Art That Tells Your Story: How to Select Pieces That Resonate with Your Life

Posted by Craig Wesley on

I think a lot of us are influenced so much by social media or even traditional media, such as television, that we get caught up in a certain aesthetic that is maybe friendly for Instagram or TikTok, but that we have no real connection with. Don't get me wrong, I have some art in the house that I received from my dad that looks fantastic in our space and fits it perfectly, but I also have no problem selling it off to the highest bidder in the future. That's because I have no real emotional connection to them and they're just fitting an interior design.

As a graphic artist, I've found that I can create something completely original from the darkest recesses of my mind and not sell a single print of that work. Meanwhile, when I create something, such as my Fox Theater Oakland Print, it keeps selling year after year because more and more people develop a connection to that music venue. I created that print for the same reason, I have been to so many great shows there and, while being relatively new, is now a staple of the Oakland/East Bay California culture.

In this day and age where everything is online, one would be surprised to learn that most of my sales happen in person with customers right on my mom's porch. The benefit of this is that I usually get to have a nice five minute conversation (I've actually had an hours long conversation with some) with many of those buying my prints. And I can tell you one thing, it's very rare that I hear people choose something only because it fits the aesthetic of the room they are decorating. Almost all of the time, it's because it invokes a positive memory that simply makes them happy.

I recently sold my San Francisco Bay Bridge & Harrison St print to a family who literally lives right at the location where the artwork is inspired from. Some might find it odd to want artwork of a scene they see daily, but for this family, it symbolizes their love and pride for their neighborhood, illustrating a profound connection.

In a different lifetime, I use to sell fast fashion, similar to Forever 21. It was only until years later did I realize how disposable the clothes were. While fortunately I don't think much art goes into the landfills as clothing, I think emotionally disposable artwork is also a tragedy. Artwork chosen because it fits a certain aesthetic or artwork that happens to be the right color, to me that's emotionally disposable art. Unfortunately, when I look at platforms like Etsy, I feel a lot of the best sellers, which many are mass printed in China, are filling only aesthetic needs.

When you choose your next piece of art, I really hope you don't approach it from the view of "I need to fill this wall with something that matches this paint color." Rather, I hope you reflect and think what are some memories that result in positive thoughts. Was it a trip to Yosemite or New York City. Is it a love for music or food. Is it a love for animals or nature. Is there a certain era of art (impressionism, pop art, street art) that makes you fantasize about a different world.

The possibilities of finding something you connect with are endless so while I know it's tempting try and choose something that simply "fits" a room, I will always suggest people to choose something that they feel connected to.

For my part, I'm greeted daily by a large print of one of my blue bulls as I work. This piece holds a special place in my heart and kitchen – it's a constant reminder of my love for animals and my commitment to a meat-free lifestyle. As someone of Chinese heritage, this artwork also resonates with me because of its significance in Chinese Feng Shui, symbolizing strength and stability. Moreover, it bears a personal milestone: this blue bull was the first 24 x 32" print I sold as a professional graphic artist, marking the start of my journey in this field. It's more than just a print; it's a collage of my values, heritage, and professional achievements.


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