A couple of weeks ago I engaged into a conversation about my creative processes. It was a human that doesn’t know me well. He asked me questions about the “whys” I create certain things in the way that I do. How do I come up with ideas, how do I start creating them and when do I know they are ready? After I opened up a bit, using some projects as examples to the way my creative brain works, his own conclusion in the end was: You never do things, just for doing them, right?
That question hit me somehow. What does it actually mean “to do things just for the sake of doing them”. I walked home that evening reflecting on that subject.
I see art is a unique connecting process. It comes from inside, after an exchange with the outside - and vice-versa. It is a device of expression. Do I always know what I’m expressing in that moment in time and space that I feel the need to do so? Not necessarily. But when I’m finished, the how and the what don’t really matter - I look at it and understand the why behind it. And that is when every piece gets its own concept. Every piece? Yes, every piece has a why. And the only person who knows that is you - me, us - artists. It’s the same as talking about a feeling, about a memory. It is a visual storytelling - and pure reflex - of what is going in your life.
And then you may think: “Ok, cool - expression, storytelling, concepts... And how does that help you selling your art.”
Let’s do a quick overview of facts. If an art piece is a reflexion of who we - the creators - are, understanding the why behind every piece, is also understanding who we are. And by understanding who we are, there is no better way to talk about our art in an assertive way - in that moment in time. Yes I say in that moment, because we humans are constantly evolving, we change, we transform and so does our expression. Our essence doesn’t change, but the how might change. And that is why, if you create a piece today, and another one tomorrow, to understand what lies behind it - the variables added to your essence, help you talk about your art in a more assertive way, to create true connections with the people interested in your process or in actually buying your pieces. If someone asks: “Why did you paint this piece like this?” or “Tell me the story behind this painting.” or “Why did you use the colors in that way?” The questions vary - and we all heard them before - but the answers can create totally different impacts. In the way you are perceived as a human, as an artist - and how you may actually profit right there and even in a long term. So here are some answers and scenarios I have experienced - by myself or through the observation of other creatives:
“I don’t know, I just did it like this.”
If you heard someone saying that, would you try to engage in a conversation a bit further? Would you try to understand more, or just nod, and walk away? There is no rule, but in my experience, the second option is usually the most common within this scenario. With such an answer, there is no true opening up. You might block the curiosity and the possibility of developing an interesting conversation. It becomes an “empty fact”. You created a piece, and now you’re just hanging it there, expecting someone to connect to it and give it a new home.
“Before I tell my story, I’m curious, what do you see?”
If you haven’t really had the chance to give think about the why behind your piece or if you are shy when it comes to talking about you, this is a good way to change the conversation around. You create a possibility, a window for interpretation. You make the person stay a bit longer, look at the piece a bit longer, connect to their own feelings. Most people start in a smooth way, because they don’t “like to be wrong”, or go “against what you were really feeling”. If they say they feel sadness, but you were actually feeling very happy when you created that piece - that might create a conflict. So the best way to navigate this scenario, is to be totally open to what comes up. If you haven’t given a thought about it, be open to receive and understand what people are actually feeling through your expression. I used this a lot in the past - and still do sometimes. It is a great research. What do people actually feel with your art. And then you learn to improvise, to go with the flow. However the first words of the observer come out, you use that as fuel to your own words. You could just say: “No, that’s not it.” Which will probably make the person nod, and walk away. (like option 01), or you could say something like: “Yes, I felt exactly what you just said, but also…” And then you start talking a bit more about what you have felt during the process, by reinforcing what the person said. This is a way of seducing the observer. A way the person actually feels part of your creation. She has understood the message behind the piece. That will create a stronger connection and thus, for you, a higher possibility of selling.
“Ok, so this is why…”
The way you talk about your art is also the way you talk about you - and it will either create a connection, or push people away. In whatever approach you use, remember, there can always be people that dont like your art (or you even), but there are many that will. Are you being transparent or wearing a mask. Are you being true and authentic to yourself and others? So don’t be afraid of going deep. Be true to the moment you are living, to the why you created that piece. Don’t be afraid of being vulnerable. To just be - you - in your truest way. That is where the connection is created. People will feel they know you a bit better. When they hang a piece on their wall, they will always remember the story you told them. If someone asks, they will not only talk about an art piece, but they will talk about you. They feel they know you, and so they also become an extended marketing tool for you.
I have tried them all, and still do sometimes, just for the fun of going a bit deeper, to getting to know my public, to getting to know what my art truly means to me, and what is the effect it can have on others. Whatever approach you choose to use have in mind that you are not just creating a “selling piece”, or a concept about your art, but that you are actually telling stories about yourself. Who are you, and are you actually giving people the possibility of getting to know you a bit better?
With time and experimentation you learn how to read your own art, as a reflection of your moment. And you get faster and more confident.
(Talking about experience here)
So even, when you just painted something live, in front of a crowd - and don’t really have the time to think too much about the concept - if someone asks, you will have the answer right there. Because you are there, fully present in yourself and what you are creating
And like a river with meanders, this line in between - which I call discipline - may tend more to one or the other side in a few days, but it always keeps me focused and with an eye on my goals. It connects the land I’m standing on, to the ocean of possibilities that I want to reach. Self-discipline is what gives me the daily flow to do things and then feel like doing it more and more. It’s a growing and permanent moving flow - and cycle.
The art of living, or the life of an artist. It doesn't really matter. In the end, I am talking about living life in the most expressive way I can, and then create pieces, that are a pure consequence of it all. This is my slogan. What would be yours?