Nonsense Society member Patrick Nietupski shares his thoughts on how to find your niche as an artist.
What is a niche and how does one find it?
I wish I could say to you that I was a published authority or blogosphere big shot on the subject – something that could give me a sense of credibility. But unfortunately I am writing on a topic that I find myself in the midst of: finding my own niche. What is a niche and how does one find it? To the former: a niche, in the sense that I’m describing, is the place where your art comes from. It is not necessarily a physical place. It’s where your creativity, style, and influences come together to form the essence of your art. It is your way of putting a stamp on a piece of art. Your niche is limited by nothing and enhanced by everything. Finding the niche is much more difficult than defining it.
I’ve bounced around creatively going from project to project, idea to idea. Starting each one with a sense of vigor only to wind up walking away quietly, locking the project up in the attic to gaze at later with a mix of regret and embarrassment. I’ve tried my hand at prose, poetry, pencils, photography, often times walking away feeling miserable. Like a failure. And that this isn’t for me. But why then do I feel this urge to create? Well that’s simple: like you – like most people – I’m a creative person with ideas. How we get them from our brains to others’ is what it’s all about.
I’ve recently taken up cartooning because I love it and always have. On my quest to become a serious artist, I dismissed cartooning years ago as fun but ultimately not artistic enough to express the true complexity of humanity’s struggle over its capacity for good and evil (or something to that effect). Total Bullshit. The first step in finding your niche is to just say, “Total bullshit, man.” Use it as a mantra if you like, but first let’s explore the meaning of this particular variety of bullshit.
Never tell yourself, or believe that, any avenue is not right for you, or that any avenue is not artistic, because that is total B.S. The second you start closing doors is the second you lose your ability to appreciate any form of art. So take this Portable Ram of Bullshit Bashing +1 and open any and all doors that you have ever closed on yourself. You’ll find it is both liberating and enlightening. Just a few examples of how I’ve used the Ram:
- I used to think cartooning, while funny and oftentimes thoughtful, was not a serious artistic medium. Bullshit. I now can see that not only is this completely false, but cartooning allows us to express artistic themes in ways that other visual mediums fall short. It is also becoming my preferred artistic medium
- I used to believe that all poetry was artsy-fartsy crap and that real poets became lyricists. Bullshit. First of all, poetry is beautiful and plays a game to communicate an immense amount of feeling in an abstract way. Also, poetry is harder to write than lyrics, if only for the fact unless you’re doing a reading you have to communicate your rhythm on the page alone.
- I believed minimalism – in any form – is a lazy attempt to be artistic. Bullshit. Minimalism in any respect is an impressive display of expression in simplest terms. It’s like the equation: y=mx+b (the function for a line) – so simple but capable of expressing so much. See the article on minimalism by Nick Collins for more!
These are just a few things I’ve learned with the Portable Ram. I’m sure that we could make a list together that could stretch to the international space station and back. So keep the Ram handy, and use it well. With the doors opening, what’s our next move on the road to our niche?
Expose yourself to different artists – even if they’re not in your “genre” of art – especially artists that you love and art that you had previously dismissed. You really can only get a net gain out of this, even things you don’t like point you in the direction of what you do. Different styles will not only give you an idea of how to make your niche, but you may find inspiration in an unlikely place. Perhaps a poem will inspire you to paint or a painting will inspire you to compose a song. Who knows? You may ask, “But if I over expose myself to get my sense of style, how will I ever be original?” Fear not, true believer. First, we all know that style has been passed down from artist to artist for generations. And though they are similar, every good artist puts their own stamp on a style (because they’ve found their niche!).
So the best way to build your art is to study others’ work. Fall in love with it, let it inspire you. You will add your own “me-ness” when you pick up your horn, brush, pen, word processor – the originality will take care of itself. No one makes art like you, just like no matter how hard you try you will never be able to reproduce the feeling from Allen Ginsberg’s Howl, without blatantly plagiarizing, of course. In my humble opinion: Art survives – but more importantly thrives – on this exchange of ideas (and it’s what the Nonsense Society is all about). So through exposure, you take. The next step on our journey, naturally, is to share.
This can be the most difficult part of any inventive endeavor, particularly for artists. We put a lot of time and though into this. When we show someone our art, it’s like showing a part of ourselves. Letting people see that can be scary enough, but throw in the fact that you could be rejected, laughed at, and told flat out you suck is petrifying. There’s an age old secret to get around this though: suck it up and put yourself out there! Sometimes you’ll get roughed up – but scars make great stories. You will never know how good you are until you share. Sharing helps you improve. It lets you know what you need work on. It is the single most important part to finding your niche. If you share, you learn your strengths and weaknesses and adjust your niche appropriately (in any way that fits you. Accent your strengths, improve your weaknesses, I don’t care just share ).
Remember, there are approximately one gazillion ways to share thanks to the internets (See this article about Internet Marketing for artists). But these cyber city squares are perhaps best used to connect you to the ultimate sharing space: a real place in real space with real people. The best way to share your art, for maximum niche finding, is face to face. You can talk about a guitar lick after a live display, discuss intricacies in colors that would be lost on the scanner, or experiment with rhythm in your latest poem. So do it up! Don’t be shy. Show others. And I mean, that’s the point, right? To see what others think. (In this I’ve always thought it takes a little bit of an egotist to forge a truly great artist. We are, after all, saying, “Look at how good my stuff is.” Which is fine!). When you do it, you open the door for criticism, which you use to critique your work and improve on your own style.
As you develop your style, your influences, your avenues of communication, you will one day put down your implement after a long day’s work to discover a truly beautiful and unique thing: Your niche.
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