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How to Talk About Your Art

[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]“How do I talk about my skills without sounding like a showoff?”

“What if no one cares what I have to say?”

“I’m an artist—does anyone even expect me to have a voice beyond what I create?”

Many creators (especially those introverted in nature!) struggle with speaking about their craft. The good news is that even the most soft-spoken artist can overcome this obstacle and learn how to leverage public speaking skills to skyrocket his or her career. In this article, we’ll go over 1) How to talk about your art to buyers and collectors, 2) How to talk about your art at public appearances and events, and 3) How to talk about your art to patrons.

  1. How to Talk About Your Art to Buyers and Collectors

Understand the buyer and collector mentality.
Don’t be put off if a potential buyer or experienced collector asks whether or not one of your pieces is “worth buying.” For these individuals, art is a serious investment, and even the most accomplished dealers need certain assurances that they’re spending their time and money wisely.

Be able to articulate what your art means on a personal level.
The first (and perhaps easiest) way to demonstrate that your art has value is to explain what it means to you on a personal level. Art buyers are, in fact, human beings, and they’re just as much moved by compelling artist narratives as they are by compelling prices. After all, an investment in your art is also an investment in you. Julia Stoschek, one of the biggest art collectors in the world, explains her motivation to collect art:

Art is not just monetary; my personal aim is to preserve and save art, to support projects. In 20 years, I want to have an important media-art collection of my generation.

Julia Stoschek, art collector specializing in time-based media art

Be able to show why your art has value from a monetary standpoint.
One of the best ways to accomplish this it by documenting your art sales and achievements. First, it’s important to keep a detailed record of your sales to show buyers what you’ve sold, how often you sell, how much they’ve gone for, who’s bought them, etc. Additionally, make sure to keep track of your accomplishments, whether it’s via your resume/CV or website. The goal is to get third-party proof confirming your status as a serious artist who will bring long term monetary value to the buyer.

If you suspect someone is getting increasingly interested in your art, don’t hesitate to respond to the signs and “close the deal.”
It rarely happens that someone will beg you to purchase your work. Therefore, when someone shows any sign that he or she is leaning towards buying, respond immediately. Of course, don’t pressure or corner the buyer, but ask if he or she has any questions, whether they’re related to pricing, delivery/shipping, or the piece itself.

If the word “selling” makes you sick, that’s okay.
Even certain buyers don’t always feel comfortable with the term. That’s why Kurt Mueller, Director of the David Kordansky Gallery in Los Angeles, has come up with a better way to frame sales. “We often talk about not ‘selling’ an artwork but ‘placing’ an artwork with a home, with a collector, in terms of it finding a lasting relationship there,” she explains.

  1. How to Talk About Your Art at Public Appearances and Events

Introduce yourself and your art.
If you think you’re not knowledgeable enough or successful enough or X enough to speak about your craft, think again. You are the world’s #1 expert on yourself and your art. The purpose of the introduction is to connect with audience members by briefly telling them who you are and what you create. Note: Introduce yourself as an artist, not a teacher who paints or a data analyst who sculpts, even if you have a day job!

Go deep—talk openly and honestly about your craft.
The truth is this: People who’ve made the effort to come listen to you speak don’t just want to learn about your artwork—they want to learn about you, the artist who created something that resonated with them. You don’t have to reveal everything, but sharing your inspiration, your message, your triumphs, and even your losses will help your audience connect emotionally with your pieces and with you.

Here’s how Alexa Meade, an American installation artist best known for painting directly onto the human body, revealed her own struggles:

I was a little conflicted though, because I was so excited about what I’d found, but I was just about to graduate from college with a degree in political science, and I’d always had this dream of going to Washington, D.C., and sitting at a desk and working in government. Why did this have to get in the way of all that?

I made the tough decision of going home after graduation and not going up to Capitol Hill, but going down to my parents’ basement and making it my job to learn how to paint. I had no idea where to begin. The last time I’d painted, I was 16 years old at summer camp…

Double Take by Alexa Meade

For art touching on negative or controversial subjects, frame your art as a positive force for change.
For instance, if you create art about women’s oppression, consider saying something along the lines of how your art “envisions a world in which women stand together, recognizing that supporting each other is supporting the entire human race” rather than how it “predicts the imminent doom of any female opportunity in the world.” As an artist, you have the unique opportunity to change the way people see and treat the world, as “images don’t change your mind; they smash through some of the warped lenses through which we’ve been taught to see.”

Practice answering all kinds of questions about your art, and always set aside time for a short Q&A.
Shorter answers are generally better, as longer ones tend to lose audience members’ attention. If you feel certain questions require additional discussion, feel free to delve deeper in one-on-one conversations after the Q&A period. Furthermore, try to keep your answers as positive as possible, and circle back to the themes you focus on in your talk.

If possible, make yourself accessible after the presentation to talk with audience members one-on-one.
Keep circulating around the room, and make sure to keep interactions short enough so everyone who wants to speak with you gets their moment. If someone tries to monopolize your time (especially proud friends and family members), politely excuse yourself after a few minutes.

  1. How to Talk About Your Art to Patrons

Answer the obvious: Who are you, and what do you create?
Of course, you don’t have to pigeonhole yourself into one medium, but picking a category of expertise—like comics, photography, or animation—will help potential patrons locate you faster. Also, don’t be afraid to inject some personality into your about section. Here’s how filmmaker Tony Zhou defines his craft:

Be vulnerable.
Even though we already mentioned the importance of opening up at public appearances and events, feel free to go even deeper with your patrons. Being an artist/creating art isn’t always easy, so share as much of your personal journey as you feel comfortable with—fans, especially loyal patrons, are undoubtedly interested in what goes on beyond the brush strokes.

Include photos and videos of your process.
Patrons love getting a sneak peek at your creative process, so try snapping a few behind-the-scene photos or recording some video footage while you work. BTS content is also a great reward for higher paying patrons. For instance, Goro Fujita, an art director and illustrator based in SF, offers VR painting live streams for his patrons.

Ask your patrons for feedback and suggestions.
At the end of the day, your fans are the ones who’ll be consistently following and potentially even buying your work. Show them how much you value their opinions by asking them for honest feedback and what they want to see next. One way to do this is via patron polls! Click here to read a detailed explanation of why, how, and when to use them! Here’s how painter Shayla Maddox asks her patrons for feedback:

Take advantage of Patreon’s live chat feature to do AMAs.
Since Patreon now has a live chat feature in the mobile app, there’s no need to use another platform for this function. All you need to do is click “go live” in the mobile app’s posting tool and chat with your patrons in the comments. Make sure to tell your patrons ahead of time that you’re doing an AMA (short for “ask me anything”) to build excitement.

Final Thoughts
Whether you’re talking about your art to buyers and collectors, at public appearances and events, or to your loyal patrons, the fundamentals are the same: Speak your truth, share your story, and honor your art.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]