Visiting an Artist Studio – The Basics

The Zen of the Artist’s Studio/Gallery

Once the director manages to show and tell the story on paper, the tv storyboard starts traveling thru the production pipeline. At some time or another most people would like to visit an artist’s studio, if nothing else to see how another profession works. This is understandable since a lot of jobs are seen as routine and boring. But with Art, (break out the soft lyrical music, the soft-focus lens, and the dreamy voiced narrator) it’s different – or at least the vast majority of people think so. Even my brother thinks that.

Full-time serious artists are like any other business person. They must make money, and a profit, to pay for their mortgages, new tools, supplies, kid’s education, etc. The typical artist does not have a stipend or money from a rich parent to endlessly dawdle over a particular project. It may seem like it, but they do not – trust me. As an artist you have to earn your way, just like any other business person.

Full-time artists for the most part have a full-time dedicated space that they work in. It is easier for them not to set up and break down their studio day after day. The setup/break down routine is a disruption to the process of getting started and proceeding with the work for the day.

With a full-time studio, comes a certain form of organization for the artist. This style of organization usually does not work well for the visiting patron who is used to seeing a completely hygienic selling space. The typical client – that we usually see – is one that has an aversion to mess, clutter, and loose organization.

Importance of an Appointment

To see a client requires the artist to make the studio presentable, so that the organization of the studio is not a distraction. I am not talking about day-in day-out maintenance of sweeping the floors, vacuuming, washing brushes etc. that is taken for granted. Putting away all the normally used tools of the trade, arranging the artwork on the walls and pedestals tastefully, putting out fresh flowers, leaving some art magazines, that mention you, carelessly left open to that page, etc. is the name of the game. As an artist, the job is to make it easy for the client to buy, by making it appear that you work effortlessly.

That is why it is important to call for an appointment. The client does not want to be embarrassed to see the artist in their less than immaculate studio. The artist does not want to be embarrassed by the clutter and what the client infers from the mess of the studio. Let’s not talk about the mess on the artist from working at their medium. Without an appointment this is a lose/lose situation.

Artist Gallery Solution?

There is also the case of an artist(s) having a gallery space on their property, like we do. Aha, this is the answer to the problem you think. Alas no. To properly take care of a gallery requires a person there staffing it full time. Yes the artist could do their art to some degree, but not with full concentration. Also this opens the artist up to client questions like: “Oh – do you give lessons? That looks easy! Do you get paid for that? Why do you paint/carve like that – that’s wrong!”. The artist’s time gets taken up while other clients, possibly paying clients, are slipping out the door. As the saying goes Been There-Done That.

One solution that we also have tried, is to have me greet all the customers who come up and accompany them into the door. Looking at it from the customer’s angle is instructive though. Since I sculpt with power and pneumatic tools I am usually covered with a fine coating of dust that leaves a cloud behind me as I walk. Think of PigPen in the Charlie Brown comic strip Peanuts.

Imagine a nicely dressed – not overly dressed- couple out for a leisurely weekend. They want to see the local artists – since a lot live around the area – and come up to our gallery without an appointment. This 6’4″ man comes out, dressed in jeans and flannel shirt covered head to foot in a gray dust wearing a respirator mask and ear protectors. He looks like an escapee from a Sci-Fi movie of renegade oversized bugs. This is not a good first impression. The client will worry about getting filthy just from being within 5 foot of this creature. This artist look is also not conducive to getting top dollar for the artwork. All the while, the client is looking for a graceful way to get away without being condescending or judgmental. Even if the artist manages to get the clients in the door of the gallery, the client’s overwhelming urge to leave colors their entire visit and subsequent encounters.

Now envision the same couple but met by someone who is cleanly dressed, and not overwhelmed with dirt. Naturally the whole encounter will be better, some art can be purchased safely, and the couple are not feeling threatened. See what a difference an appointment can make? The difference between a one-time visit with no money changing hands and the possibility of a sale and the beginning of a long-term relationship.

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