At TLC our students are encouraged to practice talking about and presenting their artwork to others. For some people it is easy to get up and talk. For the rest of us, however, good preparation and careful planning gives us the confidence to do this. The following points are useful to think about before putting yourself in the limelight.
Why learn how to do artist talks?
Because art buyers, galleries, the general public and media are interested in the artist, the person behind the artwork, as much as in what they have created. Good preparation, planning and practice will help you to talk about, present your work and convey the artistic persona you want to create.
What are you doing?
Before you start planning your talk, be clear about its purpose and the audience.
What is the purpose of the talk you are giving? Is it to share aspects of your art practice with fellow students or to practice for a real life experience such as talking to clients, arranging exhibition spaces, etc.
This is important. Who will you be talking to? What do they already know? What do you think they will expect? An artist talk for your peers will be different to one you do for a local school or an art gallery.
How much time have you got to talk? Try and practice or plan how long you will talk. Timing takes practice. TLC's practice talks will help you to get a good idea of this.
Understanding the purpose and your audience helps you to set the context of your talk.
If you don’t know the purpose or audience for your talk, do a bit of research, ask around, and see if there are any useful resources.
What to share
Once you know who your audience is, you need to work out what it is you want to tell them.
Here are some basic questions:
1. Who are you?
- Where are you in your programme?
- How long have you been a practicing as an artist?
- What is your favourite medium?
- Were you always a ‘painter’ (or other)?
Remember you can tell them as little or as much as you like. It is your talk after all!
2. Why are you here?
- How did you get to this place in your practice?
- Where do you get your inspiration from?
- What is your passion?
Remember: Preparation leads to confidence and a professional attitude.
3. What do you do?
Talk about your art making practice.
- What is your art process?
- What materials do you prefer to use? How do you use them?
- Where do you get your inspiration from? Ideas?
- Current projects?
- Future projects - where you see yourself going?
- Short and long term plans/goals?
What artwork do you want to show them?
Along with showing your audience what you do, showing your creations can help give you something to focus on, especially if you are nervous. Think about what props you will be showing - be selective. Also, think about where you will put them and where you will stand. If you have them on the wall behind you, try not to turn your back on the audience. This never goes down well. A smart move is to have the items on a table and standing either behind the table or to the side. This can give you a barrier between yourself and the audience which helps make you feel less ‘on show’.
- What you want to show your audience
- Finished works - how many?
- Real pieces or images?
- Will you do a demonstration of your process?
- Do you need plinths/projectors/handouts?
Free talk, prompts, or plants?
If you are not keen on talking freely, write yourself a list of points on a prompt card. A good way to do this is to stand behind a table and have the prompt card face up in front of you. That way, you won’t be reading from a piece of shaky paper.
Another idea is to have a friend (a ‘plant’) in the audience, who will ask you questions you already know the answer to. This can be really useful.
Questions at the end?
What you say about your artwork is entirely up to you. If you do get questions which make you feel uncomfortable, you don’t have to answer them. These could be questions like:
- What is the painting about and what is the message?
- Is there a reason why you picked that theme?
You’ve probably heard those kinds of questions before. There are two ways to deal with them - one is to have an answer ready, the other is to say you prefer not to answer or, ask the questioner what they think of your work.
Closing your talk
Rather than just coming to the end of what you have to say, think about a way to finish your talk nicely. Here are some common methods.
- ‘Thank you for listening…’
- ‘Any final questions?’
- ‘This is where you can contact me…’ (have your card/email/website address ready)
- ‘I appreciate you being here.’