The art of being a commercial artist

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My Dear Luck,

It is good to meet you at home. However, Mr luck when you bring clients to me for my digital art work, it would be great if you could shower them with some common sense.

I am a freelance digital artist and make communications for some brands. My clientele includes companies with a few crores turnover. Their pocket size is not an issue but what is intolerable is their sense of design. I have often declined work and currently I am so peeved with one client that I want to leave the work halfway. Dear Luck, how does one go about making a client understand the quality of work? How do I find clients of certain standards? How do I make them understand that an artist has a style of her own and it cannot be according to their fancy?

A peeved artist


Dear peeved artist,

I have spent some time across several art exhibitions, small and big, local and international. The lesser-known artists stand in a typical well lit, widespread, quiet room displaying their art. Famous artists make rare appearances at their own exhibitions.

I have visited several exhibitions of boutique designers displaying their craft in fashion and lifestyle products. Some of their designs would be gorgeous, yet at a nominal price as compared to any luxury brand and you would wonder why this price disparity!

I have been associated long enough with the advertising and media world to understand the artists who tell stories in 30seconds, in 100sqcm ads.

There are artists and there are commercial artists. Artists who paint, sculpt, perform while listening to the hum in their mind. They are not driven by clients and briefs. Commercial artists maintain their art and craft and style and learn the art of selling their idea to their clients, they also learn the art of adjusting their work to clients’ needs even if they do not like it. They let go the pain of not liking it. They also reject work if it is an extreme case.

Let us talk about the middle case, the boutique designers who are artists but not as big as well known fashion designers. They have the skill, they learn to sell too but they limit their work at times and therefore they remain boutique, not only by choice but also by their own limitations. Understanding the trend and weaving it into their art, understanding the consumer’s never ending discontent, understanding the price point, understanding the joy of great customer service- all of this feels that the customer is not loyal, too demanding, not the right customer … all of this keeps drawing a lakshman rekha, the limitation to their work. Fashion designers, Independent architects, Interior decorators, photographers etc… they are a sea of creative people working independently and growing at the pace defined not just by their work but also by the way they think and operate. Each one of these are artists, that too commercial artists, in their own domain.creative1.jpg

Dear Artist, a commercial artist is still an artist. Being your own boss of your art requires a stricter regime of work. Unlike advertising agencies, where there is an account planner and a client relations manager who shield you from non-art related thoughts, as a freelance Commercial Artists, you have to design a framework for your own good. You will grow as much as you want to grow. You must keep four principles of a commercial artist with you all the time:

  1. Money will help you grow. Client is not only your money tree, your platform to showcase your work. The more work you do, more work gets showcased, more clients will come.
  2. The art of timing your NO. You must say No, you must decline to protect your art but not always. To win a war, it is ok to lose some small battles. Say No, when the feedback gets personal. Say No, when the money involved is below your benchmark. Say No, when you don’t see respect in her eyes. Say No, but weigh your pros before you say no.
  3. You must master the art of selling. And the right price. As your work grows, hard selling reduces and price increases and you have to keep the framework balanced. If you do not sell, you would not move forward. If you love a client, ask her to refer you to some people. That is also selling.
  4. You must grow as an artist. You must stay true to your art, but be with the trend. For example, if you are doing digital posters you must know the UX styles even if it is not your domain, you must know the material design colors, you must know and bring it in your work the latest design principles. You must grow.

Keep uplifting your art!

Yours truly,




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