Monday, June 8, 2015

Why Artists Should Do Demos

The Marietta Square's First Friday Art Walk just keeps getting better and better. This past Friday night the Square, and the shops, restaurants and galleries all around the Square, were bustling with visitors seeking art, food and fun. Friday's event was one big street party, with live music and plenty of entertainment.

Hubs took leave from his role of Supportive Spouse after helping me get set up for my collage demo at 2Rules and struck out in search of a quick snack. When he came back, he reported that he'd had a hard time making his way through the crowds but had managed to snag a couple of cookies.

Gallery owner Lois Rule helps me set up for my demo prior to the start of the art walk. Behind us my mixed media paintings, mini-paintings, jewelry and paper mosaic mirrors are showcased on the freestanding display.

By this time I was in the midst of my demo, fielding questions from a stream of curious visitors wanting to know all about my process and materials. It would have been very bad form to stop in the middle of it to eat a cookie, so I tucked the cookie into my tote bag. (Where I belatedly discovered it just this afternoon. It was a little dry, lol).

Giving a public demo can be agony or ecstasy for an artist. Sometimes it's both. Painting in front of a crowd of strangers, and answering questions while simultaneously focusing on creating a piece of art can be unnerving. But for the undaunted, it's also a great opportunity to connect with people, share your knowledge and art with them, and receive valuable feedback. 

For me Friday night fell into the latter category. I had a grand time. Not only did I meet dozens of extremely nice, very interesting people, I reconnected with a friend I hadn't seen in several years, and was able to point a number of visitors interested in trying collage to resources where they could learn more about it. Talking to people about my art was fun; even more fun was watching it sell. Afterwards, we met up with friends for a late night supper. It was the perfect ending to a perfect night.

If you're an artist who's shy about doing demos, I hope you'll reconsider. You don't have to be perfect (making goofs is normal, and shows you're human as well as creative!). You don't have to be witty or articulate, either. In fact, some artists remain silent during their demos; they just paint and allow the audience to watch. I personally think engaging in conversation with onlookers yields a more satisfying experience for both artist and audience, but that choice is up to you. Giving demos is an important part of an art career. Don't let self-doubts hold you back. It's an opportunity for professional growth you shouldn't pass up.

Besides art walks and festivals, there are many places where you can offer to do demos. Clubs and organizations are always looking for someone to put on interesting programs for members. Active adult and retirement communities are another opportunity. So are churches, employee organizations, certain types of businesses, art and cultural centers, schools...anywhere people gather and are interested in learning something new.

By the way, I goofed during my demo at 2Rules. I misplaced one of my paper tiles, then glued down a few more in the wrong places. It wasn't the end of the world. I just punted by substituting a spare for the missing tile, and gluing down more spares over the "mistakes." You roll with the punches during a demo. Welcome those punches. They're not knocking you down. They're pointing you toward success!

Text and image ©2015 Lynn Edwards

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