This post is by guest author Keith Bond. This article has been edited and published with the author's permission. We've promoted this post to feature status because it provides great value to the FineArtViews community. If you want your blog posts listed in the FineArtViews newsletter with the possibility of being republished to our 70,000+ subscribers, consider blogging with FASO Artist Websites. This author's views are entirely his own and may not always reflect the views of BoldBrush, Inc.
There are countless opportunities when you will be asked specific questions about your art (whether by the media – including local newspapers or national magazines; curators; gallery owners; collectors; students; or Joe Neighbor). I recently learned a few principles that I wish I had realized long ago.
Richard Valeriani once said: “The essential purpose of an interview is to present a point of view or to deliver a set of messages. It is not merely to answer reporters’ questions.”
I think this also applies to any setting where you are responding to questions about your art. Sometimes people don’t know what questions to ask. Think about it for a minute. Have you ever tried to learn something about a topic foreign to you? I have. I didn’t know what questions to even ask. Many non-artists are like that. They want to know about your art, but don’t know the right questions. But they start somewhere and ask whatever questions come to mind.
Don’t be offended by this. Don’t get defensive. Don’t make them feel stupid.
Direct the conversation to share your message regardless of what they ask. Someone once said something to the effect of: “I answer the questions they should have asked.” Remember, you are the expert - not them.
So how do you steer the conversation? How do you take control of it?
Bridges are a great tool to take the conversation from their question to your message.
“…and you should know…”
“…what’s really important (or interesting) is…”
“…to put it into perspective…”
“…the underlying question is…”
“…I think what you mean by the question is…”
“I’m glad you asked, because this brings me to a point that I have wanted to share…”
Yes, I realize that these sound like a politician. Listen to NPR (National Public Radio) for a while and you will recognize that any good interviewee (from musician to scientist to philanthropist) uses these types of bridges. They are not necessarily always trying to avoid certain topics (though there may be times for that), but rather they are directing the conversation to what they want you to know. Sure the wording for bridges may change to fit the vernacular of the subject. But the purpose remains the same. The purpose is to share your message.
Let’s look at a common question artists get:
A client asks, “How long did it take you to paint this?”
How do you respond? Many artists assume that the client is doing the math in their head; figuring out how much you make per hour. As a result, some artists get defensive trying to find some way to justify their prices. But you don’t know if that is really what the client is thinking. They might just be trying to open a dialogue about how you create your work. Don’t make assumptions. Rather, direct the conversation.
How to Respond (A few ideas):
“The simple or short answer is X number of hours. But what you should know is that is only part of the creation process…”
“I’m glad you asked. I was hoping to share my creative process with you…”
“Do you want the short answer or the more complete answer?”
These are just quick ideas. Find the wording that is comfortable to you. The key is to know what you want to say before they ask the question. Bridge the conversation. Redirect it to share your message.
Today's post is an updated version from a few years ago, but we're republishing it again today because it's still a timely and a very relevant message. Enjoy!
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