ArtId Art Blog
DEVELOPING A PERSONAL SIGNATURE
I learned the craft of picture framing about 25 years ago. Though I love art, I have never been trained as an artist. I know much about picture framing, frame and mat design and how to present and market different types of artwork. I know very little about how to make colors and shapes do what they appear to do on a piece of canvas. In short, I do not profess to be a professional artist, but as a professional picture framer, I know how to present and visually market a piece of artwork. I hope to use this column to inform you, as artists, about quality presentation, why it is important and how to visually market your artwork to achieve higher levels of "curb appeal" and enhance sales.
In this first article, I would like to talk about developing a "signature look." Designers everywhere have expended years of work developing a signature. The styles that fashion designer Calvin Klein creates are different from those of Ralph Lauren; just like the buildings designed by architect I. M. Pei are different from those of Phillip Johnson. Each successful designer employs elements of classical design, but refines and uses these elements in such a way to make his/her designs unique. Using these refined elements repetitively in their work, a designer or artist eventually creates a distinct "signature" or look in the public's mind that becomes synonymous with their work. To be successful in today's marketplace, each of us must separate ourselves from our competitors. Our signatures become our vehicle in which (if developed properly) we can become more prominent over others in our market who offer the same or similar products and services.
As an artist, you must look at your work as just another commodity or product in the marketplace. Ask yourself, if a customer has a certain amount of money to spend on a piece of art, why should he buy mine? On the whole, Americans are uneducated when it comes to fine art. Outside of a few classes in high school or college most people have never been exposed to it and almost none of us was brought up with it in our homes. It is a shame that, in this land of conspicuous consumption, only a very small percentage of us buy original artwork. However, what a good portion of Americans know is "the look" they want to achieve for themselves in their decorating style. In this way, your artist signature becomes an important marketing tool for you.
I have found that most artists, without realizing it, have developed their own style or signature. To consciously develop one, you must consider the mediums you like to work in and the subject matter and style you feel comfortable portraying. Go with the flow and experiment. When you become comfortable in one area over another, develop that particular medium, style, and color combination. Eventually, those successful combinations will lead to your personal signature. If you don't know where to begin, look at current decorating magazines and pick out current trends and color pallets. Start by copying a style and subjects you are both interested in and comfortable with. Most good designers have done this in the beginning. By doing this, unconsciously elements of many styles become hybridized into your personal look. Remember, however, that most successful designs are still modifications of classical elements. And, if you tend to march to the tune of a different drummer, marketing and repetition in the public's eye will be key to having your personal signature accepted. Many of the world's most popular artists' works were not accepted until long after they quit their vocation. The more your signature deviates from accepted current social and decorating trends, the longer it may take to become publicly accepted.
Once an artist develops a signature he/she is comfortable with, can it be changed? Of course. Every successful company that manufactures a product must change its marketing approach from time to time to reflect current trends. How many times in the last two to three decades has Coca Cola, MacDonalds or IBM (to name a few) changed their look and marketing approach in the face of competition? What is referred to as repackaging of a corporate image in industry may be referred to as artistic or creative growth in the art world. Even artists who have a signature for success need to experiment, to try different approaches to their work, so as not to become bored or stagnate. Keep in mind that common to every corporate makeover, the new repackaged signature contains many common elements of the old so as to be easily recognizable to the public. Artists who change their approach or style to create a new look will stand a better chance of being successful if they can incorporate those basic elements that made them accomplished in the first place. By keeping your signature recognizable, you can achieve artistic growth, create a fresh, updated look and lead your customers into new decorating trends (hopefully started by you) while you retain most of your market. By changing your signature radically, you run the risk of the public not recognizing who you are or associating you with someone else. You may have to expend more time marketing your new signature to get it accepted while losing market share to competitors.