Learning to Juggle

-By Howard Lyon

For the last few years, I have been branching out in both subject and market.  I have continued to illustrate, painting for Magic: the Gathering and other clients in the fantasy/sci-fi market but have also started to do some religious work and am also preparing work for galleries.  It has been a challenge.  This article isn't about religious painting or fantasy illustration, but about working and promoting yourself in two very different genres.

Initially, I kept my religious work and illustration work on two different sites, but this last year I launched a new site where they sit side by side.  I still have separate stores and blogs, but it is hard to miss.

Some days I am relieved to have my hands in multiple markets.  I enjoy the creative variation as well as the opportunity to diversify financially.  I have broadened my market and opened up new opportunities that might not have ever been presented otherwise.

Ashcloud Phoenix - Magic: the Gathering
Then at other times I worry that I am diluting my "brand", softening the impact I could potentially make in either market.  There is only so much time in a day and the fact is, I am doing half as much illustration work and I could do twice as much gallery/fine art if that were my sole focus.

The truth is, I have never been happier.  I have come to the point that I don't sweat what might be for what is (most days).  As long as I am improving, working hard and smart, I find this work to be increasingly gratifying.

Feed My Sheep - 11 x 14 oil on panel
I have often heard the advice to pick something and go after it 100%.  I can't disagree with that but what if you have a drive to do comics and gallery work or children's book illustration and horror?  I can only speak to my own experiences so that if you are considering engaging in what might be seemingly divorced markets you might do so with a little less trepidation.

Here are the benefits/insights I have found:

Master the Way - Magic: the Gathering

Here are some challenges:

King of Kings - 36" x 48" oil on linen
If you are currently working happily in one field, but want to dip your toes in another area of work I offer this advice.  Be patient.  Connect with artists working in that market and ask for advice with shows and marketing.  Schedule time each week to do research/promotion and stick to it.  Accept that this is a compromise.  Prepare to work a little harder at first.  Enjoy every day you get to work as an artists, whatever it is you paint/draw/sculpt/create.

I can't say that I will always split my time between these two fields.  The road I think I am on seems to change as I traverse it.  Check back with me in 50 years and I will let you know how things worked out.

For fun, here is a time-lapse of my Feed My Sheep piece.

And to balance that out, some gifs showing the progression of a couple Magic cards.
Master the Way
Warden of the Eye
Thanks for giving this post a read.  I would love to read your thoughts and experience in the comments!
Howard Lyon
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Happy Halloween!