Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The five word description

John Enneking, courtesy of the A great online museum of painting.

I mentioned the five word description in passing the other day. Several people remarked on it and I thought I might give the idea its own post. Every artists seems to have a description that the collectors use among themselves about him ( or her of course). I know the description that is commonly used about several painter friends of mine. One of my friends always gets this golden boy glowing review, he deserves it and it really helps his sales . Another artist I know has a reputation as being hard to deal with and that hurts him. What your description is, is important for your career. If you can control, set or effect what the description on you is that's a great thing.

A number of years ago I was looking at my favorite art magazine and saw an advertisement for a group of three artists I vaguely knew and they were being billed as "The New American Luminists". They painted like the Hudson River School. When I saw it I laughed, it seemed a stretch and I didn't think it was a very good marketing ploy. Boy was I wrong! In the decade that has followed this little cadre of painters has ridden that title to enormous success. People still think of them as that. And I guess they are.

There are young painters who get classed as HOT who have a rocket ride through a couple of shows. They then are reappraised. Some of them drop out of sight just as quickly as they appeared and others maintain that level. It is hard to be the new guy on the block for very long. It is a perishable position.

There are also artists who have managed to attach a title to themselves. They are the "painter of sealife and hopping whale thingies". Or they are the "foremost painter of the civil war", or they are the "guy who you collect if you live in Southern Arkansas. There are artists, who are the one who paints 19th century ports and shipping. Those are all labels that tell people this guy is who you want if you like those things. Often it is advertising that has defined that description for these artists and it has taken many years of work to get that recognition.

It is a good thing to try and find out what description the world that knows of you is using. If you like it, you want to promote it in your advertising. If you don't, you need to try to replace it with one you like better. I guess this is called branding. I believe I will write more about that soon.


Philip Koch said...

I remember that ad in I believe it was American Art Review for the "New American Luminists." Actually I think it may have said "The New American Luminists," which I thought was stretch and then some. said...

Good morning, I have been enjoying the Earl Nightingale CD's . I borrowed an old player from a friend.
They are motivational and while I am aware of some new neuro-science that makes his brain claims dated, I am keeping an open mind and accepting the spirit of the lecture. I already had one really good idea and put my goal into a one word sentence. words have power.

My question is "How do you know when you have succeeded in getting your five word description into the buzz?" Is it when you hear it repeated back to you by some one you are meeting and they say "Oh, you are the artists who....." ?

billspaintingmn said...

Oh-oh, it could be,
"The artist that tells jokes." or
"That guy is painting again" or
"He doesn't signs his paintings" or
... Stape, I never concidered this.
I'm sure they're saying something,
I know lots of people, so.. I have many paintings on other peoples walls.
I may have already damaged my reputation.(but they still hang my art!)

willek said...

I also though the term "New American Luminists" was a stretch till I saw their work. It was terrific and it was really nice to see contemporary view with that old style. One picture of Boston from Hull still sticks in my mind. If the office buildings in the distance were erased it could have been done long ago. Very nicely done.

The five word description goes against my grain somewhat, but I have wrestled with the image thing long ago when I was carving birds. I thought about introducing fish, then weathervanes into the line of models I had created but thought I should do them under another name to keep folks from being "Confused"

I also think a true artist should be able to do many different kinds of things well and I have tried to do just that in developing my skills. There was a painter who had a gallery on the docks in Nantucket who could paint in many different kinds of styles befitting his subject. He did things from rose covered cottages in quaint impressionistic dabs to blue lit strippers, to racing horse scenes with a brush stroke that saidd excitement. Astounding to me. But probably to make your point, I don't remember his name, but my memory is not as good as it was and it was long ago.

Carol Nelson said...

Branding is a problem for me. My 5 word description might be "she's all over the place."
I paint realism AND abstraction. Love both equally. Am successful in both areas. What to do?
I just taught a fun workshop on abstract mixed media. Everybody loved it. Then today I came home from the supermarket with a head of cabbage that was just BEGGING to be painted. I speak cabbage and heard him say "paint me with sun coming through my outer leaves and some red grapes in the foreground." And so it goes... I just can't stick to one thing.
BTW, Motorola is a suburb of Detroit.

Unknown said...

Excellent point - branding is more than what you tell people you are, it is how they actually perceive you. Everything communicates.

Mary Byrom said...

Sometimes you can control branding, direct branding or choose your own branding. Its up to you when you choose what you put out there for the public to see. You can look, behave in a certain way or show specific work that makes you memorable. The work you choose to let the public see is part of your branding. The blog you write is part of your branding. When I hear people say confusing or opposing things about a person (artist, writer,actor, lawyer,etc) it is usually an issue of their branding not being clear or they have not thought about what they do in public. When the branding is a stretch like the NA Luminists you mentioned they can either carry it off or fall on their face. But either way they or someone else was attempting to brand them. There are much subtler ways of branding and some branding occurs as a result of the product not the person or the attempt to brand. Think of Andrew Wyeth and the NY art scene critics who tried to brand his work negatively all his life and the collectors who just kept buying...

Stapleton Kearns said...

I thought that it wouldn't fly. But it was very successful.

Stapleton Kearns said...

That is very hard to know. I guess that might be the hardest part of the whole thing.

Stapleton Kearns said...

You really MUST sign your paintings. Otherwise you can be sure that is the description.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Does he paint those blue lit strippers down at the Naked Eye? Was the artist Robert Perrine?

Stapleton Kearns said...

Perhaps you can get them to think "she can do anything!"

Stapleton Kearns said...

Good point

Stapleton Kearns said...

You of course get branded whether you like it or not. Only sometimes can you control what is said.