3 Ways to Get Your Creative Work Noticed – Skinny Artist

3 Ways to Get Your Creative Work Noticed

by: Angela Cross

As an artist, you’ve probably felt unappreciated at some point in your career.

Heck, even calling your art a ‘career’ might sound silly to you!

It’s a common 20th-century misconception that popularity equals value. It can feel like you just can’t build a following unless you already have one, which is a frustrating catch-22 that leads many great artists to burnout. I think that the creative community is becoming wiser and that the 21st-century artist mindset offers a more holistic approach to generating a sustainable creative career.

Your art’s value is intrinsic to itself;
not defined by how much money you can make.

For example, Johann Sebastian Bach is considered one of the most important musicians in the entire history of human music making. But it wasn’t Bach that created this timeless appreciation for his work, it was another composer named Mendelsohn about 80 years after Bach’s death. So, was Bach’s music less valuable when he was alive, then after his death because it became more popular?

His music had nothing in it that wasn’t present during his lifetime, but Mendelsohn’s public performances of Bach’s work throughout Germany, coupled with rising nationalism, made this obscure German composer a sensation. So Bach, who was considered a fine performer, but an average composer became a larger than life musical icon that is revered hundreds of years later.

Another great example is iconic American author, Henry David Thoreau. During his life, Thoreau was an unsuccessful author having published two books that cost him more than they earned. His most famous work, Walden Pond, was written while the broke author was crashing on the poet, Ralph Waldo Emerson’s woodland property.

Again, we have an example of great art not meeting the public in a way that created success for the artist. Though Thoreau didn’t get to enjoy this fact in his lifetime, Walden Pond is now a quintessential piece of American literature. Examples like this abound in history with creative artists like Van Gogh, Kafka, Vermeer, and Edgar Allen Poe– all unappreciated during their lifetime.

So, you see, your art is valuable whether or not it’s paying rent. So, it is very important to start any public outreach effort by having a sense of appreciation for your own work, and not feeling small or unworthy because your paintings haven’t sold yet.

To get your work out there, and actually start selling, here are 3 often forgotten ways to start generating authentically engaged fans.

#1. Give Artistic Tithe

Have you heard of tithing? Maybe you tithe 10% of your income to your favorite charity or your church. Tithing is a beautiful spiritual, and emotional practice of generosity.give

As an artist, you might put more money into your art than your art puts into you. To change this pattern, begin an artistic tithe. Think about how many people you could reach, if you gave 10% of your creative work as a gift to worthy organizations.

I’m not talking about posting on Facebook that you’re giving away a free print… your art is never free; it always costs you time and energy. So, think about people and organizations that could really benefit from your talent, and make it a point to give at least 10% of your creative work, and/or time.

#2. Become a Fan

When it comes to online promotion, everybody is talking, and fewer people are listening. By becoming a great fan for other artists, you naturally learn to make content that is easy for people to relate to and interact with. Also, try to learn about as many less prominent artists as possible.

be a fanIt’s easy to be a fan of Alex Grey or Dolly Parton–their superstardom has a life of its own, and being a fan pulls you into something much bigger than yourself. What could happen if that energy of ‘fandom’ went into newer, unknown artists?

What if more artists made it a point to discover, support, and fall in love with other up and coming creators? Not only will you likely gain fans, collaborations, and gratitude- but also, you’ll also probably learn something new. Never underestimate what a small purchase or a few words of encouragement can mean to an artist, musician, or writer who is just getting started.

#3. Distinguish your Art from your Product

Your art and your product are not the same thing! Some of the most poignant, and remarkable artwork that exists right now generates no money and is virtually unknown.

Great art is its own excuse for being, but process not productit’s also important to be able to put food on the table. This is why you must take the time to distinguish your art from your product.

For instance, I can write a song that is beautiful and touching, but it’s not a product until I format it for fan sales by distributing through channels like iTunes. Something beautiful, or eye catching isn’t what drives sales. In order to have people ‘get’ your art, you must spend time thinking about your audience, and their wants and needs.

