In the last two installments, I’ve been making the case for why having a brand as an artist is important. Now that you’re on board comes the more difficult part – how does one create a brand anyway? I’m not talking about the name – usually your name, or whatever moniker you choose – but rather what defines your brand, and what is the look and feel of it? Here are a couple of exercises to get your juices flowing. You can choose one, or mix and match both, depending on what works for you.
THREE WORDS EXERCISE
Artist Nicholas Wilton has laid out a simple exercise to help himself remember the direction of his art. He generously shared this trick in his blog post Three Words That Can Save Your Life.
The basic steps are: (1) brainstorm any words related to your work; (2) whittle it down to the 12 most relevant; (3) after a few days of looking at this list, whittle it down again to the 3 most resonant words. Now post these three words somewhere where you will see them often – in your studio, on your phone background, on your bathroom mirror – and look at them often to remind yourself of why you do what you do. In Wilton’s words:
“In a way, these 3 words are your simplified mission statement…Three words that remind you of what is meaningful to you. They are why you stepped up to make art in the first place. These words are why you choose, against all odds, to make a life centered upon creativity…Three words that instantly bring you a little bit more alive and upon seeing them delicately deliver you, once again, back to your art and of course your life as well.”
Why is this helpful for creating your brand? Having this clarity on your “mission statement” is like having your own north star. These words become your guide for keeping on track; they can serve as both the jumping off point and the anchor for your brand. These three words may become the tagline on your website, social media profiles and business cards. Memorizing just three words is much easier than trying to spout off your carefully crafted artist statement, which may help you grow and change how you talk about your art, guiding you to keep to a simple, clear and consistent message.
Now for a more visual approach – create a mood board.
There are some fun online tools to help you create one, like www.gomoodboard.com or Pinterest, or you could do it the old-fashioned way with scissors and a glue stick. Whatever works for you – the point is to be free and open with this, and to let your creative juices flow.
Before you get too carried away on this “arts and crafts” exercise, consider why you are doing this. Using consistent fonts and background colors across all of your promotional materials will help people to recognize you and your work no matter where it shows up. Unlike creating a brand for a mass-produced product, you are creating a brand to highlight and promote your unique art. So you want to think about choosing colors and fonts – say for your website or exhibition flyers – that complement, but don’t detract from, your artwork. As usual, K.I.S.S. is a good rule of thumb – keep it simple, stupid.
If this task seems overwhelming, or you could just use some guidance, ask a trusted friend for help or consider working with a professional. This is what designers do – they spend all day looking at fonts and color swatches, and magically turning lines and shapes into something unique. They can use their professional expertise to cut down on a lot of time and work for you. Simply Google a designer or ask around for a recommendation. If you want to up level it a bit, check out Big Bad Industries’ brand audit package or Clapping Dog Media’s branding and web design services.
DON’T FORGET THE ART
You could create a beautiful brand, attract followers and some get hype, but if you don’t have the work to back it up when you get that call from the gallery, it’s all for naught. So have fun with these exercises, but don’t forget to go make stuff in the studio!
Christine Rasmussen’s oil paintings explore themes of place, identity, boundaries and belonging. Christine describes herself as a ‘global nomad’ – she was born to American parents in Pakistan, and has lived in 13 cities across Pakistan, Vietnam and the United States. She graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a B.A. in Art Practice (with Honors) and Peace & Conflict Studies. Her works are in private collections in the United States, Europe, Africa and Asia. Christine is now based in Los Angeles, CA, where she enjoys art, books and blogs.