Part of going out in nature to paint “en plein air” is dealing with uninvited guests at our easels. Something about the sight of an artist at work excites all kinds of mild mannered folks to behave in interesting and diverse ways. The normal social conventions of not approaching strangers and invading their personal space seems to disappear for a moment. It’s the next best thing to taking a walk with a new puppy for attracting lots of attention!
Since there appears to be no good way of entirely avoiding these encounters, we may as well embrace them as part of the experience. Some plein air painters love sharing their art with passers by. Others cringe at the thought. Most of us are somewhere in the middle – depending on our mood that day.
My purpose in writing this post is to share some strategies for attracting or discouraging the random easel visitor.
Attraction – Getting People to Visit your Easel
Some painters I know actually use their public art making as a way to sell their art. They make sure to set up their easels in a place of high foot traffic. They go without a hat or wear a small one at best. Wearing bright colors and artsy jewelry encourages contact as well. They don’t wear sunglasses because they want to look their easel visitors in the eye and encourage the conversation. This strategy is excellent for keeping the conversation going, getting to know your guests, handing them your art card, and sometimes, even selling them the fresh painting right off your easel. If you are an extravert personality and really enjoy people, this can be a fun and effective way to proceed. I have watched in amazement as this scene repeats itself like clockwork.
Discouraging Easel Visitors from Stopping By
When we first start as plein air painters it can be distracting and nerve wracking to feel you are on display as you try to focus and do your painting. Some of us prefer to be left alone as we paint – it is our chance to connect with nature – this is a big part of why we go out into Nature to paint after all. So here are some tips that may help. They aren’t guaranteed to repel all comers but should help to cut down the number of incidents.
Set up your easel off the trail or in a spot that requires some effort to get to.
Wear a large hat – subliminal signals tell the brain that people wearing large hats want to be alone – channeling your inner Greta Garbo by chanting “I vant to be alone..”
Don’t make eye contact with visitors – keep your eyes on your work and your head down.
Set up your easel alone – if you are painting with a group, set up away from the group in your own spot.
Wear a tee shirt – “Quiet Zone – Artist at Work” – we have one ready made – check it out. This DOES work well.
If, in spite of all precautions, your fortress is breached, accept the intruders with a slight smile, and then go back to your painting. They will leave before long. Give them your card if asked – you never know – a painting sale may result no matter what you do.
In the end, people are so attracted to us because we are doing what we love – and they sense that and want to get a piece of it for themselves.
We are all about spreading the joy of art and personal expression – especially out in our fabulous landscape. We are so lucky!