason,

    Thanks for this information, I am really taking a look at my works and asking my self now some questions on consistency, every day I read your words on the “Artist Issues” is like opening a new door in my creative mind.
    I do not have the right words to express it now but very soon my canvas will.

    Thanks again for this wonderful opportunity.

    Best Regards
    Ojemekele Ighodalo

  145. I have felt for a while now that consistency is really important for a body of work – an is something that mine is lacking. I tend to skip around a lot and while I’ve thought “I should just do one thing for a year”, I haven’t stuck to it. I think for me a big part of the reason is because I’m not producing enough work. By the time I sneak in more studio time I am ready to try something new, whereas if I was creating more, maybe I’d have a dozen pieces complete before itching to change things up. This post is pretty much Jason reinforcing me what I already know – but with more authority, and good advice. I’m going to try and let it be the kick in the ass that I need 🙂

  146. Consistency is important, DAMN IT! As much as I would love to be able to play around with a variety of media and subject matters, in order for a body of work to be recognizable as MINE, I have forced myself to perfect my skills and create a majority of my paintings in watercolor. The media is challenging and holds my interest. However, seeking a way to seperate myself from others, I specialized in watercolor on Yupo. The smooth surface allows me to “go with the flow” creating smaller abstrations within larger realistic images. I love the technique and yet I am tired of NOT selling at the one major show that I have participated in the past few years. I thought that perhaps it was the media, or my images? I have considered making significant changes and start a body of work in a different media.

    Now I am wondering, after reading Starving for Success, if perhaps my problem has been that I have not approached the proper venues for my work? The other issue I have is that I have not spent nearly enough time in the studio. In my defense, I am an Art teacher and have been caring for my aged mother. However, I am ready to take the next step and to move in the direction of successfully selling MORE paintings with Consistency and Quality!

  147. Thank you for this great read. It has taken me several decades and different techniques to finally settle into what is the best expression and stay consistent with my work. I have found that the subject matter can be anything, as long as the style and presentation are easily recognizable as my work. I draw that way now without even thinking about it.

    The best example of this is that a friend of mine that I had not seen or communicated with in over 30 years, recognized my newer work when I opened my Facebook page gallery. She contacted me and we re-started our connection. She said “I knew it was you when I saw your work”. Best compliment ever!!!!!

  148. in the last few years- i have found consistency. i specialize in urban landscapes.. i LOVE painting these scenes! my color palette is very consistent too. sometimes i stray- i admit. for example- i put up some paintings in a restaurant yesterday and i added a couple of my more “art naif” with my more straight ahead street scenes. the color palette was the same.. but the detail work was different- and that’s when it really hit me– the whole consistency thing!! so i took those paintings back. The body of work on the walls looked better together without them. this article is so “a propos” to what i experienced yesterday. 🙂

  149. What about Gerhard Richter? He’s hugely successful and has very inconsistent styles, media, even theme, but has work in every major art collection around the world.I am not sure if I would recognize his unique hand in all of his various works.
    The reason I bring it up is that I have been consistently painting/photographing/drawing landscapes and water reflections for the last 20 years. and for the last 2 I have been building a body of work consisting of 675 small postcard watercolors of the view outside my commuter bus window. So yes, the last 10 images, (actually the last 675 images) match in style, content, color, theme, etc. but these do not match my last 20 years of oil paintings. I feel passionate about getting this work out in the world, just as much as the reflections, and have a show next month at a library, and will show both bodies of work. I may discourage collectors, gallery reps, buyers, critics, but I believe its better than letting this box of artwork sit in my basement.
    Maybe I am still discovering my brand? or maybe I need 2 different galleries to represent me.

  150. I am fairly consistent in subject matter (landscape) but love to use different mediums to share the nuances in the natural world. However, this year, I did mostly en plein air work outdoors – small panels in oil and then worked larger paintings in the studio on canvas.
    Sticking to one medium this summer has allowed more consistency into my body of work, but I long to work in acrylic and collage again because of my heightened creativity it brings me. I also work large drawings in acrylic ink on watercolor paper in a and have had a strong response to this style of work. So, truth be told, I’m all over the map and also have had consistent gallery success by showing one medium in each gallery. Jason I really appreciate your ideas here and will continue to read and learn from your advice. Thank you.

  151. EUREKA!!!!! Finally, I understand why Edvard Munch painted THE SCREAM. He must have felt much the way I feel right now after spending over an hour reading everyone’s comments to this blog. I feel the need to run out the door of my studio and scream myself. I can’t because the neighbors would be validated in their opinion that I am just another crazy artist.

    Whew, it boils down to some artists need guidance and rules to thrive and some violently oppose that way of doing things, and thrive in spite of the rules and guidance.

    Gee, I came away with the message that I must clearly evaluate who I want to be as an artist, make the hard decisions, and live with them; or not.

    This discussion has reinforced my vision of what a “real” or “true” artist is. It is that person who must find their own way in life, dance to their own music, communicate in their own language, reach out to humanity in their own voice, and lastly, find strength in who they are and what they do. They are God’s special creatures whose very being is close to that of an angel ( or demon) at times. They are tortured by what they see and feel when they can’t figure out how to capture it before it flees.

    In closing, I have to agree with Mr. Crankypants about the “Mutual Thinking by Guilloume”—-add three feathers, you got three native americans; add three halos, you got three angels…. It may be popular, but it ain’t art.

