More and more cities are hosting Open Studio Tours showcasing local artists and their studios. This kind of event is where artists open their studios to the public to participate in a self-guided tour and offer a peek into the world of the arts. Sacramento’s Open Studio tour is celebrating its 10th year with over 130 artists participating on the 2nd and 3rd weekend of September. The artists are divided into two weekends. This will be my 9th year participating (somehow I missed the first year), so I thought it would be helpful to suggest some tips for studio guests and patrons while on the tour.
Studio Tours are a great way for artists and guests to connect and share their passion for art. Most artists work in an isolated studio, so it’s helpful to get feedback from patrons and hear responses about our work. It’s also a good way for guests to learn more about the art process and what is involved with creating an art piece from start to finish. I’ve learned that for many guests the creative process is often a mystery. Many artists demonstrate their media and skills, so it can be fun to watch and see how that takes place. Sometimes guests feel intimidated or nervous to engage with an artist, but I will let you in on a secret… frequently artists are anxious as well. A lot of artists tend to be more introverted, so they will usually welcome your comments and questions. Most of us put our heart and soul into our art, so it takes some courage to show others what we have created. We risk ridicule and some of us wear our hearts on our sleeve, thus constructive and thoughtful comments are always appreciated. Children are usually welcome as long as they understand not to touch things unless invited to do so. Many studios have toxic or hazardous materials and some fragile art. I enjoy having children in my studio. They are very inquisitive and bring some refreshing enthusiasm.
…be afraid to ask a ‘stupid’ question (remember there aren’t any!) It’s fun to learn more about art and the process.
… rush or fit in too many studios! Make it enjoyable and don’t burn yourself out! At minimum allow at least half an hour per studio and 15 min. travel time in between, and then adjust the time as needed. (So if there are 7 hours and you allowed 1 hour for lunch that leaves time for about 8 studios and travel time). Remember there are two days, so it’s possible to see a total of 16 studios in one weekend.
…ask questions and engage with the artist. You will probably enjoy the tour more! (See below for ideas).
… be kind with comments. If you like the art, be sure to let the artist know. If you don’t, no comment is fine, but use the opportunity to learn more about the art and artist.
…watch children so they don’t get into materials and supplies or touch art work. Some materials are hazardous and art may be fragile.
…pace yourself so you can really observe, explore and discover. Take in everything slowly or you may miss something amazing – it’s not a race! Respect that most artists put in many hours of work to prepare for the tour and are proud of their art.
…preview the art before the tour, if available. Most tours have a location with a sample of each artist’s work for visitors to view before going to the studio. This will give you a better idea on how to plan your tour. (Sacramento’s tour has a preview exhibit at Verge Art Center).
…get a catalog/guide/map ahead of time and plan where you want to go. Many tours have free catalogues. Mark your guide with your selections. This will save time and make things go more smoothly. Plan a route that conserves time and gas. (Sacramento has guides available at a variety of public spaces around town and at Verge Art Center. Most artists have a supply too.)
…allow time for food/snacks and the restrooms. Bring water or snacks with you. Some artists may have these things available, but don’t depend on it.
…make the most of your time and select studios hosted by groups of artists at one location.
…get on the mailing list if you like the artist’s work. Most artists only send emails when they have a show and you can always opt out if you change your mind. You will be the first to learn of new art!
…see a variety of art and media. Visit a studio that is unique, unfamiliar or uses an unknown medium.
…mark your guide with comments about the studios you saw and which ones you liked. Most artists are happy to make studio appointments after the tour.
…purchase art that you love…not to match your couch! (More on purchasing art in another post).
Questions to ask the artist:
What was your inspiration?
Is this piece part of a series?
What special techniques or training do you use/have?
What is your favorite subject to create/paint and how did you choose it?
Which art piece is your favorite?
What is the story or meaning behind this piece?
How did you choose this medium to use?
Would you do a demonstration for us?
Do you offer classes?
What is your favorite part of the creative process?
Avoid – How long did it take you to make this?
This is the most frequently asked question an artist hears! It is usually asked out of curiosity, but it often puts an artist in an awkward position. Typically, aside from the actual creation of the art, there are years of training, experimenting, honing skills, hours of preparing drafts or prototypes, and time for creative thinking. Most artists don’t keep track of the time because we love what we do. Generally there are many more hours in a piece than an artist is ever compensated for. Conversely, if an artist has lots of experience, the art may take little time and appear easy to create. In the case of art, time and effort don’t always commensurate worth. Value is often determined by demand and reputation. So the question leaves the artist in a quandary about how to answer lest she over/under estimates time invested relative to worth.
Preview my art by visiting my website at www.elainebowersart.com. I offer original watercolor paintings, signed limited edition giclees and art note cards of most of my images. I have a new popular item – art pillows!
If you have additional tips for guests visiting artist studios please comment!