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Tell the Whole Story

by Daniel Keys on 12/15/2008 3:22:21 PM

Today's guest author is artist, Daniel Keys.  This article has been edited and published with the author's permission. Find out how you can become a guest author.

Have you ever missed an opportunity to make a sale, because of a potential buyer's fickleness?

Have you ever experienced the feeling of disappointment that comes when a collector [even though they're drawn to your particular style of work] begins to point out what they find strange, or different, in a negative way, and talk themselves right out of investing in one of your pieces?

I call these particular art mongers "nit-pickers". Though they endeavor to support the arts (and often do), they sometimes give excuses for not buying a piece they sincerely admire, because they don't entirely understand it. They say things like... "I'd buy that painting right now, if it didn't have that *fill in the blank* in it", or "If you'd have only put that *fill in the blank* over there instead of where you did".

All to often, artists of every skill level find themselves dealing with such people, and in critical situations, where each word said could make, or break, the deal.

How can you effectively turn the situation around, make the sale, and satisfy the collector?

An instance much like what I've described recently happened at an art show where I was participating. The potential client (in this case a middle aged woman), found herself especially drawn to one of my small oil:  a simple painting of some wild sunflowers, with loose brush strokes, and a rather painterly look to it. She stated how much she admired the piece, but was confused as to why I had decided to paint my signature on the upper left-hand corner of the canvas. She went as far as to say that if it were in the lower part of the painting (a more traditional look), she wouldn't hesitate to buy it at that very moment (she was considering purchasing it as a gift).

Understanding her concern for making the best choice for herself, but not wanting to lose a sale over something so trivial, I immediately took my opportunity to explain my reasons for placing the signature where I did . . . and did so in a way that increased her appreciation for the painting.

Here's what I did:

First, I remembered what I like to refer to as "The three C's " : Courtesy, Cordiality, and Confidence.  While maintaining a sense of professional politeness, I also conveyed myself in a way that lets others know I'm a serious, and forward thinking artist.  

Second, I explained to her my reasons for signing the piece the way that I did, and gave the painting importance by telling her of the story behind it:  As an admirer of the great John Singer Sargent, and as an homage to his artistic genius, I sometimes sign my name at the top of my paintings, as he did.  As it turned out, she remembered that a distant relative of hers was believed to have been an apprentice of Sargent! 

Lastly, I closed the deal, and made the sale.  As soon as I could see how her eyes were opened to this fresh take on a classic idea (and she now understood the special meaning behind it), I explained to her that this was a unique piece of art, and how it would make an excellent addition to any beginning, or established, collection. By the end of the whole ordeal, she decided to take the piece for herself, and place it in her very own collection!

By taking the opportunity to tell the story behind my works of art, I deepened the attachment between it and its potential collector. You must realize that when someone approaches your work, and then inquires about it, they're already interested, and are probably considering making an investment. What you need to do, is convince them why the work is so special, and not allow negatives to keep you from making the sale. Please understand that I'm not encouraging you to just make something up (I really did sign my name at the top of that painting as an homage to Sargent); But without the history or story behind the artwork, it could be considered "just" another painting, which leads me to my next point...

There are lots of paintings depicting Roses, Victorian architecture, New England landscapes, etc., and chances are there's someone out there who paints the same subjects as you do. So what makes yours so unique?

The answer is simple: You. You make your art unique, and just as you express yourself through each piece, you should take the time to give your collectors the reason, history, or story, behind your art. Allow them to make the same connections and ties to the subject as you have. Let them see through your eyes. That's what makes art so special!


Education, encourages appreciation; And appreciation leads to investment.

[Ed Note:  Daniel brings up some good points in the article above.  Some artists find it difficult to talk about their own artwork; however, learning from the experiences of others is a great way to become more proficient and comfortable in marketing your own works.  One of the best books on the subject of marketing your work that we know if is I'd Rather be in the Studio by Alyson Stanfield.  She teaches artists how to sell more art and build an art career that lasts:  Click here to learn more.]


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Topics: art marketing | Guest Posts 

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Diane Eugster
This is so true, if I put myself in the buyers shoes, shopping for anything, say an appliance, if a good sales person can engage me and educate me politely (not pushy), it can take me from the fence to a paying customer very easily!


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