Combine storytelling and art to make a bigger impact (and sell more art)

Artists are natural storytellers. Your stories show up in your work, in every brushstroke, stitch, lyric or pendant you create. But they’re also in every instagram caption you write. Every webpage, every press release, and every video you make.

When done well, your stories can make your audience feel like you’re speaking directly to them. They go beyond materials and specs, and allow collectors to invest emotionally in your work. Making you and your art memorable.

But telling your story isn’t always easy. You don’t want to tell people how to think or react to your work – but you want your impact to be felt.

So how do you combine storytelling and art to connect with your audience?

Copywriting vs. storytelling

What’s the difference? Let’s dig in.

Copywriting is the art of writing to sell – found in all sorts of marketing. It’s about the *reader*. The copy acknowledges how they’re feeling and what situation they’re in, and uses words to compel people to see your work as a ‘solution’ to any desires or outcomes they’re wanting to achieve. These words lead the reader on a journey so they experience a revelation.

Storytelling is about bringing your reader on a journey, prompting them to imagine a scenario. The focus is on the characters, action or tension. Often the resolution includes something these characters have learned along the way. There is growth or transformation.

When you combine these two techniques, something powerful happens.

Brand story copywriting for artists
How you work, what you create and why forms the basis of your brand story.

Brand story copywriting for artists

Brand storytelling weaves your story, your art’s story and your collectors’ stories together. It brings your audience along on a journey, creating a deeply emotive experience that resonates with your audience at their core.

We tell the story from your perspective, but in a way that makes it meaningful to your audience. To do this, we lead with your mission or purpose, and weave a story that tells your collectors why this matters to them.

Your artwork then, is a product of this purpose. It’s the result of your journey, beliefs and values. So, buying your artwork becomes a radical act of support in a shared idea, a shared future.

>> You’re collaborators both working toward a shared vision or goal.

>> You’re combining your voices and standing in solidarity together.

>> You’re co-conspirators shouting a rallying cry in response to an injustice.

This doesn’t just allow your collector to be a part of *your story* – it invites them to see your work as a meaningful way to express who they are.

Crafting the artist’s story

You can see how your journey makes up an important part of why and how you make your art. Your background and culture, experiences and outlook all inform your creative choices and subject matter.

Sometimes, these things aren’t so obvious in the work you create. Other times, there are clear themes, messages and ideas that have influenced you. Take some time to consider what drew you to your creative practice.

What external and internal thoughts, feelings and experiences influence your process and decisions? Break it down into past, present and future. Consider:

  • Where you’ve been: how you’ve refined your craft, learned, grown and how your work has evolved
  • Where you are now: the body of work you’re creating, the current ideas, concepts, themes or subject matter that interests you
  • Where you’re going: your artistic vision/goals and the impact you want your work to have on others

If you’re just starting out, be patient. Take note of what appeals (and doesn’t appeal) to you while you are creating. Start a journal and take a moment to reflect each day.

When you have a good idea of what your story is, it can be woven into your ‘About’ page, your artist statement and bio, press releases, marketing campaigns and more.

Learn how to express yourself, so you can build your artist profile.

Share the story within your art at exhibitions
An exhibition is a good example of a place where you want to share the story within your art.

Uncovering the story within your art

Every piece of art carries a story. The story of how, why and who it is created for.  And it’s important to note that the story of your art evolves over time. The artwork you create begins as an expression of something personal to you – the artist (connected to your story).

But as soon as you make the decision to share it and put it up for sale – it’s no longer about you (it’s about why it’s meaningful to your audience).

Suddenly, the artwork has a greater story beyond your own. It has a bigger purpose – a *shared* purpose between you and your audience.

Some stories will be obvious, others more subtle.  There will be places that demand you share the story within the artwork – but in others, you may want the work to stand on its own. In the latter, your artist’s story does the work for you.

When to share the art’s story

Your artwork’s story bridges the gap between your collector and your work when more context is required. Often this is when a piece of work is standing alone, separate from the larger collection (such as in a group exhibition or when submitting as part of award entry).

In places where you can build rapport and share your vision, the artwork’s story does less of the work. But this means your brand story needs to be clear and compelling to do the work instead.

Plus, stories make your work memorable. Facts and figures are easily forgettable, so if your artwork descriptions in your web gallery only list materials, sizes, printing options, then you’re missing a vital opportunity to make a connection.

When to omit the art’s story

If you decide to omit details about your artist’s story, do it in spaces where you’re speaking to an audience who is already familiar with you (such as in email newsletters, personal invites, and some places of your website).

For audiences who don’t know you well, consider this. The art world has a reputation for feeling elitist and unapproachable. Hinting at the story within your art provides opportunities for people to feel included. It’s not about telling your audience what to think and feel. That’s the clever thing about storytelling!

They allow us to understand experiences outside our own, even if we haven’t been through the same thing. We recognise the same struggles, emotions, and revelations, so that we can fill the blanks. Clarity and brevity are key.

Knowing your collector well, will enhance how you weave their story into your copywriting
Knowing your collector well, will enhance how you weave their story into your copywriting.

Your collector’s story

Weaving your collector’s story into your copy is where copywriting meets narrative storytelling. It’s not just about telling your collector’s story, it’s about acknowledging the similarities between who they are (their beliefs, desires and fears) to see how they align with your own.

This means you need to have a thorough understanding of your collectors.

Who are they? What do they believe about your subject matter? What are they driven by?

Why do they believe this? What experiences have shaped them?

What do they desire from artists like you? What future do they dream of?

Each time you write about your art, ask yourself why it matters to your collectors.

Agata Pilip's brand Doctrine, connects her story with her community of makers and their collectors.
Agata Pilip’s brand Doctrine, connects her story with her community of makers and their collectors.

Copywriting storytelling examples: Handmade décor brand: Doctrine

A good example of how to frame your copy with your collector in mind, is Amsterdam maker’s store, Doctrine.

When I worked with Agata, we uncovered that her audience is sick of clutter. They’re conscious of their consumerism and its impacts on the environment. They want to curate their space to express their individuality – and support slow-craft making (and not mass produced pieces destined for landfill). So her ‘About’ page copy speaks directly to these values and desires.

Doctrine is a maker-led creative community and online store that celebrates traditional craftsmanship and curates a conscious collection of meaningful pieces.

The community believes that the right piece of art or home décor can elevate your space and make it more meaningful to inhabit. This makes your daily rituals more pleasurable, adding moments of connection within your space.

Founded by Agata Pilip, an interior architect, designer and ceramicist, Doctrine is a harmonious balance of function, value and meaning. Agata’s work with artisans on interior projects has deepened her appreciation for craftsmanship, highlighting a love of natural materials and sustainably slow, organic construction.

Read more about Doctrine.

You can see how the copy weaves Agata’s story with what Doctrine is about – but importantly, what the community values and why it’s meaningful for her audience.

Combine storytelling with art to deepen your impact

To weave these stories together, you need to have a good understanding of who you are, what you create, why, and who your audience is. But having these stories ready to draw from will give you the clarity and confidence you need to share your work to more people.

Need help? Hire an arts copywriter (like moi!) who can help you tease out the most important info about yourself and your art.

Over to you

What are the biggest blockers you’ve experienced when telling your story? Let me know in the comments.