circle on background with title branding 101 for artists

Branding 101 for artists: part 1

Identifying your art

Artists often shy away from the business side of things – and as a creative type myself, I understand why. It’s hard to find your flow and create beautiful things when you’re worrying about marketing and what you might say on a Facebook Live (if you even knew how to set one up).

But the truth is, just like with companies, buyers identify with you as an artist as much because of who you are as because of what you create.

They want to know your backstory, what common themes show up in your work and why. If you can tap into how someone feels when they own your art – what causes are they aligning with, what kind of person do they think has this kind of piece on their wall, then marketing yourself will become much easier.

We want to be part of a bigger group, we want to identify with others because we all share certain ideals, values, beliefs, desires. If your art helps someone do that, then it is worth your while identifying what group they see themselves as part of, and what ideals, values, beliefs and desires they connect to your art. Social media is a giant ocean of people looking for content to consume, yes, but also looking for a way to find their group, and share their values and desires. If you can pinpoint where ‘your’ people hang out on social media, you can spend less time on it, and just focus on the areas where you are likely to connect with your ideal buyer. And that will allow you to get back to the studio and create art more.

So, how do you do that? Welcome to Branding 101 for Artists!

In part 1, we’re going to work through what kind of art you create. In part 2, we’re going to look at your origin story as an artist (because artists can be superheroes too, right?!) and in part 3, we’re going to focus on your ideal buyer, who they are and where you’ll find them.

Ready? Let’s dig in!

painters hands with paintbrush


Talk about your art

You probably feel a bit uncomfortable when someone asks you about what you create, or what kind of artist you are. But the truth is, once you start trying to sell your art, people are going to be asking these questions all the time. And they are legitimate ones to ask – before someone will buy from you, they need to be able to feel a connection to you and your art. So let’s get practicing – because the more you try this out in the comfort of your own home or studio, the easier it will be when you’re asked it out in the real world.

Talk it out

I’m very into journaling as a way to find your way to what you want to say. Block out an hour just after a creative session to think about this. Find yourself a cozy space where you won’t be interrupted, bring your favorite drinks and snacks and a notebook or computer, set the timer on your phone for an hour (and silence it so you don’t get distracted) and jot down everything you feel and think about your art. At first it might sound stilted and formal – that’s okay. The chances are, you won’t hit your stride with this until at least 20 minutes in – the trick is to power through this first bit until your brain realizes nothing scare is about to happen and you can settle in to being truthful. 

If you’re struggling – just jot down words and phrases that come to mind when you think about your art and the process of creating. Remember that your first thought is often your best thought, don’t think too much, just note down what you’re feeling and what words are coming to mind.

The goal here is to break the artificial barrier we create between our thoughts and the act of expressing them – for me, journaling does this perfectly, but if you’re not a writer and can’t get through that barrier even after making notes for a while, then consider having a conversation with your best friend who gets your art – or even just talk out loud and use the memo function on your phone to record it. How can you honestly vocalize how you think and feel about your art and your creative process, so that your thinking brain doesn’t get in your way?

Feel free to make whatever notes and points come to mind, but if you need some prompts to get you started, you could use these:

  • What recurring themes do you find in your art? Are they intentional? If not (and even if so), why do you explore these and keep coming back to them?
  • How do you feel as you create – does it give you energy, leave you feeling depleted? Does it bring emotions or old memories to the surface? Does it inspire you for the future?
  • What materials are you drawn to using and why? What about their speed of use, immediacy, permanency, color, impression, do they create that you like? What other materials have you tried that you didn’t like, and why do you avoid them?
  • How do you know when a piece is finished? Is it an internal feeling? Does something about the piece show you it’s done? Do you come back and add to it over time or is it completed in one sitting?

Hopefully spending a bit of time thinking about what and how you create has allowed you to gain some clarity about your art. We’ll use this to create a stronger brand and artist bio for you in part 3, but for now, use this sentence to help you create a one-liner you can use if someone asks you what kind of art you create. If this mad-lib style sentence doesn’t work for you (hey, we’re creatives, we don’t like to fit into a box) then the brainstorming session should at least allow you to make up your own sentence.

I’m an artist who works with [materials] to create [type of art] that a) focuses on [common subject matter] or b) uses [process].

Email me at gillhill@gillhillwritingservices.com and let me know what you came up with, or feel free to leave a comment here, I’d love to know what you come up with! And check out part 2 so we can dig into your origin story as an artist, and move you closer to identifying your brand and crafting your artist bio.

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