Q&A Friday with Lilla: On style

Lilla loves questions, and she was asked a great deal of them in Make Art That Sells, so we thought we’d share a few with you. Over the next few Fridays we will be posting a few real questions from students, along with Lilla’s responses. We hope these are helpful as you develop your own work. This week we are focusing on style.


Q) Do you know any successful artists who have more than one distinctive style? How do they present their work on their website?

A) If the reality is that you have a few styles, then by all means show them. The world is your personal focus group. The market will come to you for the work that’s marketable. But if you believe in a style, don’t give up on it even if it takes longer to get results. Here’s the deal: Over time, your various styles will probably merge into one even stronger style. I’ve seen this happen time and time again. Keep making art.


Q) For bolt fabric, do ‘simple/modern’ designs work – or is it great only when marketed under a brand (like Orla Kiely) who stand for that kind of lifestyle and have the power of their brand behind them?

A) This is a very important question. Remember that most companies have in-house designers.  So they won’t come to you and pay $500 – $1,000 or more for a piece of art, or royalties, for work that they can do themselves. This is why I encourage you to do pieces that have a lot going on, and even possibly paint on the art. Simple has its place, but the more you can offer a client, the more enticing your piece will be.


Q) Do you have any advice on how best to know where your style fits? Would having an agent be the best way to find the right audience?

A) Getting an agent is like getting a client. A good agent is difficult to get. Make Art That Sells (in my humble opinion) is a terrific way to see what styles are commercial. Also, it gives you some of the best subject matter for each market according to what I see licensed in the marketplace, since it’s what I do for a living. That’s one way. If you are looking at lots of products that are currently being produced in the market you like, then you are getting a flavor for what I call the cultural visual conversation. Then, you put your spin on it.


Q) If you want a long career, how do you balance developing a distinctive style with staying fresh?

A: I am all about career longevity for artists. I have seen careers come and go over the decades. Why do some artists’ careers last? Simple answer: they stay inspired and take risks. They don’t get stuck in a rut. They push, they try, they explore. So that might mean being creative in all kinds of ways. 

Let’s dig deeper into the premise of the question: How do you make a career last for decades? First, it’s important to have one core business that you can leverage, so you don’t scatter your efforts everywhere. Just get good at one thing, for starters. Then, opportunities grow from there. So, for example, say you have an Etsy shop of your artwork and things are selling well.  So you might grow from there to getting a variety of surface design licensing deals like for wall art and gift products, picturebook commissions, fabric lines and magazine illustrations (editorial). Remember, one thing leads to the next.
That answers the first part of your question, about a career longevity. Now let’s look at the part about balancing a distinctive style with staying fresh.  I think what you’re asking is how can you get known for your look while not changing up your brand so much with all kinds of work so that you become unrecognizable. The answer is that you do want to have a body of work that hangs together, but then it’s terrific to have art around the edges that pushes the boundaries of your style. This shows art directors and agents that you have more up your sleeve. I always love to see that in an artist – what kinds of explorations are they doing? 
Q) Is it more important to have a vision of the style you want, or to let it evolve naturally? What is the key ingredient to homing in on your style?

A: Short answer: The more art you do, the more your style emerges. Fact. Your style actually grows and evolves over time as your tastes change. Looking at art and the world informs your work. Pushing yourself to try new things and to work in different media grow your style as they add more tools to your tool kit. So learning is key.

One of the most exciting parts of art-making is the spiritual process of self-discovery. By constantly asking yourself questions such as, “Do I like this? Do I like making this mark, or putting down this color, or drawing neatly, or wildly?”, you learn more about your true self. That is why when we see a very distinctive style, like Helen Dardik’s, it is as though we are looking at Helen herself. You are making what you – in your core – love to make, regardless of what others think. That is how you become an original.
Those of you that have taken our Make Art That Sells course know that I often say “people buy your joy”. It’s true.  And the corollary follows that joy comes from being passionate about your work. And when you are passionate, you know that you are doing the art you’re meant to do. Make the art you’re meant to do and then match it up with the right market for your work.
Homing in on your own style is about taking risks and requires courage!  When I was young, one of my favorite books was Rollo May’s text, The Courage to Create. Confession: I don’t think I actually ever read it, but I contemplated the title for many years! Yes, art-making takes courage.


If you want the chance to ask Lilla your own burning questions, sign up for Make Art That Sells (starting online on October 7). This is an industry first – a real opportunity to learn how to make great art that sells in the top ten hottest markets. Don’t miss it!

We’ll be back next week with ‘Q&A Friday with Lilla: On life as an artist’



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This is a rare, incredible opportunity to tap into three decades’ of experience from someone at the forefront of the art licensing industry. Lilla Rogers Studio has sold art for products worth over $100 million. Lilla knows what is hot, what is on the horizon and where your work fits in. Find out more here!

1 Comment

  • This is a great post, and really helpful and inspiring. I have read ‘I just like to make things’ which I loved. This gives me inspiration to keep on going with my art and little art business, I think I do have a definite style, and I do love to draw and make things too, so I think it’s a case of keeping going with the belief that I will find the right path for it all. My cards already sell sell in some shops, and fairs go well, so people do like it, they are ‘buying my joy’. Thank you Lilla x

    September 30, 2013

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