Sunday, 13 May 2012

Is the Boat In yet?

One of my sailing scenes from a collection

I can remember the  worst watercolour demonstration I have ever seen in my life.  In fact it was a great lesson in how not to teach or share an evening at an art society.

Years ago I would attend every art society talk,workshop or demonstration given by my favourite artists which I suppose was my training period for the fact that I now give demonstrations to art societies worldwide. At that time I saw many artists whose work I adored. Sadly some lost me half way through their demonstrations and I would want to leave but always politely stayed to the very end of the event. Not so much bored by the fact that these artists couldn't paint. They could but they didn't have a clue on how to share their works in progress.

When a member of Banstead Art Society gave an enthusiastically, complimentary closing speech after my demonstration letting me know how refreshingly exciting I was at the Banstead Arts Festival last Friday I was thrilled. 

But I was also reminded of my own experiences from poor demonstrators who get it wrong. There is nothing worse than having to watch someones back for two hours while an artist continually works on their demonstration painting, doing nothing much, mumbling to their easels about what they are working on. And this happens so frequently. At a recent  demonstration for another society I was told by the organisers that I was a huge breath of fresh air as the previous two guest artists had been appallingly boring.

I face the audience and share how I work in stages in a way that I hope creates great interest . The feedback I am recieving is so wonderful that I am constantly now turning down bookings rather than accepting because I have so many. Having said that I am taking a few more bookings for 2013 at the moment.

I shared how I learned not to demonstrate with the audience at Banstead. I can see the funny side of the situation really. I had turned up to watch a very famous artist give a demonstration to my then local arts society years ago. There were only two seats available at the very back of the hall and with no microphone available at that time,  in this section of the hall no one could hear a thing. An elderly gentleman sat to my left and promptly fell asleep as soon as soon as the session started. I felt more than a little embarrassed when his snoring became the most audible sound in the room!

The demonstrating artist continually mumbled into his easel but stepped aside every  now and then so that you could see his sky progressing. His sky took over an hour to develop and by now I felt like falling asleep too. There is , after all, only so long anyone can watch cobalt blue being applied in oil to half of a canvas.  By the mid way break nothing really exciting had happened.  Furthermore I think most of the audience by now were losing the will to live. I imagined a howl chorus of snoring during the second half of the evening when the sea would be painted but held out  hoping this would be far more interesting.

It wasn't!

So the demonstration continued and the gentleman on my left quickly fell back into his second slumber of the evening. The demonstrating artist continued to show us his back and share  frequent mumblings about what he was doing which wasn't much. He had a monotone voice that hypnotically almost lulled everyone into a sense of slumber. In fact he sounded so bored at his own work I marveled at how he managed to create at all!

We got to the last fifteeen minutes of the demonstration and the gentleman to my left woke with a start , nudging me and asking " Has he put the boat in yet?"

The highlight of the whole evening was a sailing boat being placed in the sea .This feat took ten minutes out of a two hour demonstration.

When asked if anyone had any questions I half expected someone to say " Can we go home now?"

It was a boring demonstration, most of the audience couldn't see or hear anything. The demonstrating artist was so famous they gave the impression we were all lucky to be in the same room and breath the same air as them. 

But the positive out of the negative is that I did learn a lot.

I learned you should never expect anyone to watch you for over two hours and then not give a demonstration that they can enjoy!



Unknown said...

How right you are! I helped set up and ran an art club for over 10 years with a friend (now passed on to younger members to run). Finding a tutor who will suit and inspire is difficult. The club has had its share of not so good ones, but also some who were a breath of fresh air - and everyone is invigorated by the experience. The acid test is when members ask for certain people back again!
On a different note - obviously I love all your paintings (as I follow the blog), but this one is superb - I have sailed a lot and this really speaks to me.
Thank you again for sharing your thoughts and beautiful work with us.

EarthMother said...

Oh, how I wish you would demonstrate here in Australia! I'll have to be content with your wonderfully inspiring videos and books, Jean! Thanks for your generous sharing of thoughts, inspirations and techniques. Cheers, Wendy

Mike said...

Very interesting boat impression,Jean.
I'd love to see the progressions to see how you approached this composition. What was your starting point, or did you superimpose the boat over a wash?

I am learning a lot from your first book. Am working my way through the demonstrations, learning a lot and enjoying the freedom of painting without a preliminary sketch(a cage, in most cases).

many thanks for your great blog, Jean.
Best regards from Mike and Lacey.

Jean Haines SWA, SFP said...

Hello Lynn,thank you so much for your reply, I have seen many artists demonstrate over the years. I often wonder if there is a time when artists should retire because a few that have been on the circuit for some time seem to have lost their zest for painting which gives a rather bored presentation, or their heart just isn't in sharing which is such a shame as for art society members who have made the effort to attend it must be so disappointing. On the other hand the good demonstrations can lead you racing to your brushes!

I keep receiving wonderful invitations but sadly don't have enough hours in the week to accept them all. I do try to fit in as many as I can where I know my energy level will remain high and I can give my best as a presenter I want everyone to love watercolour as much as I do and I adore meeting new artist friends!


Jean Haines SWA, SFP said...

Hi Wendy, I would love to visit Australia for a workshop, I love the colours there and would give anything to come back!

Jean Haines SWA, SFP said...

Hi there Mike, I hope Lacey is well,

I started this series by choosing colour that reminded me of the sea,then placed dramatic washes around the sails as my strating point. the saisl were mainly created by negative work at first.

When my placement of direction and the sails was complete I did finally add gouache for effect.

I am thrilled you like my first book and hope you enjoy my latest too because it is filled with tips and ideas!