A picture may be worth a thousand words, but unless you can articulately describe it, the average person won’t buy it.
When selling your art, the verbal description is just as important as the visuals. Thorough, thought provoking descriptions are an essential piece of the selling puzzle. These descriptions tell the average person more about the piece.
Supposing you studied art and its history in a formal setting, then you probably learned the proper way to describe your artwork. Mainly, the visual elements including form, composition, medium, techniques, and subject matter.
Unfortunately, these formal descriptions don’t translate well for the average person. They’ll understand very little about your artwork which won’t translate well for you in terms of sales.
Your duty as a successful artist is to not only make a person feel through your work, but also make them feel through your words.
For the average person to understand your creations, you must describe your own art with more of a marketing approach. You must describe its features and benefits to make a connection between your art and the average person in order to make a sale.
Tips for Describing Art to the Average Person
Describe your artwork as if you were talking to someone who couldn’t see it.
Pretend the average person is blind. They can’t see anything. Not even shadows. Just because they’re blind doesn’t mean they can’t use their four other senses to feel your artwork.
Suppose you were trying to describe your painting of a bunch of stars. Instead of describing the color, describe how the stars would feel.
To accomplish this, tell your prospect that in order to feel stars they should put their hand out when it’s raining. Then, they can feel the little points fall down on their palms. Because rain falls so quickly it has the effect of ‘twinkling’.
The average person will become strongly connected to artwork they can feel using their imagination.
Describe the mood of your artwork as well as the visual characteristics.
Mood is an internal and rather subjective emotional state. Grammatically speaking, mood is a feature of verbs that’s used to indicate modality. There are several types of grammatical moods including indicative, interrogatory, imperative, emphatic, subjunctive, injunctive, optative, and potential. As an artist, you’ll want to grammatically describe the mood of your artwork using the indicative type. This type is used for factual statements and positive beliefs.
As you know, the visual characteristics of artwork are lines, colors, values, shapes, textures, space, and movement. To describe them, you must think beyond straight or curved, red or orange, light or dark, round or square, striped or polka dot, shallow or deep, and small or large. Instead, you must talk about these characteristics using much more descriptive adjectives.
To describe the mood and visual characteristics to the average person, ask yourself these questions:
- How does its ambiance feel?
- What undertones does it evoke?
- How does its essence effect your spirit?
The average person will become enchanted with your artwork when you talk about its mood using descriptive adjectives.
*If you have trouble with this, ask your friends to describe their feelings about your artwork using descriptive adjectives.
Always mention the colors, but make sure you use words that describe the colors and their effect.
For example, green is the color of grass, the leaves of trees, and seaweed. Green represents growth and healing. Red is the color of blood, roses, and hot chilis. It’s a very passionate color. Red can mean anger or desire.
Use words such as lustrous, shadowy, radiant, glossy, and saturated when describing colors. These words articulate the depth of the color.
The average person will see your artwork in a different light if you describe it using words that connect your artwork to the smell and feeling of everyday objects.
Put yourself in the mindset of the average person.
The average person knows little about art and your art-making process. For them, it all boils down to dollar bills.
The bad thing about the average person is that they earn money by doing things they don’t love. They have a lot of bills to pay. They don’t have the luxury of being creative. They don’t have a lot of money to spend on art.
But the great thing about the average person; they see money through the eyes of emotion. If they want something bad enough, they’ll find a way to get money to buy what they want.
What you have to do is create that emotional connection between your artwork and the average person.
Think about how you can make them FEEL your artwork with words.
The average person isn’t looking for a landscape painting filled with farmland and barns. Their soul’s yearning for a striking piece of artwork for their entranceway that’ll greet visitors with a warm blast of dazzling sunlight which conjures their memories of the many summer times they spent on grandpa’s farm. Complete with the intoxicating aroma of a freshly cut hayfield, and the glistening golden blades of hay.
The average person can feel artwork if it’s vividly described, creating an unwavering emotional connection.
