Here is part one of a mixture of advice I was given and also truths that I have learnt through my own experience in being a freelance artist. Take what you will from it, I hope that it may help!
I do tend to go off on tangents quite a lot so just go with me here!
Something that doesn't seem to be talked about much is the element of luck in succeeding with an art career. Many things will affect whether you succeed, it could be the good fortune of your upbringing, how much risk you take, whether you are business minded, whether you have a family to take care of, the type of personality you have (good with people, or not), the type of art you make (there is no doubt some subjects are more popular than others) - these will all have an impact. But even with EVERYTHING on your side you might still not make it work. This is where the luck comes in.
2. Not taking advice - Or rather, not really understanding the advice I was given. BE OPEN.
I am a tenacious person and so in the past I have not always been very open to advice about art and thought that I had it figured out (even though while thinking this I was not making a living from my art and merely limping along). Tenacity is a very useful trait in this business for sure, but in some instances, not so helpful!
I have often heard the despairing cry of 'But I've tried X Y and Z and nothing has worked' - that was me for a LOT of years, but I also hadn't tried ALL the things at that point, but thought I had. I often see people on art forums who ask for advice and then give every reason imaginable as to why that advice doesn't apply to them (I've been that person). There is no magic formula for everyone, but there ARE tried and tested formulas which work. When someone (especially someone who has had years of experience, not a random anonymous person on the internet) gives you advice, try to hear it and really dig down deep and absorb it and the reason why they might have given you that advice. I was particularly resistant to the advice of 'be consistent' and wish I had taken that on board years ago. If what you are doing is not working then try something else, try out that advice that you might find prickled you a little as it could help enormously.
3. Be consistent
The number one piece of advice I was always given was 'be consistent'. My portfolio was always all over the place, and while I thought it was obvious that I was the one who had done all these paintings, if an art director had looked at the portfolio, it wouldn't have shown them one specific style running through it all and may have even looked like more than one artist's work. I didn't know HOW to be consistent because I had so many ideas, but also because I was trying to make what I thought people might like (impossible task!). I considered my ability to paint in different styles to be a strength and that surely it would be good to be able to work in different ways. I know many people do make this work, but with the path I ultimately wanted to take, consistency really was much more valuable. I will go into how I achieved consistency in another blog post.
For now I will finish with a few examples of my older art and how much variety there was!
In 2012 I took a Caricature course with Jason Seiler on Schoolism.com which was absolutely brilliant. I have always loved to paint portraits and this gave me a way of doing that in a way that I'd not tried before.
Here are a few pieces from my digital days. I didn't know what I wanted to be, caricaturist, fantasy artist, horror
Left to right: Javier Bardem, Iggy Pop, Robert Deniro and Morticia Addams.
Then still more, all different again:
Left to right 'Birth of Pegasus', 'Beowulf & Grendel', 'The Railways Of Mars' cover for Ian Gibson's novel and 'Cthulhu'.
Just before I switched back to traditional media permanently, more of the silly whimsical vibe started to show and are much closer to what I do now:
Left to right is 'Cutethulhu', 'Call of Cthulhu', 'Winston' and 'Waving Monster'