October 12, 2017

What if my work changes and people stop liking it?

Uh oh. There is a problem. This happens to all artists. It happens to me and if you are like most people it will happen to you too.

You will become bored with what you are making. The answer of course is to do something different. To change.

But what if all those people who like your art, what if that gallery who sells your art doesn’t like it? You have worked so hard to get your career going and now all that work will be undone. What if you switch from that muted palette everyone loves to a more colorful one? Maybe you are tired of painting realistically and want to go more abstract? What if you want to make sculpture instead of paintings?

Before we get into what to do let’s first look at the natural improvement path of creatives of all kinds. It goes something like this:

My work has reached a certain level and I have become stuck and uninspired. I start paying attention to only what I enjoy in my art and focus on that part. I adjust my art accordingly. Out of this focus and discernment my new work starts to pick up momentum. I start to like it better. When I do, I tend to think about it more. As a result I come back to the studio sooner and for longer periods of time, as it is more and more satisfying to make. The new work gains momentum and in no short time, surpasses the older work. Sales of your new art slowly but surely begin to rise usually in time, surpassing previous levels.

Most people, especially those who are not in creative fields, you ask for advice will remind you how fortunate you are to be able to even sell your art. They question rocking the boat. This advice possibly works in most scenarios but not in art. “Do you really want to sabotage your career after you just got it going? You are so fortunate to be able to do something you love for a career. Most artists I know would kill to be you.”

But guess what? You are not most artists. You are you.
This situation is only a problem if we adopt this scarcity mode of thinking.
Don’t buy it.

Here is the thinking I have used to make changes, take risks and ultimately survive financially and happily as a fine artist. Maybe some of it can help you navigate this time of uncertainty. I will try to focus on certainties…things we as artists can control.

If the artist becomes bored the work will become stale. If forced to make something solely because it sells, in time the art will become unemotional and will be less valuable and less marketable. Be mindful of this deterioration of your practice. Change your art at first blush of boredom. This takes courage, integrity and a willingness to once again head off into slightly unchartered waters.

Your new art might not be clear at this point but your Soul knows and is just waiting patiently for you to become more in alignment with yourself. It keeps sending you signals by making you feel bored. How long will go on without listening? Remember why you just couldn’t give up making art early in your life? You kept coming back to it again and again against all odds. That was because your Soul, your inner knowing knew all along. It knew then and it knows now. If you are bored, do not walk towards changing. Run.

You only become bored with your art because you have outgrown it. It is too small for you. I rarely have seen or experienced a change that was not an eventual improvement in the artists work. Sometimes, your audience or galleries will not recognize the change as favorable. This is to be expected as you are bringing something new, unseen to the table now. People in general don’t like change.

The problem is not that you are changing. This is good. The problem, I hate to say, is with those in your world who are resistant to change. For example, if your gallery only wants you to keep making the kind of art that they have had success selling then I would strongly recommend finding a new gallery that actually understands art making and the long term sustainability of sales and maintaining a high quality of art by embracing, not resisting the creative path you are walking. High quality galleries understand this fact.

If your fans are no longer supportive because your art changes then you need to establish better relationships with collectors and buyers who understand art making. It is your job, I believe, to be in a dialogue with your fan base, literally messaging them about how you are changing and how excited you are about this new work. The kind of fans and buyers you really want to stay connected with are those who understand your need to change. Changing and communicating this journey through a once a month email will increase engagement, not lessen it. A true fan will want not just one kind of art but many kinds that you will be making over your career. Celebrate and embrace change and your fans will too.

Remember your art and all that surrounds it emanates from YOU. You are like the sun in your universe. Your own website is the dashboard for the world to see all you were, are and are becoming. Everything in your universe, adjusts to YOU not the other way around. Your commitment to your art and yourself is keeping that sun rising every day and shining brightly. It is your first priority. If you can remain passionate and excited, all the planets, the galleries, all the stars, your audience, will align around you.

Oh and there is one more thing is often overlooked during this time… Make sure you congratulate yourself for arriving at a place that requires you to change. This can only mean one thing: You have matured. You have improved and soon, you will be shinning even more brightly than before.

Has this ever happened to you? Please leave a comment/s about what has worked for you.

Nicholas Wilton

Hi! I’m
Nicholas Wilton
the founder of Art2Life.

With over 20 years experience as a working artist and educator, I’ve developed a systematic approach that brings authenticity, spontaneity and joy back into the creative process.

Join me and artists from all over the world in our Free Art2Life Artists Facebook Group or learn more here about Art2Life.

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