Ask A Gallery Owner | Should I Include a Couple of Sentences about Art on My Site?

The Question:

I know you are very busy and unable to answer all questions. If possible however I would like to know your feelings re: Putting a 2 or 3 sentence description of each image on a web site.

Thanks

John

My Response:

Thanks for the question, John. Including a few lines about a piece of artwork on your website or in your other collateral material is a great idea. I’ve found that as collectors are contemplating a piece of artwork, they want to learn everything they can about that artwork and about your inspiration as you created it. This additional knowledge adds to their experience and appreciation for the work.

I maintain that for most buyers, the decision to purchase a work of art is an emotional decision, and if their good feelings toward a work of artwork can be reinforced with a great story (or even a mediocre one, for that matter!) that emotional connection to the art is going to be enhanced.

A couple of things to keep in mind: There is a counterargument to my perspective, and that is that you should leave the interpretation of the artwork to the viewer. The logic goes that a viewer will put their own experience into the piece and assign their own meaning. I like the underlying idea here, and so I would suggest that in your description of your artwork you speak in fairly broad terms of the exact nature of the piece (no exact location for a landscape, for example, or the exact person in a figurative work) and instead talk in broad terms about your inspiration for the piece.

The second thing to keep in mind is that you should generally avoid becoming too political or spiritual in talking about your work – unless the statement you are making is the art. Politics and religion/spirituality are touchy issues – why offend a potential client who may not be on the same wavelength? If someone is of your same mindset, they will probably get the deeper meaning without the need to spell it out in your description.

Don’t worry if you haven’t been including descriptions up to now – you needn’t spend the next three weeks updating your website. Rather, I suggest you experiment with descriptions on new works you upload to your site or send to your galleries and find what works best, then commit to spend a little time with each work of art coming out of your studio creating a description.

Do You Agree?

Have you found it more effective to share your thoughts about your art or to leave clients to interpret it for themselves? Share your thoughts in the comments.

About the Author: Jason Horejs

Jason Horejs is the Owner of Xanadu Gallery, author of best selling books "Starving" to Successful & How to Sell Art , publisher of reddotblog.com, and founder of the Art Business Academy. Jason has helped thousands of artists prepare themselves to more effectively market their work, build relationships with galleries and collectors, and turn their artistic passion into a viable business.

22 Comments

  1. Yes, I agree, I’m in the process of adding descriptions to my artwork for the reasons you talk about as well as SEO. The descriptions help Google and other search engines find your work. More exposure!

  2. Absolutely yes! A few sentences can make all the difference to clients contemplating a purchase. I usually talk about how the scene makes me feel.

    In addition to my web site, I also print these artist comments on the price label posted beside my paintings on my studio gallery walls, and on the identifying label on the back of each painting, and I often copy and paste them from my web site onto social media posts about individual paintings. People just eat these stories up.

  3. On my web site I always include a few lines or even paragraphs that tell more about the painting….a short version of the artwork statement I might send to a gallery. It’s possible someone will see my work only on line and never get to one of my galleries, so why hold back information that might help them?

  4. you refer to the location/site of the painting, or the specific person in a figurative piece – all well and good for realistic, or even impressionist, work – for purely non-objective art? How much can one speak of color and energy and composition that’d appeal to a viewer? Don’t people drawn to abstract/non-objective art tend to find their own emotional connection? I purely abstract art, say of a orchard valley, is it wise to suggest to a viewer that s/he analyze whether s/he “sees” the original scene? Have you any suggestions about writing for non-objective work? I’ve written haiku for my most recent series, as a way to give words to a visual experience. Then I wonder whether poetry is as abstract as the art! On the other hand, nobody will even see the haiku if s/he’s not drawn to the work enough to click on it anyway . . . !! ?????!

  5. Yes, I totally agree. A Charleston gallery had me write up a few lines of every painting they accepted of mine to enlighten the customer while discussing the piece. This proved very successful and makes art buying more interesting and inclusive.

  6. I’ve been adding a couple sentences in the description of each image for quite a while now. In addition to what others have said, I think it’s also another way for the collector to hear the artist’s voice and increase understanding of the artist’s motivation for that piece.

