Art In History Art Blog
The other day a member asked me how she could get more visitors to notice her gallery among the multitude on the site. I gave her several suggestions, including sending people to your gallery through other media such as Facebook, blogging about it, or using key descriptive words in your text.
Another way is to have a niche, a little corner of the art scene which, when a viewer is looking for it, they will find only a handful artists who qualify. If you are an Equestrian painter, or a painter of infant portraits, your chances are vastly improved.
Are you a niche artist? Do you, like Vermeer, have a trademark subject which instantly identifies the work as yours? There is a lot to be said for it: you can get very good at it, you know your market, and buyers looking for a certain item or subject are much more likely to find you. It has worked really well for artists in the past who were good but not great, who understood their strengths and limitations. George de la Tour made a name for himself doing paintings lit by a single source, a candle, within the frame.
The best examples are the little Dutch masters, who all carved out a niche. Vermeer himself was one in spirit, though his genius raises him to the level of greatness beyond and doubt. Cuyp specialized in landscapes with cattle (he turned out an excellent cow), while Terborch was known for his superior rendering of satin.
Periodically I wonder if I should try to become a niche artist. When I am in a fallow period, trying to prime the pump, I always think I should return to what I do best...whatever that is. There's the rub: if I chose a niche, what would it be?
I have had many "specialties", favorite subjects to return to. I have also had many people tell me what they think is my best thing is. However, their advice invariably reflects their taste at least as much as my expertise, and tends to spread itself evenly across my subject areas.
My first specialty was portraits; I concentrated on portraits through my college and graduate student years, and have always kept at it. There are regularly people I meet whose faces make me itch to paint them, and a lot of my portraits are the result of my asking someone to sit. I also do house portraits, animal portraits, even portraits of cars and motorcycles! But portrait commissions have never dominated my art business.
Architecture has always had a special place in my work; I love structure in all its manifestations, but particularly when it leads to unintended conjunctions and compositions, as in old mills and decaying barns. Actually, my millscapes are the subject area which has led to my highest percentage of sales. That would be one way to choose.
If I look at my landscape work over the years, what stands out are the skies, the dramatic clouds. My favorite landscape painter from the past is John Constable, and the skies are clearly what distinguishes his works from all others. My landscapes have been called gloomy, but I don't see them that way. The clouds are a marvellous instrument for the expression of energy, of feelings, and for the harmonization of all the colors found below.
My great passion in 2009 was rocks and rockfaces, which are also a source of accidental structural elements. Rocks have had an almost spiritual attraction for me for a long time: I collect them, display them, build with them. The house which I now live in with my wife, which we designed ten years ago, is centered around a monumental fieldstone hearth, built entirely from rock I collected myself. Every rock has its own character, much like the character in a weathered face.
But wait! I have just returned from a visit to Stowe, painting and skiing, so it is very clear to me at the moment that snow is the thing I do best...maybe. I love winter, I love what snow does to transform a landscape, I love how it both modifies and creates light, how it makes pattern in the alternation of dark and light. I can feel that I will now be doing snowscapes in the coming days, rich with lavendars in the shadow, warm with creamy tones in the late light. I can't wait to milk again the magic of snow.
So is that my niche? For the moment it will be. Or should I do just boulders in the snow, or old barns in the snow? It's niche work for the time being, until the next passion comes along. For me, the passion trumps the niche.