Author's Note: This inspiring question came to me in a post that I have since been unable to find! My thanks go out to its original source.
Portraits and murals share common characteristics – both are works of art; both may be created with the use of diverse media forms; and both exist to tell a story. Of course there are major differences between these art forms, too. I’d like to explore how they serve as metaphors for the ways in which new entrepreneurs may establish the focus for their businesses.
When I think of famous portraits, I imagine the plethora of works of classic painters, such as Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, van Gogh’s Self Portrait, or one of many grand illustrations from the collection of Boston’s own, John Singleton Copley. Portraits may represent a particular time in history like the haunting daguerreotypes of soldiers from the Civil War era or Andy Warhol’s celebrity silk screens expressing the excesses of pop culture from the 1960’s and 70’s. And there are millions of other examples! By focusing on one single person or a small group of people, a portrait typically informs its viewers through a deeper, narrower study into the subject matter.
Murals, as an art form, are usually wider in scope, and size, and may contain more visual content than portraits. Murals tell a different type of narrative than portraits, having the luxury of all that extra space to give life to the story at hand. Cave art drawings are technically murals, so are urban graffiti art, as well as those larger than life killer whales breaching against the sides of that iconic storage building along Boston’s southeast expressway. Closer to my home in Amesbury, MA, muralist and restaurateur, Jon Mooers, has painted historical murals of Amesbury’s industrial past along the sides of several 1800’s-era mill buildings around town. It’s a testament to our city’s commitment to sharing the story of its carriage-building heritage that these murals have been commissioned.
So how is studying art forms connected to setting a company’s business goals? I think this comparison between portraits and murals is reflective of an entrepreneur’s decision whether to become highly specialized, with fewer services vs. offering a larger collection of professional amenities under one’s organizational roof.
I faced this same question when starting my own marketing consulting company a year ago. At first, I had fancied myself more of a portrait painter, initially intending to build a one-dimensional business around strategic media planning and buying. What I quickly realized was that smaller companies, like the ones I had been pitching for new business, often didn’t have the necessary media budget to be able to invest in a comprehensive paid advertising program. I had to look at the additional services I could provide that would meet my clients’ strategic business goals, while providing them with valuable expertise that was both accessible and flexible. To achieve my goal of maintaining healthy, sustainable and productive relationships with my clients, I needed to differentiate my services and dig deeper into my innate skill sets.
Since I am also a published writer and have a Masters degree in Education, it was a natural fit for me to pursue business in the areas of content generation, social media management, business writing, copy writing and editing. Through this process, I found the sweet spot for my company and I’m much happier and more productive than I would have been if I had stayed rigidly focused on media planning alone. Today, full-fledged paid media programs make up about 25% of my client work, and the remainder of my time is devoted to some form or another of content generation. I’ve gone from portraiture to mural painting, by necessity at first, ultimately drawing a fuller picture of the work I enjoy.
Perhaps you will find this discussion helpful as you begin the process of rendering a unique profile for your new business. Of course, basic economic factors such as market supply and demand and an awareness of your competition should always be considered before making these types of decisions. Once you have evaluated your potential for success, and you are ready to take the plunge, choosing between a portrait- or mural-based business profile is an important step towards achieving entrepreneurial satisfaction and success.