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Etiquette on talking to an artist
A note about etiquette on approaching an artist who is busy painting outdoors:
The artist is usually absorbed in her own reverie while working, and might not notice a kind and interested person who comes sneaking up from behind. It can be very startling to suddenly find someone peering over your shoulder, making comments about the work in progress. Of course, meeting this person makes for a lovely interaction, but the flow of concentration suddenly breaks and there’s a good chance it may not return for a while. Meanwhile, that ray of light disappears, the color that was mixed to perfection dries up, the ideal wetness of the paper changes, and the moment is gone.
Something else to consider is that if an artist is all by herself in the middle of the wilderness, she will get very nervous if a stranger begins to approach her.
Having said all that, if an artist chooses to paint in the middle of a busy sidewalk, what else can she expect! It’s probably best to approach in such a way that she can see you coming, and you will probably be able to tell if she is wiling to take a break. If not, you can come back an hour later when the painting is almost finished and see how it turned out.
Now, a final note. Kids are completely exempt from all this etiquette business and can interrupt, visit, comment, hang out, and generally do and say what they want. They are always welcome.
Etiquette on talking to an artist at a show
I struggle with this myself, so can only say a few things about what I enjoy when I meet people at show where I'm exhibiting.
I don't mind explaining the artwork in the most basic terms and details. I am often intrigued by what I am viewing at shows but usually too shy to ask about it. When I do summon up the courage to ask what I think are dumb questions, I am always rewarded with interesting conversation. I especially enjoy hearing people who share their own experience of making art. The more questions and curiosity the better!