by Alyson Kate Long, Content Director at Social Burro, Inc.
Selling the purpose behind a brand has a decades-strong loyalty with marketers and entrepreneurs. Here’s how artists can use the same formula to “Find the Why?” and claim their voices in the marketplace.
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Before we jump into the detailed exercise, let’s revisit Art History 101. Throughout centuries of creating fine art for profit, the artists’ names that remain in the mainstream have a thing or two in common. From Donatello and da Vinci there was a surge of individualism; from Caravaggio and Rembrandt, an unwavering determination to reflect the influences of global exploration. William Blake’s poetry and paintings forced society to reckon with their shortcomings as compared to Christian scripture. French actress Sarah Bernhardt inspired an era that pivoted portraiture into a modern design movement. Van Gogh, Matisse, Braque, Dalí, Pollock, Lichtenstein, Stella — all were at the forefront of new artistic styles but it’s the why, the driving purpose, that cemented their places in the canon of creativity.
Finding Your “Why?”
To start, review the artist’s statement for your most successful piece of work. This inward-looking, reflective writeup reveals much about the “how” of your process and the “what” of your subject matter. (Need to revisit the basics? This how-to post, written for The Creative Independent by artist Sarah Hotchkiss, can help.)
Written with the goal of inviting an audience into the relationship you’ve developed with your work, an artist’s statement can intensify or illuminate the dialogue about your pieces. What’s interesting is that these deeply personal statements can feel almost clinical, often lacking the human connection that art enthusiasts crave.
That’s where your Why? comes to the rescue. This intrinsic motivator isn’t tied to a single piece of art or the value the marketplace assigns it. Your Why? develops opportunities by simply allowing you to say, do and create what you believe. In more grounded terms, it safeguards the authenticity of your work and clarifies where you belong in the market.
To identify with something we must first define it. The formula for your Why? is short and simple:
Brand Values + Passionate Expertise = Why Your Art Matters
Brand values are defined in the corporate world as the unchanging beliefs that guide the actions and decisions of a business. When it comes to the business of fine art, you are the CEO of your own brand. Are you telling the best story for the intentions of your work?
To find your brand values:
- Make a list of your truths, personality traits, points of pride and aspirations.
- Remove the overlaps, inconsistencies, clichés and caveats.
- Assign a single word or short phrase to each of those truths.
Our company chose:
Got your list? Great! You’ve just built the framework for your Why?
Now, define your passionate expertise. This series of questions will ultimately clarify what differentiates your art and help you focus on the audiences with the most potential buyers.
- What problem am I solving?
- What am I passionate about?
- What have I earned the right to talk about?
- Why do people care about my art?
The deeper you look, the stronger your connection to your Why? will be. Got writer’s block? Don’t worry about format or grammar; just write and refine until you can condense your answers into a single sentence for each question.
Try these thought-starters to help you dig in:
Listen beautiful relax classics on our Youtube channel.
- My culture or life experiences aren’t represented in a way that I connect with
- The current challenges to society have changed the way I look at the world
- I have questions about ____ and want to start a dialogue with others to find my answers
- I know more about being/feeling/sharing ____ than the artist most associated with that subject matter
- I want my art to create a space where ____ feel safe, seen and supported
- My art is a tangible way to encourage larger conversations about a hard topic (global warming, non-binary sexuality, spirituality in nature, mental health stigmas, etc.)
- My art can be used as a touchpoint to help people seek small delights in their daily lives
Once you have your answers, try pairing them with your brand values to create a purpose statement. Remember, Brand Values + Passionate Expertise = Why Your Art Matters. Start with this structure then rework it to fit your Why?
I believe in (brand value) and think that art should be/feel/reflect/create (brand value). To truly change (problem I’m solving), my work reflects/communicates/embraces (my passion). (What I’ve earned the right to talk about) is the most important aspect of my art. I make this work to people who think/feel/need (why people care about my art).
Not only does this exercise fulfill the need of helping potential buyers seek out your voice in the noise of the fine art world — it also streamlines the creative process by giving you clear guardrails for staying true to your purpose. Use your Why? as the starting point for your next artist’s statement and you may be surprised at how many people finally “just get” what you’re doing.
Guest blogger Alyson Kate invites you to follow her on LinkedIn.
Alyson Kate is the Content Director for Social Burro, Inc. a social media marketing firm dedicated to local businesses. With extensive ad agency experience in copywriting and brand strategy, AK brings a passion for collaborative storytelling to every project — and has an unwavering determination to help creators find their “Why”.
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