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.

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