Is Your Artist Brand Missing You?

At the mastermind retreats with my coach and mentor, everyone in the group receives a “hot seat,” where we are given the opportunity to tackle one big issue in our businesses.

For my hot seat, I chose to talk about my brand.

Dharma is exploring her new cat cave, but can’t quite commit to being all in. Are you all in on your brand?
I drop a cat photo every so often as I share peeks of my everyday life. Dharma is exploring her new cat cave, but can’t quite commit to being all in. Are you all in on your brand?

To prepare the group, I reminded them of some of the websites and programs associated with my business:

Art Biz Coach (website and business name since 2002)
Art Biz Blog (blog since 2004)
Art Biz Makeover (live event)
Art Biz Bootcamp (online class)
Organize Your Art Biz (online class)
Art Biz Lift Off (online class and self-study)
Art Biz Incubator (membership)

(My bad: I failed to mention my book, which has done so much to help artists with their self-promotion and promote my brand.)

I wanted feedback on this list, mostly on the use of Art Biz Coach for my business.

Is it too tired? “Coach” was trendy in 2002, but is it time to retire that?

Does “Art Biz” sound masculine?

Is there confusion between Art Biz Blog and Art Biz Coach? After all, most people these days have their blogs integrated into their main sites.

Am I questioning this because I’m just bored with the name?

sandals by pool
If you follow me on Instagram or Facebook, you might notice that I like to take photos of my feet. It’s easier than turning the camera around for a selfie.

After I threw out my questions to the group, our coach led us all in an exercise to discover where our brands were hitting the mark and where we could use some help.

The exercise wasn’t new to me, but it was a reminder that I haven’t been living up to the tweaks I identified over a year ago.

An Exercise In Trust

I started 2015 with the word “authentic” as my word of the year. It’s a word that I sometimes think is overused, and yet it reached out to me.

Now I realize that the word “trust” is a better word for me in 2015. I seek more trust in myself and my vision and trust that you will stick with me as I make necessary adjustments.

The result of the hot seat with my mastermind group was an affirmation from everyone in the room that Art Biz Coach is a strong brand.

They gave permission to incorporate more “Alyson” into my business, which means adding more fun, elements of surprise, and a little edginess.

All of this is just in time for a visual makeover I’m planning to introduce this year with the help of a brand design expert.

Your Artist Brand

Branding is usually created behind the scenes with branding experts, designers, and copywriters, and then unveiled in a Ta-da moment. I’m sharing my personal story and struggles with you because 1) I trust you and value our community and 2) I want you to consider your brand.

Art Biz Coach brand - shadow of Alyson
I also tend to take photos of shadows – usually only at museums for some odd reason. This is a selfie at Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art.

What 3 words would you use to describe your art and brand?

For some it might be classic, professional, and serious.
Others might lean toward kooky, colorful, and friendly.

You get to decide who you want be in this world, how you show up, and how you want to be perceived [tweet this]. I advise you do it with gusto – and to trust in your choices.

Does your marketing reflect your brand?
Are you inserting your personality into your brand?

Are people reminded of why they love your brand every time they see a tweet, Facebook post, email, or website with your name on it?

How could you add more YOU to your brand?

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78 thoughts on “Is Your Artist Brand Missing You?”

  1. I’m a designer by profession so I have a bit of an unfair advantage in this arena, but branding challenges are the same for all of us.

    I’m also working on a visual rebrand that should be revealed within a month.

    My top brand qualities are mysterious, elegant and handmade.

    I’m still working out the details of how it’s going to be visually represented. I’m already embodying it in the way I dress and show up in my life.

    1. Yes, and it’s wonderful that outside input is readily available to those of us who have an active online presence!

      I’ve been publishing my work online since I was a teenager (that’s almost 15 years now). If I were to go all the way back, that would amount to a huge database of feedback.

