Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Your experiences with curious spectators

On Facebook people shared many more stories about dealing with curious spectators while painting outdoors. It's a rich topic. Thanks, everybody!

Carl Larsson -- Plein Air Painter, Winter-Motif from Åsögatan, Stockholm, 1886

Phil Mamuyac
"He's a drawer!"

Anath Sheridan
"I can't draw a straight line" is another... Always want to say "well neither can I, do you SEE that horizon line?!"

Timothy Atkins
"What are you doing?"
"Playing tennis" is my usual half joking/half snide answer. After all, you never know who you are talking to!
I actually really enjoy interacting with people on the street, especially kids, but they have a tendency to turn up just when you're 3 seconds in to an important watercolor wash. And then all is lost.
I liken it to someone walking up to a DJ and ripping the needle of the record, only to ask "are you playing music?" and then you're left to find the exact spot on the record again.

Kathy Partridge
How long does it take you? Do you do sheeps? (Yes, "sheeps"!)

Arun VB
LOL ! "I can't draw a straight line" is very typical and usual question

Thomas Gieseke 
"My mom's an artist. She does macrame."

John Trotter 
HA! I did a fundraiser at Zoo Atlanta in June where a bunch of us worked plein air and the profits went to the zoo. A lot of the artists had never worked in such a public forum before and we got lots of stories. The camp groups and patrons were overwhelming but also very complimentary. (Although I did end up with a child mostly sitting in my lap at one point!)

Phil Moss 
'My sister's friend's brother's third cousin twice removed is studying art at university, you should meet him!' No, it's fine, really!

Sara Otterstätter 
Are those people Mennonites? And one particular story came to my mind:

I was at the local zoo, sketching the rhinocerosses - their anatomy is a nightmare - and in a short distance was an older lady with her grandson. She may have thought that it is better not to talk to me because I might be disturbed while fighting with the awkward rhinoceros-anatomy. So she talked with her grandson about me. But hell, in what way.

"Oh look how nice this lady draws! Does she not draw nicely?! Shall I pick you up that you can see how nicely the lady draws?!....." I really felt like I was merely an drawingmonkey at the zoo and wished she had talked to me instead of over my head. Maybe I should get a "Do not feed the Artist"-sign and put it next to me the next time I am at the zoo sketching.

Simon Schmidt
100% hit. Also the age distribution is nearly perfect. Usually there are a few more elderly people.

Eric Wilkerson 
My favorite is from a time I was painting with Garin down by the hudson. A man came up and said to him "If it comes out good I'll give you a hundred bucks for it".

Harmony Baudelaire Carrigan 
"I can't even draw a straight line" and "I can't even draw stick figures" are the two I always hear.

Laslo Iera 
a classic.

MeKenzie Martin 
That's exactly why I am afraid of painting in public. I'm deaf and that would definitely make an awkward situation where I would have to spend more energy on explaining the fact that I can't hear and have less energy for actual painting time. Awkward, I tell ya... but I guess it's also awkward in your world, having all people watch you painting and have those questions that shouldn't have been asked in the first place. Lol.

Andy Volpe ·
"Oh, can't you let my child/ren draw on the corner of your paper?! They're Master Artists themselves!". It's true, it takes a lot of energy and patience to work in front of the public…A…Lot. But for the most part comments and questions are fairly descent and genuinely curious. It's similar to reenacting/living history, and that "You're wearing wool?! Aren't you HOT in all of that?!" No, I'm pouring sweat because I'm cold….

Andy Volpe ·
I feel really bad for that Spanish artist trying to paint, I've never seen anything like that. It makes me wonder now if the Old Masters who painted outdoors scenes where there's only 2-3 people in the painting, had dozens of onlookers standing behind them that we don't see.

Jasper Patch "that looks good. What is it ?"
"are you painting that?"

Eran Fowler ·
I always get the stick figure comment. Usually accompanied with "I could never in a million years." Makes me wonder if they were too afraid to ever try.

