So what do I mean by "being genuine” anyway?
I mean being able to talk about your art and what you do in such a real and heartfelt way that it inspires confidence and empathy in people. This is basically a form of self marketing (or self-mythologizing even) that never veers into self promotion or any kind of sales pitches.
So how is this not a sales gimmick or marketing ploy?
Because it should be based on your unique life experiences and story..
When you talk about your artwork to people it should be in simple, direct and easy to understand language (without using any art-speak or other elitist terms) that basically describes not only what you do but maybe a bit about WHY you do it as well.
For example, people often ask me why the predominant subject in my work is women.
Now I could just be curt and reply "Because I find women beautiful and the Old Masters did too, so if it was good enough for them, it's good enough for me".. but that comes across as dismissive, arrogant and pretentious.
So I usually tell people who ask me that question about a very poignant moment that happened to me when I was a small child. My Irish grandmother saw me fretting (about whatever it is a 5 year old would fret about!) and told me ""If you REALLY want something in life, you should pray to the Blessed Virgin (Mother Mary)"
So in my child's mind, that concept of an all powerful God having a mother and the mother was actually the one with the ultimate power was implanted and that resonated very strongly in my developing psyche, particularly as I grew up surrounded by strong loving Irish women in a Catholic household where Mother Mary was revered.
And than later in life as I studied world mythologies and religions, I began to see that this divine feminine ideal was not only present in all ancient cultures and religions, I saw that it was actually a living archetype of creativity and beauty and that is what I seek to capture in my work..
This is why I do not have a certain physical "type" of women I shoot (like so many photographers have) or depict in my work.. I can portray many diverse women in my images and still be invoking that divine feminine principle over and over again - in a myriad of ways.. It is a well that never runs dry!
Whenever people come up to me at a gallery and ask me about a piece, I always try and give them an anecdote about it; maybe a little bit of a story about the model or my editing/finishing process or just enough about what the conceptualizing/creative thought process was without being dismissive of other interpretations.. So many times after I take the time to share that with them, their response is. “OK, I am going to buy this piece".:
Why? Because I gave them a story they not only can key into and identify with, they can also share it with their friends and house guests when they look at the piece (the “conversation piece” if you will) hanging in their home.. They will say "I had an amazing conversation with the artist" and then tell a story about why they were drawn to it and then add the conversation element as part of the meaning behind the piece now hanging on their wall.
And this is really what “the soft sell” or self marketing is about to me: not bragging about your accomplishments or talking about your gear, education or credentials. It is about getting to the crux of why you create and what your mission is as a human and as an artist. If you are sincere and speak from your heart and your lived experience, people will want to buy artwork from you..
"People don't buy art - they buy the artist"
Pull people into your story. Make your own creation myth based on your unique life story and experiences..
The trick is… there is no trick.
Be sincere, be genuine - reveal a bit of your soul when you talk about your work and you will be rewarded in a myriad of ways - not just financially.