Cowboy Up! Break Away from the Other Artists

Are you doing what other artists are doing?
Are you painting the same images? Taking photographs of the same scenes? Using the same materials? Saying the same thing on your blog?
It’s time to break away and do your own thing. Take a lesson from cycling.

Lisa Berry, Self-Portrait with Ice Cream.
©2005 Lisa Berry, Self Portrait with Ice Cream. Acrylic on canvas, 20 x 16 inches.

The peloton is the core, large group of riders (often 100 or more) in any bike race. You might have stragglers far behind them, especially on the mountain stages, but most riders remain safe within the confines of the peloton.

What makes a race interesting are the breakaway riders.
These are the cowboys–the ones who get out in front of the peloton early in the stage.
[Spoiler alert: Don't continue reading if you don't want to know the outcome of stage 16 in the Tour de France.]
In today’s stage of the Tour de France, Lance Armstrong joined the breakaway, which included 8 other riders and finished nearly 7 minutes ahead of the peloton.
Unlike today’s stage, most breakaways don’t succeed in hanging on to the lead until the finish line.
So, why do the riders spend so much energy gaining time if they know their chances for success are slim?
The cowboys break away from the main group of riders in order to get time in the limelight for themselves and for their teams. The cameras are on them for a couple of hours or longer. Announcers repeat their names and their teams' names over and over again. It’s an opportunity that doesn’t exist when you’re in a group of more than 100 riders.
You see where this is going, don’t you?
Wouldn’t you like some time in the limelight?
You can’t stand out if your art looks like art by other artists or if you do everything the same way other artists are doing it.
How will you distinguish yourself? How will you cowboy up?

Share this post

Your mailing list is your #1 marketing asset.

Your Artist Mailing List report

A transcript with the 3 lists every artist should have + a 3-page assessment for understanding the health of your list. FREE with opt-in.

19 thoughts on “Cowboy Up! Break Away from the Other Artists”

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Yes, you are all about marching to your own beat. You wrote the book, Nemo. Kudos!

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Ayn: Pretty sure you can understand the “cowboy up” statement, too–being here in Colorado.

  1. LOL! love the cycling comparison. And for a bit of humour (since I am “the cycling artist”) – I used to mountain bike race some years ago. I was rather conspicuous as the rider that was always last. In fact one race I even stopped a few yards before the finish line and hung out for a bit until the ‘last lap’ bell went – because I knew I couldn’t finish another whole lap and therefore would be disqualified unless I crossed the line after the bell. Result! My racing style included sketching before the race instead of a practice lap and stopping to admire the landscape (really just catching my breath!) – and my unique approach was mentioned in more than one race summary report. 🙂
    Sorry, just had to share. Where you are in the crowd, stand out and be yourself!

    1. Alyson Stanfield

      Tina: That’s a great story! I’ve been to a couple of bike races and they’re awful to watch. The cyclists go whizzing by and then they’re gone. Much better to watch it on TV. But I can see becoming a fan of yours on the circuit.

  2. Christopher Burgess

    Excellent! Love equine and Tour de France analogies – – you need to self-cull from the herd.
    All the best,
    Christopher (@BurgessCT)

  3. This is exactly what I’ve been striving for the last few years, Alyson — not being one of the herd! I’m perfectly fine not fitting in with the traditional quilters and also seemingly not following the herd of art quilters as well. I’m busy creating my own art and not making work that looks like what many others are doing. If it fits in with the herd, then it is hard to tell who is making the art. Works against branding of myself and my art if collectors can’t tell it is mine.
    I do have tremendous success in getting my textile artwork into juried fine art shows on a fairly regular basis so I must be creating artwork that stands out to jurors.
    Thanks for the great reminder article on your blog.
    Continued Success!

  4. A wonderful example of an (in my opinion not particularly talented) artist standing apart would be Andy Warhol. Love or hate his work, it was distinctive, as was his public persona.

  5. My sister once said to me “You just have to be different don’t you?” in a tone meant to decry. But being different is a good thing as I think she now understands. This is a lesson my father taught me (perhaps in a roundabout sort of way). I have never really understood why anyone would want to be part of the pack and I’ve always hated it when someone tries to keep me so imprisoned.
    Patricia (One of a Kind with a one of a kind blog

  6. I totally agree with what you are saying. My dilemma is that the process I use is unique enough that it doesn’t “fit” into a specific category. When art galleries discuss my work to patrons, they don’t know how to classify it and frankly, neither do I without going into all the details of how I create it. Do I just say it’s multi media, or make up a name?

  7. I am glad to be The Painter of nanoscapes, and the proud (and only) painter in the School of Painstaking Exuberance.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top

Your Artist Mailing List: Rethinking + Assessing

Get a transcript of episode 182 of The Art Biz (Rethinking Mailing Lists for Artists) followed by a 3-page worksheet to evaluate the overall health and usage of the 3 types of artist lists.

Where can we send it? 

To ensure delivery, please triple check your email address.

You’ll also receive my regular news for your art business.

Privacy + Terms

You're invited!


  • More than 7 strategies for growing your list lists, and why 1 shines above all.
  • How to redirect your energy for better results.
  • How a gratitude practice can help you shift your mindset.

I’ll also give you a peek behind the scenes at our classes and community.

This event is coming up soon. Will you come?