Even though engaging people in the process of my artwork has always been important to me personally, I’ve not always had a great time painting out in public for Live Art or Events and Festivals. The first time was so embarrassing. Not everything is my strength. You’d suspect because I used to turn cafes essentially into pop up booths and did real grassroots marketing to meet people that I’d be awesome at something fixed and planned. I’ve spectacularly failed at Live Events and thank you everyone for giving me that opportunity in which I failed. It is great exposure as an artist and a great marketing tool for the client when done successfully. It’s a ton of pressure. I’ve done it now a couple of times spectacularly well but not until recently.
I used to sell things in booths and when I transitioned away from that, I sought out Live Art opportunities. Both the City of San Jose and the County of Santa Clara, as well as many other organizations, have asked me out to paint in a booth because I’m generally pretty fun to watch painting a mural and I love people. I loose myself in the moment when painting. I can tune everyone out and I know if I’m doing great, I can talk to everyone passing by. Knowing the difference is a lot of working in public, whether it be Live or Mural painting. I dance to music for my own energy level. I wave at people. I’m athletic, so if I can lend something dramatic to the piece, I love that. I pose for pictures. That’s painting both a mural or a live art. I bring all my portfolio materials for people to cruise through so they connect me to my other projects. I make sure watching me paint isn’t like watching paint dry. The potential to meet clients and inspire the next generation of creativity is too good to pass up. Just because it’s difficult, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. I really failed at booth sales. After 15+ shows I decided this wasn’t my jam.
I continue to take on these challenges painting live and work outside my comfort zone. It’s the only way to grow. The San Jose Earthquakes had me out to a game on July 29th, 2017, in which I painted a simple photograph of the players celebrating early in the 2017 season and was presented by Kelly Moore Paints. Start to finish this took 3 hours and 30 minutes. Even though I had some hiccups getting setup and therefore started, this was the best Live Art showing I’ve ever had. The Quakes are keeping the 4ft tall, 8ft long piece for players to sign and auction off later. That makes me so proud as an artist, especially with the client also hiring me for a mural in Japantown later this month. I’ve definitely grown in this area and have troubleshooted how to professionally paint in a live event setting.
What’s the difference between Live or Event Painting going well or going poorly?
Somehow I forget each time that my expertise now is really painting walls outdoors, not painting canvases outdoors. One oil paints in a controlled environment. Though ventilation is a concern, you’re probably not working outdoors unless you’re working from real life. Why is because there’s dust, sun and wind that turns canvases into sails. There are too many variables to track and paint well. Even though I’ve painted hundreds of canvases training, murals are my absolute jam now and almost exclusively what I do. Mural painting is so unique in that the surface is fixed permanently, whether it is indoors or outdoors. A wall doesn’t blow away. Dust sucks, but it’s why you prep and take care of your mural site. I have a power blower and hundreds of feet of power cord I use to mitigate this. You can’t guarantee the cleanliness of the site live painting. Never go with oil paint for a Live Event because it doesn’t set fast enough to complete anything dramatic and you can’t transport anything large without harming the work. Anything but oil paint for Live Events.
Don’t use canvases of any size for live pieces outdoors. Go for it in the center of a mall or in an auditorium. The last thing you want is to be mildly annoyed by your canvases blowing away, instead of happy to be there and gracious to everyone you meet. Check weather conditions if canvases is really the way to go and do everything you can to sandbag and weigh down the work and tents. Instead, you could think about priming and prepping a heavy wood construction. It’ll be larger than any canvas and at least 1/3 the cost per square foot. A stable wood construction will stand up to wind as well. Measure your car first before buying wood and if your car is little like mine, bring rope and bungy cords. Construct something smart on-site. Don’t wing that, mark it up in advance so you don’t struggle on-site.
Through doing Sales Booths and Live Art at Festivals and Events, I’ve learned a little about presentation. Black table cloth is easiest. Have a lightweight table just in case. Prep the ground. I love paper because it’s non slip on whatever surface. Pack well. Pack too much. Buy everything you’re going to need. Bring extra towels. You don’t need to freak out in front of all these awesome people you’re trying to make lasting impressions on. I just expect with every outing to have hiccups or things go wrong unexpectedly and I mentally prepare for that. Meditate in your extra moments.
In public, don’t use recycled materials unless it is really what your art is known for. It’s not as dramatic as clean and white starts. Your artwork is first but your dramatics and presentation is a close second during Live Art pieces. Yes, artists struggle to handle all the expenses, but this is exposure and you can’t expose people to second rate work. This is your time to sparkle.
With all of this going on, constructing and unloading to ensure it goes well, arrive on-time if not earlier and know where you’re supposed to be. You’ll use any extra time to be extra prepared for doors to open and people to arrive.
Do not over commit artwork wise. This won’t be the work you can critique and really polish unless you’re a rockstar. This isn’t going to be your most detailed product, but it’s still awesome to see what you got in a short amount of time. You’re still more talented and better trained at this than people walking by. Relax. Choose an artwork you’re known for or something you can feasibly do in the amount of time given. It’ll always take you longer if you’re chatting people up too. Drip art is feasible and dramatic. Spray paint is feasible but it require prep and space. Plan it out. Have a punchlist.
If you’re going to paint live, remember to breathe, stay in the shade if possible and stay hydrated. Relax. Things are going to go wrong. Your job if you choose to accept it is to smile through and remain in your comfort zone. Ohm it out. Also, people aren’t always nice. Get ready for a lot of Thank yous you don’t really mean. Go with the flow. You can’t control a whole lot of what’s going on at a Live Event. Enjoy the wave of people and emotions. Breathe.