Another case was the crazy dude at the bakery. I just put a link to my blog with the story. It was sort of really uncomfortable and one of the rare occasions where I refused to show my sketchbook:

Dougie Hoppes 
I love painting in public. It's where a lot of my sales comes from. I usually get the request: "Can I be in your painting?" I usually tell them "Sure... if you are willing to stand there for about 1/2 hour or more". I'm sure that, one day, someone will take me up on that!

Shenge Bana Gon Paja ·
Just smile

Ulrich Zeidler 
All the freakin' time

Destinie Janea Carbone 
Still trying to figure out what people mean when they say "Are you an artist?"

Barry Van Clief ·
Mostly people are friendly and pleasant, perhaps many of them would like to do art themselves. I've always thought plein air painting would be a good way to generate sales, if I were less shy and did it more often.

Joe Nazzaro 
'Did you do that freehand?'

Steve McInturff 
...yep...and ...when i set up at an art festival...i have my work on display...people like to ask ..'did you draw all these..?"..."..."...why yes i did"...."Dang!!'re good.."...the tell me about a relative who draws or paints..."they ain't as good as you, but they're pretty good".....and then they walk away....

Richard Smith
I know I love it. "I can't even draw a straight line"... "no you don't understand I can't draw, I've tried."
I always tell people "good, if it were a straight line it wouldn't be art."
And as for not being able to draw or paint, I usually just say " the only reason you 'can't' is because you simply 'don't'. I try to encourage people..."You could draw or paint as well or better if you'd practice as much. It's not a magical power...talent = desire + discipline".
The world can never have enough artists

Weston Hobdy ·
"I saw a TV program on Ansel Adams a few nights ago, but you.... you do these freehand, don't you?"

Tim Vedel ·
when you blast a wall at 3 am with a spray can people usually keep their mouths shut hahah

Karalyn Johnson 
Them, "I can't even draw a straight line!" Me, " Me either, that's why I use a ruler."

Greg Newbold "did you just start that today?" Yea, like an hour ago. "How much would you sell that for?" In the gallery, about $900. "Yea, right. Good luck with that." Thank you for watching.

Carlos Castañón ·
I had a guy stand behind me for some solid 45 minutes, claiming he "just loves the smell of turpentine".

Danielle Nicole De Shane I still get a crack out of the people asking, "Did you draw that?" While you're in the middle of drawing. My friend had responded with this shocked expression, "OH MY GOD, what's this!? I didn't draw this! How did this get here!? My hand has a mind of it's own!"

Shannon Beaumont
At the Munich zoo people ask "Did you make that yourself?"... I usually say to them "Nope, bought it on"

Jenny Wolfe First time I was plein air painting a lady stopped her truck in the middle of the dirt road, ran out, and asked "Can I have that? For free? My neighbors would adore that in my house!" Of course I said no, and told her her neighbors could adore it from where I'm painting. Some people.

Mervin LovesZbrush
I get lookers all the time at coffee shops. It turns up the pressure to perform lol

John Cullen
I don't mind curious spectators. If someone comes up to me and asks me 'did you draw that?' (while I'm in the middle of drawing something), I don't belittle them or talk down to them for doing so. They are merely showing curiosity in what you're doing.

Remember that it can be scary for people to approach and talk to complete strangers, so saying things such as 'did you draw that?' or 'I couldn't draw a straight line to save my life' are just easy ways for them to attempt to break the ice. It's the equivalent of starting a conversation with 'how about that weather?'

Yes, it can get a little annoying at times, but people mean absolutely no offense when they try talking to you. The amount of snide and stuck up comments here about such people truly disappoints me.

Patti Glynn Haarz
I am a magnet...that is one of the reasons I don't like plain air. However, I have always wanted to turn around quickly and say, "you can see me!!!" with a wild look in my eye or perhaps a tick.

David Cameron had most of those. I had a young lad say to me once,' wow did you draw that? do you know what, you should become a real artist'!!!