It sounds simple, but it can be a long-term commitment to get it right.

“If eyes were made for seeing, then beauty is its own excuse for being.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

Most people are stretched thin living busy lives and usually reserve their time, energy, and money to a few key things. Your music may be amazing, but why should someone buy it? What do their lives look like, and how can your graphic novel fit into their values, habits, and desires?

As technology expands, artists have more tools to format their creative work in a way that will directly impact other people’s lives in a positive way. Ask yourself a few key questions (listed below) and brainstorm with a friend—chances are you will find some creative ideas that may surprise you.

Five questions to help you discover your fan-base:

  • How would you describe your art to someone who has never seen/heard/read it?
  • What kind of person might be attracted to the above description?
  • Think of problems, habits, rituals, and values that these people might have.
  • What product(s) could solve, or ease that problem?
  • What opportunities and tools are available to you, and how can they help you reach your audience?

Also, be bold in asking other people for advice, and opinions about the questions above. The more assumptions you make, the more likely you are to miss your target audience.

Of course, these 3 tips will not help you generate appreciation around your art if you’re not growing as a human being, and expanding your public profile through consistent outreach. Usually, artists slack on this because they feel discouraged by the lack of fan engagement. So, if you feel like nobody cares about what you create–you’re wrong. You just haven’t found your audience yet.

There are 7 billion people on the planet; the odds are in your favor that there are at least a few thousand people that will be moved by what you do. Your responsibility is to think about their needs and communicate your art in such a way that your fans and potential collaborators can find you.

Of course, there’s so much more to converting strangers to fans, and fans to patrons- but these 3 ideas have gotten me from square 1 to… whatever square I’m on now!

What have I missed?

As an independent musician, I could really benefit from your input. How do you generate fans? Have you had any particularly successful social media strategies? Are there certain things you do to keep your work relevant to the public? Please share with us in the comments below!

You can do it, never give up and remember that appreciation of your work starts with you.

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About the Author

Angela Cross is an audio alchemist, a painter of sounds, and a lover of life. She also plays most instruments you've heard of a handful you haven't, and also produces digital soundscapes from her solar-powered studio deep in the Pacific Northwest countryside. She often collaborates with producers and artists around the world, as well as with her 2 giant mountain puppies, Jean-Luc and Galilea. She can be reached through the mental aether, as well as various social media channels AngelaMarieCross.com

Great article! I agree with all that was said. I never thought about the tithing thing when it comes to my art, but I like it. Not only does it give you exposure, it’s good karma and it’s important to do good in the world, even if it’s in the smallest ways. A few ideas to add: I’ve found that often quality is more important than quantity. When someone acts interested in my art, I am sure to show my gratitude. When I sell a painting, I send a handwritten thank you note, addressing them by name. Also on social media, share a little bit of your personal life. My art page on Facebook, for example, is mainly about my latest paintings, art shows, etc. But people relate to you and think of you more as a real person when you share a random thing about your daily life on occasion, like a pic of your pet or a trip you went on. Humility also goes a long way. If you are humble, people are more likely going to want to compliment what you do and help spread the word about you. I love creating the most, but I think of myself as having two jobs: one, painting and the second one is marketing. I spend a good 2-10 hours a week increasing my exposure on Facebook, Instagram, my blog, society6, Displate, etc. This has been crucial. I have now sold about 80 original paintings and many prints. Without promoting yourself, you easily get lost in the shuffle. :)


    I totally agree! There’s a psychosis that sets in when an artist starts promoting themselves, which is that we think we have to be some superstar right from the start, when actually, being yourself, and relate-able goes a long way to inspiring support.

    I also think it’s fun to see what random picture gets popular on Facebook, or Instagram. Always reminds me not to take myself too seriously.

    Congrats on your success so far! Sounds like you’re on a great path.