  152. Loved reading this article. While I have painted for many years and have developed a sty all my own (viewers always can recognize my work) It’s good to read it again. Lately I’ve been experimenting with a more abstract and looser style, but it’s still recognizable that it’s mine. Color, subject, flair. Thanks you for reminding me again.
    Learn from everyone, pick out what you like from each one, use it, reuse it, reconstrue it until you’ve developed your own style.
    I’m enjoying this workshop. Thank You!

  153. Great article and I agree with everything said! For once, I feel like I am on track – at least in this area – I’m often told that I have a recognizable style and it comes naturally, and just go with it. Hopefully that will be a plus when approaching galleries, and finding a good fit. This is very good positive reinforcement.

  154. I meant to add that I loved what you said about experimentation and the importance of trying something new. I have really been wanting to do some abstraction, but hesitate because it is different from my usual art, but will now feel free to something that may strictly be just for my own benefit.

  155. I agree and appreciate the concise description of why consistency is so important. You can see the importance of it as you look at clusters of work that tell a story or provide certain emotions in each artist’s area of a gallery. There is only a moment to grab a client’s attention, and a well integrated body of work seems to assist in keeping their attention, inviting a conversation about the artist, and encouraging the development of a patron/ long term collector.

  156. I too appreciate hearing from the point of view of a gallery owner — though I have tried many approaches and media over my lifetime, the theme that I have investigated and pursued in my work has remained the same: that of trying to understand how we “see,” how what we see determines who we are, that what we think we see is more often than not not actually what we are looking at — ambitious I know, and it’s taken me from photographic realism to contemporary — but if you have followed what I have done, truly understood the work, you can see the consistency and see a work from thirty years ago and know it was done by the same person whose work you are looking at now — but as you say, it has evolved over time, not jumped around from this approach to that — all this having been said, what I’ve learned from you is not to include older work in a portfolio that might confuse or give a gallerist pause — I now see more clearly why one owner of a gallery in Scottsdale told me a number of years ago when I showed her some of my portraits after my large abstract monoprints, “you have to make up your mind!”

  157. Jason,
    this truly is great advice. A couple of years ago I decided that I needed a cohesive body of work to further myself as a professional artist. After trying my hand at multiple mediums I pursued one thing and stuck with it. This has been the best thing ever for me. Since then I have had increased sales, shows and gallery representation. Most importantly I feel there is a level of respect there from my piers that is shown through my consistency of subject matter. I am no longer the dabbler jumping around. I will say after several years of plugging away, the mind starts to wander and at times I feel like my own best imitator. As an artist that wants to remain true to myself there is that need to push the boundaries and grow with out looking like a spaz. This is the dance of creativity and I am thankful and hopeful of the outcome.

  158. Very helpful article. Consistency is one of the biggest challenges for an artist, I have a degree in fine arts in my country (Colombia) 10 year ago, since then I’ve been working to make my work recognizable and coherent. For me it has been a hard way to walk, I think I just got it, but that’s not an end, that’s a beginning, now I have a big field to explore.

    Totally agree with your blog, what I learned through all of these years of work, I read here. Thanks.

  159. Jason, thank you for your advice. This should and will help lot of artist. When I was doing bachelors and masters in fine art in Armenia, I have been taught craft and all the aspects of painting, but not the business of representing and selling, which is as important as making the art. Consistency is very important I agree with Jason, in the same stile you can have limitless opportunity if you believe in the stile you are painting.
    Thank you again Jason,

    Mher Khachatryan
    http://www.mherkhachatryan.com

  160. Thank you Jason for this very informative article. Viewing works of well known artists made me recognize how important consistency is, but your article really reinforced that idea.

  161. After reading this, I went back and looked over my work. My paintings seem to have a couple common threads through them- abstract, lots of blue tones or reds and texture. I didn’t realize how my photography fit into this until I realized that even though I use black and white as my common thread for them, they have a consistency with my paintings because I tend to focus on textures and abstract ways of looking at objects through my lens. Thanks for another great article.

  162. Thank you Jason and thank you fellow artists for your comments. When I first started reading the post I was thinking,”Gee, guess I am one of those “all over the place” artists until I read where you said to evaluate the last 10 pieces created. AH HA! There it was. The last 10 paintings I completed are a series I call “Imaginary Gardens” and yes, in painting them I re-awoke the excitement I felt when I first began painting but now I realize that it is deeper than just excitement it is passion!

  163. Jason,
    Great advise. I’m having so much fun experimenting with my work, but your article makes perfect sense. Now I will approach galleries much differently. I think a revamping of my web site might be in order also.

  164. Hi Jason,
    Firstly I apologize if this this appears twice – my internet dropped out as I hit send the first time!
    I have 2 distinct but very different mediums & styles (impressionistic oils & realism charcoal). I enjoy financial and artistic success with both.
    Should I approach different galleries for representation of the separate styles?
    Thanks for your time in advance,
    Karen.

  165. I struggle with this so much! I have a huge variation in the pieces I create, and the thought of not doing one fills me with dread. I may stick with one for a few months or even a year at a time, but eventually I get bored or simply inspired to do something else. I was telling a friend the other day that I have the attention span of an adhd squirrel! That being said, I do find myself returning more and more to sculpture. Once I have a proper work space, I think it will be easier, too. Also, when I do a portfolio, I group things according to what fits together. When I check out a potential place to sell I always ask myself what portfolio would work best. I still miss the mark most times, but I’m only just starting out and getting to be a better judge slowly.

