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  • Writer's pictureJane

How to talk to an Artist about their work

This is a blog post I needed to write as I have been on both sides of the fence! Over the last 12 months I have had two paintings displayed in the Mall Galleries in two separate exhibitions. That's two private views full of artists that I've admired for years; was I nervous, you bet! Did I manage to strike up conversations with some of these well known artists ? Mmmm, yes and no, I did but not confidently and I wish I had prepared in advance so I could have been less shy of talking to other artists and got more from the experience.

Jane Wilson and her painting Sounding The Alarm at the Society of Wildlife Artists Natural Eye Exhibition at The Mall Galleries London.
Jane Wilson at the Private View of The Society of Wildlife Artists Natural Eye Exhibition

This is me and my painting "Sounding The Alarm" at the PV of The Society of Wildlife Artist's Natural Eye exhibition.

It was a great evening but I wish I'd had a list of art conversation openers in my head!

I'm not sure what I am worried about, maybe a spot of imposter syndrome, as not only am I an artist, I also get the chance to talk to members of the public about my work and the work of my fellow artists in the Polperro gallery every Tuesday.



Here I am this week taking my Instagram and Facebook followers on a little tour round the gallery. I love talking to visitors, their questions about the art, artists and artworks are always so interesting and inspiring. So, please don't ever feel foolish, nervous or silly about asking an artist a question. Be you, be genuine and you'll be fine! If you're at an exhibition or an art fair the artists may also be nervous, having your work on display for the world to see and potentially dislike is very daunting.


Which brings me too; what not to say to an artist. Just please don't be rude or insensitive! Honesty is great and it's fine to say you don't like something, or don't understand or even that it's out of your reach price-wise but "your work is expensive" or 'my kid, dog, pet monkey could do that" are definite no-nos and things not to say to an artist. A painting may be out of your budget but it doesn't mean it's expensive. There are many artists whose hourly rate falls well below the minimum wage once you've added up all the painting hours, admin, accounting, marketing etc. As self employed sole traders we rarely employ assistants or or marketing departments! Once you get your head round that and accept that an artist deserves to be paid for their efforts a retail price rarely seems so pricey.

Though it's always worth asking if there's movement on price, especially if you want to buy more than one piece. Or ask whether there are payment plans available. Through Paypal I offer the opportunity to split payments into three instalments plus I have entered into more informal arrangements where a collector pays a deposit and then instalments over a period of agreed time. Another question to ask could be whether you could purchase the artwork unframed, especially if it is a work on canvas or wood panel. If you're buying online the painting may not be framed up until it's purchased.



Jane Wilson Mixed Media and Collage Large Painting on Wall
Jane Wilson Mixed Media Large Painting

So what should you ask about a painting if you want to get a conversation with an artist going?

I get a lot of questions about my technique; my paintings have many layers and lots of texture which intrigues people. If you'd like to learn more about an artist's process, ask! Also please don't be embarrassed to say you're an artist too. It helps 'pitch' the conversation and chatting with a fellow artist is always fun.

Asking about an artist's background is a good starter, many have had quite a journey to get to where they are!

And of course a simple "tell me about your work" could be all that's needed to spark a lively discussion about art, life and allsorts of things!


Bottom line; be you, be friendly and genuine and you'll be fine!


Hope this was useful x


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