Five Inspired Ideas for Writing Descriptions of Your Artwork

Here at the King-Logan household, it’s time for new phones, so my husband and I decided to shop online to see if we could get a better deal. Two smartphones at the same time adds up, you know what I mean? Naturally, we started our search at everyone’s favorite online store, Amazon.

One thing we noticed as we clicked through dozens of options was the differences in the product descriptions. Some gave us a thorough description of the product, others gave us just the technical stats, and still others gave us almost nothing to go on.

Which options do you think we were most attracted to and considered most seriously? You guessed it! Of course, we were more interested in the products with better descriptions.

The experience made me appreciate more than ever how important it is for us artists to include meaningful descriptions of our artwork on our e-commerce websites, too. Yes, it’s true, a picture is still worth a thousand words. But in the world of online shopping, buyers want to learn as much as they can about an item before they buy it. So, let’s give people everything they need to feel confident in choosing what we have to offer.

Whether your art is hyper-realistic or completely nonrepresentational, you can learn to write powerful, attention-getting descriptions for your work. Here are several ideas to get you started:

1. Tap into emotion. I think artists sometimes shy away from talking about emotion in descriptions because they want viewers to have their own emotional responses to the work. The thing is, viewers will look at the work first and have that personal reaction no matter what. Then when they go to read about what kind of emotion you had in mind, they’ll either feel affirmed because their response mirrored your intention or be intrigued by having a different response. Either way, it will add to the emotional impact for them, which is generally what motivates someone to buy a work of art.

2. Think about the senses. Buyers can already see the colors and shapes within your work, but is there something more you could provide in terms of the senses? This tip works best for representational artists who might include descriptions of the sounds, textures, temperatures, and other sensory aspects of the subject matter.

3. Discuss your inspiration. Art lovers never tire of learning more about the artistic thought process, so let them in on what you had in mind when you were creating the work. Why is the subject, style, or technique important to you? What inspired you? Why is this work meaningful to you? Was the act of creating transformative in some way? Viewers really do want to know.


4. Sprinkle in some high-powered adjectives. If you feel like your descriptions need a little more finesse, or if you feel like you’re using the same words over and over again, think about injecting one or two interesting adjectives that will make your writing more lively. Or maybe I should say animated. Or maybe I could use scintillating. Anyway, if you’re stumped for ideas, hop onto and ask it for great suggestions.

5. Keep it short and basic. Having said all that, there isn’t really any need for you to write long descriptions. Most people will only stay with you for about 100 to 200 words, so give them the relatively short sound bite they’re looking for. While you’re at it, be sure to include the most basic of all descriptions, including what type of art it is (painting, photograph, sculpture, etc.), what medium you used, and whether it’s an original or a reproduction. In fact, the entire description can be written in very simple, plain language. Don’t feel like you have to get artsy or poetic with your writing.

Still wondering if it’s really worth all the effort? All I can say is, think about your own online shopping experiences. A great product description just may be the thing that clinches the deal.

What's worked for you in terms of writing artwork descriptions? Please share your ideas in the Comment box below. Let's connect!




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