      From those (public) comments we can learn what people most appreciate about our work, what speaks to them the most, and what qualities we need to amp up if we want to attract our right people (because not all of those who share their opinion are our target, after all).
      We can learn what words they use to describe our work, so we can use their language.

      Also, some of my best collectors are actually my friends, so I was able to ask them questions about how they perceive my brand.

      The majority of the work however comes from the inside – presenting ourselves not as a facade that we think other people will like, but to dig deep and find our core values and what qualities we’re able to represent with ease, because they’re an integral part of us.

      That’s my branding philosophy anyway, YMMV 🙂

  2. The three words to describe my brand are whimsy, serenity and surprise. I am a writer and artist. Since I create my covers and do the illustrations for my books branding becomes a little confusing sometimes. Some books are children’s others for grown ups. Then there are my cards, fine art and licensing for products. Putting all of these under one brand is hard and an issue every day.

    Thank you for all you do to provide great newsletters with solid information and inspiration. Your book is a daily help with every issue concerning my business and creation process.

    B.A. Landtroop

  3. Each new year, I tend to think about my “brand”. Well it’s really more like any time I think about creating a new painting, having a show or stepping out of the house. With a graphic designer/photographer husband, it has become a part of our life.

    I came up with these words to describe my Art:

    1.) Explosive 2.) Thoughtful placement 3.) Carefully chosen color

    I couldn’t find just 1 word for some descriptors. My Art has taken a new direction over the past few years toward an upward rising theme rather than more randomly scattered paint. And with my latest series of mostly black and white paintings, “Heaven and Hell” is focused on a more subtle explosion of color and emotion. Coming back to control over the paint may be my way of feeling like I have control over my life – since things are usually chaos with a 2 year old!

    Thanks for your post as always.

  4. Isn’t this timely! As I restructure my focus around my “Why” it has become obvious to me that some aspects of my Brand will become clearer and, perhaps, a little modified. I think this is evolution for an artist. We are not who we were. Rather who we were is part of the unique history of who we are.

    Much thanks to Alyson for her help in this area.

  5. This has always been a real hard one for me, I just struggle to know how or what is my brand! So this article has made me confront it and has I hope helped some. whew three words to sum up my work; anybody got any idea what I am about? not to sure I do… (praps thats the problem) best ashar

    1. Thank you! Yes they are all good strong positive words .. and blue is in most of my work somewhere … probably because I live and work in the Algarve where the sky is usually blue! Thank you

    2. Thanks, Chrissy! Very helpful to see the pattern developing… I think of myself and brand as being Incurable Creative Rebel on a Harmony-Seeking Cause and hope that comes through in some way to put the idea that horses make us better people for all of our relationships on the map. 😉

    3. Michelle, your brand statement really catches me…Wanted to mention this quote from Ronald Reagan:

      “I’ve often said there’s nothing better for the inside of a man than the outside of a horse.”

  6. My three words as a graphic designer: creative, professional, effective. I chose the word effective, over strategic, because it is a word that suggest an on-target result.

    My feedback on your brand is that Art Biz is a terrific name. It says exactly what you do in a simple, fun way. No, it is not too masculine. Coach, blog, etc. these words identify one of the services that the company Art Biz is providing.

    That’s my two cents.

    To the arts!

  7. Biz. Sound masculine? are you really serious? Biz is not a real word. Biz is cute and good for twitterings I suggest a serious and professional and real word like, “Business”. Business goes well with coach and mentor. To try this out, say with as much gusto as possible,
    “Go mind you own biz!!” Say it again with the word “business”.

    1. “Biz” is a casual, friendly approach to something that is done with all seriousness—something women may prefer, in general, more than men. And my guess is your target audience consists more of women than men. You make something a lot of artists dread, dread, DREAD more approachable by making it sound less hardcore.

    2. Interesting, Michelle. I never thought of Biz as appealing more to women and I certainly never wanted to reduce the import of business.

      But this may be why I do attract more women.

