The art of demo-doing

Dear Artist, This morning, Richard Wong of Victoria, BC, Canada wrote, “Nervousness got the better of me when I recently demoed Chinese Brush painting. My hands shook. I felt really embarrassed. My demo was not very convincing. What can one do in situations like that, other than stop giving demos?” Thanks, Richard. Demoing seems a straightforward business, but it’s loaded with problems. You’ll be glad to know that some truly excellent artists often strike out at demo-time. After forty years of demo-doing, I’ve learned to fake it. Here are a few thoughts: Before you start, try to make eye contact with everyone in the room. This has the effect of turning your audience into friends who have their own anxieties and fears. As audiences these days tend to be mostly women, I quietly say to myself, “Mothers.” My own mother was a sympathetic and loving person, and somehow this word calms me down. You need to have your stuff ready and squeezed out. Quickly tell everyone what you intend to do and how long it might take. Brief demos are best. Tell people to feel free to blurt out questions as you go along. Make it clear that a question asked by one person is often the same question on the minds of others. Keep preliminary verbiage as short as possible and dig right in. It’s difficult to demonstrate and describe what you’re doing at the same time. A useful ploy is to let your work-in-progress trigger related educational anecdotes and insightful stories. This simple transition settles your nerves, aids your concentration, and may actually improve the quality of your demo. Effective demo-doers often find it easier to answer questions than to give blow-by-blow accounts of their process. Don’t verbalize your every move. Keep asking yourself, “What do they really need to be shown?” It’s all about showing, not telling. And don’t worry about silent periods. If you’ve set people up properly, every silent period will be pleasantly punctuated with a valuable question from your group. Best regards, Robert PS: “First he wrought, and afterward he taught.” (Geoffrey Chaucer) Esoterica: The business of demo-doing is based on the observation that some demo-doers have a fairly good idea what they’re doing, and that demonstrating masterfullly is probably the most effective way for people to learn. In art, amateur and formulaic demo-doers can do more harm than good. Some actually guide others to new bad habits. To be effective, a demo-doer needs to take a group along on a think-on-your-feet adventure where the evolution of the demoed work stimulates the viewers and brings them to their own epiphanies. No matter how well you think you know your stuff, think of your demo as a shared learning experience. ” Who dares to teach must never cease to learn,” said the great museum director John Cotton Dana. Masterful demonstration goes hand in hand with humility. Don’t pontificate. Understate and over-prove.   Richard Wong

Chinese Brush on masa rice paper


“Barn Swallows”
Chinese Brush on masa rice paper


“Pair, Red-Winged Blackbirds”
watercolor on
masa paper


“Watering Hole”
watercolor on paper

          Engage students by screwing up by Michael Schlicting, Portland, OR, USA  

“Harbor Heritage”
watercolor and gouache, 22 x 30 inches
by Michael Schlicting

When I started teaching workshops and giving demos 30 or more years ago, I would stress out, thinking the demonstrations had to be “perfect.” I came to see, though, that when a demo was going south, it was an even more teachable moment. Students loved to see how I would solve a compositional or conceptual problem, especially after it looked like I’d really screwed up. It engaged the students and made the process more real and understandable. And for me it took all the anxiety away and made demoing very fun. There are 2 comments for Engage students by screwing up by Michael Schlicting
From: Jim, Sarasota — Mar 12, 2013

If this is a demo painting it would have been an interesting teaching session. Its hard to see a path to this well done painting.

From: Michael Schlicting — Mar 13, 2013

Thanks Jim, Yes, this was a demo. I used a favorite technique of mine- painting over a “failed” watercolor with watercolor and gouache, using selected shapes and colors from the original painting to suggest the new composition.

  Make a video first by Joyce Washor, Riverdale, NY, USA  

watercolour painting
by Joyce Washor

031213_joyce-washor2 I had been giving oil workshops regularly and then was asked to do one in watercolor. That made me anxious to say the least. I decided to video myself and make a few copies so that I would have something that I knew looked halfway decent. I showed the video and explained that I would do a similar set-up but not to expect that the demo would look exactly like the video. That wasn’t the point. Painting is a process that happens in the moment and it’s different every day. I had no way of knowing if the demo would work, but at least they would see one that did. There is 1 comment for Make a video first by Joyce Washor
From: Annie St.Martin — Jan 26, 2014
    Secrets of a successful demo by David Lloyd Glover, West Hollywood, CA, USA  