  7. I have have included a short description with paintings in the past, by putting it on the back of the painting, and I provide the gallery with the same information so they can convey it while talking to a potential client. I have made “flip books” (e-books) with the same descriptions. I don’t know why I never did it on my website. I will start. Thanks for the encouragement.

  8. Clients seem to appreciate the text that accompanies sculptures on my website; sometimes several paragraphs. Stories, especially about the process of creation, prompt questions, for example. Questions are invitation to dialogue, and as Jason keeps reminding us about gallery visitors, dialogue is what we want. I agree completely about avoiding politics and spirituality, and Jason’s point about text inviting people to view the work in a broad context is an excellent one. We don’t care whether clients view the work the way we ourselves do – – – we want them to view it in a way that triggers something personal for them, so they can tell us their own stories about it! It’s thrilling for me to hear strangers tell personal stories about my own sculptures!

  9. great insights…and I realize I should probably stop mentioning the location of my mountains. It doesn’t mean anything to most people and may dissuade them from seeing the mountainscapes they want to see.

  10. I love to add descriptions to my artworks. I leave it very general in the sense that nothing personal is revealed as to location etc? Instead I try to create a certain poetry to my descriptions. I don’t mean writing a poem, but adding a description that appeals to the senses of the onlooker that I hope will evoke their own personal memories and feelings.

  11. I do a process post for each painting, and post to Instagram, too. People do seem to interact more when I do that, as opposed to just posting a finished painting at the end. On my blog I do that too (a process page), and link to it on the product page for each of the paintings at my website. But on my gallery/portfolio pages, I haven’t been putting much description other than the size and availability. I might try putting a sentence or two, but I’ll have to change the format of the gallery to do it.

  12. As a watercolor painter of historical scenes (mostly in northern California) I usually write a narrative of what inspired me to paint a specific location, event, or landmark building, intermingled with some California history. I definitely agree that politics should be left out of written descriptions (unless, of course, my painting depicts a particular historical political event). As a former minister, I don’t wholeheartedly agree that spiritual statements be avoided – especially if a particular scene I come upon and feel the need to capture is partly inspired by my thoughts of a particular Bible verse recently read. I often include some/all the elements I describe above in “Certificates of Authenticity” that accompany the paintings I sell. In summary, I think each artist must be genuine in communicating what inspires him/her to produce unique pieces of art.

  13. Yes, I agree that a brief comment about the artwork enhances a possible connection for the audience. I usually write a note about the inspiration point that led to my creation rather than any kind of interpretation. Usually, people are very interested to know more about the perspective of the artist.ist.

  14. Because my portraiture artwork has evolved into that of polar bear portraiture, and the bears vulnerability to climate change, I always include the story behind the work. I hope that these stories are more than just “silent salesmen” (as I have heard them referred to as) , but help connect the viewer to the intelligence of the bear, the beauty of the north, the wonder of solitude, as well as provide some interesting polar bear facts, and why protecting the sea ice is so vital to us all. I post these stories on social media as well, and have been rewarded with people letting me know how much they love the stories, as well as with sales.

  15. Yes! I always include a brief sentence or two with each new piece. I try to share feelings and impressions from the process of creating the work, not too technical and without “artspeak” as it were. I try to describe the creation of the painting in relaxed and common terminology in order to better “connect” with the viewer. Hopefully, I’m able to do so, anyway. LOL

  16. being new to this blog…and any blog for that matter…..correct me if necessary…..I have a written statement that is posted a few times around a gallery where my art work is displayed…..should there be a “statement/description” with each title card?

  17. Jason when you say “you should generally avoid becoming too political or spiritual in talking about your work – unless the statement you are making is the art.” I am wondering if you had any advice for me.

    I make non-objective art inspired by Kandinsky and Hilma af Klint and other abstract expressionists who were very influenced by late 19th-century esoteric thinkers such as Madam Blavatsky and Rudolph Steiner. In fact, this cross-section of spirit and art is the very reason I have (temporarily?) stopped making representational art.

    Is it wrong for me to mention this?

    1. Using historical context to help describe and explain your work will help diffuse the difficulties that come with entering that territory. I suspect you will be okay, but it doesn’t hurt to monitor peoples’ response to your descriptions of the work, and if you feel the reaction is too strong and causing distraction from the art, experiment with toning it down.

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