“I didn’t know that artists talked to people”

This visitor to the exhibition was a clandestine street artist. He wanted to remain incognito. Photo by Melanie Alexander.

This visitor to the exhibition was a clandestine street artist. He wanted to remain incognito. Photo by Melanie Alexander.

Now that my art exhibition “Life is Beautiful” is over, I am (naturally) reflecting on it. I had mentioned to the director of the gallery that I would like to spend time on site during my show.  She thought it was an odd request.  Why would an artist actually be IN the gallery during an exhibition (apart from at the opening)?  People might somehow be ‘put off’.  I didn’t pursue the subject.  Happily, before the exhibition began she went overseas – and – while the cat is away, the mice will play!

With Sandra; new collector and new friend!

With Sandra; new collector and new friend! Photograph by Melanie Alexander

And so…I ended up spending nearly three weeks at the gallery (along with Exhibition Manager, Melanie).   Melanie attended to gallery business while I just talked to people.  And guess what?  They liked me being there.  One delightful lady, who I very much enjoyed meeting, said with wonder, “I didn’t know that artists talked to people”.

Lorna, who got in early, and bought one of the most popular pieces in the exhibition - The Welcoming Cat.

Lorna, who got in early, and bought one of the most popular pieces in the exhibition – The Welcoming Cat.  Photo by Melanie Alexander

Perhaps artists don’t talk to people but they SHOULD.  Artists depend on galleries to represent them but (has anybody else noticed?) …galleries are closing down.  Are they shutting up shop everywhere or just in Perth where I live?   This is a trend which started after the global financial crisis and is ever-increasing in this city.  Galleries are disappearing and artists are left high and dry.  Artists need to step in to represent themselves – and actually meet and talk to people.

A way to connect to one's audience is to write a small description under each work - to share some insight into what the idea was behind the work.

A way to connect to one’s audience is to write a small description under each work – to share some insight into what the idea was behind the work.

It was exhausting for me to talk every day and yet there was nothing I would rather have been doing.  I am used to solitude – just sitting and drawing.  What a change to have to drive “to work” in the mornings and not get home again until evening.

A client (Tina) collects her framed limited edition print. Here we are, discussing her chosen frame. Photo by Melanie Alexander.

Tina collects her framed limited edition print. Here we are, discussing her chosen frame. Photo by Melanie Alexander.

I developed a way to introduce myself: I would offer each visitor a chocolate when he or she entered the gallery.  “Welcome to the gallery. Would you like a chocolate?  I’m Julie and I’m the artist.  If you have any questions while you are looking at the work please ask.” Invariably, most people DID ask (and some enjoyed the chocolates, too.)  People wanted to know about techniques, the art materials themselves – and a lot of people wanted to know about maiko and geiko in Kyoto.

Vanette and Trevor are the owners of Rue de l'Echaudé. Photo by Melanie Alexander

Vanette and Trevor are the owners of Rue de l’Echaudé. Photo by Melanie Alexander

One of the most poignant interactions for me was when a lady brought in her aged aunt who has dementia.  She gently led her aunt around the whole exhibition, explaining all the way.  She said to me that though her aunt would not remember the experience, she would know that she had had a good day.

Because it was such a fulfilling experience for me to meet, greet, listen and discuss, there was no sense of ‘let down’ after the exhibition closed.  Always in the past there has been a build up of momentum and expectation before a solo exhibition and then, equally, a sense of grief after it closed…a real period of blues.  This time I feel a sense of completeness rather than the hollow feeling I used to have post-exhibition.

Visitors to the gallery discussing the work. Photo by Melanie Alexander.

Visitors to the gallery discussing the work. Photo by Melanie Alexander.

Perhaps galleries have felt it in their interest to keep artists and public separated.  But this method is not serving anybody well.  Artists must take the reins, rather than being mere ‘horses’ in gallery ‘stables’.

Some of the works hanging in the exhibition.

Some of the works hanging in the exhibition.

As for me, I am now without representation by a commercial gallery.  What will I do next time I am ready to hold a solo exhibition?  In two years from now I will have a substantial new body of work. Whatever and wherever it is, I will be at the controls.

Julie, June and Tina

Julie, June and Tina.  Photo by Melanie Alexander

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26 thoughts on ““I didn’t know that artists talked to people”

  1. tobeanz13@gmail.com

    Hi Julie. Thanks for your post. Aunty June still looks at her photo of the Jack Russell and says how amazing it is a drawing not a photo! She has it in her handbag at all times. I have my print in pride of place and everyone think it is absolutely amazing. I absolutely LOVE it, thank you so much. Lots of love Tina Walsh. PS I would love to catch up with you again, very soon. You are welcome to my house any time.

    Sent from my iPad


  2. Amanda Simes

    I was super impressed to see you at your exhibition.  It sounds like it went really well.  Your paintings were amazing.  You are so talented.  I look forward to the next one.  You are a mover and shaker.  

    Kind regards Amanda Simes. 

    Ps. My Pete really enjoyed Micheal McCarthy at the sos choir rehearsal today.  He still loves the spooky men.  X

    Sent from Samsung Mobile

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      Thanks, Amanda. It was ‘move and shake’ or bust in this case. There were many problems leading up to the exhibition. Matt, Melanie and I had to grab the controls in a situation that was slipping into probable disaster. We beat adversity, thankfully!
      Wonderful to hear that Michael and the Spooks continue to inspire Pete.

