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Do You Ask Questions?

by Keith Bond on 3/14/2011 10:42:34 AM

This article is by Keith Bond, Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews.  You should submit an article and share your views as a guest author by clicking here.

 

 

Recently, I gave an art talk in my studio.  A question was posed to me afterwards in regards to one of the comments I had made during the talk.  The person who asked the question is someone I am well acquainted with.  I know him to be a deep thinker.  He is also a very successful businessman.

 

The question he asked me was:  “Why do you think that is?”

 

The topic of the conversation is irrelevant to this post and would take too long to explain here.  But in short, it had to do with my emotional and spiritual connection to the landscape.  His question caused me to go deeper into myself to find a way to respond.  It also enabled me to pull together several reasons that hadn’t really been connected together in my mind before that.  In short, he asked me a question that enabled me to better understand for myself.  My own conviction was strengthened.  I then was able to better articulate a response.

 

At first I just attributed the question to his deep thinking nature.  But I learned something else.  Something I didn’t realize until several days later.  His ability to ask the right questions is something that has also contributed to his success as a businessman. 

 

This realization came to me a day or two ago when I caught the tail end of a conversation on the radio.  The topic was about business communication.  I wish I had learned some of these principles years ago.  There were several points made in that radio conversation, but the one I would like to address today ties right in with my experience at the art talk.

 

Questions are more powerful than statements.  But they have to be the right questions.  My friend knows how to ask the right questions.  This is something that I plan to be more cognizant of in my future marketing efforts.  Questions can be appropriate in all aspects of marketing and business communication.

 

  • Do you ask questions during art talks or demonstrations?
  • Do you ever ask questions in your blog or newsletter?
  • Do you ask questions when you visit with clients at an art opening or show or in other conversations?
  • Do you pose questions in your printed material (postcards, brochures, flyers, etc.)?
  • Have you ever thought of beginning your artist statement with a question? 

 

The person on the radio was promoting a book.  I didn’t get his name nor the name of the book.  (I intend to track it down.  If I do, I’ll let you know.)  I am sure he probably lists several reasons why questions can be so powerful.  I came up with quite a few myself.  Think back to your years at school.  What role did questions play in your learning?  I am curious what your thoughts are.

 

Why do you think questions can be so powerful?  Add to the conversation. 

 

Best Wishes,

Keith Bond



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Topics: art marketing | FineArtViews | inspiration 

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 19 Comments

Marian Fortunati
via faso.com
I'm wondering, Keith, if when you were pondering questions and their importance to self understanding whether you ever thought back to a teacher who you thought was particularly "good". I think good teachers pose questions that open our minds as well.

And speaking of that... I'd say you are a good teacher because you certainly posed a question that has gotten my thoughts running around to touch on a whole variety of possibilities!!

THANKS!

Michael Cardosa
via faso.com
Hi Brian,

I can relate to your posting today because I've been in sales and marketing for over 30 years. The best sales people I've ever met always asked questions of their prospects, didn't make declarative statements about why whatever they were pitching was best. The questions allowed the prospect time to sell themselves on the benefits and value they perceived from what they knew of item/service in question. I see no reason that the same can not be or isn't true in art. Asking someone what they like about something is always a good way to get people talking and people who talk eventually, if they talk enough, sell themselves.

Michael


Barbara Andolsek
via faso.com
Years ago I was privileged to become a permanent part of "Women Beyond Borders', an International Traveling Exhibit. You can Google them if you'd like. Twelve of us were given a box that would be the basis for our artwork. No higher than 12", etc etc. I created a bird around my box. Inside my box, I placed a bell or chime if you will. It was meant to make a sound.

This is the Statement for my box titled
"Dream's Fly":

Inside this box, within a bird, a dream is sealed. Pick-up and hold this wise, matriarchal creature. Shake her gently and listen. Hear her dream stir? What is within her; within you? Permit your vision to awaken emboldened, released with wings spread and soar beyond every limitation that you impress upon yourself. Goethe said, “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it.” Truly, all women have dreams and passions pleading to be set free on the wings of imaginary flight.

My point with all of this? Yet another question which immediately stirs us up and forces us to go to the place where the answer lies. Great article Keith!

