The Rule of Thirds, Revisited

The best things come in threes. You know, like primary colors, Rock, Paper, Scissors and would a BLT be as sublime without the B, the L or the T? Lionel Ritchie had it right when he wrote the classic song “Three Times a Lady”.

And life would be truly perfect if only they packaged Twix with three sticks.

The rule of thirds in design is all about balance and harmony and there’s a writing concept (particularly in comedy and humor) called The Triple. I use them all the time to illustrate a point, give a few examples and deliver a punch line (see what I did there?).

But, say you’re an artist working toward making a living with your art. What is your trifecta for success? Just like any business the three basics you need are Product, Sales and Market. And two out of three ain’t enough, honey. I know my favorite part is the Product.  Who wouldn’t want to spend all their time drawing the cute pictures, writing the fun words, drinking coffee while chubby Disney-eque bluebirds swoop in and fly off with my designs to clients with big open checkbooks. That sounds pretty cool to me.

And you know we could all be better in the sales department. We’re always a step behind making one more email inquiry, sending a new batch of postcards to Art Directors far and near, staying ahead of Instagram posts and newsletter generation and…and…and…yeah, I get it.

So let’s review.

You can continue to build your amazing portfolio, and be diligently consistent about getting it in front of the powers that be—those people who can actually make a decision to use your art on their particular thing; a licensed product, an editorial piece in a magazine or an illustration for ads and websites.

So that leaves the final piece of the Success Pie.

RuleOfThirdsThe Market.

That thing that changes due to cultural or economic shifts or because of the basic principle of supply and demand (hmmm…anybody notice how many artists there are vying for the work you so desperately want?).

It’s the thing you can’t control.

So as not to completely bum you out that all of your efforts to make a creative career for yourself are out the window, I’ve come up with some (three actually!) ideas on how you can manage (or at least deal with) the best market for your work.

  1. Be aware of the shifts in our culture. Pay attention. Connect the dots. Do you see something bubbling up that will result in a need for a product that serves that group of people? Coloring books are a great example of that. Somebody identified the need for stress release combined with “assisted creativity” and a trend was born. (and I’d like to personally thank them for that.)
  2. Look at your own artwork—have you been ignoring a market that would actually be perfect for your look but you’ve felt like it’s not the right time—or you’re not ready to go after it? Well, guess what? It’s time. And you’re ready.
  3. Do your best work, don’t try to hit a look or a trend because it’s currently popular or because someone told you that you have to work a certain way. Be true to yourself and your work and market to people who get it—and you. It’s a niche-y world out there, kids.

So yes, continue to develop the best portfolio (products) you can, make your best efforts to reach out to decision makers (sales), and try to catch the market as it whizzes by. Sounds like a pretty good plan to me.

License to Draw–How to Monetize your Art through Licensing..and more! is now available in Paperback, Kindle and the super sized Premium Edition. Click here to see which one is right for you.

Down the Rabbit Hole

rw-rabbithole-webIt was a challenging day.

You know the feeling. You have a big project to work through (or an upcoming show, or a self appointed deadline to finally finish that thing you’re working on) and you reaaaalllly need to focus on it. But a little idea sprouts in another part of your brain—the part where the brilliant ideas vie for space, trying to become the next big thing you pay attention to. I don’t know what it’s called but if you are any kind of creative type you know exactly what part of the brain to which I am referring.

So anyway, one of those ideas elbowed its way to the front and demanded that I take a brief detour from what I was supposed to be working on so I could determine whether or not this idea should live or die. I have that kind of power you know.

“Sorry, Little Idea , I gave you a chance but you did not perform–so off you go to See Ya Later Island.”

I grabbed my notebook and began my usual process of dumping everything I can think of out of my brain (relating to the idea—God knows, I can’t get rid of the good stuff—like the theme from Love Boat, the multiplication tables and how to make chicken noodle soup).

I decided that yes, indeed it was an idea worth pursuing, so I began a little more research to see if:

a. Someone had already written exactly what my thesis was.


b. Has anyone used my oh-so clever-title yet?

This led me away from my notebook and onto The Internet which as we know is the kiss of death for progress, creativity and time management. But I was willing to take the risk so I could put my monkey mind to rest–at least in regard to this idea.

Of course someone else was using my  title—not for what I want to use it for, but for another product all together that I became completely enamored with; therefore spending the next 15 minutes on their website which led me to compare prices on Amazon on a product I hadn’t heard about or thought I needed 16 minutes earlier.

This makes me insane, right?

Or just a run-of-the-mill creative thinker.

Let’s go with that.

So I ordered the life-changing product and resumed my research, determining that:

a. No one has written what I want to write in exactly the same way that I want to.


b. No one is using my title for what I want to use it for.

So even though I took a little trip around Internet-ville and bought something I clearly needed (uh-huh, we’re going with that too), I eventually found my answers, with only a brief detour.

And since this particular rabbit hole did not include a rest stop at Zappos, Pinterest or Facebook I’m putting it in the win column.

It’s the small victories that count, right?


…aaaaand the new edition of License to Draw-How to Monetize Your Art through Licensing…and more! is ready for you! You can choose a Paperback, Kindle OR the spiffy new Premium Edition! Click here for all the details.