Setting Goals in Your Career

Armand Cabrera

I am pleased to announce I have been juried into the Illuxcon Imaginative Realism main show at the Allentown Museum for 2015. This will be my fourth time at Illuxcon and my third time as a main show artist. Illuxcon is the premiere venue for this type of art and I am honored to be in a show with such talented people.

My goal in 2011 was to start painting imaginative work again. I had been focused on traditional painting subjects since leaving full time production art in 2001. Although I still work digitally on projects for games and do some illustration, I wasn’t painting it traditionally. This was unusual for me as most of my career was creating fantasy and science fiction work starting in the early 80’s until I stopped in 2001.

 I missed painting the subject matter and I was ready to jump back into imaginative stuff but wasn’t sure there was a market large enough or a venue for what I wanted to do. There were people working as illustrators and production artists and selling personal work on the side but no one as far as I knew at the time was painting for themselves making a living painting like a gallery artist. I was coming at it from a gallery artist’s perspective and I wasn’t sure if I could pull it off but I was going to try.

I’d heard about Illuxcon at the end of 2011. Illuxcon had been set up to showcase the best imaginative work made with traditional media. Artists were travelling from all over the world to attend the show. My goal then was to get into the main show at Illuxcon within five years and try to garner one of the coveted commissions given out every year to a handful of artists by the people in charge of the show. To do this I had to create a new body of work just to show for the Illuxcon venue.  I spent most of the year working on pieces in between my traditional landscape work for galleries and commissions.
In 2012 I grabbed a spot in the weekend salon which is the open non-juried part of the show. This gave me a chance to see how the venue worked, what type of work was being shown, the quality of the work and the prices people were asking. My idea was to show imaginative work not made for any product and informed by my plein air painting and traditional gallery style. My style was a little different compared to most of the work in the show. I didn’t want to change my style of painting to chase a new market; instead I wanted to see if the market would accept my genre work even though it wasn’t quite what they were used to seeing stylistically. Although I had a positive response to my work at the show, I still didn’t sell anything.
I thought the reason I didn’t sell was price point. Even though I had established a decent price for my work in galleries only the very top people in this new market commanded those kind of prices. These people had worked to establish those prices in their market over many years of hard work. I wasn’t going to be able to just come into the market at the top; I was going to have to build my presence up.  I worked even harder for 2013 including some figurative pieces of characters from fantasy books I loved. With all of my painting I wanted to continue to explore light and color in this work the way I do with my traditional work for galleries. I applied again and was juried into the main show.  I got great responses from the other artists with the new paintings but still didn’t sell anything.
About a month after IlluXcon, I was approached by Patrick and Jeannie Wilshire (who run Illuxcon) about painting one of the commissions for 2014 or later shows. We talked about size and price and settled on a fairly large piece. I decided to go with the 2014 slot so the painting would be shown the next year. Even though I hadn’t sold at the show in 2013 I did get one of the commissions, so I was ahead of schedule with part of my goal but still needed to do better with sales.
I decided I would really focus on having some major imaginative paintings for 2014. I had a show coming up that May for one of my traditional galleries and I needed 15 paintings in a range of sizes for that show. I had to paint another 20 paintings for two new galleries that I had picked up. I knew I needed to have the work ready for Illuxcon 2014 by August. My plan was to have 25 new paintings, plus the 3 x 5 foot commission ready for the show. I was committing myself to more than 60 paintings in various sizes just for the shows and galleries in eight months’ time. It felt good to have these goals in place for the year.
2014 broke my dry spell and I had a good show with lots of sales at Illuxcon. I had inquiries about paintings before and after the show so I am looking forward to 2015 and building in this market and keeping this subject matter as part of my repertoire. Setting those goals a few years ago has helped me to do this.