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Today's artists function in an era of niche marketing. Yet even in these days of specialization, an artist's style must broaden and evolve to maintain freshness. But must today's approach stifle your inclination to grow and change? Not at all.
Do a lot of trial and error illustration.
Don't make the mistake of presenting the new work prior to creating a substantial quantity of samples - this could be a false start. Art directors need to feel confident that you are proficient in whatever it is you show and a body of work assures that. Too often, an eager artist will use a successful first attempt as a directory ad, planning on being able to create a fully-realized portfolio prior to the directory's publication. When life, paying jobs, and procrastination get in the way, that artist is left with a large directory bill and one example of a defunct approach. If the ad page proves to be successful, you need to be prepared to substantiate it with equally strong images.
Think of changing a style as an evolutionary process, not as adopting a momentary fad.
Take time to develop a new direction while maintaining your current style. Some people benefit from a written goal plan that outlines steps for developing sketches and finishes within specified times. Others explore and see where the muse takes them. Whatever your process, be kind to yourself and let the new approach find its way.
Consider more than one way to introduce a new approach.
After you have culled about 10 pieces representative of your new direction, add them to your presentation. If possible, design a flow so that the new work blends in with the existing style.
If the change is too abrupt, acknowledge the differences and create a separate section of your website or in your advertising. Then create a promotion to send to existing clients. Include a personal note announcing this as an additional direction that you can offer, and request an introduction to any colleague they think might especially like the work. In addition, research new clients who use this kind of style and send them a promotion. Names can often be found in appropriate annuals and trade journals where art directors and clients are credited.
Don't be afraid to use a pseudonym.
When work is so disparate that there is no segue between current and old styles, using a second name for the new style can be a viable choice.
Embrace the fact that you are able to work in a myriad styles and techniques.
Illustrators living outside of major metropolitan areas can provide a great service to local clients who welcome a reliable, versatile neighbor to illustrate a range of assignments. These repeat collaborative affiliations can build a fulfilling and successful career.
For artists working more globally, a multi-technique business can work. But it is imperative that all the styles be equally accomplished. Given that level of talent, there needs to be a unifying force of dynamic design, imaginative concepts, palpable energy, or all of these combined.
Whatever your direction, present it with authority.
An art director will feel most confident with a clear definition of your work. "Niche" need not be pejorative. With so many artists and so little time, art directors appreciate being able to categorize - if you clearly present what you do, they will know just who to call when that perfect assignment for you is on their desk.