1 Big Reason Your Art isn’t Getting the Attention it Deserves

Are you doing the work, but not getting engagement?

For years, I struggled in the art world. I wasn’t growing a following outside of friends and family. My social media accounts were going nowhere. I’d post something and get crickets. Even my event sales were the definition of pathetic…

Despite the fact that I was making art and displaying it, few people seemed engaged with what I was doing. Then in 2017, everything magically shifted and more people were finally paying attention to what I was doing.

But how? What changed?

I didn’t suddenly become a more skilled artist. I didn’t start creating art that people were more interested in. What I changed was how I connected with my audience.

There is so much noise in the art world, and I made the mistake of just adding to it. There are thousands of artists all vying for the same attention, and they collectively sound a little like this:

“Look at my art!” “Do you like it?” “Would you buy this?” “Do you think this is good?” “Want to visit my store?” “Support me as an artist!” “Tell me I’m worth it!” “Could I sell this?” “How much do you think this is worth?” “Shop now!” “Come to my art show!” “Vote for my art!” “Like this if you want to see more!” “Enter this giveaway!” “Follow me!” “Which piece is your favorite?”

Now, pretend that you are an outsider or a potential customer and read that again. Does it feel a little overwhelming? It does to me. Which is what finally shifted for me around the time I started to gain traction in the art world. I stopped trying to be one of those many voices demanding attention and started to provide entertainment before asking anything of my audience.

So the 1 big reason your art might not be getting the attention it deserves is this:

You’re asking too much of your audience without giving enough in return.

We don’t realize how much we are asking of our audience at first when we interact with them. Even when you just present your art in person or online, you are asking for something.

“Hey, will you look at my art?” And then it quickly moves to “Will you follow me? Do you want to buy this?” All without us giving something additional in return.

You might be thinking that you’re offering art, and art is valuable. Shouldn’t that be enough? If someone really loves your art, yes that’s enough, but if someone just thinks it’s cool then they are going to need a bit more from you before you start asking for anything beyond “Will you look at my art?” Think of this like a balanced relationship. Give, take, give, take, and repeat.

For every request that you have for your audience, you should have something more to offer. At events, that could be pleasant conversation, a compliment, or a recommendation of art supplies to use. On social media, it could be entertaining process videos, a funny story, a moment of vulnerability that others can connect to, or inspiration.

When you display your art, think of your audience. What can you and your art do for them? Before you push someone to visit your store or follow you on social media, give them more to connect to.

Focus on what you can give, not what you can get.

I’m not saying to physically give things away or anything like that. If you want your art to get more attention, you can do a few simple things to really pull in an audience without begging them for their attention or appearing needy.

1. Entertain your audience with your visual content.

Imagine a busy art event. On your left is an artist yelling “Hey! Come over here and look at my art!” and on your right is an artist enthusiastically painting on a large canvas without saying a word. Which would you gravitate towards? The one screaming for your attention, or the one allowing you to watch their process? The one loudly invading your bubble or the one inviting you into theirs?

Creating entertaining content goes beyond posting a picture of just a piece of art. It’s about creating a story with your photos, or showing your art process unfold. If you create content that is enjoyable in itself like time lapse videos, tutorials, and beautiful photos, you are offering something more than just your art.

Your visual content can make people inspired. It can make them dream of a different life. It can take them out of their lives and make them forget their daily stressors. Even if it’s seen for just 10 to 60 seconds, your content can make a long lasting impression on your audience.

2. Make your audience feel something positive.

Basically, start meaningful conversations. This means that a caption saying something like “18”x24″ acrylic on canvas, DM to purchase” should not be your go-to caption style. Or when people walk over to your event display, don’t start with “all prints are 50% off.” Start with a human connection.

When you are conversing with potential customers in person or writing captions for an Instagram post, think about how you can make a positive impact. Whether this is giving someone encouragement to pursue their own dreams, to create their own art, or asking them how their day is going with a genuine smile.

Add something to your viewer’s life. When you then push for a sale or encourage someone to follow you on Instagram, they won’t feel like you’ve demanded too much.

3. Show your audience that you care about their story too.

Have you ever sat down on a date or with a potential new friend and all they did was talk about themselves and their problems? I’ve experienced this quite a few times, and I find myself less and less interested in asking that person questions or giving them further attention. Why? People who only take drain your emotional battery.

When you are interacting with your audience, ask questions. Give people an opportunity to share their stories. Even if it’s just a question of what art supplies they like, it’s still giving them an opportunity to feel heard. Share your stories, and connect to the similar stories of your audience. Don’t just take.

