I’ve had a bit of a revelation lately that, in retrospect, probably should have been obvious.
When you list an item on Etsy, you have to include a description of the item. When I wasn’t sure what else to write for a painting or print, I would often give a little background on the inspiration behind it: where the source/reference came from, the circumstances of me finding it, and why I chose to paint it. I thought buyers might be interested in that information, and occasionally at markets people do ask me these questions.
It turns out though, most people don’t actually care that much about the inspiration behind a painting – or, at least, that’s not what prompts them to buy it. They buy the art because of what it means to them: a memory, association, or emotion that arises when they see the piece. At my last market, I sold a relatively expensive framed print; the purchaser was interested to know that the scene was from a street in Florida only because it was her home state and it brought up that positive association for her. At the market before that, I sold my abandoned red truck painting. The buyer didn’t ask me a single question about the inspiration or source material behind it; she wanted it because it reminded her of a truck her grandparents used to have.
As an art buyer myself, I do sometimes want to know the story behind a piece if it’s unusual, or if it’s meant to be like a social or political commentary. But as an artist, that’s not the kind of art I typically create. As a buyer I also care more about what the piece means or represents to me – not to the artist. And honestly that’s part of what makes being an artist so rewarding: not just the intellectual interest of my patrons (although I do often enjoy those conversations) but also the shared emotional connection over a painting. I obviously felt a connection to my work that was strong enough to inspire me to create it, so it’s especially rewarding when someone else feels a connection strong enough to buy the painting (or print).
The most recent art print I bought, for example, is a scene of trees over a lake at sunset/moonrise. The artist said on her site where the scene is; I don’t remember now, because it wasn’t that important to me — I just liked how it reminded me being in the woods on some of the trips I’ve taken.
What was a piece of art that you bought recently? What drew you to it? Did you want to know about its origins?