Everything good in an art career begins with a conversation. Everybody needs somebody, and conversations are the glue that binds us together.— Barney Davey
Throughout my thirty years in the art business, I’ve come to appreciate the diverse ways artists communicate and connect. It’s important to understand that not every conversation will dramatically change your career path.
However, it’s equally vital to remember that almost every significant opportunity in an artist’s career begins with a conversation. For most people, conversing with new people in social settings in person can be daunting, especially if you are shy or introverted. But fear not—there is immense power in embracing your unique communication style. In other words, there are multiple methods to use.
Understanding the Role of Conversations
Pivotal, career-altering conversations are rare gems in the art world. It’s true that most interactions, whether at exhibitions or casual meet-ups, are stepping stones toward building a network and laying the groundwork for future opportunities. It’s about seeing the potential in every dialogue, even when the results aren’t immediately visible.
For the Shy and Introverted Artists
If initiating conversations makes you uneasy, you’re not alone. Remember that many successful people in the spotlight, including Bob Dylan, Johnny Carson, Lady Gaga, Julia Roberts, Amy Schumer, J.K. Rowling, and Emma Watson, have thrived as introverts. They’ve found ways to express themselves and connect uniquely in ways that align with their personalities. You can, too.
Finding Your Communication Style
Success comes from finding what works for you. Maybe your strength lies in writing—crafting thoughtful emails or engaging social media posts. Perhaps you excel in small group settings, online communities, or other unique ways. The key is to find your comfort zone and gradually expand it. Allow yourself to experiment with different forms of communication and discover what feels most authentic to you.
Every Conversation Counts
Your presence, listening skills, and responses contribute to the dialogue even if you’re not leading the conversation. Every artist has a unique way of engaging; sometimes, the quieter, more thoughtful interactions leave a lasting impression.
The Power of One Conversation
Think about it—virtually every profound change in an artist’s career started with one simple conversation. Effective communication isn’t about bombarding with inquiries; it is about that one interaction that resonates, often a display of genuine interest, that creates a connection.
It’s about showing respect and regard to the person you’re talking to and engaging them in a way that goes beyond the surface. That’s where the magic happens. For some, asking deep questions to a social media following and engaging with the replies is magic; for others, it’s something else besides direct one-on-one communications.
Deepening Relationships Through Conversation
Your deepened relationships will pave the way for your success in the art world. Relationships are built on trust, mutual respect, and a genuine connection, and meaningful conversations foster them. As these relationships grow, they often lead to opportunities that significantly impact an artist’s career.
Visualize Success and Open Yourself to Opportunities
I always encourage artists to visualize rewarding communication and conversations in their lives. Imagine engaging in communications, leading to a network of supporters excited to join your creative journey. Doing this isn’t just wishful thinking; it’s about adopting a mindset open to receiving the best offers. Someone out there is going to get these opportunities. Why shouldn’t it be you?
The first thing for any opportunity to land with you is that you are open to receiving it.
I met my wife on an airplane thirty-plus years ago—but that’s a story for another day.
It would have never happened if we had not been open to starting a new relationship. Visualizing your success and how it can happen, and even how certain people can influence it, helps your opportunity receptors stay open and ready to receive.
If Something Good Happens, It’s a Safe Bet a Conversation Started It
Remember, virtually every significant opportunity in your career starts with a conversation. Whether discussing the inspiration behind your latest piece, the techniques you used, the story your art tells, or how you met your spouse, every conversation is a potential stepping stone toward a more fulfilling and prosperous career.
To all the artists reading this, I want to leave you with this thought: You’re always just one conversation away from changing your career’s trajectory. Embrace the art of conversation, visualize the success it can bring, and be ready to welcome the opportunities that come your way.
My Art Career Story Started with a Conversation
I’m closing in on 40 years of art business experience. It’s been a blessing and a heck of a rewarding ride on multiple levels—but it wouldn’t have happened without a conversation that began years earlier. I was managing sales for a company that sold marketing services to insurance agencies. An executive from a prestigious trade magazine and book publisher worked there part-time as a consultant.
This fellow was 35 years my senior, was short and had a gnome-like appearance. So, he didn’t get much attention from my contemporaries, who populated the sales staff. He appreciated that I was friendly to him. That led to a few brief conversations where we got to know each other and found we were both Midwesterners adjusting to living and working in sunny Santa Monica, CA. We didn’t socialize, and it was a casual work friendship.
A few months after he arrived, he called me into his office, which was unusual and had me wondering what he wanted. He immediately told me what he would say was confidential and that the company owner would be mad at him for doing it.
Unseen Opportunity Arises
He then told me about a job opening at a top trade magazine and book publisher that directly competed with his old company. He offered to give me his highest recommendations. I gladly accepted, as we both knew I had hit the ceiling where I was.
I got the job, doubled my income the first year, and added 50% the following year as my skills progressed. Five years later, a rival with numerous publications and trade shows—including Decor magazine and the Decor Expo fine art, posters, and picture framing trade shows—recruited me.
Look at Me Now
Now, decades later, I’ve published eight books, 20 years of weekly art marketing blogs, and produced countless art business workshops and courses. I’m still actively creating content to help artists. It would have never happened without the recommendation of a connection that began with a simple conversation between two unlikely acquaintances. It positively changed my life initially and again years later.
Not every conversation or connection—frankly, most—will ever be as consequential as that one was for me. But don’t let that discourage conversing in your life and business. It’s not the method but the interaction that matters.
Being positive, non-judgmental, and showing genuine interest lays the seed. And some will sprout and cause good things to happen to you in all your endeavors. Some might be small, inconsequentially pleasant outcomes, and a few come with monumental potential that one can only tap through connections borne of conversations and communications.
Embrace Your Artistic Voice
As artists, your journey is as much about finding your voice in conversations as it is about creating art. Whether through spoken words, written messages, or visual expressions, every form of communication you choose is an extension of your artistic self. Embrace these methods, and watch as they open new doors and bring unexpected opportunities your way.
The Power of Backstories
We all have backstories about our lives, our careers, and, of course, our art. They all count. They all deposit goodwill with others who hear or read them. Backstories pull us in and help us build connections with others.
I shared two backstories with you in this post: one about my unexpected entry into the art business and the other about meeting my wife on an airplane. The first illustrates how showing genuine interest in others can open huge doors of opportunity. The second shows how being open to opportunity is crucial for recognizing and seizing it when it appears.
Join the “Tips to Spark Conversations for Artists” Course
Knowing how to use backstories effectively is just one of the many techniques covered in my “Tips to Spark Conversations for Artists” course. It’s an email course delivered directly to your inbox. Now is your moment if you want to enhance your engagement and sales through improved communication and conversations.
I encourage you to join today. Use this course to unlock your potential in art conversations.
PS: Every good thing in a rewarding art career starts with a conversation. Let’s make yours count. And realize that some good things are highly valuable, like this course, for example, without being expensive. If you work with the course content, it’s a lock that you’ll find the payoff highly valuable in how you thrive in your space. It’s your course. You modify it to suit you.
It’s as simple as that—no software, tools, or anything else is needed. Add your mindset, intention, chosen words, and questions to guide any situation. You have more control than you realize. Let this course help you unleash it!