What to draw next

The Art of Knowing What to Draw Next: How Artists can use Previous Success to Strategize Future Success. by Kasandra Murray

In the marketing industry data has become the ultimate tool for success.

I am sure you are asking, "What the heck does that have to do with what I should draw next?!?" To be honest, this could make or break you as an artist selling your work! 

Last week I wrote an article about keeping track of your inventory. In that article one of the benefits I wrote about noted that keeping track of my own inventory helps me decide on what new products I should create and what products I should discontinue. I am utilizing the data I have collected from sales to make business decisions.

I have been keeping track of my inventory, so how do I start utilizing it to determine what to draw next?

How about I show you an example of how my art is evolving through sales data!

Below you will see one of my pieces I created about a year ago, Ambition

"Ambition" illustration by Kasandra Murray

This illustration has received a great response and tends to sell at every convention I have gone to. I know this through the sales data I have collected at each convention which tells me I did something right with this illustration.

So how do I figure out what is working?

This is the part where I begin testing various possibilities that separates this print from the prints that don't sell as well. I begin by examining components of the work:

  • Style
  • Color Palette
  • Content

The style of this print doesn't stray far from my other illustrations. I didn't develop any new technique in the process. Due to this, I was able to rule out the possibility that style is the reason why this print was successful.

Color Palette
When I finished this print I almost didn't publish it solely because the color pallet made me feel uncomfortable. Once I realized that it was selling faster than my other prints I theorized it was because of the color pallet. Compared to my other prints this piece was less monochromatic and sat on the bright side of the hue spectrum. I knew I had to test this theory with future pieces.

I believe that most of my prints have meanings and feelings behind them that I can proudly speak about to anyone interested in listening. Most of my pieces tend to have darker stories or feelings, while Ambition focuses on a positive character trait that many people admire. This was another theory that I wanted to test with future pieces.

From this quick evaluation I developed a theory:
A brighter color palette mixed with a positive message creates a better selling piece.

Keep in mind this theory works for me and who I am as an artist. My theory is not a cookie cutter solution for all artist. Depending on your audience and your style you may be better off creating pieces with dark color pallets and content. The idea of this article is to make you begin thinking more critically about your art so that you can continue increasing sales.

I planned on making Ambition a part of a larger series so I had a great opportunity to test my theory on the next print, Hope.

"Hope" illustration by Kasandra Murray

I developed a brighter color palette and keept the message as positive as possible.

In addition, I tested a few new ideas to confirm that this is the best direction for my prints. This print is larger, limited edition, and is more expensive compared to my standard prints.

If what I believed worked for Ambition proved to be true, then Hope should be just as successful. 

Turns out, since releasing Hope a few months ago it has kicked ass and has become my top selling print! Not to mention it has become one of my most popular posts on my social media. 

Data can be very powerful and I was lucky to theorize correctly as to what would make the next piece successful. Don't get hung up on being correct every time though, disproving a theory is just as powerful as proving a theory.

A few months earlier I had tested a theory that turned out to be incorrect. Time and a small sum of money was invested into a print that didn't sell well. It is a bit disappointing but if data analysis theories were always correct we would all be rich. When this happens all you can do is repeat the steps of asking what you did differently, what you did the same, and what could have caused the piece to be unsuccessful.

I love creating art and new pieces, and I know this article may come across as anti-personal expression and pro-profit, but when you want to turn your passion into your business there is a common ground that can be met with creativity and strategy. My pieces are still personal expression of who I am, but cater to my audience as well.

Have you used this strategy (even informally) to decide what to draw next? What were your results? What do you think about combining strategy with creativity?

Thank you for reading!

Your biggest fan,