Artists Questioned. What are the do’s and don’ts of a studio visit?

A dance with the devil, oil & spray paint on mdf panel, 120 x 99cm, 2014

Valerie Brennan, Glare,
oil & spray paint on mdf panel, 120 x 99cm, 2014

All artists have questions they seek answers to. Sometimes they ask themselves the same questions over and over again, and sometimes they seek out friends and mentors who provide answers to their questions. If you ask the same question to several people you will most likely get several different answers, and then it is up to you to select the answer that is best for you. So the question is…What are the do’s and don’ts of a studio visit?

Valerie Brennan “I have tremendous respect for artists so I always love a studio visit, as a visitor or receiving a visit, and actively welcome both. I don’t really have a list of do’s and don’ts as they usually progress very naturally, I feel an affinity with other artists so I find it easy to communicate and think we share an understanding of something fundamental as a fellow maker, so it’s comfortable. Some basic courtesies would be: be on time, be prepared: know the work of the person you are visiting and think of some specific questions that you want to ask. Find some common issues either in the creation of work or in the work itself that you can talk about. Don’t make it feel like an interrogation. Recently I had a visit to my studio and that person just spoke about themselves and spent the time listing their own achievements so that’s a don’t! Bring a bottle of wine that’s always a great start.” VB

Cliff EylandStudio visit do’s and don’ts from Cliff Eyland, who is both an artist and a curator:

– Precise directions to your studio or meeting place are essential. Do not be late. The visitor won’t be on time: be patient.

– You do not need to know why you are being visited, so don’t ask.

– Neither the visitor nor the person visited should have expectations about the results of a studio visit

– You are not obligated to provide anything more than a glass of water to the visitor. By the time they have seen you they have probably had enough coffee, and they just don’t need your alcohol and/or drugs.

– You should not have sex with the visitor, even though sex hangs in the air of many a studio visit, as it does with many artistic encounters. Save it for later

– Do not be surprised if your visitor says nothing about your work, especially if they are doing many studio visits that day.

– Allow the visitor to take photographs of you and your work

– Studio visits, especially the first studio visit (and of course when the artist does not have a studio) can be conducted in a coffee shop with a laptop. Do not overestimate the visitor’s need to see your work in person. The visitor pays for coffee shop drinks.

– In most cases, the visitor is going to understand your work, or at least easily place it in a context that they understand. You don’t have to struggle with problems of comprehension. What can’t be fathomed in your work can’t be fathomed by anybody, you included.”

Becka ViauStudio Visits – Do’s and Don’t

Don’t do this

1 – Get your self too worked up about meeting someone you think is powerful or cool. Curators and other artists are people too, and they have their self doubts just like you!

2 – Prepare a boring powerpoint about your life, your inspirations, and your influences. (If you do this you may as well just give the studio visitor some old hard candy and send them away.)

3- Tidy the studio like the pope is going to visit. You should be in your natural environment – I mean if there is old mouldy food around and the place stinks for heaven’s sake clean the filth, but don’t polish the china. Make sure there is a comfortable place for you and your guest to sit and chat.

4- Try to show the visitor your life’s work. This is almost as bad as a dull power point.

5- Gift your Art on the first visit.We all know what kind of relationship that leads to.

6- Talk about everything but your ideas, your process, your practice. Good and meaningful visitors will be naturally interested in what you are doing in the studio, that is why they are there in the first place. So, feel confident, talking about yourself and the ideas that are currently in your head is what this visit is all about!

Do this

1– Be calm and prepared. Have a card or your contact information ready to give out. Think about what is current and relevant in your studio. Has the visitor requested to see a specific work? Is that work ready and accessible – easily viewed in its best light/situation? (still in the studio.) If you are showing digital work, test it before the visit and make sure it works. this will help you not get too worked up.

2- Have a little beverage or refreshment available – this is mostly for you – pick something that will help you be calm and relaxed. I usually am drinking tea or coffee, it gives me a) something to do with my hands and b) something to do with my mouth when I should be listening and not talking.

3- Don’t have a strict plan. A script is the last thing you want when hosting a studio visit. Be honest, be open and let the conversation go where it will (as long as it stay on topic to what you are thinking about/ working on in your studio.

4- Invite them back! Invite them to check out your blog/website … or to be your friend on your social networks… If you are like me, art is my life, I basically am thinking about things all the time, and I reflect this in my online life … So do this, unless they are jerks, then just give them an old candy cane and send them on their way.

