Four Ways to Express Your Brand

Jennifer King

In a world filled with thousands of artists, you need to find ways to describe what makes you and your artwork special. What makes you stand out from the crowd? That’s the meaning of “branding.” In art, you are your brand, and your brand describes your characteristics, qualities, and values and by extension those found in your artwork. It explains your purpose, and why you make art.

When you’re promoting yourself as an artist, there will be opportunities for you to explain and define your brand, and you want to be ready to talk about it with ease and confidence. Given how much is involved in your brand, it can’t and shouldn’t be reduced to a single phrase or sentence (such as “I’m a romantic artist” or “I’m a plein air artist”), but you do need to be able to articulate your brand in several sentences. Whatever you come up with, your description of your brand needs to feel completely true and accurate so you feel comfortable discussing it.

Another reason artists need to define their brand is that it’s the foundation for all other promotional and marketing efforts. Only when you’ve defined your brand can you make wise choices about everything else, from your price range to the design of your promotional materials to the galleries you want to represent you. Most important, it identifies the people who are most likely to become your collectors because they value the same things you value.

Once you’re clear on your own brand, you’ll need to be able to communicate your brand—in words and images—to potential customers and to other people who can help you promote your brand. Here are four essential items you’ll need to describe your brand:

  • Artist’s Statement. This is your chance to express in writing what you express in art. Explain why you choose the images or subjects you paint, the principles and issues that are important to you, and maybe a bit about your process. Share your feelings about your work, and what you want others to feel or experience when looking at your work. Use simple language that “non-artists” can understand since that is mostly who will read this. In two or three paragraphs, you’re giving readers a snapshot of your brand.
  • Your Story. By story, I mean the story of your life as an artist. You get to choose the picture you want to paint with words—the brand image—by choosing which parts of the story you share. After you’ve explained when and how you came to be an artist, include significant events that influence the art you’re making. Hit the highlights of your career so far in narrative form, even though these are repeated on your resume. If you have a previous career and it’s relevant to your artist story include it, but you don’t have to if you don’t think it’s relevant. Along the way, try to incorporate or reveal some aspects of your personality, your characteristics, and your values, and show some emotion to help readers connect with your brand. Then end by sharing some personal facts. Art buyers want to know who you are, what your personality is like, what your hobbies and interests are beyond art (travel, cooking, animals, causes, etc). As you write these three or four paragraphs, always keep the end goal in mind: expressing your brand.
  • Resume. This is a record of your credentials and achievements presented in bulleted list form and organized into sections. It’s best to present the sections in this order: Exhibitions, Collections, Commissions, Media Coverage (meaning news media, magazines, TV, radio, online venues, and more that have featured you), Awards, Teaching/Lecturing/Speaking Opportunities, Affiliations, and Education. Within each section, start with the most recent achievements and work backwards. And if you’re an emerging artist and you have nothing to show yet in one or more of those sections, just leave them off for now and add them in as your career progresses. Once again, the items on the list should add up to a cohesive expression of a brand.
  • Artist’s Portfolio Website. Last but not least, your website’s design should also be a reflection of your brand. If you’re super contemporary, your website design should look super contemporary. Ditto for traditional or romantic or whatever image you’re trying to convey. Choose colors, fonts, and layouts that are consistent with the overall impression you’re trying to create about your brand.

Keeping your brand in mind as you develop all four of these essential tools is going to go a long way toward ensuring a consistent, cohesive message, which is what branding is all about. Now, what ideas do you have for expressing your brand? Let’s connect!

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