Shop Talk

5 Simple Ways to Better Talk about Your Art

There are simple and easy ways you can speak about your art that doesn’t belittle what you create. We’ve brainstormed and collated some subtle tips to make sure you’re not accidentally putting yourself  down. Dumbing down your artwork, or diminishing the description of how you make your artwork is easy to do; I know many artists are shy and introverted creatures, and while they’re awesome and insanely talented, they often undermine their own excellence by doing many of the things listed below.

Here’s a list of what NOT to do to be a more successful artist:

Dear Deer by jabbershire

1. Don’t say you’re “interested in” things. Just do things.

It’s a quick trap to fall into, saying you’re “interested” in things. It’s a problem because it delays action and sounds like you’re planning, or that you spend time pondering things, as opposed to taking life by the horns and slogging out hard work from behind your studio desk. It conjures images of apathy, indecision, unfulfilled wishes, and vague future plans.

It also doesn’t tell us anything more about you. Everybody is interested in things. Everybody is doing interesting things. Your personal interests aren’t anymore important or er… interesting than the next persons, so scrap it from the dialogue around your artwork (which is dynamic and unique and not pedestrian).

"Domesticated Monkey" by Nicklas81

2. Don’t define yourself by your day job

My mind does a confused backflip every time I hear someone describe themselves as an “artist and data-entry analyst” or “musician and mechanic” or “sculptor and radiographer.” If you’re talking about what you make, your artwork, passion and raison d’etre you can leave out any information about your day job. Don’t mention your job you have to pay the bills when discussing your artwork. It’s not relevant and distracts from this awesome tangible talent of yours.


"A gentlemen's X-ray" by tinymallet

3. Don’t speak in conditional terms

Another thing I’ve heard people do which causes a sad-confused-face is when art making is discussed conditionally. Don’t say you make artwork “on the weekends” or like drawing “once the kids are in bed” or you make illustrations “once everyone is out of my house.”

Conditions are a difficult reality of creative life and do exist. It is harder to make art with three under three or a possum that lives in your walls and doesn’t give you any peace. While they’re a real concern, pick your moments to mention them (or not).

Conditions work in two unhealthy ways: they make your artwork sound like a tiny project relegated low down your list of priorities, and they also have the scary potential of becoming absolute truths. Maybe you will believe them totally and feel like you can only make art under those conditions, which closes you off to new ways of working or thinking.

Own your creative process and take responsibility for how and when you make art and how you deliver that message to others.

"Upside down" by Alfonso Rosso

4. Stop using the word aspiring or emerging

Can we all please stop using the words aspiring and emerging? You are aspiring if you want to do something. Once you’ve done it once, you are no longer aspiring: you are living life and kicking goals and rocking out. Once you have emerged on your birthday, naked and screaming, hungry and loved, then you have emerged. No more emerging for us.

Let’s all stop using these words which all too often serve to indicate you haven’t been practicing your craft for very long (which other people don’t need to know), or indicates that you don’t charge much money, or makes people think they shouldn’t pay you much money for your artwork (which they should). Being a aspiring or emerging anything is shooting yourself in the foot (and the arm and the neck).  

5. Stop starting saying you are “just” doing x, y, or z.

Using the word “just” belittles the integrity of your actions. It’s like a little professional hiccup. Do things. Be things. Declare things. If you’re “just working on some designs” it’s as if you’re asking permission or questioning your actions. Which sucks. Because you aren’t “just” anything, you’re work is important and valuable and when you decide to do something it’s not mundane or regular in any way.

"Take me somewhere nice" by ChristianSchloe

Do you have any tips on how we can better talk about our art? What do you say when you speak about your artwork? And did you have any ideas you would add to this list? Please share in the comments below.