What are some of the strangest things people have said to you while out painting?
This morning I set up my easel next to a woman and her husband at a scenic spot. They were there admiring the beautiful view. I loosely sketched the scene on my paper and started blocking in the big shapes of color. The woman looked at my painting and asked, "What is it?"
During the annual "Arthintheopen" festival (www.artintheopen.org) plein air painting festival in Wexford, I found myself in a very busy place in front of a large shopping mall at the taxi rank (don't ask, maybe I'm an exhibitionist!). The painting session descended into more of a stand up comedy routine, with me trying to think up of quick one-liners for those brave enough to ask me the usual questions. My favourite was my answer tothe poor unfortunate who asked me "Do you sell them?" To which I answered "No, I keep them all, I love them too much"! The ensuing laughter from my audience made my day. Oh. I forgot to say it rained that afternoon, so the humour was appreciated by all. Great place, great week-end.
The most amusing thing said to me was "Ohhh, are you painting?"
I couldn't think of a snappy answer to this at the time, several came to mind afterwards, but it made me wonder what I was doing wrong, easel set up, palette in one hand, brush in the other hand, paint on the canvas and still she didn't know what I was doing?
Initially, I wanted to respond to this thread with some of the snappy one-liners that I've thought of over the years. But then my sensible self came on the scene.
I remember when I moved to a new city and searched in vain for an 'art community' to get involved with. Then one day while I was working, my wife went downtown and came across a woman painting on the sidewalk. My usually-shy wife approached theartist and asked her if she was local. She also explained that her husband (me) was also a painter and had been looking for other artists. Instead of a curt answer or one-liner, she told my wife of her contacts in the local art group. I had a wonderful surprise when I got home: my wife found a group of artists that did more for my art growth than any other I was ever involved with!
I guess I'm saying I need to "pay it forward". It doesn't mean I don't get a bit miffed or a sly chuckle from some encounters, but I do want to be careful not to alienate a possible future friend. I think the same might be said for possible patrons, too.
I've been getting "Are you painting?" or "Are you an artist?" almost every time I go out too. And once a guy said he had a cousin (hundreds of miles away in another state) who was an artist and had won awards and asked if I had heard of him.
A few weeks ago I was painting at a railroad. Two guys who are cleaning the inside of the train cars come over to see my painting. One guy starts telling a story about his sister. "In high school my sister was dating this guy who was going to art school. When he came to pick her up for the prom my dad wouldn't let her go because he was gonna be a bum." I wanted to ask him to leave some spare change in my painting box but I just laughed.
I always laugh. The comments amuse me. The people are part of the experience.
Several years ago, I was at a large 3 day art fair in Kansas City. I had a young man come by my booth and look at the same painting on Friday and Saturday. Finally on Sunday, he came back and bought. As I was getting it ready for him to take, he said, "I really like this painting, What color is it? I'm color blind"
Earlier this week, I was painting at a local nature park and a mother and a couple of young kids came by. The younger boy asked me how long it took me to be an artist. Before I could answer, his mother said "maybe he isn't an artist." Not sure if that was a comment on my painting or not.
This thread made me laugh right out loud. Years ago, I was often painting in a very busy location on Granville Island in Vancouver and I thought that I had heard everything but, I was wrong. I love the comments that little kids make, like "HEY - your pretty good" and "What's THAT supposed to be?" - I try to keep a straight face and respond honestly but sometimes it can be difficult. Unlike Europe, Canadians aren't used to seeing people painting outdoors so the curiosity is natural. I don't mind those who comment nearly as much as those who look, sniff and walk on....always consider that it keeps the ego in line though.
My favorite story along these lines: I was painting in Balboa Park on a sunny Saturday during a California Art Club paint out. There were a bunch of us painting in the area. I'd chosen a spot with my back to a railing, thinking I would be out of the stream of onlookers. But as the park got more crowded, more people were using the walkway on the other side of the railing. A troop of Cub Scouts approached on the walkway, and stopped behind me. I heard the den leader say to the boys, "You've been to the museum, and you've done some sketches, now all you have to do is talk to an artist to get your merit badge." I guess that's me, I thought! I turned to them and introduced myself and said, "I'm painting that scene over there, and I've got to keep looking at what I'm doing. If you don't mind me not looking right at you while we talk, I'll be glad to answer your questions." The boys all nodded in agreement, and I turned back to my painting. There was a long silence, though, and then I heard the den leader, barely keeping from laughing, say, "She can't hear you raising your hand!"
I did have an incident where I was demonstrating at a local cultural event. A guy loaded with 'bling' asked if I ever tried painting on black velvet! I simply told him that was a style all to itself! He never looked at my art hanging on display!
I suppose if you paint outdoors long enough, you'll hear it all and learn to laugh. I always try to answer with a smile and act as if the question is truly legitimate, however. Never know when a potential critic will become a potential client!
One of my favorites stories was when I painted on campus at my daughter's college in West Georgia. I was on a pathway where students cut across campus and many of them stopped to watch but a couple of girls stopped behind me and I overheard one say to the other...."we should have taken art - just look at what they get to do!"
I also had an art student stop that day and ask, "what are you drawing with?" I told her, "pastels" and she said, "gee, wish our professor knew how to use those".
I just recently got back into plein air painting and tend to avoid places with a crowd but I'll slowly grow into it. I have to get past that but I just don't want to be bothered. I was painting at Valley Forge Park (PA) alongside a road. I felt like one of the deer that walk around the park with everyone staring at me and waving at me. After awhile I just laughed it off waved back and focused on what I was doing. I have to realize this is something people don't see every day.
Although just the other day I was painting in an urban area where they just built a new stadium (lots of construction, great shapes). After scraping and wiping off my canvas numerous times trying to get the correct composition and subject I settled and was happy with one. About 20min into the painting a security guard came out and asked if she could help me. I said "no I'm just painting". "You almost done" no I just got started. "Well your going to have to leave because this is private property and you have boxes (tool box I use for supplies) you can't stay here". I understand they have to do their job but she could clearly see all I had were tubes of paint and other supplies...no bomb. Oh well...There's so much out there I'll find another subject.
I had a person say well it is really nice but it sure don't look like anything I see out there.
Of course there are always the people that wants to tell you all about their great aunt Betty and all her wonderful paintings .