Speaking About Your Work

Something I’ve noticed is that many artists seem to have a hard time talking about themselves or their work. How you communicate will affect the perceived value of what you are presenting. Some people probably want to be humble, but if you down play what you do then others will be less inclined to look at or appreciate what you’re offering. I understand, I’ve struggled with this as well.

If you’d like people to appreciate your work, skim over the following article with a mind towards your project and then we’ll talk about how to apply the main points.

How to Speak Proudly About Your Work

Okay, back? Good. Let’s break this down.

Your Work Is Important: Act Like It

The first point the author brings up is “Define and Reflect”. What about your work is important? Wait! I hear you already: “I’m just an artist. My work isn’t important. I suck compared to [Big Name Artist].”

That attitude isn’t going to cut it here. That’s a bunch of garbage that society, friends, and your parents tell you because they don’t know that art is a real job and that many people make a living off it. Their intentions are probably good, but you’re going to face competition and struggle no matter what field you go into. Have you ever enjoyed someone else’s art, writing, film, or other creative work? Of course you have. Art is involved in everything. It IS important.

Now, what is important about your work? Why do you feel you need to tell this story? Does it come from a perspective that you feel is lacking in most stories? Do you have experience with a key aspect of the story? Is it just fun? Do you need to verbalize (or otherwise communicate) the ideas in your head to help process them? Maybe other people need to process similar feelings too.

For example, with my own work, I feel that Discover Comics fills a void in the online comics world, providing a place for readers and creators to find links and information specifically aimed at online comics where many other webcomic related sites often disappear and/or are abandoned.

You don’t have to boast and say you’re the best, but make it clear that you know what it is you want to do and that you are working toward that goal. If you’re not sure what that goal is, then figure one out so that you have a direction to take the conversation in. Just don’t depreciate yourself because your audience will follow your lead.

No Goals? Retcon

The second point that the author addresses is to “Collect Your Small Successes”. You might be tempted to say that you’re just stumbling through your work blindly and that you didn’t set any goals for yourself. Well, that’s fine. You can now look back at the path you’ve taken and figure out what your hidden goals may have been if they weren’t there before.

As an artist it’s all too easy to see the flaws in our work, but you want to ignore that here. Maybe you really struggle with drawings hands. Maybe your hands still look horrible in your opinion, but if you realized that it was a weak point and your drawing has improved some since you started drawing hands, that’s a success. You might say that you actively analyze your work, (which you have, because you realized that your hands suck) and you make progress towards improving those areas of your work. (Even if you’re not happy with the speed of your progress.) Minor success!

Perhaps you had work rejected from some projects. Sure, it’s not great that you didn’t get accepted, but the fact that you finished several works to be submitted in the first place is a success! “I completed X number of illustrations in the past three months!” The fact that they were rejected is not necessarily relevant. You’re showing that you can set a goal and meet a deadline and that can be valuable in itself. At the very least, the fact that you completed X works will probably peak someone’s curiosity more than saying your work isn’t anything special.

Monkey See, Monkey Do

The third point, “Adjust Your Mindset”, is really about looking at things from a different point of view, and that’s something that we as creatives should excel at. You could say it’s also the overarching theme of all this advice. Don’t think that your audience will view your work with the same feelings you have. Give them a chance to feel something else and make up their own minds by not leading them down the same path of devaluing your worth. By showing enthusiasm for your work, your audience likely will also.

I Am Artist! Hear Me Roar!

The final point addressed, “Speak Proudly” can be challenging. It requires a shift in perspective that can be hard to pull off on the spot if you’re not used to it. Spend some time thinking about the previous sections and think about how you can present yourself more positively in advance so that you are prepared before discussing your work with others. Why is your work important? What goals are you trying to accomplish? What aspects of my work might be interesting to someone who is not a creator? How can I phrase my answers so that I sound more positive or at least don’t belittle myself?

Bonus Tip: Sarcasm Doesn’t Read Well

Literally. If you’re presenting yourself online, in text with out any voice to indicate tone, sarcasm can come off badly. People might not realize that your offhand “Oh, yeah, my work is completely lame” was a joke and just write you off.

Even if they do get that you’re joking, that kind of comment can make people think that you’re not serious about your work, and that’s not what you want. A sincere, thoughtful answer is more likely to be engaging than a quick dismissive quip. That’s not to say that you can’t be funny, just be cautious about where you’re leading people with your words.