Let’s Give Them Something to Talk About

10 Aug 2014

Lucrezia by Francisco Benitez, 30 x 30, encaustic on panel.
Lucrezia by Francisco Benitez, 30 x 30, encaustic on panel.
I recently had a conversation with an artist about how she is struggling to get her drawings and oil paintings noticed by the "art world" and her frustration that she can't seem to get her work out there in front of a wider audience.

I thought to myself, I never want my work to be seen by a wider audience (shudder, shudder), but if I did, here's what I'd do.

Find a trend and jump on it. This flies in the face of doing your work out of passion or curiosity, but the art world is full of trends that might speak to you. If there is one that you can identify with, you can steer your work in that direction and maybe just ride that "what's hot" wave.

Signature style--what holds your work together? It may be the thing that gets you noticed, so suss out what it is for you and accentuate it. Maybe even devote a series of works to exploring "it." And this could be anything: your process, subject matter, painting style, or chosen narrative. Whatever it is--emphasize it. The art world is saturated with work, so if you want to stand out, you have do something that stands out.

Chatter, hype, or just the right conversation at the right time--when it comes to getting on the radar, you definitely have to be willing to talk about your work or have someone do it for you. This isn't about being obnoxious or cocky, but it is about knowing what you and your work are about and getting the word out.

Venus Pregnant by Steven Assael, 72 x 48, oil on canvas, 2002
Venus Pregnant by Steven Assael, 72 x 48,
oil on canvas, 2002.
Looking at this list, I want to cry out, "Is it really worth it?" I'm not always so sure. Because when it comes down to it there are so many artists out there that deserve recognition on their own merits. At Artist Daily we do our best to showcase artists who have something to say for themselves and who really care about their work.

And the same goes for the artists you'll find in The Artist Magazine. Artists who creates thoughtful figure paintings steeped in history, or painters who create with encaustic paints--a medium that goes back to the days of the Egyptian pharaohs but has been all but forgotten. Or artists like Steven Assael, whose subject matter pushes the envelope far past conventionality and makes paintings that are both intimate and uncomfortable.

So steer your artistic career in a way that feels right to you. Because no one can predict what is going to happen tomorrow let alone over the course of a lifetime. The only thing that matters is doing what you love and making art that you care about. And the only person you have to answer to is yourself. What do you think about the "art world?" Is it worth getting noticed? Leave a comment and let me know, and for more inspiration and art-filled days consider a subscription to The Artist's Magazine.

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on 14 Sep 2011 5:16 AM

I agree with you about finding a style or subject that is your own and that you do well. I may be  mixing media that does it for you or a certain subject. Whatever it is that you paint well and love to paint then buyers will also love.

I don't know if you actually said that in your piece, but that is what I believe.

Nina Allen Freeman

Tallahassee, FL

billf wrote
on 14 Sep 2011 6:29 AM

I see nothing wrong with wanting to be recognized if the artist wants that.  

As far as developing a style, personally I would not want to be known for, or pigeonholed into a certain style.  I would instead prefer to be recognized for the ability to work in or create any style, without limitations.  

For me, this keeps the exploration process alive.

Bill Figdor

Maplewood, NJ

ikree8 wrote
on 14 Sep 2011 6:33 AM

Everyone has the right to create art in any manner and for any reason that they want to.  It's easy to recognize a gimmick, and easy to tell if the artist is striving for 'shock' to get attention.  Often the public and the galleries buy into it and provide the desired platform for those artists.  For the most part, these artists choose this as a means to get recognition because they aren't good enough otherwise.  

The artists I admire and respect the most are the ones who spend their time and effort perfecting their skill and knowledge of great art.  These are the artists who will go forward and stand the test of time.  The others are a drop in the bucket and soon forgotten.

However, it's frustrating, during this downturn time for artists, that Smithfield the Pig is still selling like crazy.  

rhaslach wrote
on 14 Sep 2011 6:34 AM

"What's in it for me?" is a restatement of this question, with the underlying issue of validation.

As in music performance and theater, a thin 1 or 2% of practitioners will be rewarded monetarily in a handsome way, a few will be famous for 15 minutes, and the rest will practice their art because they wish to.


Robert Haslach

Washington, DC

See my art portfolio


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on 14 Sep 2011 6:51 AM

Most people who struggle for there work want recognition for it.  Knowing Steven Assael, however, I can tell you that he's not interested in trends, but in honesty and sincerity.  His work is original because he has original thoughts, and thinks about his work when he rises and goes to sleep.  

