Look at how Hollywood launches a new film.

Perhaps they start with a two-second glimpse, a strong image.

They start with intrigue.

The story.

Then the trailer.

Then the film.

It’s only afterwards we might see the how-to, and go to see the Harry Potter experience and see the sets and whatever.

So .. don’t sell your paintings by showing how you did it.

Drop hints about your new work. Show glimpses of it.

Build a story around it, or around the series.

Reveal a little about yourself. It might be your inner self, the emotional reason why you are doing this painting at this time.

Or it might be just a little bit of you in your studio. Your life. Your environment.

The goal, the point, is that ..

you are a leader

(I know you probably don’t feel like one, but bear with me)

I’ve been reading a lot about this recently* . Marketers talk about building a tribe but I’m close to buying a feminist copywriting course that says that’s probably not a good word, so let’s call them fans.

The old idea of a leader is that leaders have some character essence that makes them leaders. If only we could work out what that is, we could all be leaders. That turns out to be rubbish. The leader of a local library knitting group does not have the same character as a field marshall, but both are leaders.

The crux of a leader turns out to be that you exemplify a thing that your people share, and then you turn it up to eleven** in order to illustrate what’s possible if we do more of that thing we all believe.

In defining and controlling your own life, you’re already leading the way

You have a story, let’s hear it

And story. Stories are basically: meet Geoff, he’s happy. You like him, right? Nice guy. Oh. Look what just happened to Geoff. Oh no! Oh no. Oh no no no. Geoff’s in a really really bad place now. How will he survive? Well that’s a surprise, he’s discovered his inner special quality he didn’t know he had. Oh wow, look at Geoff go! Isn’t that something? Geoff dug himself out of absolute hell with his new trick and now he’s wildly successful. Hmmm. What if I used that same trick?

What is it that made you the artist you are? What dark-place couldron formed you into this shape?

J K Rowling and her kitchen table poverty story.

So if you battled something, maybe others who are battling the same thing would like to be fans of yours. Maybe you’re ahead of them, and they are in the darkness looking for a way out.

(It doesn’t have to be absolute hell. It can be just your ‘prospect’ going “you know what, I’m sick of staring at that blank wall, can we go out and get a nice picture for it at the weekend?” where ‘nice’ means “I want something that makes me feel good” and translated that means finding something that affirms that person’s values. A Brexiteer is not going to hang Remainer art in their home.)

Your life is unique. Your art is unique. How did you get here?

You’re living the dream

The artist’s lifestyle is something many people aspire to. So even if your story is that you worked for forty years in life insurance, you’re sorted financially and now you can just do whatever you like and you’re doing art, that might be hella inspiring for people who are in insurance. How can they escape too? I read the other day that dentists are really into .. what was it, cryptocurrency maybe .. anyway, basically the main thing that dentists want to do is not be dentists any more.

So, I’ve mixed the big stuff with the little stuff here, but they inform each other.

If your next series is of wild flowers in a hedgerow, let’s not see how you prepped the canvas. Only other artists care about that. Let’s understand why you are doing what you are doing, and how that comes down to your journey right now today. Others will share your ‘why’.

(For me, by the way, the hedgerow always represented the dynamic small-business free-market of my dreams.)

Stop talking about ‘what’, communicate ‘why’

I mean, what if you ignored this and carried on doing timelapse videos? I just don’t want you spending time on marketing things that don’t work because that puts marketing in a poor light. What I’m aiming for is that we ditch the 80% of marketing things that don’t work, and optimise the 20% of marketing things that do so you end up with a really powerful marketing process that takes very little effort. Basically so you can do your art and not worry.

What if Apple marketed its latest gadget by saying how they built it? It’s not right, is it?

Getting to the core of ‘why’ is not easy, to be honest. But at least stop showing us what you do.

Talk to your fans about why.

Not what.


And build a little suspense over how your why is informing what you are doing now, how your why-bud is turning into a full bloom.

ps. retain the ability to do timelapse for your commissions. I’m sure a client will love seeing how their commission is coming along/was created.

pps. would it help to have some tools or a process to develop & build your ‘why’? I’ve lots of interesting stuff but it’s nothing like fully formed, but if you’re interested let me know here and I’ll send you some ideas and you can let me know what helps

    *Blue Ocean Strategy, The New Psychology of Leadership, Appreciative Inquiry, The Influential Mind, Good Strategy/Bad Strategy, Don’t Think of an Elephant, The Art of Asking, Lean In, The Myth of Leadership

    ** turning it up to eleven comes from this https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KOO5S4vxi0o so it may not be the best reference tbh 🙂

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