Great article, Angela! You’ve clearly been thoroughly exploring this area for some time, and your unique approach to it brings me encouragement, and curiosity for what’s next. That, to me, is the greatest gift to an artists.

Appreciate you and all your hard work.


    Thank you Evan! I’m really grateful that you took the time to comment, and that you found inspiration in this blog, and on this awesome site :)

    I love your sense of curiosity, and think that I get to incorporate that more into my promotional efforts… you know, transform my fear, or apprehensions into curiosity about what might work, and what could happen!

    Love it!

I definitely needed to hear something like this. The struggle for an audience is a constant one for me, especially online where EVERYBODY is looking to be heard.

The first two ways (if not, all three) boil down to the adages “it’s better to give than receive” and “what goes around comes around.” The more love you give, the more that you will get.

Thank you for sharing your insight.


    Thank you for the shout out Kathryn! I appreciate you being an engaged audience member with me ;)

    And yeah, I didn’t really think about like that, but you’re totally right, great promotion can be summed up in the Golden Rule… maybe that’s another great blog topic!

    And in regards to everybody looking to get heard, they are also all looking to hear/see/read something great, even if they don’t know it at the moment. I try to remember this, it lifts my spirits, has me think more creatively, and releases the feeling like I’m just making noise in an already chaotic world. (that’s how I feel, not saying that’s how you feel) ;)

great stuff, cheers from Costa Rica! Creator on the go!

I graduated with a BFA in Art, was going to rule the world, and then life happened. For 35 years it happened, but my watercolor tackle box never strayed far from me, always within arm’s reach, closed, dark, and dusty.

But never far. Always close.

One day in 2012 I was at the computer, looked down at the dusty blue tackle box on the side table. How did we part ways? WHY did we part ways? I opened the box and sable brushes caressed by fingers like a long lost lover, tubes of Cotman and Windsor rolled through my fingers, most still soft, and told me, we have been waiting for you. But this time, you get to do it right, and for all the right reasons. I have been painting ever since and only stopped to build a web site about the journey.

But still, there is the insecurity. The very real possibility that my work is still crap, and no one is going to notice. That nagging feeling that my time is better off sleeping (because as Carlin says, the thing about the American Dream is that you have to be asleep to believe it.)

Which brings me to my point. I never post comments on web pages. EVER. Not even ones that p**s me off. But reading this article has given me the inspiration to just keep the hell going. I have done every single one of the things in this article, and every paragraph echoes my thoughts and moods.

It really doesn’t matter if no one notices, just keep going, because you HAVE to. You really have no other choice.

Thank you.

    Thanks Bill for the kind words. I know that Angela and I really appreciate you taking the time to share them. I think that, unfortunately, your story is an all too familiar one. We begin as creators and then life gets in the way. We take a step back, not realizing at the time that the longer we are away, the more difficult it can become to return to our art. Not because our skills necessarily fall apart (although they may rust a bit) but because it gets inside our heads. All of the fears, the insecurities, that are always there, even on the best days when we are working on our art daily, begin to multiply. Before long it is easier just to stay away, then it is to venture back into unknown dark waters of our imagination. So we keep putting it off, making excuses, and justifying our inaction. Matisse was right when he said that “creativity takes courage.” Too many people think that creativity is all about talent and luck, when in fact it is often more about persistence and courage. The persistence to keep going even when no one else seems to care, and perhaps just as importantly, having the courage to start again day after day.

    Thanks again Bill for sharing your story with us and I wish you all the best on your rediscovered creative journey!

Great post! I absolutely love your 3 main ways to generate a fan base. Definitely not the typical answers and I appreciate that as I’m trying to build a fan base as well. The questions you posed about finding your target audience were also helpful. I loved that you brought up tithing. I never thought about tithing artistically but have always found that I was provided for when I tithed to my church. The provisions have not always been what I thought they would be but they’ve always been what I needed

Thanks so much for this, Angela! It’s all very helpful, especially the stuff about connecting with an audience and recognizing the difference between your art and your product.

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