Robert Spannring
via faso.com
Brian,

Your post is a good one. I am an illustrator for Natural History subjects, in this position, I had the wonderful opportunity to meet and belong to the National Interpretive Ass. One of he most valuable tools I learned in understanding and producing Natural History displays, was how the text was presented. In the workshops I attended, designers were drilled on the formulation of the text, using tools to describe the story being presented. One of these tools was "to ask a question" which provide a neutral place for the viewer to become engaged in the exhibit. Simply by raising one's curiosity for knowledge.

In 2006 I and another Montana Artist, produced an exhibit called "DOWNSTREAM" Two Rivers, Missouri and Yellowstone. The theme was "What Do We Hold Sacred?". This was used throughout the text, titles, promotional, news releases. The exhibit incorporated Paintings, Poems and Ceramic Vessels, where as the paintings provided a visual image, then the Poem asked a question like;
"What of River Sounds?" the poems were very effective to engage the audience. Ceramic vessels where like christian chalice, with a hole in the bottom, where as the viewer peered into the vessel, looking through the hole to the inner space, inside the pedestal. Here inside would be an object that related to the Paintings and the Poem.

I am just starting a New Exhibit called the "Wild Bison and The Holy Cow" this exhibit is a journey to understand and explore a very controversial issue in the west, Brucellosis, more specific, "Brucella Abortus". This exhibit will be place in the context of a question, similar if not the same "What Do We Hold Sacred?" This is a very effective tool.

Lee McVey
via faso.com
As always, I enjoyed your article, Keith. One reason I think questions are powerful when artists use them in marketing such as a newsletter or blog is they engage the audience more than simply using statements do.

Margo
via faso.com
Perhaps a statement tends to have the power of being factual and thus ends all further discussion, whereas a question seems to begin to open people up to all viable possibilities and options.

Robert Spannring
via faso.com
OOPS Sorry umm Keith, why Brian? Guess I need more Coffee!!

Posted below is the original draft of Downstream Exhibit

"DOWNSTREAM" Example available to see at
http://www.authorstream.com/Presentation/spannring007-800103-downstream-draft-1/

and my other site; www.spannringstudio.com

Thanks for the Article Keith!
robert spannring

Lee McVey
via faso.com
Margo, I agree.

Sandy Askey-Adams
via faso.com
Hello Keith..

Wonderful article!!! Your article really opens the mind to more creative thinking in what we do and how we approach our patrons/art collectors. Asking questions is such a great way to connect in many ways. Never realized how much till reading your article. It also offers the opportunity to further growth of inner wisdom and vision.

I also love what others have posted in reference to this topic.
Barbara I enjoyed reading about the box you created with statement, titled "Dream's Fly."

My last art show schedule newsletter that I sent out, I had started it with a question. First time I did that. Could that have been one of the reasons why I had such a successful show last time? It got them more involved about their own thoughts adding more interest I guess to the newsletter. It really wasn't that much of a question either, but I did something a little different creating more interest than what I usually do.

Thank you again Keith....and everyone. I am going to enjoy reading all the comments that I am certain will be added to this article and that I will learn from.

Carol McIntyre
via faso.com
Questions are wonderful. One reason is that they can get someone to think from a different perspective. They also force people to make commitments to their inner thoughts, they convey curiosity, therefore caring. They are a great way to teach. Few people really think about their questions, and I believe it is important. It is a powerful self-discovery tool as well as a good sales skill.

Thanks for bringing the subject to the fore front!

Kathy Mann
via faso.com
Has there ever been a thought which challenged conventional status quo on any subject without first a question percolating in someone's brain? Questions lead us to fresh new ideas, prod thought toward new inventions, challenge "dyed in the wool" conventional thinking...all in the search for answers...the best answer! They cause a broadening of understanding and connection with the area questioned, a revelation of increased depth of understanding of the heart of an issue, behavior, person.

As a child I was chided for asking so many questions. They proceeded from a hunger to learn. This article caused me to reflect and remember the delight of the "wide world of questions", that I still love the search for the answer and why questions continue to be useful and necessary. Thank you.


Donna Robillard
via faso.com
I think the way I was raised, most everything was always a statement and not a question. Hence, there was not a lot of discussion. Questions do open up a lot of discussion and reflection. So much the better.

Chris Volpe
via faso.com
Careful - bad advice here. It's great to be reminded of this basic business tool (for a how-to book on it, read Dale Carnegie's "How To Win Friends and Influence People." Reminding folks to ask questions in person, whether at one's open studio or during a demo or presentation is great.

