What is a brand anyway? Think of your favorite company; what comes to mind? Is it their logo, or is it a specific product you love? Probably, it’s something more – what’s making you fall in love with them is the vision behind the company. You connect with them because they are speaking to a part of you that yearns for the lifestyle their product offers, or that identifies with the experience this company is creating. That’s branding.
So what does branding have to do with being an artist? Everything, as it turns out. Branding is your way to stand out from the crowd and to share your unique vision with the world.
Think about it – if you introduce yourself as an “oil painter,” you are simply one of thousands of oil painters. But, if you can brand yourself as unique in some way, you will make an impression and, more importantly, be memorable. Making an impression means that you have created a connection – people want to keep talking to you, and, hopefully, to become associated with you. Being memorable is important! This can make all the difference. When you brand yourself and your art in a concise, consistent way, you’ll pop into people’s minds when they hear of relevant shows and opportunities. They’ll recommend you because your brand worked!
Artists do this in different ways. Some artists have a unique name or dress in a signature style to be memorable. Others have a simple tagline, kind of like Nike’s “Just Do It,” that sums up what they do and why. For example, artist Linda Vallejo makes work around the theme “Make ‘Em All Mexican.” This certainly sparks one’s curiosity, leading to further conversation and connection. (Note: many artists are scared of getting stuck doing one thing; don’t be. It is possible to do one thing for a period and then move on to something else. Continue reading this series to learn more).
This doesn’t mean you have to come up with a tagline to have a successful brand (although if you can, more power to you!). You could be sharing a philosophy or weaving a story. For example, the reason so many creative professionals buy Moleskine notebooks is because of the history behind those products: famous writers and painters, from Hemingway to Picasso, used these notebooks, so perhaps following suit will lead to fame and fortune (also, these notebooks are really nice!).
Here are some questions to consider when coming up with your own brand:
1. What makes your art unique? What can make you stand out from the crowd?
2. What is your vision for your art? Where do you see yourself in the future?
3. Who is your niche audience? Who most connects with your art/message?
The last question is probably the most difficult, and it may be that you don’t know who your audience is yet. It’s important to start thinking about this now, though, because you can’t be everything to everyone. Not everyone is going to like your art, and if you try to make art that pleases everyone, it’s probably not going to be very good. So stay true to your vision and be consistent in your branding (more on this in a future post) and over time your audience will find you.
Remember – branding is NOT marketing. Stay tuned for next month’s installment.
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.