Is There Anything Oil Painters Can Learn From Apple?

"The Birds And The Bees" by Craig Shillam

"The Birds And The Bees" by Craig Shillam

Is there anything oil painters can learn from a big fortune 500 company like the Apple Corporation? Everybody knows that Apple supplies the world with millions of high quality and much sought after tech gadgets. Oil painters in most cases create individual, one of a kind works that we hope someone would love as much as they love their iphone. Is there any possible way oil painters could learn a thing or two from a tech giant? Could there be anything that Apple does in their business attitudes and practices that oil painters might benefit from ? It wouldn’t hurt to look, would it?

Can Oil Painters Learn from Apple?

1. Everything starts with a great product. Take the ipod for example. I think it’s a great product. A great product has the power to make a name, or a brand. Once you build the brand, it is easier to present your new products. It doesn’t happen overnight, in fact it may take years. Could we change out the word “product” for painting here? The oil painters you and I admire most didn’t paint their best stuff while they were still wet behind the ears. They put in the time right? They painted quality paintings over a period of time and built up their skills and their name/brand. An oil painters name can be compared to a brand. Your name, or your brand, is a precious asset, be sure and treasure it just as a fortune 500 company would.

2. Turn something ordinary into something beautiful. A cell phone, a music player and a tablet are usually not something that comes to mind when we think of beautiful. Neither is an old, aging building, a fence, rocks, or plenty of other things. But in the hands of a person with vision, or an exceptional painter, or both, common everyday items can become so much more than ordinary. They can be made to be extraordinary.

3. Ignore the Critics. Apple has been criticized plenty of times, as most large corporation have. Most people don’t realize that the ipod was a flop for about the first three years. But they continued with their vision to build the products they wanted to build the way they want to build them. Most oil painters face criticism at one point or another. In fact if you haven’t, you probably need to try harder. But how oil painters respond to the criticism is what matters. If you want to paint juggling elephants en plein air, do it! Who is anyone to say otherwise? Realism, impressionism, cubism, criticism. Learn from criticism, don’t bow down to it. What if Apple had given up on the ipod?

4.Communicate in the language of your audience. Apple doesn’t go out of their way to tell us about all the tech specs in their gadgets. They tell us about the clarity of the screen, the speed, the design, what this great product will do for us. They tell us about the benefits. I am of the opinion that oil painters should do that as well. Tell your collectors or gallery reps about the benefits of your work. Stories, awards, travels, what makes the piece special, and so on. Build it up a little bit. Help them relate more to you and your work. What you tell people about your work is what they will tell others, so give them plenty of benefits instead the technical or instead of nothing at all. I don’t know about you, but I have found that no matter how unimpressed I am with my own work, someone else finds it fascinating.

5. Justify the Price. Apple products are not cheap, and they seldom if ever go on sale. Yet, millions of people including my wife have just got to have an iphone. How do they do that? First of all they build products that their audience loves passionately. The use of premium materials, the design, the quality of the experience and the immense personal value that people feel while using those products. Benefits. Their products also come with extras, and they don’t provide a low-end option. Can we as oil painters figure out a way to incorporate some of this attitude into our work?

6. Extend the Experience. Call it a presentation, an unveiling, a reveal, unboxing, whatever you want. But hundreds of people have even filmed themselves opening their new Apple gadget box and thrown it up on YouTube. The opening of the box is that big of a deal. An experienced framer told me several times how he would sometimes “present” art to the client. He would wrap it in paper, then take his time and unwrap it in front of the buyer, talk about the art, and build up the whole thing to make the art and person feel special, with great results. He didn’t do this all the time, but he did work me a couple of times, and it was the anticipation and the expectation that I felt that makes me remember the experience fondly.

7. Build your Tribe/Find your people. Apple has their very large and engaged tribe and it continues to grow. Oil Painters can have a tribe too. Your tribe are those people who accept you for who you are and want the best for you. They support you and encourage you to pursue your dreams. Your tribe can be friends, family, artists, collectors and whoever else might drive you to make full use of your talents and abilities. Listen to your inner voice and trust your instincts, and find your people. Oil Painters of America might be one place to start…

8. Become the Name. Most people don’t ask for an Apple for their birthday. They ask for an ipod, ipad, or an iphone. But when you say those names, everyone knows who makes them. Maybe if we keep painting and build our tribe, one day someone will want more than a painting, they will want a you hanging in their collection.I don’t necessarily want a painting of Italy hanging in my living room, iwant a Hulings.

Thank You Oil Painters

Thank you oil painters for inspiring me and teaching me through your work and your words. It is my honor to have this post on OPA. This was not meant to be an advertisement for Apple, they don’t need any help from me. In fact, my phone is a droid. But if there is even one thing to learn from the attitudes and ideas of a company that has had such an impact on our world, why not?

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  • elizabethwhelan

    Excellent overview! And the benefits, not features, concept is a good one to bear in mind. Thanks for a thought-provoking piece.

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