Find Your Formula: 5 Ways to Sauce-Up Your Art & Brand
These days, we hear so many people talk about “the sauce.” Some call it the “juice.” Whatever colloquial verbiage you use, we all know what it means in context - It’s your unique style at what you do, your formula for success, your identity, & what ultimately sets you apart from the rest. Now, more than ever, creatives, brands, and entrepreneurs have to stand out far from the pack in order for them to grow. Why? Because today, we are inundated with too much content in the form of photos, music, videos and anything else that captures our attention. For the masses, this isn’t an issue, but for the creative hustler, the thirst for engagement, and the lack thereof can be frustrating. Don't worry, there is hope for all of us. Instead of being just a number among many artists, creatives, and brands out there, can something be done or sharpened to stand out? I believe so. Below are my top 5 ways you can find your formula, sauce-up your art/brand, and stand out in a content-packed world.
1. Study The Greats.
I am a music producer and a filmmaker/director, but I have a love for art in general. A few years ago, one of my best friends gave me a DVD of an artist that I’ve heard of but truly did not know anything about for real for real. His name-Jean Michel Basquiat, the legendary abstract painter from Brooklyn, NY. The DVD, titled The Radiant Child, showed Basquiat’s upbringing and how his unique style caused his paintings to be sold for millions of dollars. Now, for the sake of “Finding your formula”, why am I mentioning Basquiat, a painter in the 80’s? Because he was a "Great" in his arena, yes, but his formula as an artist was totally unique! His formula and uniqueness seemed God-given (which it was), but he also did things intentionally with his art. This helped to shape and define his style among the masses. I believe that anything that you aspire to be, whether, in visual art, film, music or business, it is wise to study those with remarkable success. Not to copy what they did exactly, but to at least know their story. From watching The Radiant Child and studying other greats such as Kobe Bryant in basketball, I narrowed down a few tips on how they all stand out. From patterns to consistency, to a relentless commitment to their crafts, pick a "Great" that you like and study them from top to bottom. Watch YouTube videos, documentaries on them and hear their story. Studying them will open your mind to greater possibilities about yourself, I assure you. Tips 2-5 are observations I’ve noticed from The Radiant Child and studying the greats myself (Spike Lee, Pharrell, Timbaland, Spielberg, to name a few).
2. Know Thyself.
After concluding which art form or business type you want to excel in, and studying those you aspire to be like, take a deep dive into yourself. Using the Basquiat example again, his artwork is very colorful, yet semi-dark, highly eclectic, socially conscious and thought-provoking. If you’re a visual painter or aspire to work in visual arts, is that the type of art you highly disdain, are indifferent about, or love? Answering this question about how someone else’s work makes you feel, sheds light onto what you truly like or dislike. And MOST of the time, what you like in art becomes a mirror image of what you enjoy creating. I’ll give you another example. My upbringing in music was engulfed in 80’s soul and grooving basslines. My Dad deposited that in me and it is apart of who I am. I love that type of music. Therefore, the awareness of what I like and how I came to like it, gives me the joy to create something from it. I can make trap beats, BUT, whenever I make a beat that grooves and sounds similar to 80’s funk bands, I love it. Your future formula has to “taste good” to you or it won’t taste good to anyone else. So, investigate your identity. Your brand emanates from awareness of who you are, unapologetically. Figure out why you like the styles and types you like. What makes you happy is a major part of what will come to be known as, “your formula.” Knowing yourself will be like marital chemistry between your natural and higher artistic self one day. Just be sure to write down things you like and dislike. Take the time to learn as much about your self as possible and your art will be a mere reflection of you. You are your art and your art is you.
3. Practice like a mad man (or woman).
Many athletes, (Lebron, Kobe, and Jordan) included, have all said that talent would have only gotten them but so far. Greatness comes from repetition in your craft. The key is to practice over and over until consistency itself is second nature. After studying the greats and concluding on what you like or don’t like, it’s time to crank your creativity in high gear and work. Using the Basquiat example again, The Radiant Child showed him painting for hours and honing his skills. Per the documentary, Basquiat was like a machine when it came to painting. His level of productivity was insane and by practicing/creating like a madman, he began to create the crucial elements that made him different. Without thinking too hard about it, a unique style began to emerge out of his consistency in practice. Normally, that is what happens. With practice, not only do you become sharp at the fundamentals of your art form, but you also develop the recipe for your style, unknowingly. Gary Vee and 9th Wonder, two of my favorites, often mention the importance of practice and consistency. They both believe that if you are consistent in quantity, style and quality will emerge from it. So, practice like a madman (or woman). Whatever it is you do or create, do it so much that it becomes second nature to you. Your secret sauce on what makes you different from others will begin to brew. Notate and be cognizant of similarities in your work too. That will help you with step 4 where the things really come together...
