Selling Art by Telling Great Stories About Your Art and Yourself
There is a reason why we like to ask people things like where they are from, where they grew up and what their interests are. When we meet someone, we want to form a story around this person in our head, so we can create a bigger picture. This stranger at a party transitions from being €just a dude at a party' to €a law student who also knows my friend Karen' to €Chris, Karen's friend, a law student who once traveled to China, just like me'.
When you have something in common with this person, there is a sudden connection. From that moment on, they're in your circle instead of just being random strangers. In under one minute you could engage in a wonderful conversation with Chris about walking the great wall of China, or traveling in general. You can imagine him walking there and experiencing similar things you've seen, and you immediately feel connected.
Now, if Chris would happen to be into painting, would you rather buy a painting of the great wall of China made by Chris, or by someone you've never met? Chances are that you would like to buy Chris' painting because you know his story, and the story behind the painting.
Stories are basically entry points for a connection. That's why storytelling is a powerful tool that, if you master it well, could be one of the most important elements of successfully selling your art.
Your back-story is part of your present story. Your past shaped you as the person you are today, so this undoubtedly takes different forms across your art, through your inspiration and the personal emotions you put into it. You could easily identify underlying themes that are closely related to how you grew up and how your back-story evolved.
Personality and authenticity
There is a reason why even in bad economic weather, art sales seem to keep steady, or even increase. People buy art because they want personality, something hand made, something special that lasts. They want to own it and have it in their homes because they connect with it. Big companies are struggling to give a special meaning to their products, so customers stay connected. As an artist, you have a big advantage, because this special meaning is present in everything you create.
The story behind an object increases it's value. Think of an art seller at an art show talking to an interested buyer looking at one of the paintings he has on display. The art seller shares a story, and the value of the painting increases with every detail he shares with the potential customer. A painting of a landscape could easily become so much more than just that. When you hear where the painting was made, who the artist is, why the subject in the painting is special to the artist, how well known the artist is, and so much more. Just like in the example of the law student at the party, you connect with the painting and find similarities that are important to you.
How to tell your story
You don't have to be poetic or lyrical in order to tell a good story. Being yourself and using your own words to describe your work is an important part of telling your story. As explained in the personal branding lesson, keeping your personal tone of voice is important to build a consistent brand around yourself. So try not to think too hard about beautiful sentences and write the way you would speak or how you write an email to a friend instead.
Where, when, what, how, and why
As I come from a background of journalism (that's part of my back-story), I love using the where, when, what, how and why on product descriptions.
- Where is it from?
- When was it created?
- What does it represent?
- How was it made?
- Why is this meaningful?
You could keep this list as a reference for whenever you're about to write a description about your art. It doesn't have to be in this order and it's okay if you decide to leave something out, but this approach works really well if you need a way to break your descriptions down in bite sized chunks of information.
Now, let's see how we can give more meaning to these descriptions by exploring what makes a good story.
The ingredients of a good story
What is the back-story? What shaped you as an artist, how did a particular piece evolve? In what year did you make it, was it a special time period?
What materials did you use to create your piece of art? Is there something special about these materials?
How do you create your art, is there a special process, a certain way you use your materials? Are you using techniques nobody has ever tried before?
What does your art symbolize? Does it represent a certain feeling or emotion? If you're not sure about this, you could try using colors to convey meaning. I sometimes like to refer to this chart made by incredibleart.org. You could also look some keywords up in a dream dictionary to find out about the symbolization of a wide range of things.