Networking for Artists > As artists and creatives, many of us tend to be on the shy side. We like to focus on our own thing, and we enjoy being alone in the quiet, focused space of the creative process. With spring and endless fairs and festivals upon us, there comes a time when we’ll need to — Heaven forbid — talk to a stranger.
To get some expert insights on networking at art events, I reached out to plein air painter Michele Byrne, who we’ll soon meet in Santa Fe at the Plein Air Convention & Expo. Her advice is to look at the schedule and pick out the artists you most want to learn from, and then make it a point to introduce yourself.
“That’s why we’re here,” she said. “Don’t be shy about talking to the artists. We’re just people, and we love to hear from others. We all have the same thing in common; we all want to talk about colors and paint and process and materials.”
Michele added that she grew up extremely shy and introverted, “but the art world and teaching has helped me. Twenty years ago, if I saw one of my favorite artists, I wouldn’t have said a word.”
I learned long ago that there’s enough of everything to “go around,” and that’s one of the reasons I think it’s important to build each other up within the communities we belong to. The plein air community is no different; Michele said when she began doing events around 2006, she “didn’t know anything about it.”
By introducing herself to a leading artist at the time, though, she learned. “He emailed me this list of every single thing he used,” she said. “His tripod, his umbrella, his panels, and I thought that was so nice. I try to pay it forward and do the same thing for other artists, because I remember how helpful that was and how honored I was that he would take the time to write me an email. It’s really important to share what you know, because we’re all artists, and there are enough people in the world to buy all our art; we don’t have to be stingy with our knowledge.”
Another aspect of networking is having a way to stay connected with the people you meet at PACE and other plein air events. Michele suggested having your name and number written on a piece of paper and tacked to your easel, using your cell phone to save the names and numbers of artists you meet, and if possible, bringing business cards even if you don’t consider yourself a professional artist. (There are many free/affordable and easy-to-use sites for creating your own simple business cards; I personally like Canva because it provides free templated designs).
Michele added that she comes home from PACE with a stack of business cards from other artists: “I would write on the back who they were and how I know them. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy. Just something simple.”
Who knows what new friendships will come from your networking at plein air events? “I’ve made some really great friends,” Michele said. “My first plein air event was in Telluride, Colorado, and I lived in Pennsylvania. Kathy Anderson was there from Connecticut and everybody else was from the West. She and I became instant friends because we were the East Coasters. We’re really good friends to this day.”
One place where people really bond at PACE is the Expo Hall, also known as the “candy store.” So in addition to general guidance about painting in Santa Fe (bring a hat, wear sunscreen, drink water!), Michele’s advice is to pack lightly and shop on site. “Don’t stress over bringing every single tube of paint because they have vendors and great deals on paint, and you might discover something new,” she said. “Be open to trying new colors. I’m looking forward to buying things that I’m out of — and I won’t have to order it, I can just go get some.”
Michele will be demonstrating how to use a palette knife in our Expo Hall and at the Royal Talens booth. When you see her there, be sure to say hello. “You meet people all the time and it’s really fun and exciting. I love what I do.”
Can’t make it to the Plein Air Convention & Expo in person? No problem — we’ve added a new online option because we’d still like to have you with us! Learn more at PleinAirConvention.com.
If you’ve been looking for a way to enhance your painting style, you’re in for a very pleasant surprise. This may contain just what you’ve been looking for: a refreshing new approach that will bring in the zing and zest your paintings are missing.
Award-winning artist Michele Byrne is going to show you how to blend the best of both worlds — beautiful brushwork and amazing palette knife techniques, all in one painting.