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Should You Make Art You Love, or Art That Sells?

It’s an issue a lot of artists struggle with. Do I make the kind of art that I love making? Or do I make the kind of art that I know I’ll sell?

This all came about as a question from somebody in the Thriving Artists Business School Facebook group. As soon as you move out of the hobbyist mindset into something slightly more professional, it’s easy to get stuck in this dilemma. Of course, when you are just doing it as a hobby, you do it purely for the love and purely for the joy of creating. You don’t have to worry about any of the business stuff. As soon as you flip into that business mode and need to start earning an income from it, it’s easy to suddenly start to change your mindset and think, “Okay, I need to think about what the customer wants, rather than what I love creating”.

In other businesses, you definitely start with what the customer wants, and how you can best serve them. With art it’s different.

I can’t say this enough, and I can’t emphasise it enough – you need to paint what you love, what lights you up, what really ignites you and what you’re passionate about, for two reasons.

Number one, as an artist, you will lose your mojo from time to time. You get to the end of a collection and starting a new one feels overwhelming. You might feel like you don’t want to do, or can’t get the motivation to get back in the studio or to start another series. You might feel like you are feeling around in the dark for some inspiration. If you are painting from your way, from your true purpose, all the time about what inspires you and what you love doing, you are much more likely to connect with that, be inspired and be able to move forward quickly.

If you’re painting because you think somebody else will like a certain thing, but it’s not lighting you up, then you’re on the backfoot straightaway. Also, you can see the passion when somebody is enjoying creating something and they love every minute of it.

Why Make Art You Love

One of the main reasons to make art you love is that you don’t need any persuasion to get started. You’re just so fired up and excited to get creating that you’re having to hold back as opposed to the other way around. That passion, that love and that kind of joy, that inspiration, comes across in the pieces of art you’ll create. They’re much freer, they’re much more inspired. You can just sense the energy, so much better than a painting that’s just being done to make money or to serve a purpose.

Another reason to make art for you is so that you can communicate that with your potential buyers. If you are passionate about something, and if it really motivates you, and if you feel strongly about it, you can then share that in such a way that also attracts similar like-minded people who are also inspired and passionate about the same thing. It’s kind of a marriage that happens from the work and from the customer’s needs, and they come together.

If you are painting according to your customer’s needs and just making art you think will sell, then you are chasing something that doesn’t exist. Every person is different. Every person is going to be changing their mind from one day to the next, liking one thing one weekend, one thing another week. Trying to keep up with fashions and trends and other people’s requirements is exhausting. There’s a definite sure-fire way to burn out and lose the mojo.

Stay on track painting what you love painting, instead of thinking what you will sell. And if you do that and stay true to yourself and stay honest, you will start to communicate it and you’ll start to attract people that naturally align with the same thing.

Now this person in the Facebook group said something really interesting as well, which I think we all suffer from. If I paint what I like, I don’t think it’s going to sell. Whereas if I paint what will sell then I’m pretty sure it’s gonna sell and quite often is actually the other way around. We think it might not sell We think it might be too niche or too specific, but because it’s come from that heart centred place and it’s really driven by passion and enthusiasm it sells like hotcakes or it sells much easier.

So don’t put obstacles in your way thinking that something won’t sell just because you enjoy doing it. That’s often the complete flip side of what actually happens!

Stick to what you love creating, what inspires you, what really moves you. That passion will come across to your ideal buyers and you will end up attracting the people that are aligned with what you love. What is better than serving people that love the same thing that you love?

If you need support moving forward with your art journey, get in touch! On the blog there are loads of resources to encourage your confidence in your art (such as the free Artists Roadmap to help you figure out your next steps) and my FREE masterclass ‘4 Simple Steps to Consistent Art Sales‘. 

Come follow me on Instagram – I’d love to connect!

Here’s what those who watched my free masterclass went on to achieve..

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“I went from $30 in a year to $9000 in one month! I never thought it was possible to earn that much in a month” Jay

“I made my course investment back within 4 weeks and had made it back five times over, just eight weeks after the programme!” Lynsay

“I would totally refer Amanda’s course to anyone wanting help setting up or growing their art business – she has been amazing! I went from zero sales to selling a painting for £5500!” Solly

“I sold out of 2 art retreats in LESS than 24hrs!” Debs

Hello from Amanda Heath

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8 Comments

  1. Conny on March 4, 2022 at 8:40 am

    I used to paint what I thought would sell, but that was so exhausting and I didn’t like painting anymore. I went from still life to portrait, to animals, to landscapes and back at still life etc. This year I’m painting what I love . This mindset made me already paint more, I made a plan and I feel more confident and relaxt.

    • Amanda Heath on June 15, 2023 at 2:19 pm

      I’m so sorry I missed your thoughtful comment and I’m thrilled you are now making art that lights you up! That was a brave move to make and one that so many don’t make.

  2. Tess on May 6, 2022 at 9:16 am

    Thanks Amanda 🙂 I’m so happy to hear this at the start of my art business. Art is deeply personal so let us just create as we are… But the more we enjoy the process and the finished product, definitely others will too! 🥰

    • Amanda Heath on June 15, 2023 at 2:20 pm

      I couldn’t agree with this more! I hope your art business is going from strength to strength.

  3. Elena Papadakou-Bolt on June 1, 2022 at 7:10 pm

    To paint is my hobby. I like to paint wild flowers and also the most smaller ones which sometimes nobody sees. I was so happy to find one day a very little orchid as small as a bee. I paint them for myself. I’m drawing in my notebook and wrote together something next of my paintings. Most of them are small.

    • Amanda Heath on June 15, 2023 at 2:21 pm

      Beautiful! And that’s fine, art doesn’t have to be a business, it can simply be for our soul.

  4. Liberty Day on June 14, 2023 at 10:34 pm

    Does it matter if you start at age 44?
    I started drawing when I was a little girl . Dabbled here and there , took some arts classes in college , and now I’ve decided to get a BFA in graphic design , so I’m making art again …but this time , purely for fun and you know what ? I LOVE IT so so much! I wish I had started when I was much younger and developed it then , instead of worrying so much what people would think of me ! But I’m doing it now and I’m 44.

    I read this article and I think it’s heart warming and encouraging. Thank you !

    • Amanda Heath on June 15, 2023 at 2:22 pm

      It doesn’t matter one bit! I think it’s wonderful. To be honest I only came back to it fully at 44 too. My life has totally changed since then, for the better and I hope yours does too.

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