I had a wonderful booth location at the art show I was in last month, third from the door...which meant the visitors and shoppers were fresh, open, and ready to mingle. We had great conversations and I came away with five helpful observations:
1. Looking is free! Go right into an artist's display and look at everything. You don't have to say a word and the artist knows a sale is not going to happen at the first look so won't be expecting you to buy a thing.
2. Say what you are feeling! I was so surprised and got all warm and fuzzy inside when I heard throughout the weekend the same expression of peacefulness and restfulness my paintings evoked in viewers. I don't try to paint with that in mind, but it must be coming through in my style. So if the display of paintings trigger joy, energy, happiness, gentleness...express it to the artist.
3. Ask for the story! Every painting probably has an interesting history and most artists are happy to tell it. Possible questions might be "Where is this setting?" "What kind of bird (horse, tree, flower) is this?" "Did you travel to this place?" "Is this from a photo or from life?" Hearing the stories behind the paintings adds to the fun of viewing art.
4. Ask for a card! And use it as a segue to learning about the business side of art. Does he have a website? a gallery? How long has she been painting and how did she learn? Artists like giving out their cards and don't like taking them all back home after a show. It's nice to know your little moo card might be floating out there, giving happy vibes to someone.
5. Share your story! If you're a painter, say so and then there are hundreds of things to talk about. One time I did just that and got an excellent 30 minute private lesson in plein air composition from a really good artist. If you've always wanted to paint, say so and you may discover some avenue to get started. If you just enjoy interesting art, a conversation about beauty, culture, mystery might be in store.
Trust me, you don't have to say anything at all and the artist won't mind. Especially if she is eating lunch. But do try, if you can. It makes the experience of seeing and understanding art so much richer and memorable. It values the time and effort and love the artist pours into her work. And when the words, "What a great frame," start to leave your lips tell yourself, "I can do better," and try out one of my suggestions.