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Sometimes I'll throw a little useful info out here for you, other times it's just a bit of mumbo jumbo



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What does your T-Shirt say?

March 18, 2015 by admin

Or better yet, what do you say?

Augusta Day 3 143What do you say to those people who come up to you while you are painting outdoors in a park, or a city sidewalk and they stop to ask you a question?

Do you pretend like those headphones you have on, is actually playing music and you can’t hear anything? Maybe you pretend like you don’t speak the language?

I’ve seen some artists painting outdoors that have shirts on that have a long list written on the back to help guide and direct the viewer. Some of the sayings are, “yes, my aunt paints too”, or “yes, I have seen that guy on TV”. Whatever the saying it’s all pretty much geared in one general direction. “Don’t Bother Me”, or better yet, “Don’t bother me with your stupid questions”.

This is something that a studio artist doesn’t really have to worry about except on those “open studio” Fridays. You are in your studio, no one there to ask questions about what and why you are doing. Not only do plein air artists have to deal with weather, insects, the changing light, but all the time they have that “other” element coming into play… the people.

How you deal with this other plein air element reflects on the entire genre, whether you want it  to or not.

In my artists statement, well one of them at least, it states something like… “it is the love of the art, the land and the people that has moved this indoor painter outside…” You see, I am a people person, I love people. People of all sorts with all their little eccentricities RG in Tennesseeand the likes. It’s one of those things that helps make this life of mine interesting, (along with this the beautiful world we live in, It’s really much nicer than the indoors. Maybe not always as comfortable, okay rarely in my area, but still.)

No one asked if we wanted to be the ambassadors for all artists in the world, but getting out there amongst the public, we are kind of setting ourselves up for this, and as you know, one bad apple does spoil the whole bunch… or so their perception. Like it or not you are the rep that carries the entire plein air nation in your hands. Don’t blow it for the rest of us.

No, I’m not saying you need to be a goof ball and let them paint on your painting, giving them your brush and taking a picture of them with your canvas, or sit down and have a 20 minute chat about the arts and how it effects healthcare. Just a little common courtesy with a friendly nod and thank you. Most times this would suffice, and if that doesn’t work maybe a “would love to talk more, but I’ve got to catch the light before it goes away”, or hand them your card and let them know you are “on the clock” but can visit later.

An artist is in a strange and awkward occupation. It is a rare soul that actually realizes that you are actually working. Most think that studio and plein air artists are playing or just having fun. We are hit up for more fundraising donations than any occupation I know of. Isn’t it also a wonder that people think they can come up to you in the middle of work and just start chatting. Try doing that to a Tennessee 086-001policeman while they are hard at work. (I know, this I have tried and they really don’t think it’s funny) Almost any other occupation interaction during office hours is just not done.

But it’s not their fault, it’s our occupation, it’s like the athlete who gets booed or heckled, or musicians who sometimes have to play behind chicken wire for safety’s sake, it goes with the territory. It’s like most people with a talent, that talent is undervalued and taken for granted. This my dear friend is in fact a subject in itself for another day, but just keep this in mind… we are different! So put on your goofy beret, and polish up your “Sriracha” sandles, we have a reputation to uphold, but don’t cast us as arrogant snobs who are too good to talk to the common man’

If you paint outdoors, and I hope you do, at least once. When you are out there,  keep the public in mind, and do unto others as you RG at Augustawould have them do unto you.  I don’t throw out a welcome mat for them, that would be just another thing to carry, but I don’t try to cut myself off from the crowd. Sure it sometimes gets in the way of painting, but then so does insects, the sun, and rain. Putting up an umbrella or spraying insect repellent will not ruin things for other artists.

What about me? Well  sometimes I don’t have time to visit with passerby’s, but I’m never rude, sometimes quirky, okay always quirky and I make the best of it.

We do have that image to uphold.

What would my T-shirt say? How about “Fruit of the Loom”?


