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Brand Images 101: The Basics Every Artist Should Understand

· Artist Services,Headshots,graphic design,Support Artists

I recently co-hosted the Brush It Up workshop series with Casey Droege. We discussed organization and brushing up the presentation of your work so you can be taken seriously as an artist. It was a fantastic time and something we’ll definitely be doing again.

I was pleasantly surprised by the questions we received. So many of you are interested in taking your art and business to a self-sustaining level, but aren’t sure how to get there.
To that, Casey and I have your answer. We’re offering an hour of personal consulting on Tuesday, July 10th, 2018 at Casey’s studio on 5300 Butler Street. We’ll take a look at your resume, website, writing, or any other professional materials and give you specific feedback for your personal development.
It’s no good to reserve this spot without having your materials with you, so be sure to bring anything you’d like us to examine!

Now, on to why you’re here: learning about brand images and graphics.

It’s no secret that images are important as an artist. It’s the first thing a buyer, gallery owner, or festival juror sees when evaluating your work. You absolutely must have high quality images, ideally photographed by a pro who understands how to bring your piece to life on camera.

Clear and concise visuals are key to presenting yourself as a professional visual artist. Your graphic elements don’t need to be fancy, but they should be clean, consistent, and easy to understand. These visual components are what connect your collateral materials to your work and to you.
If you aren’t able to work with a pro yet, understanding the why, how, and what behind getting high-quality images of your work will give you a leg up over the other artists out there.
Professional-looking brand images not only document your work, but act as your currency in the art world when applying to exhibits, grants, and residencies. The quality of your graphic elements and images directly impacts your collateral materials and professional pathway.

Here’s what you need to know about brand images and the basics of how to create them so you look like you give a shit about your professional image.

There are three basic things you need to understand and present in a professional way to be taken seriously as an artist. They include: high-quality photos of your work, vector and .png or .jpg versions of your logo, and a professional headshot. No awkwardly cropped images from that one night out with your friends allowed (#NotEvenCloseToProfessional).

Photos of your Work

When you’re photographing your work, keep in mind what makes for a compelling image. “But Sam, I don’t know how to do that,” you say. It’s easy.
Think of how you’ll be using these images. Are they solo shots of your piece, intended to showcase your work for festival and/or gallery applications? Or are you trying to highlight how a potential customer would be able to use your item?
If the former: make sure your piece is lit correctly. At the very least, place your object in bright, natural light. Do not place it in direct light. This will wash out the colors and any contrast you’ll want in your image.
Speaking of contrast, make sure your background is a clean, solid color, preferably black or white so as not to detract from your artwork. Nothing is worse than creating a beautiful piece, but not doing it justice in a photo because your background dulled the colors or it was so busy, your work got lost. And, this should go without saying, but I’m going to say it anyway: if your work is dark, place it on a light background and vice versa.
If the latter: make sure your vignette properly showcases how a customer can use your piece. If it’s a work of art or a sculpture, stage the photograph so you can get a feel for the scale of the item by hanging it near an easy chair or placing it on an end table. Do you make spectacular servingware? Let’s see it on a table next to a lovely centerpiece in a dining room, like you’re about to set the table for a dinner party.
Take care that the background and other items in the photo aren’t detracting from the main focal point.
Consider how your object is intended to be used and photograph it to highlight that aspiration. Your customers will be able to see your piece in their space that much easier.


Your logo is a key branding piece. It is used on everything from your business cards to your website to your letterhead. Your logo should reflect who you are as an artist. It doesn’t have to be complicated. When in doubt, go simple.
In fact, some of the most recognizable logos are simple. Let’s take Apple, for example. For anyone who’s just now learning about Apple, welcome to 2018! Their logo is an apple, quite appropriately.
It’s a sleek graphic element of their company that encompasses Apple’s modern feel and aspirational thinking that points to the future. They’re always on the brink of bringing their consumers something better. When you use an Apple product, you are taking part in that dream of being on the cutting edge of whatever you’re doing.
Back to your logo. If you are unable to work with a designer to create your logo for you, it’s perfectly okay to use a simple font in one of your brand colors. Choose a font and a color that are easy to read yet convey some of your brand values.
If you’re an artist that works with natural elements, bring that into your logo by using earthy colors and/or a font with some natural texture. If you create sleek glassware, your logo may be an unadorned sans serif font in a crisp color.
Whatever your logo is, make sure it’s clean and then use it everywhere. You will want both a vector file and either a .png or .jpg file of it. Vectors are great for print while the other two are best used online.


When I say “Headshot,” I bet you’re thinking of a more grown-up version of a school photo: you sitting on a stool posed just so with a gray or dark blue background behind you. Yeah, that doesn’t fly here with Porter Loves Creative! Headshots don’t have to be boring and stiff; they should highlight your personality and be a continuation of your brand, just like your logo.

The sad truth is that people make a decision on whether they can trust you or not based on how you present yourself. Because a headshot is most often the first impression people have of you when you submit your work to be considered at a festival or for a grant, write a blog post, or appear on a podcast, your headshot needs to scream YOU but with a professional, I-have-my-shit-together edge.
That’s why it can’t be a cell phone picture. You can’t use something you’ve Instagrammed in the past. The quality isn’t there. And if you have a filter on it—forget it.
There are two ways to do headshots: you can have a clean background or you can have more of a “lifestyle” shot in your studio, outside in nature, or with some of your work displayed in the background.
It would be a smart idea to have both versions depending on the tone you want to set with your photo. A lifestyle shot in your studio is great for your website while a slightly clearer image is great to include with your artist statement or in an application.

Either way, I would recommend working with a pro, especially if you don’t have anyone to operate a camera for you.

This just barely scratched the surface of understanding brand images and it’s a great start. Brand Images 102 will get a bit more technical. We’ll discuss file types and principles of strong design.

Want personalized support? Reserve your 1:1 consulting session with myself and Case Droege to talk over these principles and have us critique your marketing collateral. Come with specific questions about your resume, writing, website, and other materials to receive actionable feedback that will help your professional development as an artist.

We’ll see you on Tuesday, July 10, 2018 at 5300 Butler Street! Sign up here!

The content of this post was developed in collaboration with Casey Droege Cultural Productions.

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