The Vicarious Artist

By the end of Saturday I knew how he felt

Following on from my day helping with ‘The Build‘ of my friend Gillian’s area at The Other Art Show last week, on Saturday I went for a proper look around all the exhibitors, and then after a short break, went back, took my coat off and helped out, talking to people who paused to look more closely at Gillian’s pieces.  As I’d spent Friday with my own stumbling efforts at drawing class, I felt like I’d looked at the art market through an oddly intense prism over the three day period.

I think there are things I learnt that I have some relevance to my own efforts in the writing market, about finding your own place and presenting yourself in a coherent manner.  There are clear parallels with what was discussed at a writing forum I also attended last week, and about which I will write in another post.

First there’s the creation side; choosing your subject, the manner in which you want to explore it, and then executing it to the very best of your ability so that you communicate to the person looking at it.

With large pieces of visual art the sheer effort of transporting them to the places where people will be able to see them is enormous; wrapping them up so they don’t get damaged, carrying them yourself, in the rain, up and down steps, making sure they’re hanging straight on walls that slope.  Sending out a few Word documents pales in comparison.

And then there’s the pain and nerves of showing your creation to the world, trying to stay true to your own endeavour while hoping that it has some commercial viability, and having to accept that not everyone who sees it will like it, and, perhaps more frustratingly, that not everyone who likes it will buy it.

I’m not a natural extrovert, so when Gillian asked me if I could help her out with the stand on Saturday afternoon, while I was very happy to agree, there was a little niggling doubt sitting right on my shoulder about how I would do; how I would manage to start a conversation with a stranger about ‘art’.

On my tour of the show as a ‘normal’ visitor, I practised by having little chats with a couple of people about the work they had on display, and nothing terrible happened(!), but I could see that it’s as delicate and tricky a business as finding a helpful shop assistant, one who leaves you alone when you just want to have a quiet browse, but is there straight away when you want to find the right size.

Once I’d overcome my nerves at being left in charge while Gillian took a much needed walk around the block to get some fresh air away from the stuffy exhibition hall, I developed my own technique.  When someone paused to look more closely at the work I waited until an opportune moment to get eye contact, and then, my opening line was usually

‘Can I tell you something about the work? I’m not the artist; my friend has just gone for some air and she’ll be back soon.’

Most people then asked questions about some or all of the pieces on display.  As I know some of the thought process behind the capturing of small otherwise insignificant moments, or the juxtaposition of unexpected objects or people, I could keep a conversation going for a reasonable time.  As soon as someone who looked like they knew a thing or two about art asked me about the techniques used to produce this or that effect, I had to confess  my ignorance, other than knowing that the correct answer to is it meant to be backwards/shiny/that colour/like that….. is always a definite ‘yes’.

I wish I’d been successful in making a sale, but it wasn’t to be.  The experience did, however, make me think about how carefully we have to position ourselves as creative people in the market place……..

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4 Comments

  1. I’m sure you were the perfect art chaperone. I love the idea of you “practicing” your little chats, but I’m sure you didn’t need to. You know more than you think you do.

    Reply
    • That’s very kind of you to say so. I don’t know how you maintain your enthusiasm for all the markets that you do, I found it all rather tiring!

      Reply
      • It is tiring. By the time I’ve kept a smile on my face for a few hours and done my sales spiel a hundred times, I am ready for a big nap. When I got home yesterday at 4pm, I took 2 slices of peanut butter toast to bed and slept for 12 hours.

      • I’m not surprised. My feet ached!

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