One Fantastic Week started with a simple idea. Sam and I wanted to share the kinds of conversations we've had at cons with a wider audience. We didn't know where that would lead, but we knew that if all learned from each other, that we'd all grow stronger together.
Recently, we've been seeing a lot of really amazing examples of independent success from around the community and we wanted to start highlighting them. Rather than refine down the stories into a real blog format, I just want to post them as they happen. This is a recent conversation with one of our community members who I reached out to on Facebook. Oddly enough, these sorts of convention reports are starting to become a common feature of my inbox.
Over the last few years, I’ve built a business I’m really proud of. Not only because it makes enough money to support a comfortable life for my family, but also because it’s built entirely on the back of my own personal artwork. By paying close attention to the lives and businesses of artists more experienced than myself, I’ve created something that will sustain me financially and creatively for the rest of my life. As a repayment to the community that’s helped me achieve this, I’ve been working to hold the door open for other artists who aspire to the same goals.
I want to help you make a comfortable living, making the kind of art you want and selling it directly to your fans.
Over the last 2 years, I’ve only ever made artwork for Angelarium. No fan art, no commissions, no freelance. It’s been great but I'm developing an itch.
The success of the project has had the wonderful side effect as well. By voting with their money, the fans of Angelarium have completely priced me out of the freelance market. There is no client I’ve encountered that can come close to matching the value that my fans put on my work. Getting to tell a bunch of low ball commissioners ‘no’ has been a pleasure but I’m starting to wonder if I’m building too high a wall around myself. I really do want to work on other projects sometimes, but it’s hard to justify when the pay is so much lower.
As artists we are often told to specialize. I think some of that comes from the advantage of mastering one technique at a time. In sales, specializing or focusing your product line is also key. However, the opposite option is not as often discussed, but is equally as valid—that of the generalist.
The generalist is an artist who approaches art like a science, a series of skills to be mastered, based on a foundation of art history, and with the ability to transition into any chosen field within the wider art market. Ron Lemen is one artist that comes to mind who has chosen this path.
When describing the journey we take to better ourselves as artists, we talk about a “career path”. Sometimes this is envisioned like a walk through a forest or scaling a mountain trail. These metaphors fail us too often because it supposes that there is an intended goal to achieve, a peak to conquer. The problem is that conquering a career goal often leads to a dead end. Each time we can no longer move forwards, whether it's because our goals have been met or because they've been cut short, will inevitably require significant backtracking to find new routes. Doing this over and over again, it's easy to see how twisted these paths really are. This world we're navigating is a maze. A huge and daunting maze without a clear goal or solution.