As we edited her licensing page, one of my clients recently asked if I liked her photo on the page. I did, but I think I surprised her with the reason. I told her aside from the photograph being crisp and clear and showing off her face, she was also wearing very artistic clothing. Now this wasn’t anything wild – just a patterned skirt, some bright leggings, and a matching scarf. But it distinctly looked more interesting than most people would wear.
This reminded me of a story a different client had told me, let’s call her Megan. Excuse me if I butcher the story – it’s been a while – but I’ll get the gist for you.
Megan was at a gallery opening chatting with other art lovers. When she told a woman standing next to her that she thought the painting in front of them was very spiritually driven, the woman agreed and added, “But I just don’t think it’s very good.” When Megan prodded the woman to explain why she didn’t think it was good, it slowly came out that the woman didn’t think the artist seemed like an artist. The woman admitted that she thought artists had to look a certain way.
While this is clearly unfair stereotyping, and the woman is definitely wrong in feeling this way, we can learn a lot from the fact that she does feel this way. She is only human and puts people in boxes just like most humans do all the time. Think of the stereotypes you have around people’s professions like doctors, lawyers, construction workers, and scientists.
So we need to be aware of this reality, even if we discourage it.
People expect artists to look a certain way.
And if you play into it, with your own dose of personality, you might win people over faster. Consider that the woman Megan met in the gallery might have bought a piece that night and only didn’t buy the particular piece in question because of the bad impression she had of the artist. Or perhaps she wouldn’t have bought a piece, but because she was telling people she didn’t like it, other patrons didn’t buy it. The artist could reasonably have lost a sale that night just because she looked to frumpy.
And thank goodness you can mix an artistic bent into almost any type of style, so you don’t really have to conform to “artsy” clothing! I see plenty of artists who look normal enough in a crowd, but when you check them out and size them up, they are wearing something interesting that draws you in and makes you wonder what it’s like to be them. It’s part of their marketing, while still feeling completely authentically THEM.
So what are you supposed to do if style isn’t your thing?
If you know changing up your image in your art endeavors would really resonate better with the people who buy your work or help you get ahead in your marketing efforts because people in the Art World will pay more attention, then I won’t leave you hanging on a solution.
Option 1: You can pop into your closet and have a playdate. Try on lots of different outfits. Add plenty of accessories. And take photos of the best ones so you can use them for your next art event.
Option 2: And if that’s totally not fun or leaves you crying on the floor of your bedroom, half your wardrobe strewn around you, then might I suggest you get a little help? My friend Hilary’s got a free video series up right now that I have to share with you. [Video series is not currently available. Please visit deanstreetsociety.com for more information on working with Hilary.] She’s a stylist and her blog posts and emails help me feel less afraid of my closet and more prepared to be fully me while still being fully appropriate for whatever event I’m headed to, whether it’s my daily dog park visit or a night at the ballet. These videos are a great start to learning how to balance the “artsy” with whatever style you’re normally inclined toward.