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Kira from Austin asks: “I would love some advice on how to get better at talking about my art. I dream of having my artwork seen and appreciated internationally, but sometimes it feels like you have to sell out or play a role to get there. I would appreciate any thoughts on staying authentic while also trying to grow in notoriety.”
ANSWERS FROM THE EXPERTS
“Hi Kira, It sounds like you are aware of the importance of the story in making sales of your art. People buy from people. They are interested in you because artists are fascinating to most folks.
Your artist story becomes part of the buying experience, and your collectors will tell your story to others when they show them the art they have collected. This doesn’t mean that you need to be inauthentic.
What inspired you to begin creating art? How did your body of work develop? What is the concept behind what you do, and what is really interesting about your technique?
Sometimes it’s hard for artists to put this into words. Journaling or writing down your “long story” first and then pulling highlights out to create a shorter, cohesive narrative that is easy to relate to customers can be a good way for you to talk about what you do. And if you tell the same story many times to many people, it does not mean that you are selling out or playing a role.
When you come from the heart, people connect emotionally with you. This is a wonderful part of the art business – sales are usually made for emotional reasons. If you reach people emotionally so that they feel the same way about your work that you do, you will make sales. Build on that relationship, and you will have repeat collectors.”
“It totally depends on the venue, Kira. For a grant application or in a gallery, you’re going to want to pull out the deeper meaning behind your piece. This can be the inspiration for it, the feeling or concept you were trying to convey, or it can be something you found after the piece was completed. A lot of artists feel like frauds because they don’t start every piece with a concept in mind.
In truth, you’re probably inadvertently exploring a concept anyway, but even if you aren’t you are allowed to find the depth of meaning after the piece is finished. Once you’ve figured out the concept for a piece or series, you can brainstorm some keywords or phrases/sentences that express that.
Pick 3 or 4 from your brainstorm list and memorize them. Whenever someone in a more formal-art-world setting asks about your work, just drop those phrases in as you talk about why you love creating.
When it’s a more casual setting, people usually want to know more about you – your thoughts, inspirations, process, interests outside of art, etc. It’s a lot easier in these areas like your website, because you can just talk about the visual themes or yourself without needing to overthink your art from an academic perspective (assuming that if you find this hard, you probably don’t start out with a concept you’re trying to get across in the piece). I don’t think you have to pretend to be someone you’re not, but you may have to put some effort into figuring out the conceptual side that’s in there, whether you meant to put it there or not.“
“I do this exercise every time I lead an artist workshop. Make a piece of art for about an hour, and journal about it when you’re done, answering the following questions:
– What inspired you to make that artistic choice?
– What were you thinking about during the hour?
– What were you feeling during the hour?
– Who are your inspirations for your art?
– Who is your work similar to?
– Who is your work very different from?
Be careful when answering these questions to avoid technical answers. We don’t want technique, we want feelings here. Now answer the question: what makes your art unique or different from other artists?
Feel free to free-write for as long as you need. Then distill that answer down to single sentence. You might have 3 – 5 different versions of that sentence. Try those single-sentence descriptions with people when you talk about your art, and see which one pops more.
Which version makes people interested and excited? Which one makes their eyes glaze over and walk away? This should give you a starting point to be able to talk about your art authentically, while also being interesting.”