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Three Tips for Describing Artwork to the Collectors

Updated: Jun 18, 2022

In my last blog I spoke about the collector’s connection to the artist and how important that was. But in my experience, that connection to the artwork, the “reason” so to say, is of equal importance for a connection to an artist, and then to the sale of that artist’s artwork. An Artist’s artwork forms a communication between the canvas on the easel and the collector.

I had one of my collectors say to me… “it does not matter the cost of your painting, if I want it, I will find a way to buy it, period.”

As the artist, I want my collectors to look at my work long enough to fully engage emotionally, make a connection that translates into a meaningful personal connection. It would be my honor for my artwork to go from my easel into their world because of that emotional connection. So, how can I as an artist bridge that gap between the creation of my artwork into an engaging moment that in turn translates into the collector being interested in one of my paintings in a way that engages them enough to “have to have it?”

I have found my collectors many times asks that question: WHY? This “why” means several things:

· what was your inspiration?

· what were you thinking?

· what were you feeling when you painted the painting?

These are all questions invoked by the collector when they connect with a piece of artwork. It is almost like they want to hear the artist’s words to connect their feeling to the painting.

When a collector connects with a piece of artwork, this verbal description, the “reason” helps the collector feel the piece and this connects the collector to the artwork. As an artist, I must take my painting from this visual object to make the collector “feel” my work through my words. So, how does the artist go from that finished piece to talking about the work with thought provoking “words” that are essential to connecting the artwork to the buyer?

I have found that this piece of the journey, the “words” are crucial!!! Words, to take the artwork from a visual state lets the person viewing the work understand the piece through feelings. It bridges that connection from the artist to the collector.

As an artist, we create within our “creative spaces” and sometimes there is nothing behind the artwork, except our root memory of creating, you know, those internal movements, like: form, composition, value, tones, textures, and perhaps some special techniques, right? Yes, there are emotions, but it is transformed by these techniques.

The key is to understand how to make our collectors FEEL our artwork, and we do this by allowing them to feel our work through our descriptive words.

So, what is this magical formula to go from our artist creative journey to these descriptive words; these words that allow the average collector to understand our work and then to buy our work as they connect with it? How can we talk about our work to transcend this boundary and allow the buyer to connect with our work to the point, they want to buy our artwork? It is almost like translating our words about our work into more of “marketing verbiage.” As artist’s we can do this by translating the artist world of composition and value to words describing the features of the work, and words to help the collector envisage that work in their world.

1. Describe your artwork with “sensory writing.”

Sensory writing is the process of using the senses of sound, sight, touch, taste or smell in our writing to visually paint our artwork’s images in our collector’s mind. Our outcome is to allow the collector to “feel” our artwork through their senses moreso than seeing the piece with their eyes. This gives the collector the experience of connecting with our artwork deeper than a visual connection, so they feel immersed and engaged from a personal prescriptive. It almost transfers the artwork from your art journey to their personal journey and connects it to THEIR experiences in life. Once you can do this, the collector become bonded. The piece transfers from the artist’s work to their life experiences.

So how do we do this? One way is to pretend the someone is blind. They can’t see anything. Not even shadows. Now talk about your painting using one of the senses!! How would your words be sound?

The collector will become strongly bonded to our artwork when they can feel using their imagination from your words. So, if I were to describe my painting: “Spiritual Breeze” with sensory words, I might say something like this:

"Spiritual Breeze" 16" x 20"

I remember my last visit to the shore and the way the cool breeze made me feel. This breeze blew my silk jacket all around me. It was this light cool wind that seems to blow this warm breeze from the water in an almost uncontrolled playful way that took my silk garment up and down. My garment almost became like spiritual wings and the breeze wrapped it all around me, one time making me put my arms out like I was an angel ready to fly. I felt safe.”

2. Describe the “feeling” of your artwork

As an artist, we understand the context of lines, colors, values, shapes, textures, space, in our artwork. We use these art tools to create movement, peace, excitement, and other visual states. But how do we interpret these art “terms” to a collector in a way they can feel the artwork?

One way is to use descriptive words to talk about the shapes, colors, etc., in other words, talk about the feeling or the mood that is translated to the viewer. Mood and feelings are an internal action that evokes emotion.

To convey artwork emotionally, an artist can talk about the feelings expressed with words of expression or descriptive color tones. In my opinion, this can be very personal, as the artist painted or created the artwork within their emotional state and the collector viewing the artwork, might “feel” something else. But I have found, most collectors still want to be captured by artwork using descriptive words to convey the atmosphere of the artwork.

