I love talking to artists about their work, to the point that oftentimes I can tell that they really would rather talk about something else now. Please?
Which is why I love studio visits-it’s an invitation to do nothing but talk about the work. I am no expert (yet) on how to get a “successful” studio visit, but here is what has worked for me so far and what keeps me wanting to do more studio visits.
It’s a simple mantra: look, listen, ask.
You can re-order that however suits you, but it really is that easy.
For the first part, looking, I like to clue into the bits and pieces of the process all around. Paint brushes, fabric, notes, sketches, books- it’s a nice way to gain insight into an artist’s work, to see their materials and methods right alongside their final product. On a studio visit with NY Arts Faculty member, Emilie Clark, she made a point to point out the specimens that she used to create her work:
The listening is my favorite. Artists are usually more eloquent than they believe themselves to be (how many artists do you know who struggle with their artist statements?) and it is a pleasure to listen while they explain every gesture, each nuance of their work. Here is Emilie again explaining the whole layout of her studio to her 2015 class:
Contrary to everything I have just written, sometimes studio visits can be painfully awkward (like when an artist is way too nervous to really do anything put mumble over a slideshow of their work), but the easiest way to remedy this is just to ask.
Good work has a reason for everything. And that’s how I lead my questions.
Here are some generic questions I revert to when I am lost, but want to keep the conversation going:
How did you get to this point in the work?
Where do you think this work belongs?
What books do you have out now?
What is your walk to the studio like (this has actually been a fruitful question in terms of figuring out an artist’s mindset as they get to work)?
For me, there is no wrong way to do a studio visit- as long as you are listening, looking, and asking.
Here’s one last look into Emilie Clark’s studio:
For more on Emilie Clarks work see: http://www.emilieclark.com
And to follow Shannon’s personal blog see: https://directdisorder.wordpress.com