Visiting an Artist Studio: The Ultimate Guide for Visitor and Artist.

An artist studio is seen as belonging beyond the bounds of communal life, a place where artists practice alchemy and engage in other mysterious activities. Unfortunately, this romantic notion works against the mutual interest of artist and community, as both depend on each other to stay vibrant and diverse.

Whether you are a collector, curator or art enthusiast, visiting a studio will offer an insider’s view into the creative process and the artist will gain feed-back on his or her work.

Tips for a Successful Studio Visit

Frida Kahlo painting in her studio

Tips for the Visitor:

  • Ask questions:

Visitors often feel that asking questions somehow shows their ignorance but in fact, questions are mutually beneficial.  Remember that the artist will probably be feeling a little awkward himself, so asking questions can put you both at ease.

For example, you might ask where the artist’s inspiration comes from, why he works in certain materials or techniques and how long each piece takes to complete, In fact, almost any question would be appropriate .

  • Give Feedback:

Guests are allowed to comment on the artwork and give feedback on individual pieces, or the body of work as a whole.  This can be very helpful for the artist, but remember that their work is personal, so it is wise to comment kindly.  Equally so, the artist should be willing to listen to comments and be open to accepting criticism.

  • Purchasing Art:

If you are interested in buying a particular piece, feel free to ask the artists if his work is for sale. Buying from the artist himself makes it more personal and meaningful and you will feel a greater connection to the piece once you have seen it in a studio. Art takes a long time to produce and techniques take many years to learn, therefore if the prices seems high to you, remember they don’t come close to reflecting the true time and effort the artist has put into his/her work.

Tips for the Artist:

Artists are often introverted by nature, so having your work scrutinized and maybe even criticized, feels like exposing your most intimate thoughts. Nevertheless, it is a necessary step towards finding your voice.  What makes art so fascinating is that there is no consensus, so visitors’ reactions are almost always varied and unpredictable, provided valuable insight into how others view your work.

  • Breaking the ice:

In order to break the ice and set a more relaxed mood, offer your guests light refreshments and a place to sit down.

John Singer Sargent
in his Studio
  • What to show:

A studio visit is an opportunity to show as much work as possible, this can be achieved in many ways. Each possibility has pros and cons which can be used for different situations and people.

1. The more the merrier:
Hang as many pieces on the walls as possible, while keeping the rest in easily accessible piles facing outwards. This allows the visitor to independently walk around and rummage through the various piles at his/her own pace and leisure.

2. Less is more:
Hang a few pieces but keep most of your work turned to the wall, stored in piles according to subject matter. In this approach the artist is in control of what and how the audience experiences the development of his/her work and allows him to give a more thorough explanation. In some ways this approach is similar to a gallery exhibition, as the audience is not bombarded by many different items at the same time.

3. Show your earlier work as well :
Artists often feel that what they are working on at the present time is most relevant, and they tend to highlight these items at the expense of earlier work. But this is not necessarily true for the guest. It is almost impossible to divine what your visitor will be interested in so it is advisable to show older works as well as pieces you are working on at the present time.
In my experience , I have almost always been mistaken in predicting the taste of my audience and the paintings I showed last often turned out to be  the ones they were most interested in.

4. Show works in progress:
Show work in progress as well as works which are not fully resolved. People love to see behind the scenes, so showing works in progress can make the visitor feel he is part of the process.

FRÉDERIC BAZILLE: “The artist’s studio – Bazille’s Studio; 9 rue de la Condamine”
1870 – oil on canvas,

  • Talking about your work , your methods and materials.

Art is about communication and hopefully artists communicate through their work.  Nevertheless, it is helpful to share your artistic philosophy, how it is expressed in your work and the stories behind your daily struggles. This is also beneficial for the artist, allowing him to step back and view his work more objectively.

In order to navigate through the room, explain the difference between finished pieces and works in progress, and point out which materials you use on a daily basis.  For instance, I have noticed how visitors are particularly drawn to my vast collection of paint brushes and other materials lying around the studio.

Studio materials

  • Selling your Work:

Hopefully although not necessarily, a studio visit will lead to a sale or it might expose your work to people who could help you in your career. Artists are not usually natural salesmen so discussing money is probably the most awkward part of a visit. Having a printed list of prices of some of the works can help towards allowing the visitor to understand the range of your prices, thus making the situation feel less uncomfortable.

  • The Follow Up:

After the visit, it is important to keep in touch by email or on Facebook. You can refer to matters you discussed during the visit, you can ask about their impressions of the visit, as well as mention new directions your work might be taking.

Please add your own ideas and comments in the box below in order to make this list more comprehensive!!!!

Please write your comments below.

3 thoughts on “Visiting an Artist Studio: The Ultimate Guide for Visitor and Artist.

  1. This is a very valuable post. It sounds as if you sell well and are a great host to your studio.

    When I took part in the local Open Studios last year I made it know that there was a scheduled talk at 3pm each open day. It was only 10 mins and was a demonstration of the first stages of making a Bargue drawing. Holding a fine cotton thread I showed how I plotted the main important points, explained its place as part of an academic process and pointed out, in the paintings on the walls, that I had done exactly what I was showing on a small piece of paper.

    People could miss this talk by coming at a different time, or come along. It acted as a visible introduction to the simple physical act of making an image. It also broke the ice for me, as much as the visitors and showed the purely physical side of painting which is a surprise to many non painters and lead into varied conversations.

    1. That is a fantastic idea for an open studio, to demonstrate something for the audience!! I am sure everyone loved it as people are always interested to see behind the process.

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