“Central Park Light”
oil painting
by David Lloyd Glover

I found that the artists attending my demo are mainly interested in one thing: “What are the magic brushes I use to solve my artistic problems?” There is a common belief by many hobby artists that professionals have access to the secret tools known only to us. First thing I do is show them the well worn hog-bristle brushes I use so they can get over the concept that they were missing out on insider information. A lot of artists are even surprised to find that I use less expensive brushes than they do. Once we get past the issue of the artists’ sworn secrets, they are relaxed and interested in just watching you go about your business of blocking out a painting. You don’t have to put on a show or even attempt to be entertaining. They are there to soak up what you do. Let them ask you the questions while you work and you’ll find it’s really quite easy to conduct a successful demo. There are 2 comments for Secrets of a successful demo by David Lloyd Glover
From: Patsy, Northern Ireland — Mar 13, 2013

I love this painting! Such dramatic colours! I know what you mean about not putting on “a show”. I used to belong to the South African Society of Artists in Cape Town, and well remember Dale Elliot’s demo – he told us briefly what the painting was about, then got on with it. I was intrigued at how relaxed he was. Occasionally we asked questions; occasionally he told us what he was doing and why. He had us enthralled for a couple of hours – no-one wanted to go home.

From: Linda C. Dumas — Mar 15, 2013

My friends and I play a little roulette game. We bet on how long into the demo before someone says, “David, what brush are you using?”

  Doing instead of speaking by Janice Moser, Regina, SK, Canada  

original painting
by Janice Moser

I recently attended a class taught by Michael Lonechild about light and shadow. He is a quiet teacher and has demonstrated many of the qualities you mentioned in your letter. As a virgin student, I didn’t know what to expect but found myself studying his brushstrokes and asking many questions as he sat silently at his easel. I thought it odd that he wasn’t divining his every move, but now I appreciate the wisdom in keeping our rapt attention by doing instead of speaking. There is 1 comment for Doing instead of speaking by Janice Moser
From: valerie norberry vanorden — Mar 12, 2013

It’s kinda like rollerskating and chewing gum at the same time, he was so engrossed in painting he couldn’t speak to you.

  More on the prospect of failure by Tom Hoffmann, Seattle, WA, USA  

watercolour painting
by Tom Hoffmann


by Tom Hoffmann

I’ve been thinking about demos, since I’ve agreed to give one tomorrow! I believe the key to taking the fear out of the process is to remember that it is, first of all, a form of teaching, and teaching still works even when it goes astray. If a demo takes an unintended turn, it is an opportunity to pause and ask, “What just happened there?” In a way, it may be more useful for an audience of painters to see a demonstration of how to fall on your face, learn something, and get right back up, than it is to watch a master make the impossible look easy. Once the prospect of failure has some positive possibilities, some of the pressure is lifted, and the odds of being relaxed for the demo are increased.   A unique demo process by Susan Burns, Douglasville, GA, USA  

original painting
by Susan Burns

I can only demo part of my process, so I make it fun by doing several beginnings, and getting my audience involved. I let them paint on my paintings! Then I flip the canvas around to see what my subconscious makes of it, then I consciously make the image a little more obvious by delineating what I have seen in the marks and paint. We talk about vision. My process involves a lot of looking and imagining, so when I do that with an audience it is so amazing to hear what their brains are intuiting and what their eyes are seeing. The demos are a lot of work, but so attractive to the people that participate. They begin to see that they have vision and ability. The desire is up to them, and many do not desire to express themselves in paint, but are thrilled to see that their subconscious is still and always working. A 2-year-old boy made the violet line in this horse’s head, moving off the canvas to the right. It is an important design element. I had to sit quietly for hours to see how this violet line worked. Sitting and looking is not very exciting for the demo, but we can discuss it, they can share what they see, and I always bring successful examples of past work. Demos are always worth the effort. There are 2 comments for A unique demo process by Susan Burns
From: Rose — Mar 12, 2013

What a wonderful painting….

From: Anonymous — Mar 12, 2013

I must give credit to the young man that did the violet line. His name is Devin Rose. A gift for the future.

