Your Artist Origin Story
Welcome to part 2 of Branding 101 for Artists. In part 1 we focused on the art you create, how you do it, and what themes you explore. In this part, we are going to look in more detail at your origin story as an artist.
This is where it can get a little squirmy for some people, especially if they don’t like talking about themselves, but never fear. We’re going to practice without anyone else seeing. The goal here, as I mentioned in part 1, is to be practiced enough so that when a potential buyer asks about you, you don’t stumble over your words and come out with something that you cringe about after. Get the cringing out the way now, build your ideal elevator pitch, and you’ll never be lost for what to say again. And I’ve included some tips at the end to help you move the conversation on if you do get asked that question. You’ll have a polished answer, and a way to move the focus off you and onto how you can find out more about the person you’re talking with.
You are a superhero! Why your origin story matters.
When you think of a superhero’s powers, they usually involve strength, speed and abilities that help them save the planet. As an artist, you don’t jump buildings or run down bad guys (unless you take parkour classes, in which case more power to you) but you do have super abilities that the general public don’t.
You probably shrug when someone tells you they love your work or that it makes them feel a certain way; maybe you think everyone can do this. The truth is, they can’t. You have an ability to create art which is a conduit for others to feel (and sometimes process) their emotions. It is frequently acknowledged that creatives feel emotions more intensely, but the opposite of that is that the general public often have a hard time tapping into those wells. When we connect those emotion-inducing tools of art with our themes – what we love to explore, we find a way to connect to our audience, and move them in ways that they don’t normally experience on a daily basis.
When you were working through what kind of art you make in part 1, how did you do that? Journaling? Talking it out? Recording yourself word vomit? Whichever one worked for you, do that again with the next exercise! Work through these questions to identify your origin story and why you do what you do:
- What kind of art did you make or enjoy as a kid? Was it the same as now or different? If it was different, what has changed?
- Did you stop creating art for a while? When and why? What encouraged you to start again?
- Do you have any formal art education? Why did you choose to do that? What did you think you’d get out of it? Did you? What else did you find out about yourself and your art during that time?
- If you are a self-taught artist, how have you learned? Have you done any classes, or worked with other artists?
- When was your a-ha moment, when you realized you wanted to ‘be’ an artist, and not just create art as a hobby. What else was happening in your life at the time? Why was this the point when you made the decision and not earlier or later?
- Since you became an artist, what have you done differently in your life to make this a career/job and not just a hobby?
Prepare your elevator pitch
Now that you’ve got that all out, let’s turn it into an elevator pitch. Fill in the blanks, if it helps, or write your own sentence (or 2, max) that describe you as an artist.
I am a [kind of art] artist who loves to work [with materials/using this process]. I learned [include formal education/by [what did you do when you were self-taught] and while I have always created art, I discovered [when/how did you realize you wanted to be an artist] and now I [what about your life shows your commitment to being an artist and not just creating art as a hobby].
Now you’ve found a formula, you need to practice saying it out loud! If you’re still uncomfortable with the idea, then practice in front of the mirror or record yourself on your phone. Once you’ve tried that, go find your supporter, who you talked about your art with in Part 1, and try it out on them. Find a few cheerleaders, who know you and your art, and check in with them that this feels true to who you are as an artist. The more you say this out loud, the more comfortable you will become when you have to say it to a stranger or potential art buyer.
The next time you’re going to be at an event where it’s likely someone will ask about your art or what you do, write down your elevator pitch and put it in your pocket or purse. You can check it in the restrooms if you get nervous, but even the act of writing it and keeping it with you will help.
If you find someone asking you the question ‘what do you do?’ or ‘what kind of art do you make?’, then you should be ready to confidently answer them, with less umms and ahhs.
And if you’ve given them your pitch, and you still feel uncomfortable, what next?
The easiest thing is to ask them a question back and get them talking about themselves. Ask them what kind of art they create (if they are an artist) or what kind of art they enjoy (if they aren’t). Listening to people talking about what they like about art and how it makes them feel to create it or experience it is a great way to understand more about why people enjoy art and why people become buyers. And all that ‘market research’ will be incredibly useful in Part 3 where we identify your ideal buyer and then you can craft your artist bio!