One of my favorite authors, Dick Frances, wrote a book about an artist. He actually wrote at least two but the one I’m thinking of was an acrylic painter. His family was faintly appalled with his vocation but were even more embarrassed with his choice of medium, “Not oils but those frightfully common acrylics.” The Character went on to explain to the reader how amazingly versatile acrylic was and that he was sure Michael Angelo would have killed for them. The point is; misconceptions about your chosen medium will happen.
It is very hard to hear the same error repeated day after day when you talk to people. “Oh, you work with chalk.” No, I do not work with chalk. I then go into depth about how chalk is calcium carbonite and that pastel is pigment mixed with a binder like oil or in dry pastel, gum Arabic. People tend to let their eyes glaze over and you feel like you are a broken record about to crack. Most artisans share the frustrations that you feel. No matter how many times you try to change the way it is explained, you end up following a script.
The key is that it sounds new to each person you tell it to, it only sounds stale to you. Treat each encounter like it is new because you are telling the same speech to a new individual each time. They don’t know that you hear the same false statement 20 times a day at a show and once a day away from it. You should work to keep that in perspective and be nice. You do not want new people walking away thinking, “Talented but what an ass.” A happy person will listen and perhaps teach someone else. An irritated person will not care what you told them and in fact may repeat the false statement out of pique. The other thing to remember is that you are in a position to teach and help them understand the investment that art is.
It doesn’t matter if you are creating your art to pay for more supplies, to pay bills or for recognition; understanding what you are doing helps you tomorrow and others next year. Consider it a stepping stone, one flagstone of knowledge before they follow the path of true enlightenment about art we create. Once they follow one path, they will find it easier to understand something different about art. Keep smiling and be patient with each other, I had to learn somewhere and look at where I’m standing now.
The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed in this blog belong solely to the Spokane Art School Artist-in-Residence, and not necessarily to the Spokane Art School.