However, having taught college writing to freshman, I have to strongly advise against peppering one's promotional material with questions. This includes Web pages, press releases, and especially artist statements. It's irritating to someone who's looking for information to be roadblocked by rhetoric in the form of questions. People want the artist's STATEMENT, not a poser's questions.

Beginning any writing with a question is ill advised. Readers recognize the question as something to skip over. This technique is a cliche, related to writing in broadcast media, and it's an easy way out of actually saying something with substance. Far better to catch the reader's attention with an intriguing observation or an honest, original, well-crafted statement that immediately enlivens the topic at hand.

Lee McVey
via faso.com
Chris, Thank you for your different perspective. I've had many people say a question is good in a newsletter or blog because it gets the reader thinking so it's good to see another viewpoint.

I definitely agree that a text peppered with questions isn't giving the reader any substance. Do you advise against never using a question in text material?

Chris Volpe
via faso.com
Lee- I guess it would depend on the question itself and on the context- I can think of instances where it would work. But I would advise against *starting* any text material with a question, if for no other reason that it's risky - and overdone.

Sandy Askey-Adams
via faso.com
Hmmmmm...

Interesting, Chris. I agree with what you said about starting something with a question, but not in all circumstances. There are always exceptions to anything.

I tend to agree with Lee also.

Chris, I do not think anyone would put outlandish questions in a newsletter or on their brochures (especially on their promotional material, would they?)
In my last newsletter, I put a question..did not start with the question, and it was a question that was a teaching type of question about the medium I work in. Along with the question I put the answer too.
I had good feedback from it. I had never tried that before and it did create more interest in my work and the medium...and it turned out to a very successful selling art show for me. I was told I was the higest seller in the show.
I am sure that question was not really the basis for the great art show, and I am also sure it did not take away any sales. It was what it was.

Perhaps there is a time and a place for a question. We cannot let any stone unturned and can try different things to see how they work. Test the ideas out even if there is a question used in the process.

I have never seen an artists statement with a question though...but then, I have not, of course, seen all the artists statements to be seen anyway. But those I have seen have never had questions in them. I would think common sense would tell artists it is not a time to ask questions.

KeithBond
via faso.com
Chris,

Thanks for your input. I certainly am not an expert on writing. I do agree with you that there are right and wrong times and ways to use questions. You raise many things to think about.

A few things to consider, though:

Once a week, Alyson Stanfield has a Deep Though post on her blog. It is usually only a sentence. Maybe two. It almost always is in the form of a question. And it almost always gets me thinking. Her questions work for me.

I also think it is important to have a variety of writing styles and techniques in your blogs and other marketing material. Posing questions is only one of many that should be used. Not the ONLY one that should be used.

You say it is risky posing a question at the beginning. You are probably right. But it is often the risk takers that set themselves apart from the others. With a blog, what real risk is there anyway? There's no out of pocket money being lost by beginning with a question. It might be worth trying once to see what kind of response you have. You certainly don't need to do it every time.

If asking questions is overdone, could you also argue that beginning with a statement is overdone? Those are the only 2 choices. One or the other. If most things you write begins with a statement, then wouldn't an occasional question add interest and variety?

As for the artists statement, you are probably right. But, it is an intriguing notion that someone could do things in an unconvintional way and be successful at it. Is it possible to have a question within the artists statement that enables the reader to engage with the artist and connect on a level which isn't possible with a traditional statement? Somewhere out there is an artist who could pull it off.

You mention that questions are cliche and related to broadcast media writing. My response to that is that the media industry has spent billions of dollars finding what works and what doesn't. They commonly use questions because it works for marketing. If used properly, it gets the consumer to convince himself which is more effective than trying to convice him. If it works for the big players in commerce, why not the artist, too?

And lastly, there is a difference between peppering with questions and having no real substance and having the right, thought provoking questions coupled with well articulated statements. They can be powerful if used together.

Sorry for the lengthy response. I just think that we sometimes don't take the risks because convention tells us not to. Written marketing of your art is as much a lifelong learning curve as creating the art itself.

Keith

Sandy Askey-Adams
via faso.com
Keith...

Well stated and I do agree totally with you.

KeithBond
via faso.com
I found the name of the book and author.

Win
by Dr. Frank Luntz

I have ordered the book. It includes much much more than the topic of questions. It will be interesting to see what he has to say about this topic, though.










 

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