Trends pass, but a great work of art will last for ages because it speaks to the human heart.  Paint from your heart, make it available for people to see as often and as many ways as possible, and if you are an interesting person it will be noticed by interesting people.  


Stephen Cefalo




janina2 wrote
on 14 Sep 2011 6:55 AM

Hi Courtney,

I've enjoyed many of your articles.  This one really struck a cord.  There are times when I'd like to be known as an artist, but then I shudder as I don't produce enough of a body of worki to even merit that title.  I am not able to paint everyday and thus will go weeks with perhaps a drawing or two.  

So to be known, also means to produce.  Janina

on 14 Sep 2011 9:08 AM

As for myself and the challenging, that triggers emotional output on a visionary aspect.....I personally feel art should be made in a manner to help the viewer, to take that individual person into a realm of passion and waves of pleasure..putting a smile on their face. Leaving them full of life and wonderment. To do art that makes a person or individual, sick or nauseated..and they leave with bad sensation, is basically the artists' fault. Each of us that are artists' in that manner have that ability to spread this element. So it is our personal choice,  how we want to be noticed. Right?...

kylevthomas wrote
on 14 Sep 2011 10:59 AM

I don't think there is anything wrong with trying to gain a wider audience, but it should be pursued with honesty toward yourself and the work. Stephen's comment is spot on. I think most of us are trying to gain collectors, but we also want to create works that speak to the soul, that will still work in 100 years. Don't follow trends, be true to yourself, and work hard on your skills.

brandon4 wrote
on 14 Sep 2011 12:12 PM

For me, this article is right on point! Great article Courtney! There are some things to be learned with advice that is provided.


on 14 Sep 2011 1:13 PM

Of course the real challenge with getting recognized is that you often have to sell the shirt off your back to attend the events that would get you in front of the people that could propel your career. Of course there is no guarantee and so most "emerging artists" shy away from these events.  

tbarts wrote
on 14 Sep 2011 6:29 PM

Loving the work comes first. After that, getting as good as possible. I like to write about my art, but then I enjoy writing. But about the art-- I'm more concerned with improving my paintings than with getting noticed. Hopefully if I get good enough the latter will take care of itself.

KatPaints wrote
on 15 Sep 2011 5:12 AM

Yes following trends is not a good idea. As a designe, knowing trends is part of my job. They change slightly over the year and more so over two years. That means you have about five years to ride the wave and then you need to move onto something else.

I think it is best to do a look that you love no matter what the trend. Look at Charley Harper. For decades he created geometric animals by hand. Now, though he is deceased, his work is on trend and recognized.

Also when you do what you love, the internet can connect you with people who are interested. You could be involved with dayglo Ukrainian Easter eggs and someone out there would be interested. You may even find that there is a group of dayglo Easter egg creators in the Ukraine or Easter Russia. One member speaks excellent English too!

KatPaints wrote
on 15 Sep 2011 5:25 AM

Another thought. Should following past trends be avoided? Many artists drawn to this type of realism look to the old masters and their work looks like an exercise in anachronism. Should we try to paint what is current to our era and this point in history?

cooper2 wrote
on 15 Sep 2011 6:50 AM


I, too, vote no regarding finding a trend and jumping on it.  

By the nature of trends, if you go looking for one that's already started, then you are already too late.

Better, I think, to be the trend setter or originator.  And that requires diligant effort on those matters discussed in the 4th and 5th paragraph of your article.

K Cooper


on 15 Sep 2011 11:38 AM

Its  always  good  to  be  true  to  your  art  and  yourself,  the  rest  will  be  'gravy'.  Ocassionally,  if one  has a  'TRUMPET'   one  needs  to  blow  it  to  be  heard!   LARRY OTOO ,  GHANA.

gimpy57 wrote
on 15 Sep 2011 3:08 PM

Personally I would like some recognition for my work, but it seems there are so many hoops to jump through to do that and it is often something I personally just put in the too hard basket.

