Be Smart About Art

Artists geeking out on process can be a great thing

written by: Susan Mumford June 5, 2016 1) RECOMMENDED-> Susan's weekly blog post 3059 views

Artists geeking out on process can be a great thing

from our Sunday reading series - a weekly blog post (subscribe here

There’s a pervasive notion that an artist’s process should be kept a secret. The thinking goes that the mystery behind a creation is one of the things that makes it appealing to prospective buyers. Furthermore, makers don’t want to “give away” techniques (a common concern expressed by artists).  

The oft-said phrase “the internet has changed everything” comes to mind. Getting the insider’s view of an artist’s studio, including behind-the-scene scoop on how pieces are made, is one such influence of the digital age.

It’s true that we have seen artists at work in their studios, presented with still and moving image, since the early days of of photography. Today, with increasing access to information, collectors now seek out information on how works have been made. While having a secret process, akin to an unknown recipe, will continue to be used by the few, many more are increasingly choosing to reveal all. Any concern about being ripped off can be washed away with the knowledge that copycat artists lack your originality*, and better yet, as a genuine creator, you will forever generate original ideas.

I’ve seen an exhibiting artist at a Be Smart About Art networking event try out new talk material, based on the science behind the pigments used in his paintings. He hadn’t previously spoken about materials and process to such an extent. His concern was that it would be boring. With his own fascination in the science, and having a relatively safe crowd of art world professionals, he decided to go for it. The response? Everyone was intrigued! Moreover, the passion for process came through in every word spoken, thereby drawing in the audience.    

Understanding how he makes pieces provides added insight into his pieces for viewers. And indeed, one aspect of selling a piece of art is its story, so this behind-the-scenes insight provides insight into just that, the knowledge of which can be passed onto future viewers (such as friends of the collector who are admiring it).

There are numerous ways to provide sneak peeks into processes and studio settings. You can write about what you do, for presentation at exhibitions and publication on your own blog as well as third-party blogs and publications. You can be filmed (by yourself, a friend or film-maker) in the studio. And you can be videoed while giving a talk, live streamed and/or uploaded to the internet for ongoing exposure. Some artists are making a habit of filming short clips of mixing paint and working in the studio for publication on Instagram. With the capability of all things digital progressing at a breakneck speed, it will only become easier to give audiences insight into the worlds of artists, and no doubt those audiences will increasingly seek out the information.  

Whether giving a talk at a show or thinking about what to present online, if you’re passionate about the techniques behind what you do, why not try out expressing your fascination to others?

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*See related blog post: Scared of being copied? Don't worry; copycats lack your originality and commitment

Image above: Susan helps to create a painting with artist Rod McIntosh (who inspired this very piece) during his annual open studio. 

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