  166. I have accidentally sold most of my works … about 100 or more over the course of weekend show and tell art and craft doings over many years… and some I gave away to auction off to fund after school children’s art shops and studies. I was offered and paid far more than expected for my works and at times far less than preferred.

    Allow me to confess to avoiding all the things Jason eluded to that one MUST not do that would discourage audience acceptations that align to their expectations if one may be of want to gain from their artistic endeavors: Such as, always demonstrate a consistency of quality having artistic integrity; brand and log a history of distinctive recognizable style; present the work in a professionally respectable manner… and know what is important to the audience you wish to evoke and then sustain interest in your work. I know now that is and more all important to and critical to the business of a Gallery agent ability to successfully build a loyal client base for you as an artist amongst the artist(s) the gallery is dependent upon to market and represent for its substance of being.

    All works of art are impregnated with one’s personal emotional and intellectual properties. The art that sells will tend to reflect similar, specific properties that will appeal to an audience in its time and place or it will not be embraced until they do: Might as well keep ’em to yourself.

    Guilty as I would be judged to have taken the approach to explore and create what ever came to mind with what ever medium I wished to play upon into shape, forms, textures, colors, integrating mix-medium with obscure material whether or not it’s finished nature landed in some style classification be it as it may: abstract, collage, primitive or folk art, or took a run at every other -ism of deviation from, for fun. My sense of temperament or temperance found no point of rest and ease of focus. I am closer to have that settling conversation with my self about where to take a stand of want and need to set a directional course of artistic identity. The stage in the arena of the arts seeks out that identifiable manifestation.

    Creating work that gains an audience is no easy journey if one is entrenched in one creating what ever for one’s own sake – an audience of one. My internal struggle may well be the burden of my need of want alone is too comfortable. I have never feared the rejection of my work by an other. What bothered me is the objection to purchase it.

    So, why not let the audience in on it and pay homage to their perspective giving them shared credit for the work and its value and worth. If they reject it, then they are rejecting their self, too. I can Make it “our” art not just mine or just theirs to embrace or we can agree to Gesso over or melt down and make into anew. My interest of passion becomes their interest of passion… in turn their interest of passion becomes my passion and … an honorable purpose of intent that justifies, “Asking for the money.”

    So, Jason’s wisdom and experience serves us well to remind us all we must play to our audience. That is, before we can expect them to buy a ticket of a want to play a role in our experience our artistic rendering of things. The audience comes willingly to identify with their self in the play of things. They brovo their self for their good taste and we the rendering creator cash the check to our taste which makes our Gallery/agent smile on the way to their bank, too.

    The Gallery owner/agent is our theater forum. Their is where the the play of things are there to serve their art lover audience, collector enthusiasts and hungry appetite of investor/speculator interests.

    Frame and fortune is dependent on what is framed around the character of the work and integrity of the artist. That is what a Gallery agent must offer their audience. The audience demand will set the price point up or down: The tell is in the ringing up of sells. The sell is in the telling of the tale of the work presented to the buyer’s mind and of appealing emotional fabric.

    I have no problem with asking for the money I want, but reality let’s me know what path I need to take to get my audience to agree. It would be nice to have it my way with many checks in hand, if not all cashed and spent, before I am dead.

    So, why not make art your way in mind they sells tickets to the here and now of an audience while the stage lights your artistic work. Make of your art and life for your own sake alone after the curtain comes down and the audience goes home… That’s show business.

    Jason is asking for us to recognize and affirm our artistic intentions and that we have some plan in hand that is directional than lost in the wilderness. I need to have a talk with my self looking in the mirror about his challenging questions that I must challenge myself to honestly answer… and that is where it is at for me at the moment.

  167. Would you recommend editing your website to reflect only one style? I ask because I have taken commissions from people who have seen work that doesn’t fit with my current abstract style. I also teach realism and paint portraits and would like to refer the people who are interested in this type of work to my website as a verification of my ability in these areas. What should I do?

  168. I have to say I was somewhat resistant to developing the theme in art work. I felt like I was good and several subject areas, but when I started doing my current work, it seemed that people would see it in other places and say, “I know that artist!” I was the featured artist one month at an art co-op that I am showing in and saw a young woman and her mother walk past the window. I saw the young woman stop, look at the artwork, and come back into the gallery. She walked up to the work and said, “I knew it was him!” As I approach them, the young woman said that mine was the only artwork that both she and her mother liked. And I appreciated the fact you said we could add other elements to our work as long as there’s some consistency flowing between them, and that is something that I’ve been doing. Thanks for all you do for us artists, Jason!

  169. Hi there, thanks for all of the above reasons. Two questions, the first is, i make collages of bronze, mica and found objects inside an encaustic frame. To give a flavour of the consistency, i keep the frame the same and try to make the collages in groups of 3 or 5. BUT, no matter how much I pay for a photographer, no one is interested in the collages when they see the photos. However, when I submit actual pieces, they are accepted into shows, and recently won best of show. Do I approach gallery owners with my actual collages? And the second question is about websites… should i have different websites for different lines of art? i.e. sculpture, collage, jewellery or one site with a carefully classified set of choices? Thanks again.

    1. Hi Patrice – it’s always better to approach the gallery in person and with samples of your work if possible. Of course, this won’t always be possible, so having good images is important. I would like to think that gallery owners will be better at interpreting the photos than potential buyers.