Eric Wolf
No, since I can't paint. But I do get similar comments when practicing archery or when reciting my poems to my girlfriend.

Chithra Mitra can add one more...." can u teach my 4 year old son,tony.......he paints exactly like u "!!! ...lols

Aline Schleger In art school (of all places) I was "in the zone" when I noticed some first years checking as I drew with pastels. I was shocked when turning around an hour after and still see them there (was wearing headphones). I blushed.

Lyn Lull oh yeah heard 'em all and more

Harvey McDowell "never show a fool a thing half finished"........

Cliff Cramp I got, "my 5 year old daughter is an artist too."

Mike Kloepfer 
Currently, 'Stick Figures' is tied with 'I can do that.'
My stock response: "I'll tell you a secret. My stick figures are terrible."

Angela Bell
lol I've had the stick figure comment so many times I've lost count. I also had neck-craners when I was sketching on a train, this lasses head almost fell off trying to see who on the train I was sketching whilst I tried my best to ignore her, then I realised after that she was holding a pose and looking to see if I was sketching her yet...I didn't.

Lyn Lull I took a workshop up in the White Mountains of NH last year. Trying to paint a waterfall and had a steady stream of tourists hiking by and saying many of those comments and many others like my friend, wife husband, cousin etc are artists too and they do this that or the other

Ricky Mujica 
"If I give you a photograph, can you draw it?"

Susan Fox 
"I wish I could do that."

Erik Pen ·
Spectators can be so distracting.

Patrick Hanenberger

Thijs Wessels ·
"Do you also have a real job?" When people ask me this I see it as a compliment

Tracy E Flynn 
you left out....
" my cousin is a natural artist, they never went to school for it "

Barb Cimity ·
Just proves art has a human connection for every person. We should cherish that.

Christopher Radko It's so rare to see ladies in dresses, these days....

Robert Paulmenn ·
i always think of myself as "public domain" when I'm on the street painting. I've had people purchase work on the spot, it's worth a little distraction from time to time.

Raven Amos 
Every. Time. Or "'What is it?' (I tell them) ''s cute' !"

Mike Kloepfer 
It's a strange phenomenon, and I've had quite a bit of experience with it.
The way I look at it, most people never have the opportunity to see art being created. So I try to be engaging as possible.
Plus, It's not like they broke down the door of my studio. I put myself out there in public, doing something interesting. Most people are genuinely curious, and that's natural. It's counterproductive to be offended when they engage.
To the vast majority, the art-making process is a mystery, and there is a lot of 'myth' surrounding artists. So you get a lot of interesting, unusual, and sometimes totally unexpected comments. Some are downright hilarious.
For me, it really depends on the person, how they present themselves (some people are nice, some are just rude,) and other factors, like my concentration level, noise, weather conditions, etc. And sometimes I'm just not in a talkative mood. I'm human.
I've noticed that I'm not as talkative right after I've eaten. That's Mikey's quiet, inside-my-head, art-making time. LOL
It reminds me of something Jeff Watts said. (Paraphrasing....) Talking while making art is a unique skill. Some people like it, some don't.

Johnny Morrow
If I had a quarter for every time I heard, "I can't even draw a stick figure!" Oh man

Graham Nightingale
Hold on! you forgot the other inspiring comments James!!
What's that supposed to be?
You should see the stuff my kid paints its way better than that!
Nobody ever made money doing this son, why don' you get a proper job!
etc etc.

Mike Kloepfer Yes, Johnny - I could buy a lot more art supplies! LOL

Mike Kloepfer 
Hey I have an idea... I'll read the blog post. LOL

Virgil Elliott
I appreciate the idea that people are interested in art and artists, so I don't mind the comments. A sale or commission might result from any new human contact. I'm able to concentrate while carrying on a conversation, so it doesn't interfere with painting. Maybe I'll pick up a new student; maybe someone will buy my book.

If I want to paint without people around, I know a wild place that's full of rattlesnakes. They never bother me, and I don't bother them.

