As a full-time artist who participates in art shows, I regularly run into a lot of the same questions, comments, and situations. While I’m always excited to talk about my work, here’s some insight into a few common conversations that I personally like and don’t like to have. Of course, this is only my perspective; different artists have different feelings about these sorts of things.
My work is unique, which can be a blessing and a curse. Part of the reason I shoot the way I do is to engage the viewer. I love when people think about what I’m trying to do themselves, but I also enjoy explaining my work and seeing that light bulb moment.
If you’re not sure about an artist’s work, it’s OK to ask. Most artists enjoy engaging and explaining, so give them the chance. In the same regard, if you’re not sure what something is made of or how it’s done, please ask.
I’ve heard people describe my work to others, in front of me, and many are sharing what I already shared with them, excited to tell family and friends. Sometimes though, I hear people speaking matter-of-factly about my process, and the information they’re providing is incorrect. I often hear that my images are altered after being taken, which isn’t true. If someone asks me about my process, I’m happy to explain it. Obviously, I prefer that someone else not provide misinformation about my work. It’s human nature to speak aloud to others in an attempt to figure something out, but if you don’t know for sure, ask, and let’s talk!
When someone wants to compliment my art or my vision, that’s always welcome. I’m also open to criticism; I’m an artist, so it’s par for the course. But I suggest an enriching, constructive dialogue, as opposed to a one-sided monologue about what you don’t like or what I should do differently. Art is subjective, and most artists are well aware that they won’t appeal to everyone. Conversations about what is and isn’t working are welcome, as long as I can be involved in it. Many artists say that opinions without discussion come off as unsolicited advice.
Asking an artist if the work is their own is probably the question artists like the least. If an artist took the time to apply to a show, was accepted, paid the entry fee, and is showing their work, it’s their own. Questions about inspiration, process, technique, equipment, and even some insight into the art you create or the art that you love are always welcome.
Most artists are following their creative dream, giving up steady paychecks to do what they love. While we hope to sell some art along the way, we chose this life because it’s fulfilling and we want to share our artistic vision with the world.