      As far as the website, without seeing the work it’s difficult to say. If the work is significantly different in terms of style and technique, you could eventually consider separating websites. If you are getting a lot of traffic to your site it might makes sense to do this sooner rather than later. If your traffic is low, this shouldn’t be your highest priority.

  170. I used to think that my art had to be all different styles. I even had a show once where I was proud of myself when someone asked me how many different artists painted all the pieces. How naïve I was — and wondering why I wasn’t selling more. In the past year, I developed a style of my own, am starting to sell, have been accepted into some juried shows, and recently found gallery representation.

  171. I’ve been a very “eclectic” artist for the last forty years but when I first read Jason’s comments about consistency, I decided to find a style and stick with it no matter how long it took. It’s been six months now and I think I’m on the verge of finding it. That doesn’t mean I’ve nailed it down, but I can see something starting to develop in my work that I actually like. Now all I need is another forty years to develop a huge body of work. Guess I’d better get started.

  172. Jason,
    It is far from a matter of ‘reinvention’ but offering a wide range of art from which any gallery owner can look and choose from to sell and make some money. Isn’t this what it’s all about? Commerce?
    I have approached this before on this forum without one jot of acknowledgement or reply. I am far beyond caring whether or not someone agrees with me or not. Unless an artists can second guess what any gallery owner wishes (or is capable of) to sell, he or she will naturally offer a wide a range as possible – and who can fault that? I certainly won’t.
    I have always leveled that all artists need to have a commercially viable ethos which brings money in their koffers and that of the gallery who represents them. If that fails or isn’t present, flipping burgers should be a better option. Presenting this agreeable work ethos shows the artist in a very strong light which scares off a very high percentage of gallery owners who look for a high degree of subservience in their artists. Show an owner a strong body of work and accompany that with a no-nonsense approach and deliberate sense of direction – and watch them cringe and turn away. It never, ever fails.

    1. Thanks for the comment Arthur. I’ve found that the opposite is true – that taking a shotgun approach and showing a wide range of work without consistency discourages clients and galleries from committing to promote and follow an artist. Will a consistent artist’s work appeal to every gallery? No. But when that artist does find a gallery that likes the work the gallery is far, far more likely to agree to represent the artist.

      I fully grant that there can be other reasons for creating beyond commercial viability, and an artist who isn’t creating to earn a living doesn’t have to focus as much on consistency. In my experience, I’ve found that commercially successful artists are those who have obtained a high level of consistency.

      Thanks again!

      1. Hi Jason,

        Wondering what your take is on my scenario after reading your article:

        Im a street artist and painter with 2 separate styles of work, character based and abstract. Ive been doing both for years and have a pretty good social media following now and both styles of work are recognizable by people as my work. I am trying to separate my styles now but it seems impossible because Ive been running with both for so long. I am tired of having 2 styles so I am considering mashing the styles together as a compromise..which is working out pretty well. Any advice?

  173. I prefer the word “authenticity” to “consistency” when giving advice to artists. (see definitions below) I am an artist, have taught visual art for over 20 years, AND I own a gallery. If I were advising another artist to be consistent, I would want to be absolutely sure that they didn’t misunderstand my intention. I want them to be genuine in their work – I want to hear their voice, experience their passion, and feel their inspiration. There should be something palpable in their work – these elements are what I see as authenticity – a sense of self – their artistic self, a legitimacy, a validity that they own.

    When I am asked by an artist – “what sells?” – I find my hackles go up, and my Mama Bear advice is immediately – don’t ask that! None of us should find our motivation to “paint” or “sculpt” in what sells! We should be true to ourselves, our voice and our work by being authentic. By all means, be consistent professionally, but don’t turn creating art into a process that is bound by rules and regs – that sounds like certain death to me. The fastest way to get “stuck” is to lose track of who you are and why you are here. This world is complicated enough without breaking down our creative endeavors into consistencies.

    Many of the artists in this thread seem to be searching for affirmation that what they are already doing is right; or some worry that they are not consistent enough, and by fixing this one element, their work will sell. I would encourage you to continue to discover your style through creativity, openness and truth. Be true to your own work, and inform this work with anything that inspires you to want to create. By all means, listen to good advice, look at others’ work that inspires you – do whatever makes you want to create. But don’t lose track of why the arts are special, why we are moved by images, music, poetry or theatre. It is the imagination, in all its glory that is still celebrated in the arts. It is not just a business – it is a way of life. In fact it is LIFE itself.

    So many responding here seem to be putting the creative process second, and the business of creating art first. I strongly urge you to reexamine your priorities as an artist before you lose your purpose. When referring to technique and subject matter, choice of color palette or theme – consistency may help. But your primary focus should be passion, playfulness, and experimentation in any creative endeavor. Jason’s advice is tried and true coming from the art market side of things – and although important, I will never believe that consistency as an artist will make you successful or happy. The unique gift that artist’s offer the world comes from a special place inside that longs to be set free. Authenticity is what I want to see in artists I show. Do they know who they are, and what they want from their work? Are they true to themselves, their ideas and their work? Can the artist discuss their work in a meaningful way? And ultimately, are they willing to passionately defend their work to their peers and the world? Those are the artists that I want to show in my gallery, mentor if need be and share with the world. Those are the artists that I can get behind with excitement and enthusiasm. Be consistent by all means, but be authentic, genuine and unique. Be true to that little voice inside that screams – I am an artist!

    consistency
    noun
    1 the trend shows a degree of consistency: uniformity, constancy, regularity, evenness, steadiness, stability, equilibrium; dependability, reliability.
    2 mix until the batter is of pouring consistency: thickness, density, viscosity, heaviness, texture; firmness, solidity.

    authenticity
    noun
    1 the authenticity of the painting: genuineness, bona fides; legitimacy, legality, validity.
    2 the authenticity of this account: reliability, dependability, trustworthiness, credibility; accuracy, truth, veracity, fidelity.

