Watercolor: Drinks at the Reception (& why you should attend Art Exhibits)

Drinks at the Reception 6×7.5 Watercolor (sold)

Do you go to art exhibits? Various sorts, like museum shows, regional competitions, art festivals, demos and gallery openings? I love attending all flavors of art exhibits, because it re-sets my measuring ruler on my own work. You can absolutely see a lot of art on social media, and I’m confetti & cheering grateful for the opportunity to be awestruck (on my couch, in slippers with a glass of wine) over far-away artists, unveiling their latest work in their studios on facebook & instagram. What an amazing time we live in to see art the day it’s finished on the other side of the planet!

California Art Club exhibit at Frederick R. Weisman Museum of Art, Pepperdine University in Malibu, California

But then there’s this: no amount of high resolution photography can relay the details in art that you’d see with your own eyes. Last week, I saw an oil portrait done from life, first on social media, and then in person the next day.  The actual painting – up close – was a revelation of purples, greens and peachy, ochre shades, with maze-worthy, un-ruffled brush strokes that were nowhere to be seen on the multiple close up photos posted online – even the shots taken with DSLR cameras. (I logged in to look again, just in case I missed them. Nope. Not there.) It was a phenomenal portrait, and I’m so lucky I saw it in person.  I also felt a sense of the artist’s intention in the work…. this part is difficult to convey, but when standing in front of a painting that moves me, I get a palpable sense of the artist there, as though parts of his or her molecules are in those brush strokes, their fingerprints are on the canvas, and the breath of their dna is embedded in the pigments next to the joys and challenges the artist faced to complete that piece of art. Do you get what I mean? No? Okay, I’ll just be over at the museum, gaping at a Marion Wachtel. ♥

At the LA Art Show with fellow artists Nancy Eckels and Laura Wambsgans

There are other benefits to attending shows, like the art-induced conversations you have with like-minded friends, or chatting with the gallerist about the state of the art market, or networking with other artists, and meeting the exhibiting artist, to watch a demo, discuss methods & tools, and hear the story behind the art. Attending an exhibit is so much more than a leisure activity.

The amazing Rose Frantzen painting an oil portrait demo

Beyond that list of beneficial go-see-it-in-person cookies, I find art exhibits provide me with a sharp focus tool to measure my work against. All of us usually work alone on art, and so, we have lots of conversations with ourselves; is that too much shadow?, are the proportions right?, did I add lost and found edges?, where is my focal point?, is the composition balanced? I measure myself against myself in the studio every day, and that’s a good thing, to seek improvement with each new piece of art, compared to the last piece of art I made. But it’s also akin to staying shut inside a garden shed for weeks at a time. Seeing everyone else’s amazing art, in contrast against weeks of staring at and marinating on my own work throws my doors and windows open. Walking through an exhibit opens my tight-little-bag-of-marbles mind, and scatters my ideas, perspective, subjects, and color palettes into a whole new constellation of inspiration. I’m reminded of where I want my workmanship to go, and how hard I need to push my skill-set. I’m re-ignited about why I do this. Exhibits give me both a kick in the pants to work harder, and a profound sense of gratitude to be working in and communing with other artists in this field. These are my peeps. This is my tribe. 🙂

What art exhibits have you seen recently? What moved you, and why?

Are you thinkin’ you might want to go see an art exhibit with a friend?

Forward this post to them as a little hint.

And this…

I’ve just posted a new watercolor glazing demo in my youtube channel, featuring an interior scene with an enticing, half-full bathtub against a bank of tall windows. If you don’t see the video window below, you can hop over to youtube and watch it here.

Art Quote

With a new awareness, both painful and humorous, I begin to understand why the saints were rarely married women. I am convinced it has nothing inherently to do, as I once supposed, with chastity or children. It has to do primarily with distractions. The bearing, rearing, feeding and educating of children; the running of a house with its thousand details; human relationships with their myriad pulls–woman’s normal occupations in general run counter to creative life, or contemplative life, or saintly life. The problem is not merely one of Woman and Career, Woman and the Home, Woman and Independence. It is more basically: how to remain whole in the midst of the distractions of life; how to remain balanced, no matter what centrifugal forces tend to pull one off center; how to remain strong, no matter what shocks come in at the periphery and tend to crack the hub of the wheel.

~Anne Morrow Lindbergh

4 thoughts on “Watercolor: Drinks at the Reception (& why you should attend Art Exhibits)”

  1. Hi Marilyn, I’ll bet a dozen donuts that a lot of folks think art exhibits are only for buyers! I’m *so* glad you ventured out! And now you have encouragement at your fingertips, by seeing what your local artists are exhibiting while you work on your own art. I hope you plan to exhibit too! And thanks for the kind compliments on my posts…. I really appreciate your feedback. 🙂

  2. Marilyn Thuss

    I really appreciate this post, since I have just recently started going to receptions and art shows. I shied away in the past if I was not in a position to make a purchase from the artist. I thought that the artists really wanted visitors to buy art, not talk about it. I ventured to a few shows and found out how wrong I was! Artists are awesome people, who love to share ideas and dreams. Now I am trying to get to more and more, at least local shows.

    And like you Belinda, I can gauge where I am with my work, and take heart that I am actually doing ok! I think that you are such a talented writer. Your posts are so enjoyable to read. Perhaps we will see a book from you someday?

    I’ll check out the video….thanks

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