Put Your Best Foot Forward

Pastel study for a future painting in a new series of Naples, Florida. The new works will be available later this year exclusively at Trudy Labell Fine Art, Naples, FL

Artists sometimes have the reputation for being eccentric, lazy, temperamental and difficult to deal with. That needs to change, and the best way to change it starts with you. No matter where you are in your artistic career, you need to behave like a professional. Here are some do’s and don’t’s for a variety of situations.

In the Classroom:

  • DO arrive on time and with all your materials, bring a positive attitude to class and leave your problems behind for the time you are there. This is your time, make the most of it. If you arrive late, set up quietly and don’t be a distraction, especially if the instructor is in the middle of a demo.
  • DON’T come to class early unless you have a pre-arranged appointment with the instructor. Instructors need time to set up still lifes and mentally prepare for class. By arriving early and expecting attention, you are distracting the instructor and generally setting up the entire class for a less than perfect learning experience.
  • Remember, you are not the only person in the class, DON’T demand the instructor’s constant attention. Never interrupt if they are working with another student. When it’s your turn, you wouldn’t want someone else interrupting, would you?
  • When you are working with the instructor, listen to what they are telling you. DON’T talk over them or constantly interrupt with excuses or explanations. A good instructor will listen to you first and then offer suggestions, but in order to get something out of the advice they offer, you have to hear it, and you can only hear it if you are listening.  Instructors do not judge their students–you don’t need to make excuses for making a mistake, we all make them and they are great learning experiences if you relax and use what you learn.
  • DON’T offer critiques or advice to other students, especially when they don’t ask you for it! By signing up for a class, a student is paying for the advice and instruction of the teacher of that course, not the other students in the class. Unless the instructor specifically has an open critique session and ASKS other students to participate in the critique process, you should keep your thoughts to yourself and focus on your own work. I often have students come to me upset by what other people in the class have said, I tell them they should simply and politely tell the person “thanks for your input, but I prefer to work this out on my own”.  Good instructors know how to provide a constructive critique, they also respect the fact that a painting belongs to the artist alone, regardless of whether they are a student or not.  Students have not had the experience an instructor has had providing critique and many times may unintentionally discourage or even offend a fellow student.

In a Juried Exhibit:

  • DO select and participate in juried exhibitions that are at the appropriate level for your experience, skill and style.
  • DON’T expect to get into every show that you enter.
  • DO accept the decision of the judges who jury work into the show.
  • NEVER EXPECT to win an award, be surprised and honored instead.
  • DON’T verbally (or worse) attack the judge(s) if they do not select your painting for inclusion in the show or for an award. (This really does happen, I have experienced it first hand as a judge, it is appalling behavior and rather scary!)
  • DO accept an award with grace, be proud of your work but don’t brag or boast.

With Galleries:

  • DON’T expect a gallery to view your work without an appointment.
  • DON’T constantly call galleries pestering them to look at your work, if they are looking for artists and your work fits their market, they will contact you.
  • If you have representation, DON’T constantly call the gallery asking if you sold something. They will let you know. If you have had the experience where they haven’t, then maybe it is time to find a new gallery.
  • DO be loyal to your galleries–don’t sell work directly from your studio for lower prices!
  • DON’T ever try to work directly with a gallery’s client (even if the client contacts you, and there will be some that do). The gallery established the relationship, they are entitled to their commission and the client should respect that instead of trying to get a better deal by going around them.
  • DO show your collectors that you appreciate them. If they buy a large piece, give them a sketch or drawing as a thank you.

All of the above will help to dispel the myth that artists are behind the curve when it comes to being professional. In order to be treated like a pro, you have to act like one!!! 🙂


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