  3. Julie Miss

    Beautifully written! Its wonderful to get out and talk to people about your work Julie. As an artist you can be your best promoter! You know what Im like when it comes to talking! Ive very much enjoyed having my home exhibitions…so much more personal with buyers and people viewing the works. How wonderful for the gallery with the effort you put in with being there for people to meet the artist who created such amaxzing works. Believe me….all the more to take one of your babies home with them. xxx

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      The gallery is temporarily (maybe permanently) shut now that my exhibition is finished. So I don’t know that the financial success of it helped them. They have had a difficult year. As for me, I might take up your idea and have home exhibitions from now on. Yes, I do know how much you like talking and it is sad that your flu stopped us having a good old gas!

  4. Carol Galenbeck

    Hi Julie, what a wonderful exhibit, and congratulations on all your sales. Loved that you posted for us to be a part of it.

  5. anna warren portfolio

    First, a huge congratulations for such a successful exhibition – you say artists struggle in Perth for recognition, but it sounds as though you have hit the jackpot! However, I do know this is the result of an enormous amount of hard work and dedication, not chance or luck. You are so right about people wanting to connect with artists, I would guess a number of your sales would have been a direct result of the personal interaction. Having the conversation, understanding the artist’s inspiration has to give them a feeling of personal involvement, and a connection to a piece that they may have admired, but come to feel ownership of because of you. And so good to hear you have ended on a high, no anticlimax!

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      Hi Anna, well…recognition by people who came along. Apart from a very nice article by a local paper (which brought lots of people in) all the other newspapers I personally contacted totally ignored the exhibition. I advertised every week in “The West Australian” but no review was forthcoming. I asked people from two galleries to have a look. One said no and the other didn’t reply. Such is the Perth art world. Is it apathy or snobbery by the art ‘establishment’? I don’t know which, maybe both. Our local arts magazine, “Artist’s Chronicle” wrote a feature article about it. I thank Editor, Lyn DiCiero, for that!

  6. Mary Kemp

    I’ve just read this post Julie. It reminds me that art is so much more than , well, just art. We all need to do an awful lot of self promotion, but the upside is that it embraces so many other experiences. Galleries everywhere do seem to be closing down, or morphing into other things. But new ones do come along. And of course there’s always the internet! Best of luck in the future. i’m sure something else will seek you out.

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      Thank you for your comment, Mary. Gosh yes – art is so much more than art. If you are having an exhibition then promotion is everything! For instance, it doesn’t matter how much work you have done if hardly anybody knows it is being shown. You have to spend a lot on advertising and invitations. You have to write to all the papers and hope that somebody will write a press release or do a review. You promote the thing on the internet and by word of mouth. It is an enormous part of the preparation.

  7. Deborah

    Such a good point, well done!
    It is very important for Artists to connect with people, best in person (Gallery, Art Show or Studio Tours) because the more you engage with people about your Art, the more they are interested in it.
    I also believe that the Internet is an excellent way for Artists to connect with people concerning their Art, blog, Facebook etc. are all good ways, the world is a huge place, so in person is not always possible! I have written about why Artists should have an Art blog and Artists Facebook page, not just their personal account. ~Deborah

    1. juliepodstolski Post author

      Deborah – I completely agree. The internet is a wonderful tool for artists to connect with people both near and far. Fantastic though it is, I think nothing beats a well curated exhibition IN REAL LIFE (as opposed to on a computer screen). The photos I take of my finished drawings never compare very well to the real drawings. You have to see them in person to appreciate them properly. So even though I love the internet and blogging, I feel that (despite the stress and expense) a professionally managed and curated exhibition is essential every two years to showcase the drawings.

      1. Deborah

        Hi Julie, Absolutely!
        Seeing Art in person, and talking to an Artist in person is best. I loved how you took charge and the time to personally interact with people in the Gallery for your Art Show – such a wonderful impact! I find talking to an Artist during the opening for a show challenging since it is set up more for a more brief exchange, and because I am not particularly a party person and prefer quieter talks.
        I also love how any Artist can document and share their work and thoughts to even more via the Internet, and as I recently realized, through time.
        I came across the name of a University Art Professor a few days ago, in the oddest way on Facebook, an Artist who taught me a lot and whose work I admired. He passed away about 8 years ago, fairly young, and when I searched on the Internet, there was little about him, just a few written remembrances from others. It was very sad, especially since he was a well regarded Artist. I have a friend who has one of his pieces and we can talk about him and his work (we took a class together with him, and I took graduate classes from him for several years), but I wish I could read what he had to say about his work and see it again online, because now I can only look at the one piece my friend has, and my former teacher made so much more.

  8. juliepodstolski Post author

    Deborah, openings ARE challenging, for the artist as well as the visitor (especially if the visitor is not a party type). I’m not a party type either. You are right; the artist has to ‘do’ the room, talk to as many people as possible … and be interrupted at any time/all times by people who just want to have a word before they leave.
    Thinking about your university art professor, how much permanence is there on the internet for any artist? What I mean to say is, I have a presence as I pay annually to have this blog address. But when I die, the payments will stop and this blog will disappear. Same with my website, it is only as good as my annual subscription to the website provider. But are books any more permanent? Not really. Less and less people are reading books. Imagine how many unsold books are remaindered (disposed of) every year? But looking at the bigger picture…in this era of global warming, what does any of this matter when our entire species is putting itself (and all other species) in peril.

  9. Justine Victoria Sobocan

    Oddly enough Julie, the city I live in has been experiencing an artist boom with many talented people turning a once crumbling street into an array of galleries, shops, and boutiques. Each month they hold an outdoor event to bring focus to the art and once a year they hold a GIANT, three day “festival” known as The Super Crawl. This year managed to bring in over 100,000 people and it’s only been around for 3 years! Your works would be most welcome here if you ever wanted to visit Canada :D!


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