An art marketing tip from Bruce Springsteen?
Over the 2009 holiday, I took a moment to tune in to the 32nd Kennedy Center Honors on TV. The reason? I wanted to see Mel Brooks. I was not disappointed with the review of his contributions to American culture and enjoyed a leisurely stroll down memory lane snickering at the snippets of some of my all time favorite movies.
I was also curious about Bruce Springsteen. I love most rock and roll from the 70's and even some from the 80's, but I have to say, Bruce never made it into my rather substantial and now defunct collection of 8-track tapes and albums. I know, I know, most die hard fans of the "Boss" will unite in a chorus of…"You do not appreciate Bruce's music because you have never seen him live."
Well I never took the time to see him live … because I was never really enamoured with his music … until December 29th. As I sat watching the Kennedy Center Honors the story behind Bruce's music was revealed by a parade of celebrities. The most poignant moment came when Ron Kovic, a disabled war veteran, spoke about his relationship with Bruce and the song that was written about him.
Apparently, Bruce draws inspiration and writes music from his life experiences and he is particularly passionate about Vietnam War Veterans and the treatment they received upon their return from the war. The stories struck an emotional chord and suddenly the songs "Shut out the light" and "Born in the USA" took on a new meaning for me. With goosebumps on my arms and a lump in my throat, I had an epiphany.
The story caused me to connect to the songs on a personal level which in turn increased the chance that I will purchase the music.
As artists, the practice of telling the story behind the artwork should be as important as signing the painting. The story increases the chance that an individual will relate to the artwork on a personal level. The story behind a particular painting may cause a prospective client to take a second or even a third look. The story may be the one critical item that motivates a client to purchase the work.
Although identifying a particular place or region is good, the "story" should evoke a response on an emotional level. This may require some serious introspection. Many of us can not define exactly why we are driven to create let alone why we were inspired to paint a particular subject. Dig deep, peel back some layers and really identify your inspiration.
I will give you an example. I was inspired to paint a gnarled old apple tree in an abandoned orchard. I was first attracted to the twisted trunk, intertwining branches, and the varying textures of the bark. It was just a really interesting tree.
Digging deeper…the tree reminded me of a group of similar abandoned apple trees encountered in my youth. On a hunting trip with my father in the mountains, we stopped to snack on some apples. They were crisp and cold from the chilly fall air and I can still taste how they were both sweet and tart at the same time. While we stood there munching on our fresh picked apples, shotguns leaning against the tree, a ruffed grouse (our intended quarry) that had been hiding in the branches over our head decided this was an ideal time to exit the premises.
Anyone familiar with the sound of a panicked grouse taking flight will tell you that the sudden thunderous noise the wings make against their chest is enough to provoke the soiling of one's undergarments. After our heartbeats had slowed to the speed of someone jettisoned from an airplane we became hysterical, laughing at the memory of our facial expressions during the event. It was one of those father/son moments that will live on forever.
The story makes the painting of an interesting apple tree more like the painting of a memory. The client who purchased this work also has a story to tell, "Hey, you know why the artist painted this? Well…"