‘A style, remember, is truly supposed to choose you,’ advises Iris Scott. Never has this been better demonstrated than in the story behind the New York-based artist finding her unusual technique. After becoming engrossed in her painting, Iris was unable to pause to wash her brushes and, therefore, went back to a style presumably not used since kindergarten: finger painting.
The classically-trained artist has not gone back to conventional brush strokes since, preferring the direct and impressionist style that finger tips enable.
We caught up with Iris and got some advice regarding making it as an artist and tips on how to make that all important choice of personal style.
How did your big break in the art world come about?
While the movies make it seem like artists are only successful after a big break, not all artist have a ‘big break’. While some artists experience a gallery, patron, or collector suddenly funnelling them money or support, I did not experience such a scenario.
My prices increased gradually, beginning in 2010 when they were $150 for a painting online. An older real estate tycoon friend of mine advised me shortly before I started selling my paintings to “let the market show you what the art is worth.” Ever since 2010, I have simply raised the prices whenever my inventory became too small for the demand. In 2012 I began selling with a gallery, but for the first few years I sold cheaply and directly to my own fans online.
How do you think the way artists promote themselves has changed in the last 10 years?
The Internet, the Internet, and the Internet. These days you can acquire thousands of viewers at no cost thanks to social media.
The way you found your style was by a happy accident – do you have any advice to aspiring artists on how to find their personal style?
In order to find your style, you need to remember that you must pay your dues and put in some serious hours. You’re not going to find your style by spending a bunch of time thinking or writing about your art–you need to be building/painting/making!
Artists expect to have a style in college or even right after college, but this is insane. A ‘style’ is an accumulation of failures. Failures gracefully show us what isn’t working and lead us toward our signature ‘look’.
Once you start painting every day for a long stretch of time (perhaps 6+ months), you will, in fact, become particularly good at one or two effects. Upon those effects you’ve discovered then you must build. And most importantly you need to give yourself some limitation. Maybe use only watercolours for a year, or perhaps paint only with chopsticks?! In my career that creative limitation has been to JUST finger paint, no brushes. Moreover I’m ONLY working in oils. Thus I have room to really be focused thanks to my limitation. A style, remember, is truly supposed to choose you.
One trick to finding your style, or at least getting on the path to finding your style, is to display your work online and acquire some feedback. Unlike college art crits when you’re just surrounded by a bunch of self-centered 20-somethings, Facebook and Instagram can now provide us with a really accurate pulse of what is working and what is not. For heaven’s sake, ASK people what they think you did well and what you still need to work on.
There is so much arrogance of attitude taught in the culture of art schools; you need to throw all that out the window. You’re a beginning artist, jeez, I’m a beginner still and I’ve made living off art for 4 years! You and I both have no right to act like we’ve already arrived. Art is craft, I’m sorry to break it to ya, and when you have the attitude that you’re already born an artist, above craftsmanship, you’ve cheated yourself out of the most important strategy of all: listening skills.
What advice would you give aspiring artists when it comes to self-promotion?
Three things, mainly: have a Facebook, an Instagram, and make videos of yourself making your art that are short and interesting. Moreover you must upload new images or progress shots constantly to social media.