It is great that there are web sites out there and face book that you can put your work on and receive lots of positive comments, but as an artist I am seeking constructive criticism because sometimes you get to the end of something and you don't really know where to go but a chat will often give you several directions upward and onward, or even a whole new direction totally to pursue

pacanne wrote
on 9 Feb 2012 12:54 PM

Thanks, Courtney, for posting my work for this article. The issues you bring up in your article are very interesting, and I discuss some of this tangentially on my Facebook page, as I posted several reviews of shows I saw in New York in January (Francisco Benitez-Artist). I did the rounds of galleries in Chelsea and Mid-town; there was some great stuff, and very jaded, hip stuff, that was enough to get any of us depressed. I admit it's a very fine line between being attentive to current art trends and wanting to have your work seen as "contemporary", and following your true impulses, whether they coincide or not with the latest trends. I keep seeing all the young, hot artists in Chelsea as being "career kids" who have gone to all the right schools, gotten all the right grants, done the right residencies. Gone are the days of artists as subversive, marginalized revolutionaries. The revolution has been conveniently academicized and institutionalized. The Whitney Biennal is prime evidence of this...

on 16 Aug 2014 11:25 AM

As a student, I was called "the Monet of the class", because I so admired his work that I was imitating it.  Now that I am "all grown up" I did a series of 13 paintings that started at Impressionism and went all the way to modern landscape.  It was liberating and progressive.  Authenticity cannot live in anachronisms.  Now I use magic markers on top of the acrylics, collage and pastels.  It is "my own thing". At our gallery (Fusión Isleña) we encourage young artists to look around AND THEN find their own voice.

Marimer Cebollero


on 16 Aug 2014 11:33 AM

I've learned as an artist that one must be a self-promoter and do it often and boldly.  I want others to see my art, otherwise what is the point.  I strive to paint a better picture each time and if it is a trend setter, so be it.  I myself don't care what is happening now in the art world because that place is weird.  I do what I like and I find that others like what I do.  If someone wants to spend millions of dollars on a white stripe running down the length of a black background, good for them, but that is not my style.

<a href="http://richardkmeister.com">Richard K. Meister</a>

on 16 Aug 2014 11:34 AM

I've learned as an artist that one must be a self-promoter and do it often and boldly.  I want others to see my art, otherwise what is the point.  I strive to paint a better picture each time and if it is a trend setter, so be it.  I myself don't care what is happening now in the art world because that place is weird.  I do what I like and I find that others like what I do.  If someone wants to spend millions of dollars on a white stripe running down the length of a black background, good for them, but that is not my style.

kaisdream wrote
on 16 Aug 2014 1:41 PM

After years of creating art commercially the idea of finding yet another "in" subject matter stops my desire to create completely.

To love what you do and to care about it is where it is for me. And experience tells me to never leave something you love.

Rob55 wrote
on 17 Aug 2014 7:43 AM

Interesting and inspiring. I jumped on the 'painting a Day' movement seven months ago,  My work started selling straight away and I'm now a full time painter making a modest wage through an internet blog.

Painting a Day can be anything you like, it's amazing to find that there are people out there that want to buy your work, it's sometimes about stopping looking at what to paint and just getting on with it : show everything and it will work wonders.

Fortune favours the brave.

Kate Aubrey wrote
on 17 Aug 2014 2:52 PM

Hi, Courtney.

I generally enjoy your blogs and have "discovered" some amazing artists through them. Thank you.

This time, though, I have to say I am disappointed in your suggestion that artists follow trends in order to be seen. While there are ways in which one can follow trends while still being true to oneself and one's art, they are usually not the simple ones that most people think of, and they require advance research so one knows ahead of time what the trend will be/is becoming.

Painting barns "because they sell" or painting semi-nude, tattooed pregnant women wearing unusual headdresses won't get the artist far unless barns or the aforementioned pregnant women engage that artist's heart on a deep level.

As far as I can tell, artists who get seen in a big way do three things (probably more than three, but these three are essential).

1. They paint straight from their hearts and souls.

2. They get really, really - need I say it again? - really good at painting by painting A Lot and mastering their medium.

3. They find ways to get seen. It may not be in a national publication at first, but they keep finding ways.

The one thing they never do is give up.

No, it's not a quick fix. With so many truly excellent artists today, you can't just look good. You actually have to be excellent. You have to believe in yourself. And you have to work at it. Hard.

Fortunately the work is wonderful fun. So let's keep painting, guys. Life is too short not to.

alemke wrote
on 17 Aug 2014 4:56 PM

All of your suggestions are very good, but changing your style for what's happening now might only work for a few people. Getting your work out in a professional and businesslike manner is what works - slow and steady wins the race.  I understand one short article can only hit a very few points, and they are all very good.  You should have directed her to the book by photographer, writer and teacher on the subject of breaking into the art world, Cay Lang. Her book "Taking the Leap, Building a Career as a Visual Artist" is so full of common sense. secrets and tips, it should be by every new artist's bedside table. She covers everything you could possibly think of down to the last detail.  Get that book, it will pay for itself.