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.
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!