These are the underlying reasons why a customer would buy art featuring a stranger.

People are drawn to the human form in art. They can attach a story, a feeling, or a strong reaction to that person. What is happening to that person? Who are they? If you can allow your viewer to answer these questions for themselves, you are letting them in.  

To create that emotional connection, there are few elements commonly seen in popular  artwork, featuring human subjects, that we’ll go through. These will be valuable to keep in mind when you are deciding what to sell. Let’s get into it.

Customers typically prefer an obscured face

If they can’t see who it is, then the viewer can use their imagination to put any face, or even their own, onto that person. It becomes theirs. With popular artwork, the face is usually obscured, cropped out, turned away, or at most, it’s a profile.

Pisces by Jenny Liz Rome

Wildflower by taryndraws

Can’t Go On by Ellen Richardson

The subject’s pose can tell a story 

That story can really draw them in. Especially if the subject’s action leaves some mystery in there. How did they get there? What’s going to happen next? This will allow them to fill in the gaps themselves, allowing them to get in on the story too.   

Perfect Contrition (Can’t see The Moon) by Kaethe Butcher

Contra Mundum by Fyodor Pavlov

Color and emotion can outweigh the “stranger”

If the color and emotion are more of the focus than the portrait, it can outweigh seeing a recognizable face. Because emotion typically drives a customer’s purchase of art, tapping into that driving emotion could earn you that extra sale.  

Wolf Pack by yuishwedoff

Intimacy on Display by Agnes-Cecile

Let their surroundings be the focus

If the subject’s environment is bold, intriguing, mysterious, eye catching, etc, the person becomes less of the main subject and more of a supporting character. This becomes even more apparent when the person is small and most of the artwork is the environment.

Bonus Tip: This is a great place to start if you are unsure about including people in your artwork!

The Getaway by Rudy Faber

We Used to Live There by Frank Moth

Waterfall Stop by Helo Birdie

Ladies take the cake

Sorry guys, but the ladies have always been winning here. It is far more likely that your artwork featuring a woman will sell. We all love to love those ladies.  

Bath by Carlos ARL

Be Slowly by Daniel Taylor

Consider your medium

Compared to illustration and painting, photography can be a difficult medium to sell when featuring an unknown person. But don’t lose heart! All of the factors we’ve just talked about make a big difference in how sellable your photographic artwork is.

abyss of the disheartened : V by Heather Landis

For illustration and painting, you have a lot more leeway. The skill and/or the artist’s style comes into play a bit more with these mediums to engage those customers. 

Emilia by Sofia Bonati

Whether you obscure someone’s face or make the surroundings your main character, these tips should help you sell artwork featuring “strangers”. Your customers will appreciate the opportunity to connect with the emotion behind your artwork and that will invite them to make it theirs. Feel free to leave comments or questions below!