by Julia Rymer, artboss co-founder
“We think sometimes we are only drawn to the good, but we are actually drawn to the authentic.”
~ Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, psychologist and author
In my early years as an artist, my artist statements and elevator pitches were written for my fellow artists and academics. I used big, complex words (who actually uses the word “dialectic” in conversation?) and waxed poetic about art theory. No one could connect with my art, and I received a lot of feedback in the negative, most notably when I tried to describe what I do and was met with “Wait, what do you do?”
My communication as an artist was not connecting with anyone, and there was one big reason why: I was not being authentic. I was not showing my true self as a creative in a way that others could understand and with which they could connect.
Authenticity is the feeling that something or someone is real and telling us the truth. We can spot fakes, which is why we all hate politician “double-speak” and focus-group-influenced marketing campaigns. Authenticity also connotes a certain openness of communication. There is an implied, and at times outright, vulnerability in authentic communication, for we are telling the true story.
As creatives trying to communicate what we do with the world, and explain what makes it different, remarkable or special, authenticity has a role to play. By opening up and speaking from the heart, we allow potential clients and collectors to get to know us, which helps create a relationship. Purchases are often emotional in motivation, and getting to know the person behind the work builds the kind of connection that can and does lead to business development.
Think about your favorite artists and designers. What is it about their work and the story behind it that drew you their way? What is your story?
It took me some time to re-learn how to write and talk about my work in a way that allowed others to connect with it, and with me as an artist. To learn this new approach to communication, I worked with a writing coach, Cheryl Dumesnil, a journalist and published author of a memoir and two books of poetry, who helped guide me through a new, revitalized writing process.
There were three main things she taught me that I now use in all of my communication as an artist and a creative as well as in my work with artboss. These are concepts you can incorporate as you rework your own writing and messaging to connect better with clients or collectors, and bring authenticity into your communication and branding.
- Tell your story. Reframe the story of your work and get into why you create what you do. What is the inspiration and motivation for your work, and what led you to this work, whether you are a sculptor or a web designer? For example, to illuminate what motivated me as an artist and the “why” behind my work, I told the story of my rebellion against my study of traditional plein air painting in southern France during college, which led me to create abstract paintings inspired my my experiences in nature.
- Eliminate jargon. Don’t use pithy statements or words that no one but those in your industry understand. Write the way you would describe what you do to someone in a completely different field than you.
- Hone your message– and practice it. Start with an extended version of your story, and start editing it down. Have a long version and a short version. Read it aloud to others and practice it. Get feedback and hone it more.
I have found that telling the story behind my work has created an emotional connection with clients and collectors over the long term. They love to hear the reasons I used a specific color palette in a design, to see behind-the-scenes of my process, or learn about what motivated a series of paintings. It makes them feel connected and that the work itself is authentic and from the heart.
In our artboss workshops, we have a module called “Crafting Your Narrative,” which takes participants through a step-by-step approach to telling the story behind their creative work and speaking from a place of authenticity. We start with who you are, what you create and why, and build from there. By the end of the process, participants have a one sentence elevator pitch they can plug into social media profiles, and longer statements that they can use on their “About” pages of their websites, for artist statements or presentations and talks about their work.
Consider the following questions for yourself as you write:
Who are you and what do you create?
Why do you create your work– what is the motivation? Is there an event that happened that motivated you?
What inspires you?
What media or materials do you use?
What is special about your work?
What is your creative superpower?
By opening up and speaking in an authentic, approachable manner, your work will begin to find its way to the people that will connect with it. You will also build trust between your clients and your brand, and you will always be able to answer the question “What do you do?” easily and confidently.