4. Be confident in what you’re making.

Even if you think your work is garbage, resist the urge to ask your audience for validation. Do you know how often I look at my work and wonder if it sucks or declare that it is crap? Probably not, but that’s because I try not to present those particular insecurities on social media or in person. It would put a burden on my audience. Plus, you eventually get to a point where, crap or gold, you’re still going to keep creating and sharing your work.

Feign confidence until it starts to feel genuine, and reserve your insecurities for those in your inner circle who can offer support. Or just repeat this little pep talk to yourself:

“My work doesn’t suck. I love what I do. Even if other people don’t like it, I know I will find my audience. Good or bad, I’m going to keep creating, because it’s something that brings me joy.”

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What do you think? Is asking too much from your audience a possible reason why your art isn’t getting the attention it deserves?

Please leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. I’d love to hear from you!

-Kelly

Do want to help me create more blog content? I want to keep providing content like this for free, but I need your help. If you enjoy my blogs and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep helping artists like you. Plus, you get extra little perks.

Further Reading:

How to Pick an Artist Account Name for Instagram

Are you thinking about starting an Instagram account just for your art, but have no idea what to name it? Obviously, names are important. Your name sends a message about your art and who you are as an artist. You want to present yourself as a professional, but you can still have fun with it.

Nobody can tell you exactly what your name should be. You have to choose what feels authentic to you, but I’ve put together a list of things to consider while brainstorming. As you go through this post, have a pen and piece of paper nearby and start jotting down key words that come to mind that could possibly become part of your new Instagram account name.

Basic Name Anatomy

Before getting started, people will often choose a few different name structures for their account:

  • Artist’s name
  • Artist’s name with creative discipline attached (art, drawing, photography, etc.)
  • Artist’s nickname or pseudonym
  • Art related brand name (doesn’t include artist’s name)
  • General creative brand name (doesn’t have to be art related)

When I first started my online presence in 2014, I choose the last option because it was the right fit for my creative identity. Now, let’s see what works for you:

1. Consider your personality.

You are unique. Even if you don’t believe it, you have to start telling yourself that you have something different to offer your audience. And you can include a little hint of this uniqueness in your name. Your name can set you apart from others by capturing your personality.

Think about who you are as a person. Are you fun, carefree, or spunky? Are you serious, dark, laid back, or funny? What parts of your personality come through your art? How do you interact with people in person? What’s your communication style?

It might even be helpful to talk to a friend and have them describe you.

2. Consider your art style.

What kind of art do you make? Are you a painter, fluid artist, illustrator, graphic designer, etc.? What subject matter do you focus on? Nature, portraits, animals, abstract? Or do you create anything and everything under the art umbrella?

You can use words like “art”, “drawing”, and “illustration” in your name to explain what you make. Or, you can use your subject matter.

3. Consider the area of the art world you want to enter.

All artists do not operate in the same areas of the art world. There are many places to find success with art like in galleries, museums, craft fairs, art fairs, flea markets, digital platforms, and more. Your name may communicate which area you fit into.

If you are going for a gallery/museum career path, your real name is probably most appropriate. It’s clean and professional. If you are having fun in more casual spaces, you can get more creative with your name.

4. Your real name is perfectly appropriate.

Artist’s real names are often their brand names. If you feel a close connection to your name, then go ahead and use that as your social media username.

If your name is taken, consider using a period between names, or add a creative discipline like art, illustrations, design, paintings, drawings, doodles, etc..

Ex: “firstlast.art”, “firstlastdesign”, “first.last”, “firstlast”

5. Consider a name with a deeper meaning.

You don’t have to have your real name. You don’t have to include anything involving art. You can get creative and make people think about the meaning a little more.

You can look into old mythologies, science, astrology, and more. Think of something that connects to you and your work, but requires a little more thought to understand. Or even names that involve a childhood nickname, or inside jokes and stories. Think about your backstory. (This is what I focused on when I chose @messyeverafter.)

6. Make it easy to say out loud.

This is a personal rule of mine while I’m out at events or chatting with people about what I do. How would your name sound if you ran out of all of your business cards and just had to say your social usernames out loud to customers?

If you have a bunch of symbols or numbers, things can get a little long.

Ex: “My Insta is jenny dot rainbow underscore three five dot art”

Or: “My Insta is jenny rainbow art”

It’s a simple thing, but it helps avoid awkward “wait, where is the underscore?” types of conversations.

7. Check for similar accounts.

Take advantage of the Instagram search bar and start looking up the names you’ve thought of. If a name you thought of is taken by another artist, brainstorm other names. I do not recommend just adding underscores or periods to a name that is taken to make it “unique” unless it is your actual legal name.

This will help you avoid any complaints from fellow creators in the future. I can speak from experience (considering there are currently 15 accounts on Instagram that play off @messyeverafter), it’s not pleasant to have your name taken. Don’t fall in love with a name that someone else has trademark rights to if you plan on using your account for a business.