Peter Hoss
One of my favorites, "my aunt is an artist".

Leslie Jordan 
That's funny. When I see an artist on the streets like that, I take a quick look and move on. I know they are in a creative zone and don't have time for interruptions, though if I saw you on the street, I would at the very least just say hi.

Andy Volpe
Leslie - Yeah, I try to just say a quick hello, take a quick peak and move on, knowing they're trying to work.

Andy Volpe
The one peeve I have is when I'm doing a demonstration (i.e. Printing) and trying to explain what it is I'm doing, and then someone decides they're going to cut in and explain it to someone else for me. "What are you doing?" I'm inking the plate "See? He's inking the plate!"

Tommy Scott 
That face says, "kill me now."

Johanna Westerman ·
One reason I avoid it. Of course you say, "You realize who I am, don't you?"(haha)

Mike Kloepfer Wow, that guy in the video could sure use some traffic cones. LOL
I've got a plen air outing this weekend (which I am VERY excited about) and this got me to thinking about it. A lot. And a lot of good ideas came out of that thinking.
I posted at length about the subject in the comments on the blog post.
(Mikey said... "Wow. That guy sure could use some traffic cones. LOL " etc.)

Susan Rankin-Pollard
^I like the part of your comment where you suggest a liason. i do this at comic cons where I'm drawing so that I can actually do the work I've got in front of me and take more commissions. Helps A Lot!

Susan Rankin-Pollard When I draw in public, I take stock of how I'm feeling ahead of time and that determines where and how I sit. If I'm not open to chatting, i'll have my back to a corner. Most people are really good about respecting personal space. Earbuds/headphones help too, but I'll always talk to kids. To kids it's magic that they're willing to try without immediately tearing themselves down with I can'ts.

Monarchs Die 
Why are you drawing this you should be drawing bla bla bla ... Coud you draw me? I have a school homework would draw things for me? Etc...

Mike Kloepfer Chithra Mitra 
Maybe her son Tony's last name is Pro. You never know... LOL

Mike Kloepfer Susan - I agree. I was having this discussion with a fellow artist this weekend. We understand that what we do is applied skill, but to the lay-person, it has the same effect as a magic act.

Mike Kloepfer I'll try to gauge my mood and my audience, and if it's right, I'll go for the funny. However, I try to calibrate my humor to be entertaining, not insulting. I try to give them the same consideration I would like to receive.
(I've gotten pretty accurate, but even so, there's times... )

Mike Kloepfer 
Geez, gang - there's some great stories and anecdotes here. Got so entertained, I almost forgot...
Time for me to get drawing!!!

Blanca Plata Ortega
What about this one: if I had money I will bay it from you! But I'm just a kid! LOL

Aline Schleger James, ever thought of putting a printed F.A.Q. somewhere near you? With pamplets pointing to your books,prints,etc?

Eric Bowman ·
Aren't you that guy who wrote Jurassic Park?

Reginald Atkins 
yep.. several times. since taking up digital art and working on a tablet.. less so, since it's not as easy to see the entire thing over my shoulder as I focus on a small detail.

Arthur Machabee 
If I had a nickel for every time someone asked "Did you draw that?" while I'm still drawing, I could buy a whole new set of art supplies (which I wouldn't mind having).

Ed Redgrove ·
Yep, all of them, also while lying in a park, had a grandmother drag her screeching kid towards me with "oh lets see what this man is drawing" a graphic sword fight was what... she did not appreciate it

Mike Kloepfer 
Okay, Mr. G - ya got me thinking. A LOT. LOL
So I started a post on my own blog. Feel free to check it out. More

J Wm Lonnee "You should do this for a job!"

Carolyn McCully Yes, it really put me off trying to paint outdoors, also got "Is that a paint by numbers", that did it for me.

Maurine Starkey 
My favorite is. did you trace that?

Ed Nickerson ·
How about : my friends daughter is an artist too, she won a ribbon for the art in her 3rd grade class last week.

