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Navigating the Boundaries of Experimenting with Your Art as a Professional Artist

Updated: Jan 24

A Journey of Ups and Downs in Exploring Personal Style, Whilst Maintaining Financial Stability and Family Balance

By Zoe Fitchet

 

Zoe is a female, white British artist with brown hair. She is seen sitting her studio painting an image of crocodiles from above, with the artwork stating on a black easel. Zoes studio is very bright and neutral in colour and has multiple shelves with paint pots stacked neatly and many decorative plants.

Beginning my career in the interior design industry (as an in-house artist: creating artwork, murals and decor for show homes around the UK) allowed me to indulge in my passion for experimenting with various styles and subjects. Every day, I was able to explore different artistic avenues and create new things set out by the designers. However, as time went on, I realised that I needed to make a transition and work for myself in order to fully express my personal style and vision.


As I am a sucker for detailed realism...focusing my attention on creating polished, life-like pet portraits and wildlife pieces seemed like the logical choice to establish a client base and build on my technique. By focusing on intricate details and bringing subjects to life on the paper and canvas, I was able to build a strong audience and loyal client base who appreciated and valued my work. However, this success came with a price - it created a boundary that limited the extent to which I could experiment with my style and composition. With a family to support, I was a little apprehensive to make any major changes and ended up trying out many extra side projects to financially support my desire to experiment. These included: creating tutorials for Patreon, entering art competitions, painting murals, running workshops, working on smaller scale originals selling for a lower price point, and taking on commissions. All of these were only temporarily successful as I was never able to give them enough time to grow and develop due to my limited time available with a young family.


Zoe stands holding a young baby girl on her hip, whilst looking down at her son, holding her hand around his back. They are all dressed in white/ light grey tops with Zoe and her son wearing blue jeans. They are standing in front of a large piece of artwork hanging above a sofa. The artwork is a realistic coloured pencil drawing of an african wild dog, walking towards the left.

In 2022, I yearned for a change. I wanted to break free from the constraints of my established style, but I also couldn't ignore the expectations of my audience. To strike a balance, I embarked on a series of pieces that retained the intricate details and realism I had become known for, but introduced a new format - reducing my work down to a miniature scale. It was a bold move that allowed me to satisfy my need for creative freedom while still catering to the preferences of my audience. This collection marked my first solo exhibition, a transformative experience that pushed the boundaries of my creativity even further.


A wall full of 100 miniature drawings framed in black, with a crowd of people talking and looking at the artwork
Opening Night of Zoe's DIMINISHING exhibition

However, stepping outside my comfort zone came with unforeseen challenges. The risks and expenses associated with a solo exhibition were daunting and had not been adequately accounted for. Yet, despite these obstacles, I pressed on and learned valuable lessons about financial stability and careful planning when pursuing artistic experimentation.


 

Fast forward to November 2023, I joined an amazing group of artists in the beautiful collaborative exhibition "Realms of Hope", held at the OXO gallery on the South Bank of London. This collection was unlike anything I had done before. Whilst still maintaining a focus on realism, I completely abandoned the constraints of my established style and embarked on a journey of fluid experimentation. Each piece had its own unique feel, exploring different styles, compositions, sizes, and perspectives. It was a liberating experience, one that pushed me in my artistic skill and capabilities.

While I reveled in the joy of creating these pieces, I soon realised the drawbacks of my experimentations. As a professional artist who heavily relies on social media for marketing, my inconsistent and disjointed approach to my body of work over the past 18 months left me (and my audience) feeling a bit lost. It became clear that my audience thrived on consistency, a recognisable style that formed a cohesive narrative. The changes I made in my work had unintentionally jeopardized my established brand identity.


In order to support my experimentation, I began working outside of my studio for other brands and services. This allowed me the freedom to explore other styles while ensuring financial stability. However, it also meant sacrificing some of my time and energy that could have been dedicated to my personal artistic pursuits.


 

Through all the ups and downs of my artistic journey, one thing has become clear - the importance of considering various factors throughout the evolution and experimentation process. Here are a few things to consider when experimenting with your art:


1. Income: Experimentation may entail financial risks. It is crucial to plan and assess your financial capabilities to ensure a balance between artistic exploration and financial stability.


2. Audience: While it is necessary to challenge yourself and evolve as an artist, it is equally important to maintain a connection with your audience. Striking a balance between satisfying your creative desires and meeting the expectations of your audience is key.


3. Time: Experimentation requires dedicated time and effort. Managing your time effectively and striking a balance between creative exploration and other aspects of your life is essential for maintaining productivity and personal well-being.


4. Story: Your artistic journey and the stories you tell through your work are integral to your brand identity. Experimentation should enhance and enrich your overarching narrative, rather than dilute or confuse it.


A group of three zebras standing together, a forth zebra's head just about visible from the bottom. The left zebra looking towards the left hand side, the central zebra looking towards the viewer, and the right zebra looking toward the right hand side.
Solidity: one of the five pieces created for the Realms of Hope exhibition, focusing on an alternative perspective 2023
 

In my journey through artistic evolution and experimentation, I have experienced moments of triumph and moments of doubt. But amid the chaos, I have found a sense of calm about the next phase of my work - a phase that coincidentally brings me back to where I began. Sometimes, losing ourselves along the way is necessary to rediscover our true artistic essence. And sometimes, that essence is right where we have always been.


Zoe standing to the side of a large realistic African leopard painting
My first large scale hyper-realistic painting attempt in the first year of working full time back in 2019
 

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What a gift you have been given and in turn others get to share it! Bravo i

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