Alaskan Artist - Elise Tomlinson
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05/10/2006: "Art Exhibit Etiquette"

I've probably mentioned this before, but there is a time and a place for giving “suggestions” to artists regarding their work. First of all, if it's "constructive" it should be solicited and secondly, it should be while the work is still in progress. You shouldn't give advice on how to “fix” a finished piece once it’s on display, especially at the artist’s opening when they're already feeling super insecure.

I have a friend who hasn’t painted in decades (who has never even shown me their own work) yet feels compelled to point out all the things I need to do to improve mine; it really makes me crazy! I mean, I know all the rules she points out in her most patronizing voice, I have just chosen not to follow them for stylistic reasons.

Anyway, I was complaining about it to another friend who went to a ceramicist’s show the same night as mine...some guy had cornered the artist and proceeded to tell her (at length) how she could make her work more marketable if she just made “a few small changes”…such as adding images of bears and eagles into the sides of her vessels etc.

I'm sure these people have the best of intentions...but seriously...what are they thinking?

Replies: 15 Comments

on Thursday, May 11th, Howard said

The, " I really like your work but....", you think it's best intentions, but I think otherwise. I've had this happen to myself as well. I've learned just to ignor people who make such comments. Rather than put her own work out into the world she picks on others for not following the "rules".

on Thursday, May 11th, Daniel said

Howard said everything I thought!

on Thursday, May 11th, Elise said

So, would it be rude of me to just cut her off the next time she starts in and say: "if you prove to me that you're a better painter than I am I'd be more likely to listen to your advice... but even then, let me know what you think *before* the work is finished!"

on Thursday, May 11th, Howard said

Nah, not even that. People like this seldom have anything to offer. You have to remember it's just a nicely disgused put down to make them feel better about themselves. I bet anything what's really going through her head is something along the lines of, "Elise doesn't really deserve the attention she's getting because she didn't follow the "rules"." or, " I followed the "rules" and nobody paid any attention to my work. Why is Elise getting attention? She's breaking the "rules".", who really knows, but it's all about cutting you down because you are suceeding and she isn't.
Confronting them isn't really going to get you anywhere either. The best thing is smile and nod shile in your head your just going la la la la.
When she's done just tell her you have to go talk to some people interested in buying work. :laugh:

on Thursday, May 11th, Elise said

LOL! That's a great line Howard, I'll have to remember that!!!

on Thursday, May 11th, Jackie said

E: That's the best comeback I never thought of, Howard!
I think those kind of people attend every art opening, and get off dissing artists. I try to ignore them too - not that it's easy, especially if it's someone you know. :crazy:

on Thursday, May 11th, Elise said

When is your show that's coming up Jackie?

You can use the line then, though I doubt anyone will dare to give input as what you do is so unique.

on Friday, May 12th, Kasia said

What are they thinking? I have no idea. I would never do that! it's rude.

on Friday, May 12th, riva weinstein said

They don't have the best intentions at all. It's a power trip. They're just criticising someone else so they feel better about themselves. So as insecure as we might feel at our openings, apparently they are feeling even more insecure and threatened by our courage to show up and do the work - which is probably what they are not doing at all.

on Friday, May 12th, greg said

I completely agree - with the advice giver!! So what if their "done" works? You really shoulda, oughta add more cowbell, eagles, and ... especially BEARS to your works!

Just don't let Stephen Colbert find out!! ;) :hehe:

on Friday, May 12th, greg said

:blush: oops ... add ravens too, and orcas, and happy white clouds, *then* THEY'RE (contraction they + are) done! :laugh:

on Monday, May 15th, bulsis-bulend smanis-TR said

:D good.

on Monday, May 15th, bulsis-bulend smanis-TR said

:D good.

on Monday, May 15th,">Jackie said

E: My art show opens June 19, and the opening reception is June 29 (which I'll be there for). I haven't had too many issues with people making those negative comments directly to me - except once, a good friend's mom said she didn't like my new work, that I should stick to the masks, because they were really good and "Alaskan". I've had people come to our home and say things, before they knew that I was the artist. But they were the ones embarassed ! I mean - would you say something about the artwork on someone's walls in their home - whether they were the artist or not? SHeesh! Actually -the worst expericences with negative comments I had were written comments from judges who didn't ID themselves in a non-juried show! :crazy:

on Monday, May 15th, Elise said

LOL! I've had a similar experience, only it goes something like this: I have a bunch of my new work hanging in my house because my house is my studio but I also have a couple of pieces that aren't mine.

So, someone comes over and looks at all my work and doesn't say anything, then they come to the one piece I *didn't* do and their faces light up and they say "oh, I *really* like this one!" and then I (humiliated) have to explain that I didn't actually paint that one...i.e. the only one they seemed to like.
Oh well, I bet you get way more positive comments then the occasional "foot in mouth" disease kinds...I know it's just easier to fixate on the negative ones.

Anyway, good luck on the upcoming show, I'm sure it will kick some serious hiney ho!