Here we are at the final step of the “trifecta” of supporting players. We got here by discussing what I feel are the three most important elements that must integrate seamlessly with your primary goal: the best presentation of your piece of art. We’ve discussed signature placement, frame selection and we are now at the most important of all the supporting actors, the Story.
Right up front, I will admit that for some art styles, this may not apply, and it might not be for every artist. But hear me out and maybe just give this one a try.
Let’s assume your painting, itself, does some story telling. Most figurative western art falls into this category. Even most landscapes take us to a place where we inquisitively and instinctively want to know more about the location, time period, meaning to the artist, etc. I like to take this a step further and give the viewer even more information.
When I display my paintings I provide a paragraph long story with more information about the painting. This initially was born of collectors and appreciators asking general questions about my subjects and me.
It seemed at every show I would spend my entire day telling and retelling stories of my subjects and the behind-the-scenes drama of the painting. I realized very quickly that I needed stories of these remarkable subjects beside each painting, if for no other reason than keeping up in a rush of people coming into my booth was frustrating to both me and the collector who wants to connect with the artist.
Yes, it creates extra work before each show. It takes quite a while to pen 20 stories and print them out, mount them on foam board, and finally attach a Velcro strip for hanging. But you know what? The stories next to my paintings are the single best marketing person in my booth. They tell the truth behind each piece in a narrative that creates emotion. A painting has the ability to generate plenty of emotion, and collectors connect to paintings in an emotional way.
Art collectors hunger for a connection to a good painting. No story is going to inspire a collector to move on a weak piece, but a quality painting with a well-written narrative can transport your art collector into your world.
I love painting my subjects, but what I’ve come to learn is I am really a storyteller. I love getting the story of my subjects out to the collectors through my piece of art and my words. That is what really inspires me. The painting introduces my subjects and shows the collector what they do, but the narrative tells them why.
I would like to demonstrate the power of the artist’s written word when combined with a special painting. The painting’s title is “Behind My Rope, I Find Myself”.
|Behind My Rope, I Find Myself|
Now here is the story on this painting. See if you can imagine how the art collect might see this painting in an entirely different and new manner.
Shane Thompson has a reputation as a gifted hand with both rope and horse. When I first heard of Shane, he was working in Arizona. I made it my goal to paint him, and during my travels to that state, I had the misfortune of missing him by one day. But I persisted, and finally had the privilege of meeting him on the Old C.V. Ranch, outside Prescott, Arizona. His initial demeanor is respectful, and Shane plays it cool, even reserved, when you first meet him. But once you break the ice, he’s warm and loyal. I have had the opportunity of photographing him for several years now, and am proud to call him “friend.” Shane is the epitome of a dedicated, hard worker and he’s known for being levelheaded and calm. He has great aspirations for his family and future, and is now the Cow Boss and Manager of the Triangle K Ranch, outside Willard, New Mexico. If you really want to know Shane Thompson, all you have to do is witness him on horseback, rope in hand, and posting across the desert floor. That’s when it all comes into focus.
Here’s another painting, titled “Fresh Shirt and A Fast Horse”.
|Fresh Shirt and A Fast Horse|
Sometimes I think Shawn Goemmer doesn’t get it. The cow business has such few perks to offer. What you do get is bad weather, bad horses and bad markets. But he continues to bravely march on. Shawn is direct and plainspoken, and pulls no punches … not with townies, colts, cowhands, cow bosses or cow dogs …. Not to mention the hard country Arizona offers him. I try to paint Shawn’s true demeanor. He carries himself with buckets full of confidence, and I’ve come to realize that this confidence comes from the comfort he finds from following his true passion. He exudes what it means to be a cowman. The hard days string together with thankless work, and Shawn takes them in stride. Every day starts with a “fresh shirt and a fast horse.”
I understand this may not work for everyone, but if you can find a way to allow your collector to understand more about what inspires you and how passionate you are about your subject(s), as well as give them the behind-the-scenes story and life of your subject matter…. Well, then the sky is the limit.
The War of Art is a tough road with loads of competition. But it’s what you were made to do. Take every little advantage to speak to your collect. This use of the narrative is “advantage” at work. Try it. You won’t be disappointed.
**Oh by the way, my blog for Friday will lay out my demo planned for next week. I’ll give you all the details tomorrow.
All content and images © Mark Kohler Studio.