4. Use Consistent Elements.
Ok, so now you’ve studied all the greats in your craft, you feel like you know yourself and you practice your craft every day. Is that enough to stand out? ... most certainly not. This section is about intentionally adding your own flavors to your art over and over which helps to brand your art. Using the Basquiat example again, Basquiat intentionally did something in art that was ingenious for branding-he used consistent elements. Consistent elements are frequent occurrences in your art. In Basquiat’s case, it was his consistent use of abstract, weird figurines, painted in black and surrounded by an array of colors. If you’ve never seen his paintings and see them today, you will see what I am talking about. You could literally pick a Basquiat painting out from thousands of similar styles because his style was that unique. Basquiat actually had early experience with art branding before his famous paintings. He used to draw socially charged pics and writings on walls and mysteriously sign them as “Samo.” Today, that would be an artist cleverly placing their Instagram username on their artwork OR putting the same signature on it. It brands your work. One of my favorite new artists goes by @Kashmirviii on Instagram. My wife purchased her art for our studio primarily because her style is so dope and unique. All of Kashmir's art is consistent in style, texture, and color tones. Most of her art shows African-American entertainers from 90’s shows with their eyes, nose, and mouth omitted from the face. It looks very cool when you see it and I would bet that she does so intentionally at this point. Once you figure out your formula of what you like and what others like about you/ your art, duplicating those efforts becomes the fun part. Adding in or omitting certain elements from your art and being OVERLY consistent with it is the key. It becomes your identity and helps others to notice your work from similar artists.
Back to Basquiat. Since he was doing the “SAMO” thing on his street typography, he was unknowingly (or knowingly) learning how to brand his artwork in the future. Another noticeable element in Basquiat’s paintings was his protagonists. In his paintings, they were at the center of their own chaos. By duplicating the elements of his color and brush strokes, along with his protagonists and how they look in his paintings, Basquiat created a complex formula that would be difficult for anyone else to duplicate. This is a major key as well. If your work seems like simple magic on the surface yet difficult for another person to create, then you have MANY elements to your formula. And that, my friend, is a great thing. This type of intentional consistency is a great way to create a formula and sauce. Whether quality or not, consistency is king when it comes to artistic elements. In music, we’ve seen immense success because of consistent sounds used by producers and consistent vocal tags by the likes of Mike Will Made It, Metro Boomin, and DJ Mustard. Amateur producers download their sound kits (which often include their consistent sounds) in hopes to sound like them. Today, I have my very own Wann D sound kit and 98% of the time, I put the same sounds, effects, and chants in my beats. This serves as developing “my sound.” It is important for music producers to do that today because any and everybody calls themselves a producer these days lol. So many people can make a “hot beat” but what separates the super producers from the wannabees is a distinctive sound. A sauce that has to be copied. So, in whatever art form you choose, notate some elements that could be duplicated over and over. If you perfect how those elements are used in your art and stay consistent with it, it’ll become apart of your brand. Notate the elements and duplicate it over and over. I can’t say that enough.
5. Don’t be afraid to be you.
Lastly, when finding your formula do not be afraid to be you. Knowing yourself, studying the greats, and using consistent elements is wonderful. BUT, if the world doesn’t see any of that, it doesn’t matter. Don’t be afraid to release your art into the world and be confident that your style will impact the life of another. If it doesn’t the first time, stay consistent. When you are confident in yourself, the energy of the world magnetizes to you to see what you can offer it. It is the cyclical energy of life and creativity. Therefore, it is your duty, not choice, to pour back into us all with your “sauce.” Often times, you’ll have more copycats and those that are inspired by your unique style and art rather than repulsed by it. So, conjure your artistic confidence. Find your formula and don’t be afraid to be you...openly.
So, as I stated at the beginning of the article, we as creatives and entrepreneurs want to stand out in a world that has become oversaturated with content. In my opinion, the only way to truly do that is to be skilled at what you, of course, but to ride in your own lane with a unique style and formula that is worthy of emulation. I am excited by new art that is different and every day, I strive to be myself and enhance what makes me different for the world to see. Sometimes, what makes you different cannot be explained, quantified or broken down scientifically. However, there ARE times where what you do is unique and can be duplicated intentionally. Consistency + Confidence is the fuel for your formula and these 5 tips are navigation. I hope they steer you in the right direction and your sauce drips like none other... Stay Blessed. #WannD #VisionCoach
For your listening pleasure, and per the article lol, listen to the track titled “Choppin It Up” below. Produced by yours truly and featuring my artist and brother Jae Dixon. Some of the sounds I used in this beat have been used in many of my other beats. It is also soulful with a bounce in an attempt to create our own “sound formula.” Enjoy!