December 14, 2021

How To Treat Your Content Like You Are An Artist. What’s Your Canvas?

Heart Of The Artist

Over the weekend we sat down and watched a documentary about an artist. His name is J.R., and he takes photographs and makes them larger than life. He did a mural on the U.S.-Mexico border, he did a mural inside of a prison, and he did a mural in Brazil, in the hills above Rio de Janeiro. It was so interesting. The bottom line is he's confronting prejudice and he's using this tool of art to make a difference in the world. His art is just stunning and visionary.

The same kind of thing happened the other day in my house. We're getting our house painted after 20 years. We had faux paint up in almost the whole first floor. And as I was watching the painter  stand there and work on my wall, I thought, “He's making art.”

He would go and paint over the wall, then he would look for flaws, then he would start patching them, and then he would dry the patch with a hand dryer and paint over it. Finally, he would look at it again and keep working it until he saw perfection.

I walked up to him and I said, “John, you realize you're an artist.” He goes, “Oh, I'm no artist.” And I said, “No, no, you are. You just happen to paint with monochrome.” And he said to me, “I've never really thought about it that way, but you know what? You're right.”

The Content Canvas

That started to get me thinking about all the people that I work with, all of the different contractors, people that do audio, video, print, photography, social media, and I thought, “You know what? Every single one of those people is an artist.”

When I started thinking about content creation, I came up with four core questions. What is your audience goal? What is the medium that you use? And what is the canvas that you're painting on? And how do you want it to affect people?

When I look at the different tools that we're using to create content for the world, I broke it down into a handful of different categories.

Print & Text

The first one is print and text. I think the audience's goal with that is to kind of tickle the imagination. The media that these people use are words and sentences and paragraphs, and they could be very powerful. And the canvas that they're using with this is web pages and blogs and books and print and more. I think the ultimate result with this is to try to educate and inform people in a way that sticks with them.

Graphics and Photography

The next type of media that somebody paints with is graphics and photography. The audience is people's eyes, you're trying to get them to see something inside of the art that you're creating. The medium is still images or graphics, and the canvas that these people are using are photos and composite images, and print. And the end result with all of this is to stir emotion, to get people to ask more or ask why.


The next tool, which is something I'm very fond of, is audio. The audience's goal is to get inside of the ears of these people. The medium that we use is sound, which includes music and voice, and effects. And the canvas that is being used for audio could be podcasts or it could be videos or radio or even public speeches. The end result that we're trying to achieve is the theater of the mind, to take somebody from one location or one thought concept and put them in another one.


The next type builds on that, and that's video. The audience's goal is to use their eyes and their ears and can include graphics and photography and audio, so it's taking all of those and synthesizing them. The audience's goal is their eyes and their ears. And sometimes you may reach both or one or the other. The medium for that is video and visuals and sound and music and sound effects and voice.

There are so many different components that you have to blend together into that final art piece. And the canvas can be videos, social media, webinars, or pieces of a presentation that are used to get a point across. It can be put up on YouTube or it could be shown on a big screen. But the concept is the full immersion of both eyes and ears. And the result is you can get people to think and learn through infotainment just like we did with that documentary I talked about.

Social Media

The next tool I want to talk about is social media. Now, social media is kind of a combination of all of the above. Generally speaking, you're competing for people's attention so you have to do something to get them to stop when they're scrolling through a newsfeed or pay attention in one way, shape, or form. The audience's goal really is the eyes, you want to get something to grab their attention. You may not have the sound turned on, but it doesn't necessarily mean you can't use video.

The medium is a news feed. When somebody goes into a social media platform and they're scrolling, that is the medium that you're working within. And the canvas can be all of those things, it can be audio and video and images and text. But the key thing you have to do is have an image that makes people stop, look, think, and maybe click or engage. The results that you're trying to get across is to get people to stop, take notice, and engage with that content.


The final piece of this puzzle is what I like to call data. The audience goal for this is to get inside of the minds of the data and make it something that's tangible and actionable. The medium that we're using is numbers and data. And what we're doing is we're converting that into spreadsheets and charts and reports, we're trying to take that raw data and turn it into something that gives it meaning. The result of this is to turn that data into information that promotes insight and action.

Final Thoughts

The question I have for you today is: have you ever thought of what you do as art? What is the audience goal? Do you want them to stop and reflect? Do you want them to think and take action? How are you getting your information into their purview? Whether it's through their ears, their eyes, through touch, through any of the senses.

The next thing is: what medium are you using? If you are an artist with a true canvas, maybe you're using watercolor or oil-based paints, but what is the medium that you're using to produce this art? And then, what is the canvas? How will it be displayed? What does it look like to the end-user? And then finally, how is this going to affect your audience?

Content = Art?
How are you using your creativity to paint like an artist…
to get your messages seen, heard, consumed, and measured?

Now, the thing about that documentary and J.R. is he did everything with paper and glue, it was never meant to be forever. But, he knew to capture it in photographs, video, and text, to preserve it for the world to see.

I would love to hear your thoughts on treating your content like art. Do you think of yourself as an artist? Comment below and share your thoughts, ideas, or questions about using your creativity to create art from your content.

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