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Supply Your “Why” In Your Artist Story


by Alyson Stanfield

Your artist story is an opportunity for you to connect with readers, followers, and potential buyers. Your brand revolves around it.

Your artist story is your Why.

In his TED talk, Simon Sinek famously says, “People don’t buy what you do; people buy why you do it.”

This is powerful stuff. Your Why differentiates you from other artists and entrepreneurs.

Your Why can help you sell more art.

Getting to your Why isn’t as easy as it sounds.

I’ve read too many artist statements that say something like: “I make art because I have to.” This isn’t a Why. And it isn’t helpful for making a connection with people because it’s vague.

Non-artists do not understand making art because you have to. It’s not in their DNA. You must be more explicit.

When you write a flimsy sentence, which I define as a bunch of words that could be attributed to any number of people, you have to dig to find something more meaningful.

You owe it to yourself, your art, and your audience.

Why do you have to make art? You aren’t going to perish if you don’t make art, but you might be less whole.

What specific need or desire does making art fulfill for you? Specific.

More Whys

While you’re at it, throw these Whys into the mix.

  • Why do you choose the materials, techniques, and scale that you do?

  • Why do you live where you live? How does it inform your art?

  • Why do you show your art at certain venues or install it in a particular manner?

  • Why do you teach? How are you a better artist as a result?

  • Why do you spend every February on the Oregon Coast? What does the cool, drizzly weather do for your creativity?

Eke Out The Stories

Answering these questions for yourself is a first step, but don’t present them so matter-of-fact in your bio or on your About page. Make stories out of them.

Here are a couple of examples.

Instead of saying, “I use clay because . . . “ you could say, “Molding a slap of wet clay takes me back to my childhood when we used to make sand castles on the beach. I remember . . . ”

Rather than, “I renew my creativity every February on the Oregon Coast,” try “I go to the Oregon Coast every February to escape the dry climes of the desert. The gray, damp air forces me inside – literally and emotionally. I hole up in my small studio and find warmth in a rush of creativity.”

Not every occasion begs for a story, but stories can help sell your art. Practice your Why on your social media updates. When you’re tempted to type a flimsy sentence, stretch yourself by getting to the Why of the matter.

Are you supplying the Why in your artist story?

Alyson Stanfield is an artist advocate and business mentor at This article was originally published on her Art Biz Blog, which is consistently listed as a top 20 art blog. Read more articles like this at

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