      And anyone who has taken my classes would call them pretty hardcore.

      I hate it that artists dread, dread, DREAD the business. I want it to be just as creative as the art itself.

    3. True…I took your Organize Your Art Biz course and would describe it as helpful and thorough.

      Hardcore, for me, implies a lot more to read in a formal writing style, boring assignments and creating at least one complicated spreadsheet somewhere along the way.

    1. Theresa, before I read your entire entry I clicked on your link to visit your site- my three words for you & your work were; nature/(natural), coastal – calm (and environmental came to mind as well). I’ve been wrestling with this over the last year…feeling rather split & would love an opinion on my site as well. I’ve always been attracted to the colorist school, and that has been the thing that really attracts me (makes me get up every morning!). In 2007 I had started a newsletter called “Cheer Factor” and still continue this today. I sometimes wonder if I have veered off course…I cover several themes of work; garden & floral paintings, scenes from Ireland, scenes from France, and local marshlands along our shoreline here in CT. Most of these I paint plein air. In winter, I’m in the studio setting up floral still-life to paint. Three words any one? Or any other thoughts you might share? Should I narrow my focus of subject matter? thanks!

  8. Alyson, it was interesting to read about your branding discussion. I am going through a 9-month course through my local small business development center, along with a group of local artists, to work through some of these issues. Trying to clarify mission, the “why”… all of the many questions lead to branding.

    I look forward to seeing how you develop the answer to your question. Personally I have been following your work for a couple years and in fact, did find the “Art Biz Coach” and “Art Biz Blog” labels confusing. The other items aren’t clear to me what they promise to do from the name alone. Bootcamp, Makeover… usually I have to read your in-depth description to realize what each one offers. Hope this feedback helps you. You have helped me so much already and I have referred many others to seek out your site!

    1. Maddy…I see whimsical, animated, graphic. Ever thought of getting your foot in the door at Pixar? That or a children’s book publisher!

      One thing…could you separate your styles better on Etsy or perhaps start a new Etsy store for the card-a-day project? The quick-draw style of that project is fun and wonderful, especially the way you put the marker colors in the shot, but I think it’s detracting from your other work.

      The more you can show your work in uninterrupted series, the better. I know Fine Art America allows you to have separate galleries and you may find the choices they offer buyers of your work and the fulfillment aspect of getting it to them a lot easier than Etsy. Then you could keep your commission work on your site with a PayPal button and link to it in your bio on FAA. Just a thought.

    2. Hi Michelle,

      Thank you for taking the time to pick three words! I have considered children’s book since it would allow me to work with traditional mediums.

      Separating my artwork is a good idea! I’ve never worked with Fine Art American before but I will take a look at them 🙂

    3. Hi Madeline,
      I popped over to your website and thought your Portfolio page was a stronger landing page (home page) than the one you’re using.
      Hope you’re okay with feedback 🙂

    4. Hi Chrissy,

      I will for sure look into changing up my website if the portfolio page is a better place to start. Thank you for looking!

  9. My branding themes come from music:

    1)They call me mellow yellow(Donovan)

    2)I’m your average everyday sane psycho supergoddess (Liz Phair)

    3)Life is Messy (Garth Brooks)

    1. I see subdued, diverse, sense of place

      I think your green and mauve background colors subdue otherwise bright colors…is that your intention? Don’t be afraid to use a white background to let the paintings do their own color talking… 😉

      I would make this page your home page: and make sure to put “Cracking the Ice” in the Mother Nature section.

  10. I apologize to you Alyson. No, I do not think Biz is feminine. I do think shortening words into nonwords can be damaging. For example, always using “comp” instead of composition begins to take the real meaning and power away from an important idea and the same for “biz” when it means business.

    1. You don’t need to apologize, Kent. I value differing opinions. I shouldn’t have jumped to the conclusion.

      I try to use “business” as much as I can in writing.

      I get your point.

  11. This is such an awesome discussion. I am very new to painting, having created a small, online garden art business for the past several years. Painting is always something I wanted to try and finally at the age of 55 I said why not?

    The three words I think describe my brand are whimsical, bold and colorful. Would love to hear what everyone thinks.

    Thank you,

  12. Hello Alyson and all!
    First of all @MaryMirabal I think you hit the nail right on the head with your three words. Great job!
    Alyson I know you must be over ArtBiz coach and all but honestly that is what attracted me to follow you in the first place. It was non-intimidating and I knew pretty much, right away, that this was for me. As creative folks we all are continuing to want to change and make better. A better brush, a better brush stroke, a better paint to make all that happen etc. You get the idea. I like what you have but I am sure you could have a new play on words and keep the ArtBiz etc. You have plenty of people who can help. Personally, I am never please with my “brand” the way I present my business so I wonder if other people find it becoming? Have I rattled on enough? I too would love feedback. My three words have been plain and simple– mosaic-art-jewelry

    1. Thanks Theresa Grillo Laird! I DO really like those 3 words….as a description of how I paint & how I (want to) live!! (wheels are spinning now – how I will incorporate this into my brand….smiling at the thought of this!!) Thank YOU!!!!

  13. Michelle Twohig, many thanks for your imput although i have to admit, ‘Subdued’ i didnt like much. I certainly wouldnt use it to market my art work. I suppose that critism is never easy to accept gracefully, but i am comforted with the thought that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Yes my background colours come from the heart and depicts what i see.
    However, i may use subtle, and diverse( as you suggested) so just need a third one!
    Phil Kendall…nice to come across you again!

  14. Michelle twohig….i am re reading your imput and i think i may have misunderstood you. Were you talking about the background of my web page or of my paintings?

    1. Jane Coopee, I wondered if maybe that was the misunderstanding…I wasn’t critiquing your art. I was only talking about the effect your website background colors were having on your art for me, not your art itself. The light mauve and green subdued the impact of the colors in your art. The bolder you want your art colors to appear, the more contrast you’ll need between it and your background colors.

      Everyone…The combined effect of our art and the way we promote it is our brand, not just our art. This combined effect is what I’ve been choosing three words to describe. In case anyone else was wondering. 😉

  15. Branding I think especially in today’s online environment is important if you want to market and promote your business I know, but I am still not completely comfortable with it, though I have been doing it just the same. Words are limiting somewhat to me because a brand feels like a label which can be misconstrued,judged, and fixed, which maybe can lead to stagnancy.
    I am somewhat hesitant to take ‘branding’ too serious because I am an every changing person. So that said, perhaps change would be at least one of the words I would use to describe my ‘brand’.

  16. Hi Alyson Stanfield….I really like the name Art Biz….it’s an established brand …and that takes a long time to build!! So in my head, when I hear the term…or see it in print, etc. my brain recalls the name “Alyson”…(and eventually remembered your whole name, “Alyson Stanfield”…and my brain remembers the crisp graphic design of the cover of your book. Building that memory response in people takes years! I don’t think I’d want to change that. It’s basic…and easy for people to remember & understand what you do. When you did add the Art Biz Blog term…I was confused at first..but figured…it was like a ‘subheader’ under the “Art Biz”. In my head…I mentally understood the “Art Biz Coach” to be YOU & visualized YOU/your photo to be that person. So all the other sub-headers, like Art Biz Makeover, Art Biz Around the World, etc…. are just that…new things that you offer under your established brand Art Biz. Sort of like Coke/Coca Cola: CC Classic, Coke Zero, etc (and I don’t even drink the stuff but it’s a solid brand). So You Are Solid- woman!! I think your brand is well-established. When I see that term, I visual all those things- your book, your photo, your blog – and all that you do to communicate with & help artists get their act together! hmm, and now I’m thinking I want to establish this sort of mental imagery so that when people hear “Roxanne Steed Fine Art” – they’ll think of these florals, Ireland scenes, France scenes, landscapes…and feel Airy, Fresh, and Crisp… when they think of it. Wow.. good food for thought here. (now I’m thinking of ways I want to do this!?!)

    1. I agree with Roxanne 100%, Alyson! (just coming to this discussion). I often refer artists to the resources you offer. I mention your name, but Art Biz is the easiest thing for them to remember to Google. You’ve done a fabulous job of branding from my standpoint.

  17. I would welcome responses that provide three words describing my art based on what you see on my website:

    Regarding ArtBiz, I think the previous comments all provide valuable input about the brand. At the end of the day, the brand impression is from the perspective of the viewer, so the impression expressed here reflect how the brand is perceived. Much like our art, the way I perceive my work and the way a viewer perceives it may not be the same (thus the challenges many artists have with naming pieces, especially abstract work.) When discussing branding I often use the phrase “N=1” when giving my perception of a brand because I am just one of the many who respond the brand and so my impression is only a small part of the total set of impressions that make a brand. The key here is that it is the viewers impression that matters when talking in terms of a brand.

    That said, I’ll add that I don’t perceive ArtBiz as too feminine. I do view it as a bit casual versus using the more serious term “business”, but I happen to think this is a good thing because it is consistent with positioning the business as being approachable to those who may be sensitive to being too business -like. Lastly, the brand has worked well for many years and built a following – don’t change it unless your underlying reason for being has changed. If you need to add some excitement to energize the brand (‘refreshing the brand’ in marketer lingo) look for subtle ways to add new layers the way the brand is presented. Maybe bringing in your first name is a good way to do that, but I would suggest not changing the core brand name from ArtBiz. As I’ve said above, I’ll caveat all this with N=1, this is just one point of view.

    Comments about the three word on my art from my website are invited. Thanks!

    1. Mark, for me, evocative, layered, and meaning are the three words that describe the combination of your art and the site you’ve created to promote it. I don’t separate them when I think of brand.

      I think telling the stories behind our art determine the depth of engagement people can have with it, and I like that you make that point with your top testimonial and the stories about your art in your blog!

      I wish your blog was easier to read however…reversed out type is difficult enough to read on a solid background, but even harder on a background that varies the contrast with it. Does Weebly give you another bkgrd choice for the blog portion?

  18. Totally general comment:

    So I think that when I see the art in a nice size right on the front page when I lad on a website is very stunning & beautiful…

    It also saves me the trouble of looking for it-it’s the first thing I look for…(2nd is a blog, 3rd is usually the store if there is one, if I get that far it means I want to buy something…)

    Now, I have found that search engines aren’t like me…Search engines link to words…

    So if I want to optimize for new traffic(people who don’t know me), I put the blog page as my landing page…Then my website address & blurb get listed in search results very well…

    It is not as pretty…or convenient for people…But words on the first page, especially the tons & tons of words a blog page produces, gets me eyeballs…

    Ok…(I notice alot of landing pages are pretty spare on words…)

    1. Sari, my next goal is to work on some of what you said, more text to my site. It is big in images but less so in text and the more the text stays there, the less i like it, looking forward to some editing!

  19. I’m in the middle of creating a more consistent brand for my art and displays for art festivals. This blog post comes at a great time. My artwork is of the agricultural landscapes of southern New Jersey. Three words I feel that represent my work are: relaxing, detailed, and reflective. Alyson talks about putting yourself into your brand. I also love antiques and flea marketing. I am planning on using this aspect of myself/interests in displaying my artwork and the graphics/fonts that I use. I feel my images work well with antiques/vintage images (like antiques, farms are becoming rare) All insights are appreciated.

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Your Artist Mailing List: Rethinking + Assessing

Get a transcript of episode 182 of The Art Biz (Rethinking Mailing Lists for Artists) followed by a 3-page worksheet to evaluate the overall health and usage of the 3 types of artist lists.

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