  174. Good article!

    When I first started out with museum placements I got an informal, online portfolio review. The gal told me my stuff was all over the place. She was right. I broke the Tumblr down into 2 Tumblrs – old and new work. I expanded from there and my stuff is more organized.

    I am also careful with what shows up online. I had to learn the hard way to keep my online presence clean. My previous discussion of this topic.

    https://danielteolijr.wordpress.com/2015/06/01/if-your-serious-about-getting-ahead-only-have-your-best-work-connected-with-your-name/

  175. This has to be the most important post you’ve made, Jason. I’m struggling to keep my wandering eye, so to speak, on my one style that I’m most passionate about. You see, this particular style takes longer than my others and may not appeal to the masses because it’s not a style you see often. And, my husband isn’t a fan of it. He like my boring stuff better, but that style is everywhere! You have just confirmed what I’ve been telling myself to do and now I’m gonna do it: give myself the summer to paint and fine tune this one style that I love before I approach any galleries. Sound good? I think so. Thanks Jason!

  176. Thanks Jason, and thanks everyone for your insights and experiences. I’m finding that when I begin to explore a new subject or evolve toward a new style, it’s as if I’m in love. I can do nothing but paint that subject or in that style and I am excited to get into my studio and start work every day. I can’t stop producing and it’s not because I want to produce a lot of pictures; it’s that I’m so engrossed in my latest love that I just keep trying to create a higher and higher level of beauty. After a few months or years of this, I find I have a collection.

    Three years ago I was frustrated with my landscape so I decided to paint only still life for a month. I became obsessed with still life for those three years and now have a series of 35 or more good still lifes that are winning awards.

    Last year I returned to landscape and after a workshop with Terry Miura, he said to take my studies back to the studio and paint the same scene but change one thing. I discovered the merit of painting in series, and within a few months I created another collection of some 20 impressionist landscapes that have won awards and are selling.

    Recently I decided to take the plunge and explore a style that I have been in love with for 25 years – the flat decorative style reminiscent of Arthur Matthews and others of the Arts & Crafts period. It was hard to make the change and very scary to show the work, but the response has been very enthusiastic and positive. In less than three months I have created about 14 new pieces, one of which has already sold.

    The bottom line after all this is – I’m painting what I am passionate about and there is consistency within each of these series. I recently had a solo show in which I showed my still life and my impressionist landscapes together, and the unifying factor was a very similar frame style throughout. My arts & crafts collection may get a slightly different frame style but it will not be a radical deviation.

    I am getting ready to approach more galleries and I’m wondering, should I present these separate collections at the same time? Or should I try to determine by the gallery’s current work which series they would be interested in? Would love to hear some opinions and advice.

  177. Jason, this is the second time I have read this advice. I did decide to take it the first time and picked a subject matter to focus on. You are correct. I am developing new skills through the repetition of the subject matter. I have been painting space scapes for about 3 months, doing 2-3 per week. I also decided to make this my art school. I can see a difference in my skill level between the first and most recent ones. I do small ones first, then if I like a particular one, will do a larger, similar one. I am finding this rewarding and it is also helping me build a portfolio. Occationally, I will apply the skill I have practiced to a different subject and find that it translates well so far. Thanks for the advice, and if you are curious, look at my work in your online section of your gallery. I would love to see if you think I am heading down the right track.

  178. I could not disagree more. I hate the work of artists that ‘brand’. Art is about individualistic expression. It’s about trying out new things and being who you are when you are. I am not interested in consistency. I am so bored when I see an artist who produces instantly recognisable work, and then goes on and on and on and on over the years to produce just the same old same old they have always done. If you want that as a merchandiser, then make prints. You are just being selfish if you want to restrict artists in this way. I love to be astounded that an artist who produced ‘this’ can also have conjured up ‘that’.

  179. I strongly agree that having a distinctive, unique and recognizable style is essential to becoming a known and respected artist. That has not stopped me from simultaneously starting a whole new second body of work that is fun and completely dofferent. I just rarely combine the two in one place.
    the first group is my paintings on glass and most of these are portraits and are very different from other work I have seen, small and very detailed. My second group is all splatter and drip work I do on canvas and foam board in my garage. Each one represents a side of me and is a release from the other. I even teach a Splatter 101 class every other Saturday.

  180. I know this is an odd way of closing in on consistency, but it’s helped me a lot and given me a lot of freedom at the same time. Many years ago I got out all my different media (seven) and made a diagram of all the colors from each one. I selected my sixteen favorites out of them. Then I narrowed down my media from seven to two choices. Now I only use oil pastel on paper or acrylic on canvas in the same sixteen colors. When I hang my pieces together they have a consistent color palette and have generally the same style. This way I’ve been able to paint a variety of subject matter that still looks like it came from the same artist. Over time my general style has become increasingly recognizable whether I’m painting representational or abstract works. And my consistent color palette has kept me from straying too far off in any direction. The more I work the more consistent everything gets. And I still get to explore a variety of subject matter. The other thing that has been invaluable is making a minimum of six paintings in a series of a particular subject. I’ve recently adjusted two of my colors but only slightly. I’m still working on my consistency but these “constraints” have made a huge difference and actually given me a sense of more freedom.

