First Step for Artists – Clearly Define your Mission


Where do artists stumble most?

In the very beginning of the 8-part sequential and iterative methodology that I define in my The MAKING Art Making MONEY Course.

Why? Because they want to skip the first, and THE most important, step of defining a mission.

Why? So that they can get to the second step, defining a unique value proposition.

Why are they over eager to skip this step?

A. Defining your mission is often painful and raw and it exposes how well you know yourself or how well you don’t.

B. Because we just don’t want to wait to define the value of our art because we want sales, damn it!  Who doesn’t?

But a business only makes money if it offers value in service to a target market. 

“’Business.’ I thought we where talking about ‘artists’?” Yes. Business.

If you are selling your art you are indeed operating a business. If you disagree with me ask the IRS. They’ll confirm this fact in a hurry.

Offering value for payment is a universal economic law so I am stating the obvious.

The not so obvious rub for most artists is that do not know how to define, and therefore how to articulate, their unique value proposition.

“I create unique beauty” does not make a unique value proposition.

AND artists often get the value they create mixed up with their self worth. Ugh!

Artists also do not realize that in order to compete in an over saturated art market they MUST create unique value above and beyond their art.

However, most artists have no idea where to start in the process of defining a unique value proposition because they have not yet defined their mission.

Let me share a few examples of hope.

These are artists who have worked with to help define their mission and the resulting unique value proposition.

1.) Colleen Attara’s mission is to artistically transform discarded materials, lessoning the impact on our natural environment while simultaneously transforming our emotional environments.

Her unique value proposition is through strategic partnerships she reclaims what others no longer see value in, “garbage,” and she reshapes it into inspiring hand-scripted words of hope and joy. 

2.) During her MAKING Art Making MONEY course Jenny McGee found her inspiring personal mission and shortly after we defined her unique value proposition.

Jenny’s mission is to help people express their love for one another through her art.

Her unique value proposition is that she sits down with her patrons to help them create a “love list,” the specific reasons that they love someone.

3.)  Memphis based artist Kate Bradley has a mission to help families celebrate their relationships by honoring their children.

Her unique value proposition is that she specializes in painting portraits of children and capturing their essence in the context of their interests and personality by actually getting to know her subjects.

If you think that that the examples above are just about a bunch of snappy copy or simple poetic language, think again.

Each is an authentic and deeply meaningful example of which each artist has devoted their life to.

So sarcastic skeptics. Step aside.

Isn’t what they describe so much more compelling than the rambling and self-involved artist’s statements that are often too painful to read?

See. It’s possible.

But you do have to follow a certain logical sequence.

You can’t skip a step. Particularly the first one. First define your mission.

Know who you are and what you stand for.

Artists are thought leaders. What thoughts are you willing to lead with? What could you devote your life to?

You can’t put the cherry on top of the cake without mixing the batter, or before that, preheating the oven.

I’ve heard from so many exhausted and frustrated artists from all over the globe who have been doing just that for years and years.

The sad thing is, it’s not necessary!

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  1. says

    I was really excited to read this, especially given how I struggled to describe “what I do” aside from “I make art” which is so blase and non-descriptive. The word “mission” is powerful in this context though. And relating it to the unique value proposition = genius.

    My artistic mission: To create more beauty in the world than I find and encourage mindfulness of the energetic impact our possessions (and decisions about them) have on us.

    My unique value proposition: I create spiritual art that is energetically aligned to you (& the energy you want to cultivate in your life).

  2. Kaye says

    Thanks Ann, this is very helpful for me. I loved seeing the artists you’ve coached on the creativelive class, and the image of the girl with the avatar of her ideal customer with child (the one vacationing in Florida) will probably be in my mind for the rest of my life, so endearing. I have done work to find my core values in life, and I have an idea for my unique mission, what resonates with me. So I’m sitting with these pieces, and my artwork, to see what emerges. You do have to “go deep,” as you say, but I do believe that is necessary to create a genuine message and value in today’s marketplace.

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