8. Check all social media platforms.

Once you find a good name, you’re going to want to plan for the future. Check Twitter, YouTube, Facebook pages, Tumblr, Reddit, TikTok, and .com domain names. Even consider searching Trademark databases and your state’s registered business names.

You’re building a presence that will last for years, so make sure you can snatch up the same name across all the platforms you can to make it easier for followers to find you no matter where they look.

Example Accounts:

Obviously, these names are taken, but check out how the account names interact with the artist’s real name, art style, and branding. And give them some love 😉

Remember: You have a little wiggle room for change if you realize you don’t like your chosen name.

Whatever name you decide on today doesn’t have to be your name forever. If you have no idea who you are as an artist right now, you can change your name once you figure it out. I encourage you not to change your name often, and not to change your name once your following starts to grow, but you can re-brand yourself if you really feel you need to.

I just can’t help but always think of Puff Daddy changing to P. Diddy as a good example of what not to do. Once you establish your branding and have enough people who know your name, it’s really hard to break away from that first name. But, with an Instagram account, you have a lot of wiggle room until about 5,000 followers. Use that time to really figure out who you are as an artist.

***

I hope this post was helpful, but if you are looking for a little extra support, feel free to check out my consulting services. I offer an Instagram assessment to help artists and creatives get a jump start on growing their following.

Please leave questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. I’d love to hear from you!

-Kelly

Do want to help me create more blog content? I want to keep providing content like this for free, but I need your help. If you enjoy my blogs and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep helping artists like you. Plus, you get extra little perks.

Further Reading:

Why Your Artwork Being Copied is a Good Thing

Dealing with copycats comes with the territory of being an artist…

And I don’t believe it’s a bad thing.

You’ve spent days, months, years, and even decades honing your craft. Experimenting with materials. Finding your personal style. Making a name for yourself as an artist. Then one day, an artist comes along and decides to take your creation and copy it. They see everything you’ve done, copy it, possibly bastardize it, and leave you feeling used and frustrated.

It happens to all of us, but I don’t think copycats are the worst thing in the world. In fact, I look at copycats as a good thing.

Copying is what we do as humans.

We are born to copy others until we figure out our own identity. Language, clothes, traditions, holidays, mannerisms, body language, slang, jewelry, music, books, etc.. We copy and then we build on what we’ve copied with more copied material until we figure out what feels right for us.

When you scroll through Instagram and see your favorite celebrity styled in a way that’d make you look awesome, the urge to recreate the ensemble is the same urge that artists have when they copy your work. You copy. I copy. We all copy.

When one influential creator introduces something new to the public, that design concept trickles down and gets manipulated over and over again. Other artists will build off of it. They will cut things out. Rearrange components. Introduce new changes.

This scene from The Devil Wears Prada keeps popping in my head…

Gah, I love you, Meryl.

A lot of what we do as creators is built off of the artists before us. Techniques, supplies, and styles. It all gets copied and reworked.

To fight the urge to copy is a losing battle, and to control how people interact with your art is impossible. If you show somebody your art, it’s going to inspire something inside of them.

What about copyright and all that?

It’s reasonable to want to protect your art. I mean, it’s your baby, right? I know that feeling. There are legal actions you can take against copycats. If you want to concern yourself with those things, go ahead, but I personally think it ruins the fluidity of the art world.

If you want to truly protect your artwork from ever being copied, the only way is to never let anyone see it. Never. Period. Keep it locked up. Take no photographs. Keep it off the internet. Don’t display at local events or galleries. Don’t show your art to anyone.

Here is the thing about art: It’s like a virus. When you come into contact with art of any kind, it does something to you. It makes a home inside of you and compels you to share it with others. It compels you to make creations of your own. Then others become infected by your art and the propagation of creative ideas continues.

Your art will get copied if you share it. That’s how you know it’s working.

Be the voice of a new genre.

How do you think new art genres are formed? There was one guy who was like “I’m going to create the impression of a landscape…” and then so many other people copied the style that it became its own genre. Impressionism.

Same with Pop Art, Expressionism, Surrealism, and so on. One artist does things a little differently and their work inspires a whole new group of people.  It’s kind of awesome.

Which is why I think you should WANT your art to get copied.

Yes, it can be frustrating to have someone mimic the work you do. Whether it’s an exact replica or just work inspired by your creations. Every artist has this territorial gut reaction when they first see their work copied. It can be painful, annoying, or devastating, but rarely do we feel something positive when we see our work copied, because we feel threatened.

But, I think we should be excited about seeing copies of our work.

