Showing to best advantage in the studio
Gallery representation is an important part of a professional artist‘s portfolio, and being represented by a spread of galleries in a range of locations, perhaps over a long period of time, is a good way to build both your reputation and your self-confidence. But you shouldn’t rely just on galleries to show your work – it will often happen that you’ll meet someone, either at an art fair or other art event, or perhaps in a context that isn’t so closely related to your field, and they’ll express interest in your work. Don’t be embarrassed when this happens, be delighted – it’s a sincere compliment. A good way to follow it up is by suggesting a studio visit to the interested individual.
Of course, this isn’t something you should do all the time – only do it if you really do think that they are a serious potential buyer, not someone who likes to view art but has no real interest in collecting. A reporter who is looking for a local artist to feature in their paper would also be a good candidate – the point is, you have control over the invitation. You can choose who to invite, and you should only suggest it to the people you feel certain aren’t timewasters. Your studio is your space – you can use it in promoting yourself and your career. How do you do that?
The first thing is to get over any mild resentment you may be feeling about other people invading ‘your’ space. It’s true, it’s your studio, and it’s where your magic happens. But allowing other people in, especially people who are interested in your art and want to engage with your work and find out more about you as an artist, is not going to affect that. Once they’ve left, it will still be there and it will still be yours. They’re visitors, not invaders – and they’re coming just because they liked your work. Letting them in is a way of helping them get closer to your art, and showing appreciation for their positive reaction to what you create. It’s a great opportunity to make someone else as excited about your work as you are.
Next, make sure you do whatever is necessary to make the studio fit for viewing. That doesn’t mean it has to be squeaky clean and smelling of disinfectant – there’s no need to banish your personality from the place. But there should be enough space for you and the potential client to enter comfortably, look around, and get close to particular pieces. Remember that however well you know your studio, it’s their first time; they won’t know that they have to hop over that puddle of paint or miss out that board because it’s still sticky from glue. Take time to look around and deal with any problems that would interfere with the viewing of your work.
Make sure you know where everything is. I know that sounds obvious, but I know a lot of artists who are fairly relaxed about where they put finished work – as long as it’s safe, they don’t need to see it. But if you’re showing someone around your studio and they express interest in a piece but mention their need for a particular color, or a preference for a specific subject matter, and you just so happen to have something appropriate – well, you’re going to need to know where it is. The visitor won’t be impressed if you’re hunting all over the place trying to find the painting you want, and they may lose interest. It’s also worth having some sort of organizational plan – if you work in a range of styles or media, arrange your creations according to that logic. It’ll help you remember what’s where, and it’ll help the viewer understand what there is.
Prepare the space. As well as generally tidying up and making a mental plan of where everything is, you need to arrange your work so that it can be seen in the optimal way, or as close as is possible. Large pieces may need some space around them, so get an empty easel set up so you can put one up, away from everything else, if it becomes the subject of interest. In addition, your art is extremely important to your explanation of what your work is. Think of it almost like a prop – if you’re going to start talking about your use of perspective, for instance, you’ll want to be able to point to a piece that exemplifies that. Work out beforehand which works best serve as examples of the specific trends or techniques you might want to talk about.
This leads to another point – the importance of preparing some things to discuss beforehand. Don’t think of it like a speech – it’s not that you have to get through everything you think of. But when you invite someone to a studio visit, you yourself are part of the pitch. They want to know about the art, of course, but they also want to know about you. Work out in advance what you’d like them to know, and how you might get it into conversation. Within that, see how things are flowing naturally, and try to base your topics on that.
That said, don’t worry too much about your own performance. While it’s a good idea to think about topics and important areas of discussion beforehand, so that it’s clear in your head, there’s unlikely to be anything absolutely vital for them to know. Relax, be friendly, and just see how the conversation goes. Let them set the pace and time, because they may well be making time for you in between other activities. Find out beforehand how long they expect to be with you, and be ready to end after that time. Naturally, if it’s all going well, you can extend it if they’re happy to. Basically, just be yourself, and enjoy talking about your work with someone who appreciates it.
Do you have any tips to help with studio visits? Let us know in the comments!