So the question is........should you change your art style on the basis that you think you could sell more or should you paint what you feel is your style but potentially sell less?
This is something that virtually all artists have likely questioned themselves about. Chasing the sale or painting what you do best and maybe not selling as much.
My opinion on this is quite simple, but we will hang on a bit before we get to that.
So, lets use an example here of a gallery/publisher that you work with saying to you, we love your abstract landscapes but they aren't selling well but I know if you did some modern pop art portraiture, they would sell like hot cakes! Clearly the temptation here would be to switch over and get those portraits selling. There wouldn't be anything 'wrong' with this as such and who knows, you might go on to sell every piece 10 minutes after it launches.
There are a few angles to look at this from. The first would be, can you actually paint that other style well, and is it something you are passionate about? The truth is, artists paint what they know they can do well and what they truly feel sincere and passionate about. If you force yourself to paint something else, it may be pretty decent in terms of its technical merits but it will lack something. That something is soul. It won't have been painted with a genuine desire and therefore this will show. It will also leave the artist feeling a little 'empty', something won't be connecting and that is because the reason for painting isn't what it should be.
This isn't to say you should try new avenues or techniques but switching completely to a different subject matter or style can be very confusing for your audience, I know because i have done it myself in the past.
The other key point here, is if the art you are producing isn't selling well via the gallery you are with, then the issue may lie with the gallery itself. You have no control over how they market you, how much they market you. The marketing may be lacking in some vital aspects of a successful campaign. It may be that your gallery isn't the best one for representing your style of work.
The other key thing here is the audience for your work is the answer to selling it, not changing your work to fit the audience. If you know you have a good product and you truly feel passionate about it then the secret ingredient is finding your audience, because it is out there.
So to sum up, yes you can change your style if you want to earn the quick buck, but in the long run, it won't be sustainable, because you won't have that passion and genuine love of the work you are producing and in the end the enjoyment from painting will go completely. Once you know your product is worthy, even if you have only ever sold one piece, if someone likes, there will thousands more who like it too and the secret is to tap into the audience that likes you and your work and not change 'the you' to fit a new audience.
I can only speak from my own experience, but when I paint what I am passionate about, when something urges me to create a new series or to tell a story, then I am excited and driven to complete the painting. It has a part of me in it, it contains a bit of my soul and that emotion that has been injected into the painting, shows. There is something that lifts it beyond another painting I may have done. This is partly why I now don't produce new works as quickly as I once did, because over the years I learnt that the best work, is the most true to how I feel inside.
Everything I paint now, is driven by emotion and story, it's not a technical exercise on replicating a realistic wildlife portrait. It's about putting a part of me into what I produce, and that, is the key to a door