Art isn’t passive. Use action words to describe it.
Richard Serra once said, “Drawing is a verb.” Using only sheets of paper, he created a list of the infinitives of 84 verbs including to roll, to crease, to fold, to store, etc. This list also provided 24 possible contexts within which these verbs could be used including of gravity, of entropy, of nature, etc. Serra described this list as a series of actions related to the artist and the creative process. He used it to guide himself while creating in multiple mediums.
To determine which action words to use when describing your artwork to the average person, ask yourself these questions:
-What does the piece do?
Perhaps it charms and inspires.
-What’ll the average person do with it?
Perhaps they’ll luxuriate in it.
-Does it make a statement?
Perhaps it creates a serene atmosphere.
The average person isn’t passive when it comes to buying art. They either love it or they don’t. Describe your creations using action words so the average person will take action and buy your art.
The use of words to describe artwork is completely subjective, and artwork may mean different things to different people. However, with effort, imagination, and practice, you can give the average person a more lively and interesting experience while viewing your art.
Autumn Tompkins is the owner/lead writer for ink well copy. She’s a nail-biting, Southern Comfort-loving, poker-playing, adventure-seeking, animal-adoring, tattoo addict who has a way with words. Writing to increase your revenue is her passion. You can find out more about her at InkWellCopy.com
Editor’s note: This post is an extremely useful tutorial on describing your art in words. In addition to this skill, it is equally important to understand when it’s appropriate to start selling and how your body language affects your chances of a sale. Check out our posts on what artists can learn from a door-to-door salesman and how your body language can help you sell more art.
Andrew Duclos says
Great ideas. While I have descriptions of my work, they don’t create this sort of connection. I have some work to do.
Hermes F Hernandez says
I am a New York Artist living by the amazing Hudson river.
Your article is very helpful but in my case is not working my language is in my drawings and paintings, I can not express in words the way I feel any time I create i rather let my art work make the conversation.
Hermes Arts USA
Marvin PhiRatio says
I want to be there ,maybe in a burned out factory , just me all my art and a long narrow table with one chair and a candle. mPr
phiratio5:I am an Artist that is a postmodern minimal surrealist constructing the Futurity of abstracted metamorphic ambiguity at the axis of symmetry with forced rust, ground stone, electromagnetic multidimensional,supernatural,magic.with a touch of clairvoyant telekinesis. I am a real Artist.
Lenny Senzo says
Howzit I want to start an arts group can you assist me how to go about firstname.lastname@example.org
Lenny how did it go? I don’t know what an Arts group is but the last thing I want when it comes to Art is a bunch of crafts-based people throwing macaroni at glue on the wall and people poring liquids on spinning tables. Thats who will show up trying to figure out how artists make Magic…2019 jeez I should have waited a few more years. find your Art district the stay the hell away from that then decide what you’re wanting to do …If you had a warehouse, they would show, offer free art space for group minded community artist and crafts. have a small preforming arts stage in the corner. you be the man bro
Donna M Mentzer says
This was an amazing page to read and learn from. I’ve been struggling with this ,on learning new ways to talk to your audience. It can be really hard sometimes. This was an experience and I want to do more. I’m so uplifted to show off more than what they’ve seen.
Fantastic. Linking this through my blog. Substitute “art” for anything and it works.
Daniel Olivier-Argyle says
I’ve found that the only art style that’s universally understood is realism. Everyone’s heard the line “it looks just like a photo”!
I think it’s rather a shame that that’s the case, as other styles hold so much more interest for me, both emotionally and in terms of the level of technical skill.
suela heidemarie sears says
wow, thank you so much for this advise. i never had words for my art because it only happens. i really did ask my spirits for a answer why people cant see and feel the love and magic, all the messages in my paintings. and the answer came – thank you so much – in simple 5 steps which i really can understand very clear. i am highly impressed!!! thanks from the bottom of my heart – Suela
I really enjoyed this article because this is where I struggle a bit. This will help moving forward as I’ll be starting to do more shows and being that my price points have moved up.
Dawn Petrill says
Thanks so much- I needed this today. I’m in the process of writing a blogpost about the process of creating a painting and felt that it felt very bland, compared to the painting which uses very vivid colors and is infused with energy (see- this article helped me already!) Now I know what I’m missing!:)
Shirley Williams says
Very well put. In an age when literally everything has been boiled down to its monetary value, it’s refreshing to hear a call to passion.
Mandy Hollowell says
This article struck a chord with me as I had a lovely email from a lady last month saying how much she loved my work. She then went on to say she is totally blind and had only “seen” my work through her husband’s descriptions of it. I have always been hopeless at talking about my work, I think maybe I ought to get this chap to write some copy for me!
Shane' Mann says
Hi, Love to read Abundant Artist, it has helped me a lot . One thing about art description, don’t get me wrong I suck where it comes to describing my work than selling it, most of the time people walk away. I sell my work when other people promote me or the piece will sell itself because it is tired of hanging with me. I noticed when buying another person’s art I didn’t care what the artist said or didn’t say if I am stuck on a piece , I got to have it. It is a visual decision, although others may be different. Shane’ Mann
Sharae Taylor says
Thank you so much for your constructive ideas … makes so much sense to me and so glad to have read this article … thank you for taking the time to write it … worth more than a 1000 words! … Many blessings to you … Sharae
Great tips. I think they also apply to how you talk about your art online and even how you title it, which is always a problem for me.
Heather Hughson Magee says
I work for a small Arts Council and would love to reproduce this article in our next newsletter. Describing art can be quite a problem to a lot of artists – I know, I have the problem myself!
I would not put in the whole article – leaving them with a taste of your article so that they would log in to your site to see more. Could you give me permission to use it?
Cory Huff says
Hi Heather, feel free to publish an excerpt. Thanks!
Hi Corry, I like it perfect article for me
Mechelle Schloss says
Great article!!! I went to Autumn’s website to check out her products/fees but couldn’t navigate via my Android phone. Just an fyi.
Christine Bundren says
Always warm fuzzy when it came to writing, when I needed to detail my oil paintings, it became an obstacle of the darkest hardwood. This article I found online hits every point!
Evelyne Hampton says
This is what I have spent two hours trying to find on the internet.Very informative and what I need for the current project I am working on.I want to illustrate a dream,passion and growth.
Nikhat Alam says
Thank you so much,so much to learn….God bless you.
It is common sense.
Humans are emotional creatures and as we go around, doing our things, we get carried away by our thoughts and feelings. But when selling/buying art, we need a to be guided in order to shift our thoughts, feelings and emotions towards the piece we are trying to sell/buy. Talk to influence an emotion, provoke a thought, touch the feeling.
Thank you for this article. I truly enjoyed it.
picture hanging services San Diego says
The most important things after creation of an art is describing the thoughts and opinions over what your art is saying and expressing emotions as in most cases the people can’t understand what your art theme is. And we know that understanding is an art and not everyone is an artist.
Kelsey Emblow says
The most useful article on writing about art I have ever read! I have never been good at writing about my art and this will help a lot.
This is a great article Autumn! Informatively packed but also concise and broken down really well.
Camryn with a Y says
Thank you! This was very helpful because I had to describe art for a project for my art class at school and this really helped me a lot.
Awesome article! I am currently selling my art in a huge store locally and was looking for a way to express not only who I am as an artist but also invoke emotions between the viewer and the art. Thanks so much for this article. A great help indeed!
Fotoviva Art Prints says
I have been writing descriptions for our online gallery for many years but you have some excellent tips here that I will integrate into our wall art listings – thanks!
Sandra Rise says
I was seeking the words to tell a friend, who collects Native American art, how much I loved her display. I still have not come up with the words to describe my thoughts and feelings. It is overwhelming.