Rebecca England ·
all the time!

Raphael Schnepf 
I've done some outdoor murals and mostly got good comments. My watercolor teacher in high school used to flick her wet brushes absently to shoo the onlookers.

Cameron Davis 
"I can't even draw a straight line!" Har har

Jessica Boehman 
I couldn't get this to load to the site, but this was my comment: "The worst spectator I ever had was a goose that beaked the paint off the corner of my painting."

Kern Afton 
Those and "My son/daughter is also an artist. You should be friends, you might learn something!" and "So I have this cool idea for a comic book... but I can't draw, so..."

Linda Binkley 
I once had a German tour group surround me in Paris. (I had to leave it freaked me out)

Patrick Waugh 
Usually kids. One time while erasing a kid said "I thought artists didn't use erasers."

Claudia Hackett
How about when you draw a person... "Who's that ?"

Len H. Nicholas
"are you a student"

Mike Kloepfer 
btw - Aline Schleger, a printed FAQ is brilliant! Have some fun with it.

Sandy Sherman 
Did you ever see that guy on t.v.?

Mike Kloepfer
Yes, all the freaking time. as well as "are you painting?".

Kimberly M Zamlich 
"If I give you a picture of my daughter...can you paint if for me and I can give it to her as a gift?"

Kimberly M Zamlich 
or..."Hey I'm writing a children's book..can you do the art? No, I don't have a publisher yet and no...I can't pay for it right away...but I can pay you with some of the profits..."

Kimberly M Zamlich 
"My five year old cousin can do the same thing..."

Kimberly M Zamlich 
"What's you're real job?"

Lee B. Smith 
Yes to all of these, except for the one about the five-year old.

Kara Williams
I love these people to be honest. It's just so cute, like they're amazed by what you're doing and just want to let you know.

Previously on GurneyJourney


Andy said...

I think the strangest one I had was in a quiet seaside camping ground. There was one campervan parked nearby - and me, painting the evening ocean.

After about 20 minutes a guy wandered over and said "Wow, I just proposed to my girlfriend and she accepted and I really like that, will you sell it to me when you're done, how much do you want?".

I cautiously declined, on the basis that it was a difficult time of day and failure was highly likely. I got his details but the painting was less than spectacular and I wouldn't have wanted it to be a permanent reminder of someone's special day.

James Gunter said...

When someone says to me, "I can't even draw stick figures." I usually respond with,"That's OK. I've never had a stick figure model for me!"

dglenncasey said...

M response to "I can't draw a straight line" is, "neither can I, but that's what rulers are for." And when someone says they can't draw at all I ask if they can sign their name. "Yes" "Can people read it after you've signed it?" "Yes" "Well, all you've done is draw your name, but you've done it thousands of times. If you can do that, you can draw."

Anonymous said...

Went out today and got another "You have a gift" AND "I can't even draw a stick figure". If they only knew how hard I worked at it... Think I'm going to start tallying these...

Brian said...

The one that always brings me to the edge of committing murder is "Why don't you just take a photo?" :-)

Marion Boddy-Evans said...

My answer to "I can't draw a straight line" is generally "I can't either, that's what rulers are for", which generally eases their tension.

Armand Hughes said...

I am an art student and was recently painting flowers at my local botanical gardens. A lady with her kids came up and said "Look an artist!" and I thought to myself "Oh my god I am an artist.."

Anonymous said...

Random stranger, "I can't even draw a straight line".
Stock answer, "You probably have a useful talent, like math".
Generic response, "Yes, I am an engineer and I work for Rockedyne".


"Wow, you're an artist? Have you seen that guy on TV, the guy with the afro? He's an artist too. He's really good."

Anonymous said...

While I am in the zone and struggling and really stressed and angry, people come up a say, "How nice that you have such a relaxing little hobby.

Albert Einstein said...

Good Work. Keep it Up.

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Albert Einstein said...

Good Work. Keep it Up.

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