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Ranunculus 8×10 watercolor on paper (sold)

This weekend, May 7&8 I’ll be at the Sierra Madre Art Fair from 9:30-6:00 on Saturday and 9:30-5:00 on Sunday. If you’re in the area, stop by and say hello. 🙂

How do you talk to Patrons?

How often do you show your work where you’re present at the exhibit? How comfortable are you when patrons ask you about your work? How do you discuss your art with non-artist attendees at an exhibit? When someone says “I love your paintings. They’re just beautiful!” or “What made you paint this subject?”,  how do you respond in a way that generates two-way conversation?

Talking about art with patrons outside my booth at San Diego Artwalk a few years ago

I was thinking about artist-to-patron communication over the weekend at the San Diego Artwalk. It’s always fascinating (if you enjoy excavating like I do) to hear the way artists discuss their work with potential customers. If you have exceptional social skills, and you’re naturally funny, charming, good looking and at ease talking & twinkling to a crowd of strangers, please leave us all some conversational tips in the comments.

Make Yourself a Script

If, like most artists, you’re a bit of a loaner, and your social skills are passable, but could use a little polish, this topic might benefit from a little exercise of thinking and note-taking. Brew a cup of tea, take a little time, and write all the questions *you* would ask an artist.  Ex: How long did it take you to paint this? Where do you get your source material? Is this a person you know? Do you take commissions? How did you make this? Then, write all the answers you’d want to hear as a patron, with an economy of words.  If you’re prepared with even a cursory script to review just before the event, you’ll be more comfortable at an exhibit talking about your own work. (TIP: It helps to have compelling titles on your work, beyond “subject based” titles, like the one I used on the work above. I’ve learned a lot about this over the years, so if you need help with that, check out my online course.)

Artists and patrons mingling at the Opening Night exhibit of paintings by my friend Nancy Eckels.

Harvest all the Feedback

Art Festivals are a lot of work. But they’re also an *excellent* proving ground for talking to hundreds of patrons about your art. Direct feedback from the buying public is a wonderful ingredient to bring back into the studio. And if you sell some art too, it’s time to break out the horns, hats and dancing shoes, right?

Do’s and Don’ts

If you’re not in a position to exhibit at an art festival, at least enter a few local juried shows (artist associations, gallery exhibits, etc.) where you’ll have an opportunity to attend the opening, and mingle with the public. After 13 years of art festivals, I can testify that being practiced at talking about your work has an enormous impact on sales. I cringe to remember my first year or so, tongue tied and ill-prepared to discuss the art I made with my own hands. I’ve seen so many artists wilt a potential sale by saying the wrong things, or failing to ask a single question. (Example: DO: ask what sort of art the patron likes, and what they have in their collection. DON’T: list all the things you don’t like about your art, your frames or the way you painted the piece they’re looking at.) Being comfortable discussing your own art will take a little practice, so give yourself a leg up with a list of Questions & Answers scripted out as cliff notes before a show.

Opening night at a fundraising exhibit in Pasadena, California

If you have ideas about talking with patrons, share them in the comments below. What works and doesn’t work while getting to know your audience? What do you trip-up on when people ask about your work?

Thanks for stopping by, and I’ll see you in the next post!


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Art Quote
Feedback doesn’t tell you about yourself. It tells you about the person giving the feedback. In other words, if someone says your work is gorgeous, that just tells you about *their* taste. If you put out a new product and it doesn’t sell at all, that tells you something about what your audience does and doesn’t want. When we look at praise and criticism as information about the people giving it, we tend to get really curious about the feedback, rather than dejected or defensive.
~Tara Mohr

which watercolor paper should I use?
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7 thoughts on “Talking About Your Art at an Exhibit & a Watercolor: Ranunculus”

  1. I just discovered your tutorials on fb. I am struggling so much with my watercolor and appreciate your teaching method. I m a former Pasadean. It’s lovely to see it in your Art Walk periscope video.

  2. Marilyn Thuss

    Dearly love your ranunculus painting Belinda! This advice is wonderful… are so generous with your hard earned experience……just to help other artists find fun and success. Thank you for this inexhaustible creative energy which you share with us, your fans!

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