    1. Also, my select color palette allows me to return to subjects even years later and explore them again because my colors are the same. I don’t have to try to remember what I used and how I mixed them to get a particular effect. Freedom baby!

  181. Jason, I understand what you are saying and I agree consistency is important. However,
    I feel I am a student of art. In areas such as edges, value, color, drawing and composition, I feel it is important for me to IMPROVE. As I improve, my art will change from earlier work. Does this change fall into the category of consistency?

  182. Thank You! I liked the article very much. I am reading all of the responses. I have a lot to learn. I do know that consistency will bring it’s rewards. thanks for the reminder, I needed it! smiles!

  183. I keep on painting what I like to do. Not because it is selling – but because I like doing it. It might be a bad decision – but if I am using so much time, it should be on something I love. I keep thinking there is somebody out there that will like it – if they just see it.

  184. Such great information! I am struggling with consistency because I’m not sure how consistent the work needs to be to create a brand. It is easy to see in another’s art…harder in my own work! lol

  185. hi
    very good article
    so true. My style changed drastically from traditional work to more contemporary but I am now committed to develop my new portfolio with the new work. I haven’t gone back to do any traditional work yet even if sometimes I am stressed to see if the new work will sell or not but this is where my passion is, this new work so i have to give it 200% …and see .
    It is refreshing to see galleries giving such good insight of what gallery think and also some amazing advices here.

    regarding presenting the work, O am still presenting both my work but i do mention that the traditional work is pro 2010,
    Marie Ackers
    http://www.marieackers.co.uk

  186. Sorry to disagree but- “consistency”- always seems to result in a one style application- surely an artist (painter) must experiment consistently – Ok produce a dozen works in the same way, but then move and and change- If that means getting rejected – more fool the Gallery- Recognition of the artists work – years later – to me means the artist has not progressed at all – he has simply become a hack for selling sake alone.

  187. Great article with a clear line of thinking from a gallery owner’s point of view which is very helpful to artists. In your first example of the over varied portfolio presentation, my first thought was that she should have examined the gallery and type of work being carried and then tailored her portfolio to that end. As a multi-media artist, I do think there is a common thread of honoring nature running through my work even though the materials do not lend themselves to duplication in multiple mediums – beaded skulls, pit-fired ceramic/pine needle basket sculptures and close up landscape paintings. Having said that, I try and tailor what I present based on the gallery’s type of artwork being carried. Thank you for your point of view on the subject. Much appreciated.

  188. I’ve been working on my first series for one year. I had painted in several styles up until then, and chosen my favorite before beginning with a more professional outlook. I’ve noticed evolution in my style already, and needed this consistency to truly grow as an artist.

  189. Sitting here reading this article, is perfectly timed for me as an artist, for years I have been stumbling from different styles, mediums and subject matter, a true friend recently described my last exhibition as “looking like a collection of commission pieces by several different artists”. Her honesty along with my own feelings of frustration has made me look at my work in a different light. This article has confirmed a different approach is most definitely need. Thank you

  190. Jason, THANK YOU! Your article made a very timely appearance in my inbox and I’m glad I made the time to read it. I’m self-taught and have been painting just under two years and am at the stage of first-time applying to 2016 Art Shows in New Zealand (due date this Friday).

    I’ve been unsure if I should submit a “diverse” range of artwork from my initial passion of chinese brush painting to currently exploring watercolour/acrylics, but couldn’t decide as I felt I may be seen as unfocused and as you say inconsistent. Then I thought to focus on chinese painting as that was my initial passion. Now I’ve been thinking I will do a series on a specific subject, ie roses, to dedicate to my mother who passed away six months ago and who loved roses. Reading your definition of passion makes me rethink. Arrggghhh so many thoughts running through my mind now.

    Anyhoo, thanks again Jason. If you have time to reply to jumbled thoughts, I’d appreciate any comments/feedback. Kind regards.

  191. I find I am able to create pieces in a recognizable style only for short bursts. After about 10 pieces or even less, I just get bored. And I know it is wrong. I’m not saying that to highlight how “exciting” or “freespirited” I am. I would like more than anything in the world to just be able to turn out the same kind of piece for the rest of my life, with the same look, the same subject matter, and approach galleries and be a “real” artist making money. But how can a genuine artistic moment last much longer than X number of pieces anyway? What can I do to up that number to not make it die out so fast?

    I feel that developing a consistent style is linked to being consistently rewarded for that style, like performance art where people are laughing at your jokes just makes you come up with funnier jokes, etc. But when the rewards don’t come, the personal style dies, or you wander off in search of something else. I feel that isolated artists have a lot of trouble sticking with a style for that reason. Without the consistent rewarding feedback for going in a particular direction, you just don’t go much further down that particular road. Consistent rewards breed consistent style, and consistent style breeds consistent rewards… how do you get that loop started? I fear that for some artists, that loop is doomed never to begin.

  192. Thanks for sharing such a wealth of GREAT information. I’ve read a lot of how to information about selling and galleries but yours is the first source to make solid sense to me. I appreciate your generosity!