Note: originally published by R. Gregory Summers Oct 25, 2013


14 Responses to “What does your T-Shirt say?”

  1. Okay, the top photo shows you in a bike helmet, with googles and what looks to be a biking/racing shirt. Were you doing some type of triathlon that had plein air painting as one of the events? ;0) Seriously, this is a great blog post. You addressed the people issues well. You didn’t mention animals however. Last week, while I was at a paint out, I had my host’s dog (a young black lab) steal my new super warm hat with a fuzzy ball on top and use it for a chew toy for a good 20 minutes! We finally got it back…with the addition of a huge amount of dog slobbers and a good sized hole in the back….oh well, now I won’t be upset when I get paint on it! Keep up the great work!

    • admin says:

      You are definitely right about animals, they can at times be a big distracter from our tasks. Whether the friendly ones that are brought along, or the more dangerous ones we encounter along the way.
      By the way, that is not me in the bicycle gear, I was set up on an out of the way road in Tennessee when along came a bicycle group on their Sunday ride. They stopped to check out the artist, and I let them “get in the act”. Loads of fun, and love the people out here.

  2. Good article and a good approach to passers-by. I know most artists new to Plein air can be intimidated by public painting, but it is a great opportunity to me new potential clients. I try to set up in high traffic areas for greater exposure. It is only the occasional person who will detain me for more than a minute. Most just want to watch. And yes, I often invite people to paint on my watercolor to prove to them you can’t easily mess it up.

    • admin says:

      You are the perfect advocate for plein air painting Spencer, love it. It is a great subtle “marketing” tool painting in heavily traveled areas. I do think having some sort of “back up signal” would be helpful. Many times I have run into a viewer who I didn’t know was there in my quick retreats to see my painting better.

  3. Veronica says:

    Great post! My sentiments exactly!

  4. Melinda says:

    I don’t wear T-Shirts, but I am always respectful. Yesterday, I saw someone walking by and they thought I was someone else. I greeted the passer-by, and as she got a little closer, she recognized me, and later returned to ask that I put the painting “on hold” for her, as she was likely to purchase it when it was completed.

  5. Great repost Greg! So true! The few times I have painted outside, I feel people are pretty kind and just genuinely interested. Personally, I wouldn’t buy a painting from someone who snobbed me. Most of the artist friends I know go above and beyond, as you mention. They enjoy it, even when it interfere’s with their chance at good light. They are gracious. As are you.

  6. Peggy Wilson says:

    Greg you and Josh Been are experts at working the crowd. Spencer is in the group too. Josh sets the stage with calendars, booklets and paintings for sale…as he paints in a quick paint! I saw this in Sedona. Plus talking and answering questions. Spencer is on track by setting up in high traffic areas. Exposure.
    Me on the other hand, have the cute dog! Currently in training. I Plein air promise not to let him be a problem for other painters. And yes I realize I will be excluding myself from events. I am in it for the love of painting. Hoping to enjoy painting and my travel companion dog at the same time. I paint too much to leave him behind.
    Always a great blog Greg!

  7. Curt says:

    Painting outside has always been hard for me because of this. The first time I ever ventured out with easle and paints I hid myself in some brush and set things up near a country road. As luck would have it a group of 20 or so bicyclists on tour from Chicago spotted me and stopped and started taking pictures of me. Slowly I am conquering this nearly phobic fear. I have joined a group of plein air painters to avoid being the single focus of curious stangers. It has helped enormously. Most observers are respectful and keep their distance. Some people don’t even look twice. My goal for this summer is to place myself alone in a very public place and paint as if no one else were there. If I make it past that I’ll see it as a giant step in this.

  8. Alix says:

    Great post! Pastor is the other profession that gets constantly interrupted with nary a moment according to plan. In the end, though, what happens during the interruptions will probably get counted as my best work.

  9. Dona says:

    Just be sure to take a photo before you begin painting. Then, if you are interrupted, all is not lost.

  10. Tony says:

    I recommend you try a T-shirt with:
    ‘Yes, it is for sale. Feel free to interrupt me to make an offer’.

  11. Great article. I have taken quite a few plein air workshops through the years but being primairily a studio artist (and graphic designe 30yr) painting in public is not my comfort zone. I want to get outside more and feel thankful artists like you and your contributors share such good advice. Having a heart attack and subsequent heart surgery in Dec was a wakeup call for me to just do I it when I am able. To get back out there I am going to just start in my yard before we get our extremely hot summers here. I have watched your FB (and others I am a fan of) posts the last year or so and am so grateful artists are such sharing people.

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