How to Talk to Strangers About Your Artwork
Being able to concisely describe what it is you do as an artist may sound easy, but it’s not. We’re always amazed by the number of Redbubble artists who have chosen to forgo writing a proper introduction in their RB shops because they simply cannot put together a quick pitch for the following questions:
Who are you? What are you? What makes your stuff interesting? Why should anyone care?
Answering these questions can be daunting. But it’s important to figure how to pitch yourself to prospective customers. There’s a lot of information zipping around out there and you have only a few seconds to peel someone’s eyeballs from whatever Internet nonsense they’re consuming to pay attention to the goods you’re selling. It might feel like you’re approaching total strangers and inundating them with something they did not ask for (you), and it is a lot like that, but remember, people think your designs and photos are cool. They want to buy them. That’s why they’re cruising around Redbubble. They want tees and stickers and pillows and mugs featuring unique independent art. So it might as well be your independent art, right?
We’ve put together a few easy steps you can take to work through the ins-and-outs of talking to total strangers about your heartfelt passion both online and in person.
1. Prepare one sentence
Sum up your work so anybody, regardless of their artistic background, can understand it. Who are you? What kind of art do you make? You’re answers can be either first person or third.
First person: My name is Art Artist and I am photographer who specializes in portraits of terrifying circus clowns.
Third person: Art Artist is a photographer who specializes in portraits of terrifying circus clowns.
After you’ve got that, read it out loud. Do it in front of a mirror, in the shower, or with your dog. Get used to saying it. Make sure it sounds good. This is what business folks call an elevator pitch. Your elevator pitches are great for Twitter or Instagram bios, and in-person chats.
2. Expand it
Once you’ve got your elevator pitch down, flesh it out to a few sentence. Think about adding what makes your art special, what you have done of note, and maybe a dash of personality. This version will be perfect for your Redbubble shop and your personal website. Work with your strengths and explore how you label your artwork and simplify when necessary. Instead of saying that you create, “noir pop-surrealist digital paintings” perhaps say you’re focusing on digital portraits. Obviously, tailor this to your intended audience but the rule of thumb is, keep it simple.
Here’s a nice example from the profile of Redbubble artist Andrew Henry:
Andrew Henry is a freelance illustrator based in Brooklyn. He was born in Los Angeles and grew up in Kirkland, WA, near Seattle. He spent a lot of time in nature growing up in the Pacific NW, and when he wasn’t exploring local forests and beaches he was watching bad sci-fi and horror films for laughs. Those influences are still evident in his work today in his off-kilter sense of humor and cartoonish naturalism. Mostly self-taught, he’s been drawing since he could hold a pen. There’s a strong narrative element in his work, which can be seen in works ranging from t-shirt graphics to comics.
3. Beef up on background
Take the time to learn all the common names and genres that your artwork might fall under. If you create pop-surrealist portraits, make sure you have a general idea of the history of surrealism, or what popular modern noir surrealist artists are influencing other artists at the moment. While you should always focus on keeping things simple, but you should definitely have plenty of background info so you know what you’re getting yourself into, especially if using your pitch in person. Don’t get in over your head.
4. Be prepared for questions
This one really applies for in-person chats.
Be ready to field questions from people who know NOTHING about what you do. It’s okay. They’re probably just curious and interested in what you do, so be patient. We’re sure you’ve already experienced the phenomena of extended family members or clueless friends of friends who ask you some ridiculous questions about your creative work. Just like step one, practice smiling and nodding when someone asks you how THEY can be an artist like you because it seems “fun” and “easy” to just “hang out and draw all day.” Be nice.
This is the most exciting and challenging part of speaking to total strangers about your artwork. When speaking of your own art practice, keep things open and general as much as you can. Keep the conversation going by sharing what creative plans and goals you have coming up in the future months. Just like you’re an expert on your own artworks, you’re an expert and knowing what exciting creative plans you’ve got cooking.
5. Update your shop profile
Head to the account settings section of your profile and update your “Short Bio” with your elevator pitch and your “Public Profile” with the longer version you worked out in step 2.
You want to update these sections pictured here: