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Open Studio 2005: Get Ready to Sell with Your Story

by Marco Zecchin

A few weeks ago I went to an Art Festival in the San Jose area. I enjoy art in all forms and venues but there is something about the artist/entrepreneur of these festivals that I especially enjoy. Creative gypsies roaming North America selling their art - there is something to this that piques my imagination. At this particular festival there were some very fine crafts and art presented professionally in just about every booth. Clean and uncluttered spaces giving the work, room and light so it could be seen, enjoyed and bought.

Most every booth I visited had the artist present. Out of their studios and in front of their patrons, they are all heroes to me. Putting themselves on the firing line and literally standing by their work. Some artists had spouses or significant others fielding questions or making sales for them, but many of them were there alone and engaged in getting people into their booths and interested in buying their work.

Most of these artists could speak well of their art form. Painters spoke of their painting technique, photographers of their cameras, film and prints and ceramists of their clay and glazes. But there were a few artists who spoke in terms I found more engaging and touching. These artists told stories about what inspired them to make their art or inspiring story that they saw in their art. These artists drew me into a relationship with their art and with them that was so intimate and so touching, that I wanted to stay longer and buy - and I did.

I will only speak for myself but I think most of us try to create art that communicates and elicit feelings in viewers. Inviting patrons to relate to the art, feel it, and form a relationship with it. And like all relationships some form quickly - soulmates - as if we have known them all our lives and others needing time and interaction in order to become friends. Most relationships fall into the latter grouping. The ability of these artists to open themselves up, explore and explain the feelings their work conveyed was compelling to me. They opened a relationship with their art and themselves that I would never have had without their engagement. They made their art precious through the stories they told and the relationship we made at that moment.

One particular artist, whose work was encouraging journaling with art, had produced a couple of books to help do just that. The artist was comfortable not only talking about how she used the journaling to help her develop new ideas for artwork but through an anecdotal story, she explained how it was a wonderful activity between parents and children - A way to enrich the relationship between them. Being a parent I am a sucker for this kind of story. The story is universal, something that everyone could relate to - as a parent or as a child.

Another artist's booth had a Spartan feel, displaying etchings he had done on various themes without much fanfare. They were wonderfully presented in beautiful frames. I wandered in, nodding towards the artist for permission to view his work. Quietly I walked around taking in these beautifully crafted works of art and as I was about to leave I asked him a question about his technique. His accented voice was deep and resonant and it alone made me want to know more about him. As we spoke he told me that he was from Romania originally and that his etchings were of his homeland.

One that particularly caught my eye was a cityscape whose foreground contained an elongated tall building. He explained that it was his homage to the shipbuilding town he was from on the Black Sea and that the building was distorted to appear as the prow of a ship. His tender remembrance touched me. Two other images contained portraits that I asked him about. One was of his Grandfather who raised him on a farm and the other was a self-portrait. Both images were wonderful morphing portraits that alluded to the history and contribution of the individual depicted. He told me the stories behind these images and I felt his nostalgia. I could see the story clearly in the etchings now, where moments before I only saw very successful and compelling portraits. Starting with our nodding introduction minutes before we shook hands goodbye and I wished him luck. Luck that I sincerely hope for him - a new friend.

The last booth of the show was a display of earth toned colored prints that depicted various themes of African life. The original artwork was done in batik. These were photographed and produced en-mass as framed wall hangings and post cards. The artist was not present but his representative manned the booth. I wandered in while he was telling the story behind one of these pieces.

The story was of a man and a woman coming together in marriage. The image started as two converging paths in the distance with the joined path coming forward. The man and the woman side by side in the foreground framed the path between them growing narrow at times and widening at others. Places where, as his story described, the man or the woman had to carry the other during their walk along this path together. This man was a masterful storyteller and whether you liked the artwork or not didn't much matter. The stories were universal and well illustrated by the art. Or was the art well illustrated by the story? After he finished his third story we chatted on a personal level. He was born in Nigeria and came to college here in the United States. He was getting his degree in business when he met this artist through his Nigerian community here. Working with this artist, he discovered his talent for storytelling and they joined together in developing the business that they have today. This mans' stories inspired the artist and the artist inspired the stories - a true partnership. Each understanding the others unique talents that together made them both successful.

After a while another customer came into the booth and wanting to hear him tell the stories again, I backed away and suggested he attend them. Instead he dragged me along and engaged all of us in the booth and in front of the "marriage piece" he asked me to tell the story. Embarrassed, I muddled through it. The effect was the same on this new listener, my limping rendition not detracting from the universality of the story.

When we make art, whether we mean to or not, we are communicating something that touches us deeply. We are sharing an intimate part of ourselves hoping that it speaks to a patron in a similar way. But like most relationships it takes time and interaction to learn about each other and to trust. An engagement with our patrons may be necessary for them to understand the art and what it means. An intimate conversation allowing them to know us better. The more comfortable we are in conveying the intimate and universal stories of our art and ourselves, the more our patrons will enjoy the relationship they have with the art they buy from us and share it with others.

Marco Zecchin

Marco Zecchin is co-founder and co-instructor at marketing4artists™,a comprehensive training program that guides artists in developing their unique and compelling story, organizing their art and business plan into getting results.

SF Open Studios 2005 is (almost) here. Your art is ready. Are you? SF Open Studios is a great opportunity to get your art seen and sold. To help you make the most of this event, marketing4artists LLC is pleased to offer through MesArt, its new workshop:

"SF Open Studios 2005: Open Doors (and wallets) for Your Art!"

This 2-hour workshop focuses your creativity towards getting ready for SF Open Studios 2005. By the end of the workshop, you will have learned to:

  • Create a unique and compelling artist's statement that sells
  • Recognize who will buy, engage them and become friends
  • Get organized to get what you want

Marco Zecchin and JD Savelli have more than 40 years combined experience in marketing and fine arts. They will guide and entertain you through these two hours of creative exploration and fun.

Enjoy using your creativity to make a living from your art.

Wednesday, August 25, 2005
7 PM to 9:00 PM
Market Street Gallery

MesArt members: Free
Non-members: $10

To register, please contact with your name and phone number at

For more information please visit our website: or call (408) 858-4278.

We look forward to helping you have a successful SF Open Studios 2005!

Yours truly,
J.D. Savelli
Marco Zecchin
Co-Founders & Instructors

We wish all of you happiness and success!