The Story of Your Art: Five Ways to Tell Art Collectors What’s Special About You

Everybody loves a good story, and research has shown that people who are considering making a purchase of some kind are often swayed by a great anecdote. So, whether you’re talking to potential collectors about your artwork face-to-face or adding written descriptions of your artwork to your website, it’s a really smart idea to think of some kind of story to tell about each piece of art.

What kind of stories should you tell? Great question! I can recall several occasions when I was talking to a potential collector about one of my paintings, and I got so caught up in telling what I thought was a funny story related to the painting that I failed to notice that the person had completely lost interest. Quite often, the stories we artists tell each other about the making of a work of art aren’t interesting to a collector. That means we’ve got to learn to craft short-and-sweet stories that will engage their interest and help them emotionally connect with our art (that’s key). Here are five ideas to get you started:

1. “The thing that inspired this artwork was…” Like I said, art buyers usually purchase a work of art because they are feeling some kind of emotional connection with it. You can encourage that kind of heartfelt association to happen by describing the emotional connection you had with the subject, the color scheme, the light, or whatever.

Example: I went into my garden one morning early this spring and discovered that all of my daffodils had bloomed overnight! Their bright yellow color just filled my heart with joy, especially after the long, dreary winter we had. I set aside my plans for the day, got out my paints and easel, and went to work there in the sunshine.

2. “The way I created this artwork was…” Sometimes the most fascinating thing about a work of art is the way it was made—the techniques, tools, and materials you used. If your story demonstrates your enthusiasm for your methods, your listeners will pick up on that emotion and get excited about it, too. This obviously doesn’t work for every artist, but it will for many.

Example: This is part of my latest series of abstracts, and I’ve been having so much fun experimenting with unusual tools that I buy at the hardware store, if you can believe it! Any guesses what I used to put the paint on here?

3. “In general, I’m motivated to…” This type of story takes a broader approach, and is a great vehicle for revealing something interesting about you and your artist-brand. Launch the story with a generalized statement about the more personal qualities, characteristics, and values found in your work, and then explain how the particular piece in question is a fine example of that special quality. 

Example: As you’ve probably already figured out, conservation is really, really important to me. My intention is to remind people just how amazing wild animals are, and how essential it is to preserve them. You can see that in this painting of some gorillas from Africa.

4. “What’s unique about my work is…” One of the secrets to success as an artist is to differentiate yourself from others. Is it your style, your subject matter, your handling of the materials, or even the presentation that makes you special? Whatever it is, draw attention to that unique quality, and show how the piece in question exemplifies it. Collectors love to know exactly what makes the art they’re buying distinctive.  

Example: I see you’re looking at that still life. Do you notice anything odd about it? Yes, I love to put little visual jokes in my paintings!

5. “The collector who bought this loved it because…” This is a special one for you to use when you’re either selling reproductions of an original or when you’re showing an example of the type of commissioned work you like to do. When you’re writing this story, find a way to celebrate and honor the collector while also sharing something about your brand.

Example: That’s one of my recent portrait commissions. Initially, the parents wanted a more formal portrait of their children posed in their school uniforms, but I'm so glad they let me talk them into showing the kids in their everyday clothes. They agreed that it allowed me to convey so much more about their personalities. As a portrait painter, that’s one of my main objectives.

In case the key concept isn’t coming through yet, it’s all about engaging with emotion and feeling. Make it personal, and keep it real. And remember, you’ll get bonus points if you turn the conversation back around to the collector and the emotional response he or she is having to your work.

Want to give it a try? Send me one of your images, and let’s write a story together! Let’s connect!

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