How To Market Your Paintings & Art: The Contrast Principle | By Kerwin Blog

How To Market Your Paintings & Art: The Contrast Principle

UK artist and entrepreneur Kerwin Blackburn explores the concept of the Contrast Principle in marketing – and also how artists use contrast to make their art stand out

Perhaps the biggest, universal challenge for artists is getting their art to stand out and get noticed. It’s closely followed by the challenge of getting people to buy it. As an artist and entrepreneur myself, one guiding principle that helps me in my quest is my use of contrast.

In this article, I embark on an exploration of the captivating concept of The Contrast Principle. Unveiling the secrets behind my artistic creations and positioning of my art brand ‘By Kerwin’, I’ll discuss how my strategic use of contrast breathes life into both my paintings and the way I navigate the art market.

Robert Cialdini’s Contrast Principle, rooted in psychology, involves strategically highlighting differences to enhance perception. In marketing art, contrast can help capture attention, guide pricing strategies, and elevate brand positioning; making artworks more memorable & appealing to audiences.

Read on to learn how the Contrast Principle actually works in action, and how you can apply it to your own art. I use examples from the creation of my own unique painting style and art brand and business, ‘By Kerwin’.

What Is The Contrast Principle?

Introducing the Contrast Principle

At the core of impactful marketing lies the Contrast Principle, a potent theoretical concept introduced by Robert Cialdini in his seminal book, ‘Influence.’ This principle illuminates the human tendency to perceive and appreciate differences in stimuli, whether in size, colour, or value.

For artists and entrepreneurs alike, understanding and harnessing this psychological phenomenon can be the key to creating a lasting impression.

What is the Contrast Principle?

Robert Cialdini’s Contrast Principle, rooted in psychology, involves strategically highlighting differences to enhance perception. In marketing art, contrast can help capture attention, guide pricing strategies, and elevate brand positioning; making artworks more memorable and appealing to audiences.

The Contrast Principle, explained by Robert Cialdini in his book ‘Influence,’ taps into how our minds work. Simply put, it shows that what we see or experience is heavily influenced by what came just before it. This idea isn’t just psychology jargon – it’s a powerful tool, especially in the art creation and marketing game.

Think of it like this: If you see two artworks, one right after the other, the second one can seem more striking and memorable if it’s purposely different from the first. This principle isn’t just about psychology; it’s a game-changer for artists like me trying to stand out in a crowded art scene.

Using the Contrast Principle strategically can make art not only catch your eye but also leave a lasting impact. It goes beyond just the paintings, too; it affects how we position and price our art and products, influencing how people see and feel about it.

In the next sections, I’ll show you how I use the Contrast Principle in both the marketing strategies for my art and the actual creation of my paintings. I’ll dive into the details of how this concept shapes the way I present my art (both in person and online) and how it plays a vital role in telling the story of my brand.

So, come along as I explore the connection between how our minds work, smart marketing, and the captivating world of art.

Pop! Goes The Easel | Solo Art Exhibition by Kerwin Blackburn, Crypt Gallery Norwich November-December 2023
A By Kerwin art exhibition

Marketing in Art: Illuminating the Importance

In the vast and vibrant landscape of the art world, where each creation vies for attention, effective marketing becomes an indispensable brushstroke. It’s not merely about showcasing the beauty of a piece; it’s about crafting a narrative that captivates the audience.

The Contrast Principle, as a guiding beacon, offers artists a strategic approach to make their work stand out amidst the myriad of artistic expressions, enabling them to resonate with their audience on a deeper level.

The Use of Contrast in Marketing Strategies and Art Creations

As the artist and entrepreneur behind By Kerwin, I’ve embraced the Contrast Principle not just as a marketing theory but as a cornerstone in shaping both my marketing strategies and the very essence of my paintings.

In the upcoming sections, I’ll dive into the practical applications of contrast, exploring how it influences the positioning of my art within the market and intertwines with the intricate details of my own portrait pop art paintings.

The Contrast Principle in Marketing

The Contrast Principle is a powerful force in marketing that transcends industries, shaping consumer perceptions and influencing decision-making. Rooted in psychology, this principle highlights the human tendency to evaluate and appreciate differences in stimuli.

In marketing, it manifests in various forms, from strategic pricing to product positioning. By presenting contrasting options, marketers create a perceptual shift, making one option more appealing or valuable when compared to another. This psychological strategy is widely employed in advertising, where contrasting visuals, messaging, or pricing tiers guide consumers toward preferred choices.

The Contrast Principle not only captures attention but also enhances the perceived distinctiveness of products or services, ultimately impacting consumer behaviour across diverse markets.

