Let's Be Nice Artists... The Importance of Welcoming Interested Onlookers..

This week's post is all about doing art outside and working Plein air - a spectator's view.

Do you find it hard to chat to people?  Dislike being to be disturbed when painting, drawing or making new work?  I understand.  Below are some hints and tips for engaging in conversation when people show interest in what you are doing.

How To Be A Nice Artist.

Last month I went to Norwich with my children.  We had a cracking day, not too sure what the children preferred, walking around a beautiful city or hopping on the bus for the park & ride - whichever it was, it was a wonderful day.  We wondered around popping in shops, collecting those pre-teen knick-knacks that children love to collect when they have holiday money (whoever dreamt up strawberry smelling-stationary must be a gazillionaire now - how much?!) and the obligatory eating of ice creams occurred as we spent our time mooching.

We came across a beautiful market place, the sun was shining and people were smiling.  The children saw an artist in situ with an easel and a beautiful pop-up table full to the brim of pastels as he drew the flower stand at the market.  As children will do, they snuck behind the artist to peer at his work and compliment him on his beautiful drawing, it was indeed beautiful. Congratulating him enormously, they enquired if he sold his work as he live-painted to passing onlookers - he snappily replied that he "only sold his work via galleries" and "never to the general public".  No smile, no interest in us and off we went feeling a little bit silly for talking to him.  

I thought about this over the course of the day, the children had forgotten it almost immediately but it rather stuck in my teeth.   There are two sides, of course - the artist needs quiet to produce his/her work and working outside get's us closer to our subject.  It's lovely to see creatives working plein air - outside studying live moving subjects.  Most people (well mainly us Brits) realise that what we are seeing is a working artist and will leave well alone, but when an onlooker is moved to engage with the artist wouldn't it be nice to receive a smile and a thank you for those comments?  If you really don't want to be disturbed, there are very real signals that you can use -  you might think about having a small sign saying 'artist at work, please don't disturb but do feel free to have a look' or perhaps you might wear some earphones?! You don't have to have your earphones switched on if you don't want to,  but might they send the signal that you really don't want to chat?  

Engaging with people that are interested in what you are doing can bring much good feeling and perhaps even sales.   I would encourage any artist that is considering working somewhere public to enjoy the interest of the onlooker, perhaps even have some business cards to hand too.  In our game, we never know who that next purchaser of our work is.  We are our business and a smile and a handshake never did anyone any harm - although I do get the other side of the coin too.

So, that day solidified one thing for me.  For a while now I've been thinking of running a 'Pitch Up & Paint With Me' day or two.  Put simply these are days where I will be setting up my easel, my paints and a canvas to work outside in this glorious sunshine (I'm a fair-weather painter I'm afraid) and besides my own easel, I'm going to set up another two or three stations and invite onlookers to come and paint alongside me. No money will be exchanged and no teaching offered - just the chance for my fellow passers-by to get creative too.  My hope for doing this is that my unexpected participant will return home and dig out their old box of watercolours that have been dry for years -  a dormant hobby might be born again.  Sounds idealistic, it is, simple, yes, engaging, hopefully.

Have you ever worked outside plein air?  I'd love to hear about it.

Best, Samantha

Ps.  My 'Pitch Up & Paint With Me' event is here.  

Tags.  Plein air painting, artist working outside, pitch up and paint with me, samantha barnes artist, the art retreat, painting outside, drawing in situ, artists chat, solo creative, artist blog.

Keyworks, Plein air painting, painting outdoors, Artist.