When I first got out of college and was working toward a career as an illustrator, I was concerned about ‘what would sell.’ And believe me, i had a ton of suggestions from friends and family and teachers and clients, but what I liked to draw were male pinups.
Fast forward fifteen years, to when I’m getting invited to show at feminist sci-fi conventions. While people assume that the largest audience I sell to is gay men, it’s women who buy more than anyone else. My spouse sighs at ‘more naked guys’ but a) they sell and b) - more importantly, I love to draw them, and it’s not a difficultly to think up different designs and at the same time push my abilities forward with anatomy or background or coloring, etc.
Steve and Bucky in different versions of their suits, proceeds go to the Center Orlando. FL for LGBTQA rights.
I hated ‘wristing’ for other companies as a day job as an artist, I had no mental creative energy to do my own work, so I found jobs doing design-related work, like interiors, floral design, a production designer, and now I work in an art gallery .
Now at this gallery i met an artist who makes fairy wings, (x) and the people at the gallery scoffed at what she makes (and what I make too to be honest, not in a mean way, but you know, thinking we could use our obvious skills to do more ‘serious’ work) but Doo said to me, “I used to make all kinds of art, I did the art crawls, the shows, and nothing sold, but I make the wings and people LOVE them.” She has a shop out at our Renaissance Fair and can make enough in a summer to live on all year, and she just branched out to the Pride Festival.
She tells me I could sell a ton at the Ren Fest too, but I don’t think the superhero pinups would be the thing for that locale (the gallery has taught me that you have to have the right item at the right venue), while I do some ‘fantasy’ art the pinups are the thing I want to do now.
I guess the point is, make what makes you happy, you can do anything else, but you won’t be happy, you won’t like what you make. Who cares if it’s fanart based, or something you think is strange and no one will get it, with a worldwide audience online, there is someone out there who will dig your work, so get it out there. Be yourself.
The other suggestion is, you have to spend at least as much time promoting as you do creating these days. People’s attention spans are short and often they consume your art in a glance, with no need to buy an art print, but they will grab a tee shirt or a mug (or if you are lucky, a bodypillowcase)