Getting personal with your audience
An artist asks:
How personal should you get with your audience? Whether you’re giving a talk at your exhibition or posting on social media, how much should we as artists be revealing about ourselves and our process?
This is a good question, because there can sometimes be a fine line between being authentic and oversharing. You want to find that balance between giving the audience enough information to create an emotional connection between them and you or your work, and maintaining your personal and professional boundaries.
The first thing to understand is why you are sharing information. In my gallery, I’ve found that usually the more a customer knows about the artist and their creative process, the more likely they are to purchase the work. Understanding an artist’s process and inspiration helps the customer feel ownership of the story, which in turn makes it easier for them to purchase the artwork. Occasionally there are customers who don’t want to know anything at all about the artist, but they are unlikely to be serious buyers anyway. If sharing information about yourself is going to help make sales then it’s probably a good thing.
The second is to ask yourself how comfortable you are sharing. How much do you want to share? It’s one thing to talk about how your childhood collecting shells on the beach led you to study jewellery design, but quite another to talk about how your parent’s divorce affected you – unless of course that’s integral to the work, in which case, go for it. You do need to give the audience something of yourself, but you’re absolutely within your rights to keep it limited to your creative process and inspiration, rather than actual personal details of your life.
The final thing is to look at how you are sharing information. If you’re giving an author talk or chatting to a customer during your exhibition, you will probably give more information than you would if you were writing it down. And that’s okay, because you want the conversation to flow naturally, and for people to feel warm towards you (and your work). If you are talking about your work on social media, you want to keep your written posts short, because of the scrolling nature of that medium and people’s short attention spans. If you’re writing a statement for your website, that can be longer.
Basically, how personal you get with your audience all depends on the context. When you have a captive audience – such as at an exhibition opening – you should take full advantage of that to build rapport and help the audience feel a sense of connection and ownership of your work. If you’re writing about your work, consider the audience before deciding on the length and detail – are they scrollers or information seekers? And of course, only give out the information that you feel comfortable with, and that’s relevant to your work.