A very helpful link about studio visits:

Pan Wendt:  Do’s and don’ts of studio visits:

Do: Think of curators as potential editors and collaborators. Curators are interested in artists and their work, and want it to succeed. Most curators are not gatekeepers. Nor are they the imaginary “public.” There is usually no need to be willfully mysterious or gnomic in this context, or to think of the studio visit as a performance.

Do: Flaunt it if you got it. Whatever it may be.

Do: Have some work to look at (and I don’t mean things that could just as well be sent via dropbox). Postpone the meeting if you don’t. Ask yourself, could this be achieved with a phone conversation? If not, it’s worthy of a studio visit.

Do: Give some sense of your working process. The more information the better.

Don’t: Be too prepared or too underprepared. I think this applies to life as much as it does power point presentations or studio visits.

Don’t: Assume that a studio visit means a show, or be too demanding on the spot about what happens next. The art world is a game that’s as deeply implicated in the highly indirect social forms of salons and playful repartee as it is in academic discourse and other courts of intellectual law. One must demonstrate aesthetic sense beyond one’s own work.

Don’t: Expect regular studio visits. This is just a matter of numbers. If a given curator can do (if they’re lucky) 50 studio visits a year, why would you expect that you will get to present your case with regular updates every few months?

Don’t: on the other hand, worry too much about your performance. Just enjoy the chance to go into detail about what you do. If a curator is visiting you it’s because they probably already think you’re a good artist and like your work. Remember that curators are usually failed artists, or wannabe artists! A comforting thought.

The previous question was, and the next question is…

If you have a question you’d like answered please let me know. If it is interesting maybe I’ll use it.


Have you met…Cliff Eyland?

An introduction can be a wonderful thing. You can meet interesting people, and make new friends. You can be introduced to your new favorite foods, books, music, or artist.

I’d like to introduce you to some of my favorite artists. Some of whom I’ve been familiar with for years, and other I’ve only recently been introduced to.

The person I’d like to introduce is the artist Cliff Eyland.

Li'l Monoliths, 5x3 inch painting.

Li’l Monoliths, 5×3 inch painting.

b. 1954; Canadian citizen/U.K. right of abode

Cliff Eyland is a painter, writer and a curator. He studied at Holland College, Mount Allison University, and the Nova Scotia College of Art and Design. Since 1981, he has made paintings, drawings, and notes in an index card format — 3″x5″ (7.6×12.7 cm).

Eyland has shown his work in public and secret installations in art galleries and libraries in Canada, the United States and Europe. Exhibition highlights include solo exhibitions at the Art Gallery of Ontario in Toronto, the New School University in New York, the Winnipeg Art Gallery, Struts Gallery and Gallery Connexion (both in New Brunswick), the Muttart (now the Art Gallery of Calgary), the Art Gallery of Southwestern Manitoba, and in Halifax at: the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia, eyelevelgallery, Saint Mary’s University Art Gallery and Dalhousie Art Gallery. Group exhibitions include shows at the National Gallery of Canada, in Florence, Italy, Manchester, England, and Lublin, Poland, among others. In 2003 Eyland was shortlisted for the national RBC/Canadian Art Foundation painting award. Eyland’s ongoing installation at the Raymond Fogelman Library at the New School University in New York City was regularly updated from 1997 until 2005. His permanent installation of over 1000 paintings at Winnipeg’s Millennium Library opened in 2005.

Bookshelves with Art in the Foreground.

Bookshelves with Art in the Foreground.

Eyland has written criticism for Canadian art magazines since 1983. His curatorial work includes 9 years as a curator at the Technical University of Nova Scotia School of Architecture (Daltech) and freelance work for various galleries, Including the Plug In Institute of Contemporary Art in Winnipeg. (From 1995 to 2005, Eyland was vice-president of the board of Plug In.) Eyland was the Director of Gallery One One One at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg from 1998 to 2010. He is currently an Associate Professor of painting at the University of Manitoba School of Art.

Eyland is represented by Leo Kamen Gallery in Toronto.

Other material relating to Cliff Eyland.

Artist’s Book Of The Moment: Cliff Eyland and Guy maddin Untitled “Wall Books.”

Boardercrossings: Cliff Eyland.

Book Patrol: Cliff Eyland.

If you liked this introduction please check out the Previous and Next.