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3 Steps to Promoting Your Face as Your Brand

It's odd what triggers a thought. I was watching a really good movie about the blacklisted writers, actors, and studios in Hollywood during the McCarthy era, and getting as angry as I usually do when remembering what those folks had to endure. There was a character, an actor, who sold out and gave names to the congressional committee, and faced backlash from the writers whose names he had provided. In his defense, he lamented that the writers, even when blacklisted, were able to continue to work under various pseudonyms. Actors were known by their faces. They couldn't pretend to be someone else, or work anonymously. Their face was their brand.

Vintage photo created by freepik -

It struck me that we, as visual artists, are the same. I mean, short of Banksy, most all of us must identify ourselves personally with our art. We're our own brand, whether we like it or not. I've worked with a variety of children's authors and illustrators over the years, and most tell me that the majority of their income comes from personal appearances at schools, and events... more than they earn from the sale of their books.

I know we've talked about this idea before. Even if we'd rather be secluded in some bucolic studio, painting in silence as the birds flutter in the trees outside our window, we still have to build a rapport with our collectors and potential collectors. We must be able to put ourselves out there as ambassadors for, and become the face of, our art.

So how does that work? What kinds of things should we do to "go public" with our artistic celebrity? Let's imagine 3 things we can do today to start that process. Mind you, if you're already doing all of these things, that's great. Find 3 more things to move you farther down that path.

Number 1: Make sure that all of your social media pages, website, online shops and platforms have your picture. That may mean changing your avatar, it may mean posting your smiling face, whatever. Check all your public facing media, and insure that there is some image of you available. Make sure your photo appears on your website and Facebook page as well. These are places people will search for you. Be certain they can connect your face with your art.

Woman photo created by lookstudio -

Secondly, start posting pictures of yourself with your art. Don't just post a rectangle of your painting, include an image of you holding your work. That not only gives people the sense of the size of the piece, it also associates you with the artwork as its creator. I don't mind these shots, because I can hide my belly behind the canvas. I know, I'm not fooling anyone, but it makes me hate the photo less. Reviewing our statistics, photos showing me holding my art do get more attention than those of just the artwork.

Number 3: If you're set up as a business, start a "Google my Business" page. It's simple, and it's free. Just go to their website, and fill out the questions to set yourself up. Be sure to include your own photo in the process. That way, whenever someone checks you out on Google, they'll see your face next to all the business information you provide. If you're not set up as a business, what are you waiting for?

So the next question is why. Why should we go to all this trouble? I actually read a post from an artist the other day that basically said; "If your art can't promote itself, then your art's not good enough." I'm sorry to disagree, but I think that statement is ridiculous, false, and exceedingly arrogant. I find it so objectionable because I think it demonstrates a total lack of understanding about human nature. Let's stop and think about it. What other product out there sells itself in that way? Is there a dish that is so tasty that everyone just buys it? Is there a wine that is so fine that no one needs to review it, or promote it? Is there a car that is so amazing that people just show up to buy it? Even Rolls Royce has to market its new models. When was the last time you actually bought a piece of art, with no back story, with no provenance, not knowing who the artist was? When have you ever purchased a piece of art for the sheer beauty and expertise of the medium, knowing nothing else? Even if you can muster up an example or two, that's simply not how people buy art.

People want an association with the art in their homes. They want to know the artist. They want to know the story behind the work, so they can tell the story to their friends. If you haven't noticed, very often when talking to prospective buyers, the story about the piece seems to clench the sale. And that says nothing about how vital it is to build a relationship with your collectors. Over the span of your career, they are likely to buy other works from you as well.

We used to do a lot of real estate photography and video, and we were working with a young agent who was building a practice in our town. He began to invest in creating short videos of his listings, of special offers, and just general commercials promoting him as an option when looking to buy or sell property. What he noticed was that, after a short period of time, people were approaching him in restaurants or at the gas pump and talking to him as if they knew him. These were people he'd never met before in his life. Turns out they had seen his videos, and felt that they already knew him. That is priceless marketing, priceless.

So that's it. You have your homework. 3 things that you can do today to help promote "you" as the brand of your creative business. Let me know how it goes. I'm sure there are more than three.

 “Art Life Blog with John & Bogdan” is a weekly blog/vlog/podcast that creates a community, a conversation, between creatives in all sorts of fields at all sorts of levels.  We want to discuss what we’re learning, what we’ve experienced, and whom we’ve met in our journey of running a freelance creative business. John Bishop is a visual artist living in Houston, Texas. His work is largely abstract, and explores how to turn mythic, archetypal symbols into individual experiences allowing us to see them in a new way, with fresh eyes. Bogdan is a videographer and fine art photographer who constantly seeks to stretch the boundaries of traditional photographic work, with the added flare of his artistic eye.  Both artists’ work can be seen online, or at their studios at Silver Street Studios, 2000 Edwards Street, in Houston.

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