  193. I think this is my favorite blog post of yours. I am an abstract artist and gallery owner. I constantly tell artists in my gallery that a cohesive & recognizable collection will truly increase the sale of their work. I’m amazed at the portfolios I’ve seen where each piece represented looks like it was created by a different artist. I get you are trying to show your diverse abilities but it won’t be effective for selling the work. You have elegantly explained the concept! I have spent a decade working specifically on creating a signature style that is recognizable. When people roam thru my gallery they know ALL of the pieces that are mine after seeing one or two. I’m proud that my work is apparently mine and is recognizable without looking at the label. I have clients and collectors who see paintings elsewhere and text me pics to confirm it is my work! (sometimes it is and sometimes its not.) I think there is nothing more gratifying than for someone to recognize my work out in the world where the pieces live! I also never feel “pinned in” creatively because my collection is consistent. Each piece has a personality of its own and the composition of each piece is absolutely unique even though stylistically they are cohesive. Thanks so much for your insight on this topic and expressing it so effectively!

  194. Hi Jason, I have been developing a particular look/style for my sculptures and with the encouragement from my wife, Karen, a painter and photographer in her own right, I have seen my work grow and even when the subject matter varies my style is through all the pieces and I am enjoying the conversations I am having with the materials I am currently using. Your article is a great help in me focussing more on this style and I hope to have a small exhibition here in the west, hopefully before the end of this year, that’s the plan so far, now to make it a reality. Thanks for your articles I am learning a lot and starting to get my head around being and promoting myself as an artist.

  195. Interesting article. I am more consistent now, i use the same medium (inks) and I find my stuff sells better. Thank you for sharing these invaluable articles. Have a look on my website.

  196. Jason,
    This is the best explanation of “consistency” that I have read. It was very helpful to have the pictorial examples of the various artists too. Does your explanation also apply to the term “body of work?”

  197. Hi Jason, once again, I feel very Blessed, to have found this blog! Personally I think a certain level of consistency is vital; it’s what sets us apart, for those who want to really be successful and make a name for themselves. Thanks Again, for your giving!

  198. Hello Jason;
    I came across this blog and it rings so true to me. The level of consistency is so important and a completed body of similar work. I have to keep that in mind as I venture into different mediums and being a new artist I find the whole thing so exciting that I just want to get better and better. I started strictly abstract and have been trying to improve sketching. This is a great reminder to keep work consistent and even when your heart is pulling you left and right with ideas to stay true for a complete body of work.
    Thanks, I look forward to all the info as have signed for the mailing list and the book.

  199. Enjoyed this one. Lots of great information… Really liked the plan (1 in 20) to practice consistency. I would have to agree, that if creating collectors is the goal (which would seem to be the case for any artist doing gallery shows) that consistency increases recognition — branding…

  200. Jason, Hello, so glad I signed up for your blog. So wise and yet takes time. As an artist,
    it vital to “find your voice” before a body can develop. It seems the enthusiasm of just being creative would find me everywhere as I went on plein air workshops etc. Then locking myself into my studio for a year I worked to “find my voice”….in modern expression inspired by the sea and nature. 18mo later..striving for a body more similar
    in works…they DO all look like my work, my palette and palette knife style in oil and wax. But I am also now in 3 galleries in 4 months; I have not started to market to them yet …just connections and one contacted me.
    Now….to keep a great relationship and yet be the artist of my voice…..I shall continue
    to follow your great blog. Thank you So much. Vicki P. Maguire

  201. I have been tearing my hair out (metaphorically, of course) just recently about this very subject! I’ve always wanted to be an artist and to live off of the sale of my work, but the idea of being confined to one style or subject matter for years on end had me panicking. It never occurred to me that a more in-depth exploration of a particular theme could excite me just as much as bouncing from genre-to-genre. I’m not even interested in gallery representation – I just want to connect with the right audience! And, like it or not, for that to happen, I have to make my work recognizable. This article has been a real eye-opener. Thank you so much for sharing!

  202. The main question that arises is, “Why do I paint, or sculpt”? The artist begins here. Then, actually seeing the answer very deeply, the artist intuits where to go from here. First, perception then the activity of that perception.

  203. Thank you, that was both informative and inspiring. For years I worked with architects and interior designers to create “art to order.” The result was doing very little that came from myself and a great deal that was designed around clients and customers. I took a 14 year break and am just now getting my studio back together after several major moves. First-and I will make a sign for my space: “No Art To Order Done Here” and second, I will begin to produce the work that has been backlogged in my mind and see what happens. Thanks for laying out some guidelines that offer direction as I move forward again.

  204. Hi Jason,
    I needed to hear this advice. How often have I been told that my art is very diverse. I alsawys took this to be a compliment but now I can see that it is one of the factors that have been holding me back! I have heard that my work does not hang well together. This is a symptom of the inconsistency malady.
    The difficulty that I see as highlighted by many of the comments received above, is the one of being consistent and yet evolving in fresh directions and not getting stale. Perhaps the answer is to create within areas in which one is passionate.
    Thank you for your blog. I look forward to your future writing.
    Regards,
    Henry Jensen
    Johannesburg, South Africa

  205. Thank you for this article. I do have a variety of styles and subjects, so your article helped me realized that, even if I won`t stop trying different things, but at least I will present them to galleries in a more consistent way.

  206. Bingo Jason! This is exactly what, and where I am currently focusing. Over the years, I have created at lot of different pieces. Some, are my original, and some were ideas put forth by customers. After a long break, I gave decided to re-tool and continue my art career. But, only in a select, and limited edition which highlights my skill and talent.

