Monday, June 20, 2016

The Artist Talk

Recently, I had two opportunities talk about my art in relation to two shows.

I volunteered to sit on a panel about working in collaboration for the Cross Pollination show at Shoreline City Hall Gallery. I was also invited to speak about my solo show at Woodinville Unitarian Universalist Church.

I don’t think I’ve ever given an artist talk. Once upon a time I would not have signed up for either event. For the last several years, I have struggled with sometimes-severe anxiety about many things. Speaking in public is no longer one of them.

I'm in the gold jacket. Don't I looked relaxed?

I didn’t even prepare for the panel beforehand. In writing the statement required for the show application, I’d already thought through what we were doing. It was just a matter of riffing on that. As the moderator called on other people, it looked like I would be the last to speak. I did start to get a bit nervous.

More prep was required for the solo show. I wanted to do an overview of the whole Café series. Several of the paintings sold years ago and I wasn’t sure if I had digital files of them. I hunted through an old computer - nothing. I was about to brave the basement for the original slides when I found a portfolio of the series. Given that photos weren’t great, the digital images came out ok.

It took two weeks to photograph all the cafes that still exist. A visit to the basement yielded sketchbooks with preliminary and final drawings.

I created a slideshow in iPhoto. I wrote out the talk and practiced with the computer.

My MacBook is so old, it wouldn’t run the slideshow and couldn’t connect to the church’s monitor. I used my husband’s notebook connected to a projector.

The talk was set for coffee hour after Sunday service. I set up during the service and did a run through. When I hit the pause button the images dimmed and it was hard to get the pacing right. 

When three people were seated, I started. Three more people wandered in during the talk. Since the church is in Woodinville, I was surprised how many people knew the Seattle cafés. The talk took about seven minutes with a few more minutes for questions. My husband thought it could have been longer with more explanation of my creative process.

The iPhoto slideshow wasn’t the best format. It was hard to pause it on the right image. Something like PowerPoint would probably be smoother. Learning PowerPoint is going on my to-do list.

How not to be nervous? I can’t tell you that. Speaking like this use to terrify me. Now it doesn’t. I don’t know why, except that even if everything had gone wrong and people didn’t enjoy the talk, so what? There are loads of really horrible things in life. This isn’t one of them. If you have the chance to give an artist talk, even if it scares you, go for it!

Lessons learned:

1. Make a List and Timeline
Write it down. Check off items as you complete them.

2. Document your work.
This is critical. Document as you create.
Much easier in the digital era.

3. Set up some kind of filling system and use it.
 I still have files across several computers and although I pay for an online archive, I’ve yet to use it.

4. Prepare beforehand.
Write your talk
Gather and resize your images (’cause you already have them, right? See #2 & #3)
Put them in a presentation program, which you test thoroughly.
Test your equipment at the venue several days before.

5. A whiteboard does not make a good projection surface.
The projector light reflects back too brightly.

6. Bring your business cards.
I had that on a mental list, not a physical list, so it didn't get done.