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Exploring the impact of context on your art
Prepare a romantic dinner for your beloved. Light the candles, put on some soft music, cook her favorite meal. Who knows? After dinner, the evening might get even better...and wouldn't that be a perfect time to discuss the household budget?
Of course not. It would be completely out of context.
And the wrong context can kill the deal.
Context can work against you
Years ago I heard about a psychology study in a big city. The researchers left an abandoned car on a city street for a couple of weeks. Nothing happened. Then they cracked one window. Within hours the car was stripped.
The only thing that had changed was the context: the cracked window sent the wrong signal.
The wrong context explains why a world-renowned violinist is ignored when he plays for free in a crowded subway station: people go to the subway to catch a train, not see a concert.
The wrong context explains why restaurant art exhibits don't usually sell much: people go to restaurants to eat, not buy art.
The wrong context explains why after posting political takes and cat videos to your social media accounts, you “can’t sell art.”
The wrong context explains why SEO is such a drag for most artists: people rarely buy paintings by typing "paintings" into a search engine.
Or, Context can work for you
On the other hand, context can work in your favor, if it's the right context. For example:
People don't go to art galleries to eat: they go to view art.
People subscribe to art publications to keep up with tech news: they read art newsletters to learn about art. (Collectors often write to tell us about pieces they’ve found because of BoldBrush Magazine).
People don't subscribe to your art email newsletter to hear about your views on politics, they want to enjoy your art.
And people on your art website aren't there to listen to music, ahem, they are there to look at your art, so make sure they have the best possible experience doing so.
Context is why, if you market on social media, ensure your pages are about your art, and only your art. Or, ignore this advice and enjoy being the equivalent of a world-class musician panhandling in the subway. You get decide if you crack the car window or not, but don’t be surprised after you do that you attract the wrong following.
You've worked hard to be the visual equivalent of a world class musician - don't try to show your work in the subway station. The right people are waiting for you at the right time, in the right places, make sure you meet them there.
The right context isn’t quite enough, you also need to build trust with your followers. You need credibility which is the intersection trust and context. But if you don’t start with the right context, you won’t be able to build either.
Until next time,