Life Happenings * Art Chatter * Things that Matter

Showing Your Art in Public

This is me some years ago setting up. These days I have a more simple setup.

Today I wanted to write a little about the art show, i.e., showing your work in public places, and some of the things that I’ve learned over the years about that subject. With Saturday’s art show fresh in my mind I want to explain why I have found it a “good thing” to share your art efforts in a public venue. While it might not be for everyone there are reasons to participate and many ways to do so.

Last Saturday I spent the day at one of our established local art shows – the Stockade Villager’s Art Show – in Schenectady, New York. This show is outdoors in a historic and quaint location. The streets are blocked to automobile traffic and foot traffic abounds. Artists, art collectors and browsers walk about and, as a participant with a front row seat, the people watching is most enjoyable.

You’ll see singles, doubles, groups and dogs of every variety. There are tee shirts with slogans (some most interesting), purple hair and flashy clothes; the world is full of unique and wonderful people. By participating in events like these you have a chance to share ideas, chat with some nice people, absorb inspiration and join a community of creative people. Heck, maybe you’ll even sell something or be awarded a ribbon. The benefits are many and if you stay home there’s zero chance for any of that to happen.

I’ve been participating in this show on and off (mostly on) for 25 years or so. Even during those times in my life where I’d grown weary and disillusioned with my art and my level of “success” I would haul out my stuff out and go to this show.

But on a deeper level – setting aside sales and ribbons – the lessons learned about yourself can be life changing. I remember the very first time I took my art out to a show. It was 1993 (I think) and so I had only been painting with watercolor for a few years. The show was hosted by little church in Rexford, New York and it was well attended for a show of its size and location. I remember setting up next to a woman who painted life size, realistic oils. They were, in a word spectacular and there I was with my little watercolors… the best I had to offer at the time. The day was excruciating and by the end of it I had a headache that sent me home with my tail between my legs so to speak. Being a newbie I hadn’t developed a thick skin and every browser that walked by without a glance in my direction felt like a subtle rejection. Foolish I know now but back then I didn’t feel confident or sure of my art offering. At the end of the day my neighbor artist won the people’s choice for best work and I went home with a personal challenge.

That challenge… quit, admit defeat or really apply myself to improve and evolve as an artist. So with that I sat down and painted, slowly carefully, observing, working hard to do my very best and at the end of the day I had produced a painting that was my best offering to that point. That little painting taught me volumes about light, shadow, observation, not being a quitter and most importantly, don’t compare yourself to another. There is room for everyone at every level artist at this outdoor show. It is always a pleasure for me to participate as an exhibitor but sometimes you would rather be an browser and that’s okay too.

Here’s a picture of that little painting that was, looking back, a pivotal moment in my painting journey. Painted on the the back of something else. I gave it all I had at that moment.

Sometimes when I don’t bring my art to a show I will go anyway to see old friends and meet new artists. Browsing through a show without the pressure that comes with being an exhibitor is freeing and a grand enjoyment. What’s more I’m always on the lookout for some little art treasure to hang on my walls at home. Being an admitted art-a-holic, I’m always searching for a piece of artwork that speaks to me and inspires me in some way. I typically keep my purchase price within a modest budget but I’ve invested in quite a bit of great art that I enjoy to this day… each and every one brings back a memory and inspires me in some way.

So you see art can be enjoyed whether you’re painting, showing, browsing or collecting and the people you meet might be art-a-holics like you. What better to bring people together than the creative side of being human! I heartily endorse and encourage you to jump in the creative pool!