  207. This is the hardest thing in the world for you. I see successful artists consistently have the same style, and it’s like their signature. I start to do this but two or three pieces in I get bored, or perhaps too creative. I just constantly have ideas and it’s hard to discipline my creativity.

  208. I was so pleased to read this article!
    I don’t know if it was the 7 years working in marketing and being responsible for the branding of the business I was working for, but I have always felt compelled to create artwork which had a consistent style. I would like to think that my work is easily identifiable to me – a signature so to speak.
    I was starting to worry that I should maybe step away from my preferred style and try something different but I am now happy to remain steadfast in my endeavours. Phew!
    With my thanks for the advice…

  209. This article is timed perfectly for me. I have had so many people ask why I am not in a gallery and trying to explain that I am not ready is difficult. I am not ready because I have not been able to commit to the long hours in my studio due to the demands of my full-time job. I am in the process of figuring out what I will do next since I am know free of the 8 to 5 job and related hour plus commute to and from. I am leaning very heavily towards art. I am not certain how to make the transition financially but one thing I do know: my work has to be consistent. It has to be everything you talk about in this article. I realize that there are artists who have been able to create a consistent body of work while working at something else but I just haven’t seemed to figure it out. I am prepared to give myself a year of hard work in the studio. I have to believe that I will not only improve in mastery and thus work faster, I will see where I want to go with my art stylistically. I am excited and so ready. I’ve waited 35 years for this opportunity.

  210. Great article seems like a very fine line between copying oneself and “working back into” a theme
    Makes me think about Richard Diebenkorn
    makes me think about Malcolm Gladwell and his “10,000hour rule”

  211. I have time finally-! to paint and found myself wondering what my ‘style’ was, being unfamiliar with the term ‘brand.’ My old man put up plate rails and insisted I put out my paintings rather than stack them against the wall in my work room.
    I still don’t see what makes my art look consistent, or recurring similarity. I am hoping sheer numbers of paintings will begin to coalesce.
    My latest venture is a series of barns as if for a calendar (from my own photos). At first this idea seemed too weird and not – artistic. Reading others’ comments as well as this informative article from Jason H makes me feel relieved.
    I just didn’t know the world of art was so complex–but navigable with help from experts as well as other travelers who give so willingly advice that is worth so much. Thanks all.

  212. I’m not really convinced about the “tips” you give.

    And, yes I feel consistancy in my work, because I have done everything of my person to Art, my mind, my Body, my soul, my destiny.
    I have received “Le Prix de Rome 1990” as a photographer.

    Your advises make me sad, because you are speaking about communication, not about Art.
    Sincerely. Alice.

  213. I see you have taken down my reply. it’s very significant.

    My advise is very simple; that’s your job to follow an artist and that’s your job to build a commercial portfolio with all the bazaar of artworks an artist has the courage and the generosity to show you.
    It’s your job to make tthe Artist “saleable”.
    Alice ODILON de SOAMES.

  214. You are absolutely right as a collector. Thank you the article for showing me the perspective from the customer. I do not disagree with your point of view because I also do not like the inconsistent artists who follow the diverse market (not the need to show their change, maturity or the joy of creating.
    However, as an artist I think that loyalty to my own emotions, thinkings is more important than being loyal to the style – what you say makes the brand.
    I – artist is a living person, I change, grow up, grow old. Personally I can not try to stick to a style that is no longer my breath, in doing so I will find myself more like a machine than a human being, an artist.
    Consistency, if you are a compassionate collector, enough calm to love, explore and enjoy the soul, the life of a person rather than a profitable investment, you will find consistency of things that are intrinsic to the nature and character of the author. No matter how diverse the works are in the themes, styles, materials, the true spirit of the creator who is sincere with himself is always present.
    The art for me is my spiritual part materialized through the works. If artist is faithful to his/her own emotions, true thoughts and do not care about the market or reputation, if artist accepts the material disadvantage to keep the arrogant Self, then the artist will not have to try to hold tight to what constitutes “brand”. These artist’s Ego will not let you grab it right from the first minute but if the collector finds out from works that seem so diverse then it is like a pearl rather than a profitable brand. It is easier for the collectors to realize the works of the artists who are willing to stop, to harden themselves into a monument. (I except those artists whose their lives and minds really do not change) but if a collector is rich enough not to think of profit, then what he/ she gains is more precious than money: real conversations of the souls.

  215. I’m totally aware of the truth of this article, and yet getting consistent is easier said than done. I’ve had a major issue with consistency for years now. Even though I work mostly figuratively, the styles and media are just too different to make sense of, and because of that I haven’t tried to market my work at all. It’s frustrating, because I have so many strong pieces, and yet I feel like I’m nowhere in terms of my fine art career. I suspect that the cause for all this jumping around with style and medium is not so much that I don’t want to be limited, but really because my skill in different styles gives me an excuse to shift gears whenever I run into frustration in one area. I read a book once called the Dip by Seth Godin. I don’t remember much about it, except for this idea that in every major endeavor there’s a point where the going gets rough. It’s not fun or easy anymore. This is where most people falter, and this is why there aren’t more people succeeding at the highest levels. But if you accept that this is part of the process and push forward, you have a better chance of succeeding. For me, when I lose control of a painting, I find myself losing all inspiration and ability, so even when pushing forward, I find myself slipping deeper and deeper into a creative block. Clearly this is a complex emotional or neurological issue, but I have not been able to overcome it through sheer brute force of will (and trust me, there’s been a LOT of that over the years). If anyone here has any useful suggestions, for god’s sake please post!

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