The Power of Stories in Selling Art - Recap
Stories can sell art, but you have to use the right stories in the right way
Artists often say, “My work speaks for itself.”
But your art doesn’t speak for itself.
People do buy the art, not just the story. But the stories do matter. What you tell people about your work will affect how much of it you sell, and how much people enjoy it. However, artists, and marketers often misunderstand what we mean when we say “the story” and mistakenly assume we mean the story of the artist’s background.
What we actually mean when we say “the story” is an amalgamation of many different kinds of “stories”, both verbal and nonverbal, that define the brand, or the vibe around your art.
This series explored these different kinds of stories.
In cased you missed any of the previous articles, here are the topics we covered in this series:
All Articles in Series:
2. Your Origin Story
3. Your ongoing public story
4. The specific story between you and each fan
5. The context your art is displayed within
6. The story of each artwork
On to today’s update!
We learned that context, for example, is a kind of story. The “story” of an exhibit can be changed quite dramatically just by changing the context. The same pieces hanging in your studio vs. hanging at an art fair vs. hanging in a gallery vs. hanging in a museum tell quite different “stories.” Furthermore, each collector has their own “story” which can drive interest in specific artworks. As one collector told us, “I buy paintings that move me, and remind me of important events in my life. The artist undoubtedly has a story, and it may reinforce my story, but I buy the art that reflects my story."
There is no doubt that art is a “social object” and, for most people, some element of story is important - both the story about the artist, or the story about the artwork combined with the story the person tells themselves about the art.
And the more compelling your stories - the easier selling your art will be.
If people were logical, the stories wouldn’t matter. But people aren’t logical, they are psycho-logical. And the stories we tell people affects their perception of the products they buy.
You’ve probably heard in more than one place that people enjoy wine more when they’re told it’s expensive (even if it’s not true). What people believe about a product or experience shapes their enjoyment of the product or experience. As I like to say, what you think is what you get, so help people to think the things you want them to about your art.
Here’s what psychology professor Paul Bloom says about that subject:
Well, our response to forgeries is a huge puzzle. You might think that the pleasure you get from a painting depends on its color and its shape and its pattern, what it looks like. And if that's right, then it shouldn't matter whether it's an original or a forgery, it shouldn't matter at all who created it. But the mind doesn't work that way. It matters to all of us.
In my own work I find, even for young children, it matters where the painting came from, who made it. And I think that tells us something interesting about what we like. I think it suggests that when it comes to a pleasure like the pleasure we get from paintings, we're exquisitely sensitive to their origin, to who made it, to how it was made. [source]
In other words - the story matters.
If you tell the right stories however, not only will you sell more art, you can increase the value of your art.
From Austin Kleon’s, Show Your Work:
"In their book, Significant Objects, Joshua Glenn and Rob Walker recount an experiment in which they set out to test this hypothesis: “Stories are such a powerful driver of emotional value that their effect on any given object’s subjective value can actually be measured objectively.” First, they went out to thrift stores, flea markets, and yard sales and bought a bunch of “insignificant” objects for an average of $1.25 an object. Then, they hired a bunch of writers, both famous and not-so-famous, to invent a story “that attributed significance” to each object. Finally, they listed each object on eBay, using the invented stories as the object’s description, and whatever they had originally paid for the object as the auction’s starting price. By the end of the experiment, they had sold $128.74 worth of trinkets for $3,612.51."
Now, let’s get to telling your story.
There are five main parts to your artistic story