  Love what you demo >by Kathy Los-Rathburn, Griffith, IN, USA  

“Fall at Oxbow”
watercolour painting
by Kathy Los-Rathburn

I, too, teach and do demos since ’74, in watercolor. I agree with you. Keep that eye contact and keep looking around the room. I always start out with a question like, “Who has painted in WC?” Then before jumping into the big demo, I talk about the quality of good supplies. By that time you are warmed up and you feel comfortable and confident with your group. I always paint a subject that I’m comfortable with. I am there to show them how to paint and not create a show piece. I also keep it simple and short. I gave a demo a week ago and I made an effort to talk slower and to not say “and” or “ahhh” at the beginning of a sentence. Afterwards some folks said it was the best that they had seen with this art league. I think loving what you do has a lot to say for the success of your demos.     Make it fun by Bob Rennie, White Rock, BC, Canada  

“Girl with Toy Sailboat, Paris”
acrylic painting
by Bob Rennie

I taught Mathematics at the University level for almost 40 years. It was most enjoyable, but most of my students entered the class with fear, dislike for the subject and a complete lack of any amount of enthusiasm. Teaching many classes in watercolors was such a welcome change. The student enthusiasm is probably the most remarkable difference from lecturing math. People giving demos or teaching classes in art need to recognize the support they receive from their audience. It is truly significant and most helpful. A couple of things that I found helpful: I always demonstrate only subjects or techniques that I do well. Some quick jokes need to be worked in. We are entertainers as well as demonstrators. Teaching is fun. If we exploit making it fun we will be relaxed and successful.   Just do a lot of them by Jim Oberst, Hot Springs Village, AR, USA  

“River Valley”
watercolour painting
by Jim Oberst

I started doing demos a few years ago (I’ve been painting for about 9 years). Here’s my “formula” (I work in watercolors): — Paint large enough for everyone to see. I usually use a half-sheet (15″ x 22″). — Unless I have an overhead mirror, I paint vertically so people can see. This can take some practice in watercolor. — I encourage people to get up and join me at the front to really see what I’m doing. — I use a small PA system because, when I’m painting and facing away from the audience, I can be hard to hear. — I always paint something that I’ve painted before. — I have the drawing already done, and I show the drawing to everyone before I start. — I only choose subjects that I can complete in one hour or so. — I plan the painting in 3 or 4 separate steps so I can stop and talk between the steps. — I talk as I paint, but it’s often just the “self-talk” that I do silently when I’m painting. This helps people understand my thinking. — I encourage people to ask questions at any time, but if I’m getting behind schedule, I ask folks to wait until I’m done. I find demos fun to do. I always remind people before I start that I may not paint a masterpiece, but that they’ll learn how I approach a painting, regardless. It’s good to bring along other paintings — people really enjoy looking at them. Demos also provide an introduction to my painting style, and often lead to the group scheduling one of my workshops. How does one get comfortable doing demos? Just do a lot of them. There is 1 comment for Just do a lot of them by Jim Oberst
From: Becky O’Bryan — Mar 12, 2013

I do “Art Demo-lectures” for grammar school children. I introduce myself and then ask to meet all the artists in the group. Of course I assure them that they are all artists, they draw, paint, and color. I ask about all the other artists they know. You know, the ones who cook, sew, make clothes or quilts, or the ones who make buildings or furniture. Then I pass around a few of my ‘tools’ ie brushes, canvasses, boards, paper etc, even an unopened tube or two of paint. When we are all in the boat together they are with me as I try to paint to the side of me, looking at them, LOL, but somehow, they and their teacher are always impressed and I feel good when I am finished.


Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for The art of demo-doing

From: Sandra Taylor Hedges — Mar 08, 2013

The phrase “Never let em see you sweat” is the thing to remember when your demo is taking a left turn on a right through way. The first time this happened to me I simply forgot about everyone in the room and worked it and worked it until I got things under control. Most of the room was more impressed by watching me save the painting than whether or not I ended up with what I intended. My friend who attended the workshop congratulated me on making lemon aide out of a lemon.

From: Carole Pivarnik — Mar 08, 2013

I demo how I paint dogs’ eyes in watercolors whenever I do a book signing and sometimes at my studio during workshops. The demo usually takes 20 minutes and I’m always surprised at how interested people are. I usually start by showing people a previously completed demo painting and tell them “This is what I’m aiming for in this demo; but there are no guarantees when making art so we’ll see what happens!” That sets up a little friendly suspense which is fun for the audience. “Will she or won’t she get it right this time?!” they are probably thinking. As I work, I talk about the whys of my process, paint choices, etc. The whats they can pretty much see for themselves but the whys are not always obvious. I invite questions along the way. If the demo painting goes bad, then I acknowledge that and explore my options with the audience for fixing it or simply admit it can’t be rescued. Either way, they get to see how art really happens and that’s the whole point of my demos. I don’t aim to paint something perfect, I aim to educate my audience about what really goes into the effort. At the end of the demo, I usually give the piece away to someone who seemed to be most engaged during the demo and looking to learn from it. Demoing is really fun for me!