When someone copies your work it can mean quite a few good things:
  • You are influential enough to inspire another creator (High five!!)
  • Your art is being exposed to a wider audience. (Double high five!)
  • Your work is pretty cool. (Woooo!)
  • That artist has no idea what their own style is yet and your art is helping them discover it.
  • That artist looks up to you.

In my experience, the majority of copycats out there do not have malicious intent. They don’t mean to step on your toes. They don’t mean to be your competition or take your business. A copycat is not a threat for the most part. Those copycats are actually your biggest cheerleaders and can help you grow your brand.

Have you ever witnessed an artist (or you may have done this yourself) recreate the art of a more well known artist and then post it on social media saying something like “This was inspired by @artist”? Because I have seen this over and over again and it’s beautiful!

If you encourage people who have created art inspired by yours to share it on social media and tag you, it will only be good for you. (I do this with #messyeverafter.) The more people who see your name, the better. Build a community around your art and your brand.

Yes, you will have copycats recreate your work and post it without credit, but just think back to the days where you were learning how to draw and you went running up to a friend and showed them your version of your favorite piece of art. It’s pretty much the same thing.

When Copycats make us lose our sh*t.

This last year, I have seen a few situations of copying/suspected copying turn into incredibly stressful confrontations. If someone copies your work there is one thing you most definitely need to do: Give yourself time to work through your emotions before confronting the copycat and/or putting anything on a public forum.

If you are reacting with your emotions, it’s quite likely it will turn into a sh*ts show real quick. Sleep on it. Talk to a close friend or another artist. Let the emotions pass. You don’t need to react in all situations.

When non-professional artists (novices, beginners, hobbyists, etc.) copy a professional artists work, it’s usually safe to assume this is in the pursuit of their own personal style or just for having fun. It’s almost definitely not a threat to the artist being copied. This is the type of copying that has been most common for me and I actually encourage my followers to do this. It’s likely not going to harm your business or your brand at all unless you fly off the handle and publicly shame them (and that’s on you).

If the copycat is a professional artist and they don’t credit it, or they choose to sell the work, this is where things get frustrating. It still might not be worth your time though. I always think about these things: Are they making direct copies or are they interpreting it with their own style? Does the artist have a large following? Do they appear to copy others too? Do they have their own distinct style? Is this going to affect my business? Am I just feeling threatened? Most of the time, after I run through these questions, I deem it’s not worth my time to do anything more than show a picture of the copied work to my other half or artist friends, vent, and move on.

If a well know artist copies your work and you aren’t well known, they take credit for it, and probably make money off it then by all means confront the sh*t out of that situation. Never take advantage of the little guys. It’s not cool. They should know better.

If a business or corporation rips off your work and sells it, this is where you have every right to put your sassy pants on and make a lot of noise. There is no excuse for this, and this is where I feel copyright laws are appropriate. This is not done in the spirit of creativity, but only with greed and they should be punished and shamed.

Since I’ve established copying isn’t always bad, I should go over some rules.

We all copy, but it’s important to be a courteous copycat. Here’s how:

  • If you are making nearly identical copies, don’t claim the art as your own and make sure to give credit to the original creator. (Depending on the artist, you may need to ask permission to display your recreation.)
  • Copy in the pursuit of developing your own art style and not with the intent to profit off of another artist’s ideas. It takes a really long time to develop an art business. Don’t try to take shortcuts at the expense of another artist.
  • Understand that some artists are more protective of their work than others. I openly tell people to try out my style and share it on social media, but you will encounter the exact opposite artists out there. Respect their wishes.
  • Keep your copies for yourself. Don’t try to sell the work that you copied in a business setting. Sure, selling to friends and family is more acceptable, but the moment you go to an art fair to sell copied work is the moment you start to lose integrity as an artist.

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When I see my work get copied, I celebrate, and I think you should too. Being an artist is a lifelong journey and the more you create, the more your art will evolve and inspire others. An artist copying your work can help you build your brand and grow your audience if you react in a positive manner.

Encourage community interaction. Encourage other creators to explore their artistic identities through your techniques.

But, if you really want to prevent your art from inspiring people, don’t share it with anyone.

At least, that’s how I look at it.

As always, leave your questions and comments below while commenting is open or reach out to me directly through Instagram or email. I’d love to hear from you! Also, please subscribe to my email list if you never want to miss a blog post, and consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon to support the creation of these posts.

-Kelly

Do want to help me create more blog content? I want to keep providing content like this for free, but I need your help. If you enjoy my blogs and gain any inspiration from the content I put out there, please consider becoming a Patron of Messy Ever After on Patreon. Pledging just $1 a month enables me to keep helping artists like you. Plus, you get extra little perks.

Further Reading: