Storytelling for Artists

By Carolyn Edlund

As a tiny kitten, Lorenzo was tossed in a garbage can at birth and left for dead. Joann Biondi rescued him and brought him to her Florida home.

By the time Lorenzo was three months old, he was sitting up on command and jumping through hoops. When he heard her shout, “Hooray Lorenzo,” he preened like a proud lion. Although eager to please, he was also a self-contained spirit with plenty of spunk—he loved to sink his teeth into a bare ankle as it passed him by.

He had another bad habit as well, and that was stealing panties from the dirty laundry basket. One day Biondi got mad at him for this and decided to get even. She put a spandex tank top over his head and onto his body. Lorenzo was unfazed. He adjusted his shoulders, threw out his chest, and looked at her with an expression that said, “You think this bothers me? Well it doesn’t. In fact, I like it.” He walked around wearing that tank top for days.

These days, Lorenzo is an international online sensation, dressed in clothes for every occasion with a rockstar feline attitude. Biondi’s photos of him have become so popular that he has his own Facebook page, Twitter account and website.

 

Buddhapuss

 

That is Joann Biondi’s story.  She clearly understands the power of storytelling as part of her photography and how it creates the appeal that Lorenzo has for his many fans. In fact, each photo of Lorenzo has a quirky caption expressing his personality as a proud metrosexual male with a clothes fetish and a very hip character.

Storytelling is crucial to an artist’s work as either an integral part of the piece itself, or as a way to understand the artist’s history, methods or inspiration. The creative process itself imbues each piece with a part of the artist’s creative soul. By sharing stories, artists add greater value to the purchase and ownership of their work. Collectors in turn share these stories with others; they become permanently linked in the mind of the owner along with the physical work, and add to the pleasure of ownership.

Right Brain/Left Brain

The written or oral story appeals to our left brains as explanation or clarification of the artist’s intent, and to define the art.  Viewers search for meaning in art – witness how many people at a gallery will look for the title of an abstract painting. What is the artist portraying? The title alone can have a profound effect on the perception of the gallery visitor.

A study was done by London’s Daily Mail at the Tate Britain, seeking to find out whether classical or contemporary art held the interest of visitors longer. The classics won, hands down. Author Judith H. Dobrzynski explains, “To me it says something about aesthetics and narrative. People are more engaged when they see something that is ‘beautiful’ and something that contains a discernable story. If an art work has both, all the better.”

Does your work tell a story? Or do you have a story to tell about yourself and your art? Think carefully about how you will tell your personal story of becoming an artist and developing your own style. Perhaps you have a fascinating story to tell about the process or materials you use. Does your subject matter have a deep meaning, or is it controversial? Sharing this with your potential collectors enhances the experience and the opportunity to sell your work.

 

Comments

  1. Great piece. I have found this to be true with all of my collectors, but one. He insists he doesn’t want to know anything about the work. He thinks it’s creation should all remain a mystery. I try to respect this and let him have his mystery, but it limits our discussion. While there is definitely a spiritual aspect to creating, there is so much more – inspiration, research, accidents along the way, and just plain hard work. All worthy of discourse!

    • That’s so interesting that you have a collector who doesn’t want to know about your work. I wonder if each piece becomes part of his story – that he chooses art because of it’s mystery, or what it means to him personally. That is an interesting story in itself!

  2. Yes, it may be that my story would interfere with his own. Again, I respect that and certainly wouldn’t force my “talk” on him.

    In addition he likes to believe in the tortured artist story. He wants to imagine that I disappear into the studio for days on end and come out sleep deprived, and ravenous (and slightly mad) with miraculous work that I don’t even remember making. Unfortunately, the truth is that I work in my studio from 9-5 every day whether I am “inspired” or not. This doesn’t fit with his fantasy I guess!

    • Sounds like he’s a fan of fiction – well, a little drama sounds good! I must disagree that working in a studio all day is “unfortunate” (although I know you don’t mean that literally). I’ll bet your collector envies your lifestyle and status as an artist. Stay with the mystery!

  3. I’m a Big Lorenzo fan and love the entertaining, inspiring captions that come along with Biondi’s awesome photos!

  4. Your writing style is exemplary.
    It’s concise – an enjoyable read!
    As an artist, I struggle with having to supply descriptions for my abstract pieces. It seems that most viewers would like at least a hint as to the painting’s intention. Others prefer to be left with their own imaginings.
    Also, thank you for sharing Joann’s adventures of Lorenzo the Cat.
    Best,
    Gracie

    • Gracie, You do have a bit more challenge. What inspires you? I think of Kandinsky who created abstracts and was highly inspired by music. Talk about your work with your friends, your collectors. What interesting stories can they tell you about what their impressions are of your art?

  5. I like your take on turning things around by focusing on the feedback of my clients. It will also be food for thought for future works.
    Thanks for your suggestions.

Speak Your Mind

*