Montgomery Art Association

3 Easy Tips for Sharing a Story Behind a Painting

10 Jul 2021 5:53 PM | Anonymous

By Blandine Broomfield
MAA Member

Have you ever been standing next to your painting at a show and had someone say, “So tell me about your painting?” The next words that come out of your mouth could cause that person’s eyes to sparkle with interest or glaze over with boredom.

During a recent MAA webinar, Esther Choy of the Leadership Story Lab challenged participants to come up with a way to introduce their paintings as a story, like “Have you ever been in a car crash?”  The listeners lock in your story as it relates to his experience. Of course, not many of our paintings are about car crashes, and you have to concisely relate the fascinating story of what your specific art is about.

Choy felt that having a story is essential in so much of life, from resumes to art shows. She talked about a technique she called "IRS":

  • Interesting beginning: Quickly get people curious.. Tap in to a universal experience that your audience can relate to. But also make them wonder what they'll find out next.
  • Riveting middle: Keep it interesting! Add some tension, too -- that will keep their attention.
  • Satisfying end: Make sure you wrap up the story. Know how you want the person to feel in the end? Happy? Surprised? Shocked?

With the following painting in mind, I’ll now have a go at that:

Have you ever seen something on the news that made you cry? A few years ago in the Italian Alps, there was an avalanche that flattened a hotel.  I happened to see it on the news as the rescue efforts began. New to painting, I had never painted a large piece, but I was immediately consumed with the desire to depict what I saw.

However, I had recently been told in art class that one does not use people’s photos without permission and credit. Therefore, I combed through the news on the internet trying to find the little names and copyright symbols around the edges of the photographs. I discovered that CNSAS Italian Mountain and Cave Rescue Corp., as an organization had most of the attributions. I looked them up and wrote to their PR director. 

After a few weeks I received an email from Italy (just as exciting as the old days with international air mail). They graciously sent me a link to all their photos and videos on Google. And so, among other pieces, I created this. 

It shows some of the heroic efforts of a huge group of men who toiled through six-foot snows up the mountain to try to pull people out of the wreckage of the Hotel Riggopiano.

And that's my story. How did I do?


  • 16 Jul 2021 8:46 AM | Patti Connell
    I enjoyed the insight and will try your technique?
    Link  •  Reply

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