Last week, my son said to me, “Mom, I want my art to become known. How do I do that?” I laughed and then told him to keep creating his art, that’s the start. But it got me thinking, how and why do we become “known” as artists? I came up with three steps. These are the basic steps, but don’t start thinking they are easy ones.
You have to figure out your voice, what you are going to say and how you are going to say it, in your art. It has to be unique and authentic. That takes time. It takes a lot of experimentation. It takes risk and openness and a willingness to go in unconventional directions.
Ultimately, what other people resonate with in art is something at a primal level. You have to bring YOU to the process, wholeheartedly. It takes a lot of time and effort to figure out how to do that, so keep working and be patient.
Oh, and once you feel like you’ve gotten there, that you have a style, remember that feeling, because it lasts about two nanoseconds. Then it’s time to evolve again. But as you evolve, you will have some thread that stays constant throughout your work. That’s your style. That’s what you become “known” for.
2. Sustain your creation over time.
Keep creating, because you have to develop a body of work. That’s not ten images that work together. It’s piece after piece, some finding a place within a larger group and some just experimentation. Maybe some are created with intention and some come out unplanned. But you need to have enough that work together to show you have committed yourself to the process.
You can’t create one or two good pieces, no matter how unique the voice, and become “known.” It takes sustained creation of good work. Something that people can connect with and rely on, over time. They want someone they can trust and build a relationship with.
3. Put your work out there.
Here’s where things get sticky. There is no one-size-fits-all way to get your work out there, and there is no ready made audience waiting to receive your work. You can exhibit in galleries, go to art fairs, blog, use social media (so many options there!), join local or online groups, have a newsletter, etsy shop, enter contests… Shall I go on? I probably don’t even know all of the ways to get art out into the world.
You have to choose the right venue to share your work, or you won’t connect in the right way for you. So before you decide how to put your art out there, answer these three questions. I’ll use myself as an example in the answers, so you can see what I mean.
What do you want to become “known” for?
I want to be known for create simple, compelling work that evokes a pause in the viewer. I want both my imagery and my words to connect with others and bring something positive into their life.
Who do you want to become “known” by?
I want to be known by two groups: People who want a piece of my art in their life and this homes, and people who want to learn how to create similar art. These groups may have some overlap, but they are not fully the same.
Why do you want to become “known?”
I want to become known because it helps me achieve my goal of connecting with others through my art. It helps me to fill my classes, it helps me to reach more people with a message that creativity is beneficial in everyone’s life, it helps me find other kindred spirits in this wide world.
This last question, if you haven’t already guessed, is really the biggest one of all. It should probably come first, but we aren’t always ready to examine our motivations when we start something. It’s only later, when we’ve discovered some confidence in ourselves and our work, that we can ask and honestly answer whether we are working from internal motivations or looking for external validation.
Because the thing about wanting to become “known” is that you can get tricked into using numbers of followers, or sales, or exhibition acceptances, or contest wins, as an external proxy for confidence. We can use it to tell ourselves, “I am an artist, because all of these people believe I am an artist.”
That’s a house of cards, because all it takes is one change — either to your art or an algorithm a social media platform uses to share your work or to the interests of your biggest patron — and your whole foundation crumbles. But if you know why you are putting your work out there, and you know who your audience is, you will find ways to reach them.
It’s been a long road, filled with lots of experimentation, for me to finally discover what feel like the right venues to get my art out there. To discover the right connections and interactions, for me and my art. Yours will be different.
Where to start?
After all of this thought, the answer I gave my son stays the same: Keep creating your art, that’s the start. Everything springs from there. And while you are creating, start to share, experiment with methods, try things on for size. Ask yourself the three questions above. As your style develops, so will your understanding of how and why you want to connect around you art. Along the way, you might become “known” to a group of people.
If the connections are genuine, based on a give and take of heartfelt expression, it doesn’t matter if that group is large or small. It will be the right one for you.
Thanks for being here, for reading my words, enjoying my art, and being part of my little pocket of being “known.” I appreciate the connection with you.