Positioning and Branding in Art

In the crowded art world, standing out is crucial. I do this by intentionally placing my art in a way that makes it pop. Imagine my bold and expressive pieces showcased next to more subdued ones – they will stand out more than if displayed among other pop art works. This intentional contrast isn’t just about individual paintings; it’s about creating a unique identity for By Kerwin.

Beyond the visual appeal, contrast has much wider marketing applications too. Pricing is one key area to utilise contrast.

Guiding Buyers with Pricing Strategies using Contrast

Let’s break down how pricing isn’t just about numbers – it’s a deliberate tool to guide art enthusiasts towards their perfect choice. Applying the Contrast Principle to pricing involves more than assigning values; it’s about telling a compelling story.

Imagine a range of my artworks, each priced differently. This intentional contrast isn’t just a financial decision; it’s a way of signalling diverse levels of significance and exclusivity. By strategically placing prices in relation to each other, I guide potential buyers through a journey of perceived value. It’s about making the decision-making process smoother, where the contrast in pricing helps buyers navigate towards the piece that resonates with them the most.

Influencing Buyer Behaviour

The Contrast Principle is frequently used to guide buyers to choosing a particular product, for instance if there are different size and therefore price variations. This will typically be a ‘middle-priced’ product (i.e., not the cheapest or more expensive – there options are used as decoys to guide the buyer).

By strategically incorporating both lower-priced and higher-priced options, the Contrast Principle serves as a guide, steering buyers towards a middle option that strikes a balance between perceived value and budget considerations.

There is even wider application of the Contrast Principle beyond pricing and marketing, however. Read on below as I discuss how I use contrast within the creation of my actual paintings themselves – and how contrast is at the core of my unique Jackson Pollock-inspired pop art style.

Kerwin Blackburn exhibits his By Kerwin pop art music paintings at the Barbican Centre Conservatory in London, July 2021
By Kerwin paintings on display at the Barbican Centre, London. I love the contrast between my contemporary paintings and the natural world in the background.

The Contrast Principle in Art Creation

Making Your Art Stand Out

Being an artist goes beyond just creating; it’s about making your creations stand out in a world filled with countless artistic expressions. Enter the Contrast Principle – an effective technique to turn your art from ordinary to extraordinary.

Artists can use the contrast tool in their work, irrespective of their chosen style or medium. Whether navigating the realms of realism, abstraction, or anywhere in between as a painter,  illustrator or designer, the intentional use of contrasting shapes, colours, and stimuli within the piece can help make an artwork become more eye-catching or memorable.

By juxtaposing bold shapes against subtle ones, vibrant hues against muted tones, or chaotic stimuli against serene elements, artists craft a visual dialogue that captivates the viewer’s attention. This deliberate play of contrasts not only adds dynamism to the composition but also enhances the overall visual impact, creating artworks that linger in the viewer’s memory.

For sculptors or those working in three dimensions, the same principle of contrast applies. Areas of intricate detail can be contrasted against large, bold, expansive areas of shape. Negative or empty spaces can draw viewers into certain parts of a work, and repel them from others.

Regardless of your art style or medium, the magic lies in the intentional arrangement of these elements, where the strategic use of contrast becomes a universal language in the artist’s toolkit, ensuring that their creations resonate as eye-catching and unforgettable pieces across diverse artistic styles.

By Kerwin pop-up art exhibition at Boxpark Shoreditch, London | Kate Moss
Me exhibiting my art at Boxpark Shoreditch in London. Explore my full range of paintings and shop prints at

Contrast in Portrait Pop Art

Now, let’s dive into the vibrant world of pop art. While pop art can instinctively seem playful and filled with colour and visual elements, the creation process is usually far from random. The challenge or pop artists is to fill their works, and contrast these elements and colours with one another, in a way that brings out the narrative and soul of each piece.

Andy Warhol’s eccentric colour choices in his portraits often stand out for their unique and clashing combinations – as he uses colour to change the feeling or emotion of an artwork. Basquiat’s energetic and graffiti-style compositions feature elements that may not typically be associated – such as crowns and demonic faces – to capture the viewer’s attention.

In my own By Kerwin pop art portrait paintings, my intentional play with negative spaces and vibrant colours isn’t just a technique – it’s a storytelling device. Within my portrait compositions I’ll create striking facial contrasts and shadow effects to make my music icons instantly recognisable. I’ll also balance the Jackson Pollock-inspired ‘action painted’ areas of the canvas with empty backgrounds; drawing further attention to the portion of the canvas that has been painted on.

