artist interview

Tell Your Story, or Starve: Why Only YOU Can Market Your Art

What the new era of art marketing looks like, the importance of telling the story of your art, and why only you can do it.

Hate marketing?

A lot of the artists we’ve talked to view marketing their work as a giant pain.

It’s not what they want to be spending their time doing. It’s not what they’re best at.


We’ve got some good news and bad news on that.

The Bad News: There is no escaping the need to market your work. The art isn’t going to go out and find an audience of eager buyers on its own.

The Good News: Marketing has completely changed in recent years, and for the better. If you dread marketing, you likely just aren’t caught up on the new way of doing things.

Just a few years ago, you would be completely right in assuming marketing was going to be a grueling and unrewarding process spent being pushy and salesy, creating endless marketing materials and advertisements.

But times have changed, and fast.

Consumers are tired of this kind of old school, “buy our products now” marketing, and it doesn’t work anymore.

Today, in the era of social media, consumers expect brands to be real and personal.

how to tell artist story

They expect them to understand their lives and make an effort to connect with them on their level.

Today, the proper way to market your art is to tell your story.

Why People Buy Art

artist storytelling

People don’t buy art like cavemen. We are very particular about what images get to go on our walls.

It’s why family photos get the majority of the wall space. The remaining space is usually occupied with images that move us emotionally.

In other words, people buy art because they have an emotional connection to the subject matter.

Beyond that, they will be even more inclined to buy (and pay higher prices) when they share a connection to the artist.

Your job as an amateur art marketer is to create that connection.


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How to Tell Your Story

artist storytelling

Here’s your goal in a nutshell: Be accessible, be visible, be open.

Each time you release a new piece, accompany it with a story behind where the piece came from. What inspired you to create it? What was your process like?

You have to remember that as an artist, you see the world in your own unique way. This is what makes you special, and you express this in your art.

artist story

Consumers won’t get all of that from your art alone, so storytelling is your way to tie your work to heart strings.

When an artist takes the time to do this, it can be extremely powerful.

Take a look at this artists’ limited edition set of prints inspired by the University of Kansas mascot:

Look at how she uses an embedded video to tell the story of these pieces – why and how she created them.

That video is going to be a home run for anyone with an emotional connection to the subject matter.

Where to Tell Your Story

There are a number of places you should be storytelling on a daily basis.

1. On your website. Enrich the buying experience with additional information about your work. Tell the story of how a painting came to be, or where a photograph was captured.

2. On your Instagram Story. The Instagram Story is one of the most effective ways to connect with your audience. Post to it frequently with short updates on your process. Give a tour of your studio. Share a timelapse. Show your audience where you’re shooting photos today. More ideas here.

3. In your emails. Send your audience romance emails designed not to sell but to engage. When your emails become more than simply advertisements, you’ll find they get far more attention – higher open and click rates.

4. Everywhere else you have a social presence. Don’t forget Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Behance, and wherever else you may post your work.

Why It Needs to Be You

selling canvas prints online

Distilling your unique point of view, personal motivations, enthusiasms, and dreams? That’s a tough order for a stranger to do.

We often get asked about hiring on a professional marketing firm to do this work on behalf of an artist, and our general advice is that it’s never going to be as effective as doing it yourself.

Worse, many marketing firms will tell you to write out your inspiration for each piece so that they can post it for you!

In that case, you’re going to sit down and tell your story anyways, you’re just going to pay someone to do the last 5% of actually sending those emails and sharing those posts on Facebook and Instagram.

That money would be FAR better invested in something like Facebook Ads.

website for artists

Finally, doing the marketing yourself is so critical because it puts you in touch with your audience.

It’s a two-way street. You’ll find that when your storytelling connects with buyers, it will inspire you, too.

Responses of gratitude to your emails, “likes” and “loves” on your social posts – the positive feedback feels amazing and should give you an extra boost of inspiration to keep pushing on.

You’ll also have your finger on the pulse of what sort of subject matter and stories really connect with your customers. You’ll never get this information any other way.

Consider it not as “marketing,” but as another form of creative expression. It should be rewarding and cathartic, evoking the same feelings that you felt when creating the art.

So, what are you waiting for? Marketing in today’s day and age is as easy as telling your story.

After that? Just make sure all your hard work is sending your audience to a website designed to actually sell your art. With that, we can help.

Now I have a coach that keeps telling me 'go, go, go!' and pushes me to do the stuff that I need to do.

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