Into Heaven Ascension 24” x 36”

Such as the painting “Into Heaven Ascension,” the atmosphere expressed could be described as dark, deep, thought-provoking, along with energetic. If I as the artist were to describe the painting with terms of tone (lightness or darkness), I might use descriptive words such as transparent, ethereal, to depict the depth of the mood. Both the light and dark tones of this painting convey an emotion.

One way to explain mood, or the feeling of a painting is to use descriptive adjectives. Descriptive adjectives can be words like “beautiful,” “cloudy,” or “dark” are all adjectives. If I were to describe my painting “Into Heaven Ascension” by talking about the curved arch from the way the paint dripped on the canvas, the collector might not feel the mood I was trying to create. But if I described the dark thought-provoking arch created to portray a

beautiful tranquil ascension, into a dark abyss the mood is created.

3. Describe artwork to allowing the story to become THEIRS!

Number three is closely related to describing the “feeling” of your artwork, but it is another way to think about how to talk to your artwork to the collector. Abstract work is subjective but most of my collectors still want me as the artist to provide them with what inspired my paintings, what was my story!!

Sometimes hesitate to do this as I think, what if I tell them my story and the collector cannot connect with MY story, how will that affect their story of why they connected to the artwork?

Have you heard someone say to you, I am a visual learner? To me, this means I as an artist need to convey my artwork in such terms to allow my collector to “picture” what I am saying. It makes the artwork more visual and less of an object, therefore immediately helps the collector connect to the work on a personal level.

From the artist’s view, descriptive characteristics are color, shape, textures, form etc. So how can an artist talk about these characteristics in a manner that the collector can relate to and more than that, emotionally connect their emotions to the artwork? Many times the finished piece of artwork invokes in the artist a further emotional connection, for me in

“Mindful Silence,” it was what was now painted on the canvas, a visual that takes me to the feeling I have when I visit the ocean.

"Mindful Silence"

18" x 24"

In my painting, “Mindful Silence,” my mood was rather personal and what was created was an almost healing out-pour of my emotions that day. I needed solace in the moment, and what happened on the canvas was root memory of techniques I know, translated onto the canvas as each layer was created. The previous layer informed the next and there was no planned reason, but more of a deeper inner spiritual need to heal my broken spirit which happened on the canvas as the painting was being created.

So how do I describe those very personal experience in a manner that does not turn the collector away from my emotional, rather dark mood into a painting they can relate to and make it their story?

When someone can visually see the image being portrayed in their head, they start to connect their life experiences in a way and therefore this connection to the artwork becomes stronger.

From research, I learned that three of our senses are used in learning, storing, remembering, and recalling information. As if we can describe our artwork in a way to connect to these scenes, this communication, helps the collector bond.

From the artist’s view, descriptive characteristics are color, shape, textures, form etc. So how can an artist talk about these characteristics in a manner that the collector can relate to and more than that, emotionally connect their emotions to the artwork? Many times the finished piece of artwork invokes in the artist a further emotional connection, for me in “Mindful Silence,” it was what was now painted on the canvas, a visual that takes me to the feeling I have when I visit the ocean.

Perhaps I can explain this using an example.

“Mindful Silence” is an original seascape on a Gallery wrapped canvas.

Inspired by the feelings I get when I go to the shore and the peaceful emotions that are evoked from the silence between the waves. I love how the waves also show their power as they roll into the shore and display their individual mindfulness of their creation.

An inspiring and emotional piece of artwork allowing the eye to feel a powerful memory. The artwork has texture from the layers of paint added. Techniques such as drippings, adding paint with a palette knife, well as the soft scraping of the paint while it is still wet creates layers of different textures to visually enjoy. The muted gray tones provide a perfect mood for the setting of the artwork. There are added line work in gold invoke the powerfulness of the ocean that day. The painting is varnished in a high-quality mat varnish. The artwork comes with a certificate of authenticity. It is signed on the bottom by the artist.

By connecting the inspiration from the artist of the artwork to the emotions of the artist it is the hope that our collectors, will not only see our artwork, but feel the emotions from the artist that evoke a connection that is transformed into their story!!

Again, an artist’s artwork forms a communication between the canvas on the easel and the collector. That emotional connection between your artwork and the collector needs to happen.

Most of those that collect my art pieces are not just looking for a piece of art to fill their wall. They are looking for something that excites their soul. They might not know why, that is why as an artist, we need to help them feel artwork in their soul by connecting our inspiration in a way that creates that desiring emotional connection.

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