As we continue to explore specific paintings of mine (or pop art generally), you’ll witness first-hand how these deliberate choices transform each artwork into a visual narrative, filled with depth, emotion, and, most importantly, contrast.

Andy Warhol Pop Art
Andy Warhol pop art – this piece is full of contrasts

Fusing Jackson Pollock with Andy Warhol: My By Kerwin Painting Style

Jackson Pollock’s ‘action painting’ style has been a profound source of inspiration for me, shaping the very essence of my artistic journey. Embracing the dynamic energy inherent in Pollock’s approach, I’ve integrated the ‘action painting’ technique into my work, fusing this with an pop art portrait style, associated with the likes of Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein.

My action-painted pop art pieces are alive with a Pollock-inspired sense of movement and spontaneity. But the concept of contrast is integral to this too.

Controlled Chaos: Balancing Action and Empty Spaces in my By Kerwin Action Paintings

Ever wondered about the thought process behind balancing the lively ‘action painting’ areas with the calm embrace of empty spaces? It’s not a random decision but a calculated move to make the intricate details in my artwork pop.

Every empty space is purposefully placed within my action paintings. Far from Jackson Pollock’s own ‘all-over compositions’ (read more on his action painting style here) – I spotted there was a gap in the art market for someone who used action painting selectively within their work – and especially within a pop art portrait style. This was the ‘lightbulb moment’ that I had in early 2019 when I was planning to do a painting of The Beatles while on holiday.

The Beatles music pop art painting and poster prints | By Kerwin
My first pop art painting in my collection. I intentionally used contrast to make this Beatles portrait pop.

Splatted Paint and Clean Lines

Another feature of contrast within my paintings is my use of precise, clean lines, which neatly encapsulates the chaotic sections of splattered paint within my pieces. This use of neat lines helps my portraits to instantly catch viewers’ eyes when seen in person at my exhibitions or online.

The vast majority of pop art portrait artists tend to favour rough edges in their work – as if colours are bleeding over the edges of a subject or a spray paint cannister has sprayed over the edges of a face in their painting. My use of precise lines around my portrait faces makes my work even more unique and striking in this genre of work.

Colour Contrasts in My Work

My By Kerwin paintings use vibrant, bold and surreal (i.e. non-realistic) colours in my paintings. By presenting instantly-recognisable music icon faces, but in unique colour combinations that have not been seen before, my paintings immediately capture the eyes – and imaginations – of the viewer.

Within the different individually splattered layers of my paintings, too, I’ll use contrasting colour combinations. My use of complementary colours (which actually means colours opposite each other on the colour wheel), adds further dynamism and energy to my paintings. For instance, the orange and gold layers of Prince are commentary, and therefore contrasting, to the overall purple of the piece.

These various uses of contrasting within my paintings help capture viewer’s attention. Many of the ways that contrast piques my audience’s attention will be subconscious, too, which is interesting to consider. The human brain will simple become engaged trying to process the contrasting visual stimuli presented to it.

The Contrast Principle in the Display of My Pop Art Paintings

Beyond the creation of my By Kerwin paintings, I utilise contrast in my presentation and display of these – both in person and online. I frame all of the original paintings in simple but bold, black frames prior to exhibiting these. I also display my digital versions in black frames too – which literally help ‘frame’ the details and colours of each piece and draw viewers’ eyes in.

I also contrast black frames with white areas in my digital marketing images, too (such as in the mounts of my digital image frames. This black and white contrast helps add further pop to my work – as well as helping my vivid colour combinations stand out more, too.


In wrapping up our journey, let’s remember the main points: Contrast is like the magic wand in both art and marketing. It’s what makes art pop and helps in getting your creations noticed. Whether it’s the colours, shapes, or even drawing inspiration from greats like Jackson Pollock, intentional contrast is the secret ingredient to great art and marketing.

As we close, I want to highlight how important contrast is in making your art memorable and your marketing strategies effective. Now, here’s your invitation: Explore my online shop to see all of this in action. Every piece you find is a living example of how contrast makes things special.

Come and discover the world of By Kerwin, where every stroke and strategy is a celebration of the power of contrast. As well as the original paintings, prints of my paintings are available in different sizes – with fast worldwide delivery. Who will you choose?

In what other ways can you spot the Contrast Principle in action? What famous artworks can you recognise as containing the Contrast Principle? I’d love to hear your thoughts

Read my other blog posts about my e-commerce journey and the Business of Art in my blog section here.

By Kerwin pop art music icons montage landscape

My full range of Jackson Pollock-inspired acrylic paintings can be viewed at – the originals and prints of these are available to purchase, with worldwide delivery. You can follow my art progress on Instagram and Facebook.

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