by Peta Tranquille
Over the last few weeks, we have discussed context and why it gives greater importance to your creations, but do you know who your audience is?
It's all well and good creating artwork to keep you sane, for fun, a gallery, the markets, an online shop or for an exhibition, but unless you know who your target audience is, you will end up with a ginormous collection. This can only lead to a desperate need for storage and doesn't do anything for your creativity being recognised.
Many people create because they want to, and others create because they need to. Whichever category you fit into, you need to determine one crucial fact and that is to find YOUR audience. Without this knowledge, you are, in effect, only creating for yourself? Don't get me wrong; there is nothing selfish about this approach but don't most artists feel the need to share their work with the big wide world?
THE FIRST STEP
Firstly, I want you to think about what your artwork is portraying; its context, subject matter, style, or medium, and write them down in a list.
e.g. conservation, ceramic, nature, cotton, organic, sustainability.
Write as many words as you can, and then write another list with the type of people that might be interested in those words.
e.g. someone that likes nature might like animals, hiking, birdwatching etc.
Unfortunately, on social media, this is where many artists go wrong with their posts. They use hashtags related to their artwork rather than what their potential audience likes. The only way to get the attention of a new audience is to throw your art in their face. The most effective way to do this is by using hashtags they follow or those that cover their interests. If they don't follow art-related hashtags, they will NEVER see your posts. But if you used the hashtag #hikingvictoria or #cookingday they may see your painting of a local landscape or ceramic bowl.
Another way to determine who your audience might be is by looking at any sales you've already had. Of course, this will not work well for sales though online galleries, as there is not always direct contact with the buyer. But if you have had private sales, or were able to interact with buyers online, it is essential to note everything you can about them. Even their address can tell you something about them. This may seem superficial, but you must learn as much as you can about them. They bought your artwork, so take the part of a detective, take notes about them and keep it as record.
What they bought, who they are and what you learned about them is important.
While I recommend this, avoid stalking them or doing an online search. Instead, gain a basic understanding of who they are. If you continue reading, you will see why this information helps you determine your audience.
To give you some idea of how to do this, I will draw on my personal experience.
A few years ago, as part of an artist group we were asked, "who is your audience?" This question stopped me in my tracks as I had never thought about who likes my art and if they could be clearly defined. However, I soon realised that if I didn't know this, how could I pinpoint where to present or promote my artwork. There is no point in promoting anything on Instagram or Facebook if my audience is not on social media. Following THAT question, I began to give it some serious consideration. How do I know who my audience is? The following is how I figured it out.
Years ago, many female artist friends told me that their husbands loved my work. At first, I didn't take this too seriously, but when that question of "who is your audience?" was thrown at me, I recalled those conversations. This lead to many more questions. Why were THEY telling me their husbands' opinions of my work? How did their husbands see my artwork? Were THEY on social media? If so, why had THEY not followed me and told me themselves?
The one thing that all of these conversations had in common was that my artist friends were referring to their partners, and they were all men aged between 40 and 60. I then had a light bulb moment as all but one of my actual clients fitted into that category. And even more interesting was that the one lady that had bought a painting had done so for her husband's 50th birthday! Without realising it I had stumbled upon my audience and, until I gave it considerable thought, had not even noticed how obvious it was.
Knowing this information, I understood why I had little activity on Instagram and sales were mostly from my website. How many men aged 40 and 60 do you know on Instagram? I don't know many, and those I do know are artists! So the problem was how to target my audience online? I began further investigating what I knew about the men and realised that they all seemed to be very well educated and the majority of them were entrepreneurs or executives. If they don't use Instagram or Facebook, where else might they be listed? Many professionals and career-minded people have a LinkedIn account, so that is where I would be more likely to find my audience.
MAKE IT REAL
Once you have found who your audience is, give them a name and make them real. Then every time you create something, make it for them. For example, everything I create is for Pierre, a 42-year-old architect living in a penthouse apartment in Paris and driving a flashy sports car. I haven't selected a car brand, or model, as he upgrades every other year! Pierre is very sophisticated and loves to entertain. He loves modern appliances and designer furniture and can control everything in his apartment with his phone. I know you might be thinking this is crazy, but being specific makes it real and will help guide you when making your next artwork.
Now that you have read this, I hope that you will take a few minutes or preferably longer and think about who your audience is and how to define them. Make it real by naming them and giving them a title, profession, location, physical appearance and hobbies or interests. You know your artwork and creations better than anyone else, so start writing lists, and you will know who your audience is, which will help you realise where you need to promote, show and post your work online.
Enjoy your investigation, and let us know if you figure out your audience in the comments.