Painting for a (sparse) Audience

Art360 booth at the Rakentajamessut 2010 Yesterday's small portrait painting demonstration at Art360 booth at the Oulu Construction Fair (Oulun Rakentajamessut) went along nicely. As it was a Friday, the crowds were sparse and shy (or really, this being Finland, crowds are always shy). Kalervo was very charming to everyone, and I was relieved he did most of the talking and joking for the both of us. He did his best to sit still, and if it wasn't for my nerves and the lighting being all wrong, I would've gotten along further with the portrait.

It was interesting to observe myself, how I reacted to being observed while observing Kalervo observing the observers. I was a bit nervous and jumped slightly in my smock when the first brushful of color I put on the canvas was glaringly out-of-place. (Just to note, I don't wear Marimekko smocks in the studio, usually I have on any ol'bit of paint-spattered clothing.)  I tried to block my peripheral vision, give myself "painting goggles", but I think I accomplished this a little too well: the drawing and proportions in the portrait were out of wack by the end of the session. I had buried my attention too close to the painting surface. I was hesitant to step back and observe, which is what I'd do in the studio, because I thought it wouldn't be enough action for the demonstration. But as Kalervo pointed out, people need to see that the process takes time, observation and deliberation.

Notes for next time I do something like this: eat and drink something beforehand, trying to paint solely on an adrenalin rush without other energy sources is a formula for a muddled portrait; a bowl of candy to lure people in closer (Kalervo's astute suggestion); take more breaks to turn and engage the audience, even if it is just one bored person hovering; keep "about the artist" information separate from the portfolios so that if someone hogs the portfolios other interested people can read something; take time to step back and observe, don't worry about the "show"; find and/or invent a brush holder to avoid hand cramping.

Portrait Demonstration at the Art360 Booth

By the way, that's a portrait of Riitta Uosukainen in the background, painted from life when I was in the Finnish Cultural Foundation's Portrait Painting Course in Imatra, 2008.