From: Doug Mays — Mar 08, 2013
From: Michael Chesley Johnson — Mar 08, 2013

I’ve given hundreds of demos over the years. I do at least one a day for the workshops I teach, and sometimes two. Talking while demonstrating is a skill that needs to be learned, for sure. It is a task to get both halves of the brain working at the same time. But it can be done. I actually find it easier to narrate my decisions and moves as I work, rather than talk about things that aren’t related directly to the painting at hand. I always tell my students, you can ask any question you want while I’m demonstrating, just so long as it has to do with the demo. If you ask me how long I’ve been painting, where am I from originally, and so on, you will steer me right into the ditch. Demonstrating, by the way, and talking about what you are doing and why you are doing it, forces me to justify my choices – and if I can’t justify a choice, then I know I’m doing something wrong and need to correct it. It’s made me a much better painter.

From: Fred Featherstone UK — Mar 08, 2013

Actually I don’t mind watching poor artists do demos. Their bad work and constant errors make me feel smug and competent. We have a shortage of good demo doers in our club, but it’s okay for a bit while we’re waiting for our tea and cookies.

From: Gay Young — Mar 08, 2013

I am a textile artist and teach fiber art techniques. After a few demo stumbles, I figured that demonstrating is a right-brained task while speech requires the left brain. I neither stitch well while talking nor talk intelligently while stitching. I explain this to the class, dive in, then stop to talk as questions arise. Works with most groups. Texas.

From: Dan McGrath — Mar 08, 2013

I enjoyed your letter on demos. I also found that rehearsing the demo a day or two before helps enormously: you can see exactly how much time it will take as opposed to what you alotted on your schedule, you can discover and work through any problem areas and therefore minimize re-do on the big day, and you can take notes on what you want to say, or ask the audience during the demo. I was pleasantly surprised that you encouraged audience paticipation, as opposed to relying totally on yourself for “narration”.

From: Mark D. Gottsegen — Mar 08, 2013

Also: Practice, practice. I used to practice in front of a mirror, once in a while. Of course, 34 years of teaching gave me a leg up!

From: Nicholas Pearce — Mar 08, 2013
From: Roberta Schlesinger — Mar 08, 2013

Thank you once again for wonderful common sense advice. I enjoy your writings very much.

From: Debbie Katcoff — Mar 08, 2013

As a high school art teacher, demos are how I show the students what to do. It’s probably the only time I have their undivided attention! It’s also how I can show them that something is difficult. If I have trouble centering the clay on the wheel, they get that it isn’t an easy thing to do. I also ask students to watch each other to observe different techniques. Sometimes it’s easier to watch another student than to watch the teacher, especially when there are 35 kids in the class! Westside High Augusta, GA

From: Marsha Hamby Savage — Mar 08, 2013

Demos can be stressful, but they also allow the artist to interact with an audience. I love doing demos for my classes and workshops, and also for art organizations. And, yes, many times the demo is not really a “finished” frameable painting. Most demos are done with a short time limit not conducive to a finished painting. I tell them I will be responding to questions about specifics and show how to do those things they ask about. During a class demo a few years ago, not going especially well, I turned around and said, “It is not working. I wonder if any of you have ideas about what you would do?” They were excited about offering their thoughts. This was a class of students that many had been with me over five years … a class where there was a waiting list, and students rarely left except if they moved away. At the end of the evening, all the students told me as they left “this was the best demonstration ever.” A few of them said it showed them many ways to tackle a problem, and gave them thoughts about how to “think” and “solve”. They also told me seeing the struggle helped them accept that not all “starts” will be a frameable painting. Since that time, I have been less fearful of not doing a “beautiful” finished painting for a demo.

From: Jackie Knott — Mar 08, 2013

Three internationally revered portrait artists during demos: 1st) “I hate demos. They’re really just a stunt, you do realize that? I’ve got the information I need if I were to paint this model. But I’ve done better. Sorry.” 2nd) “I’ve misjudged these values.” He then took a loaded brush of burnt sienna and blocked out the side of the model’s face on the canvas. The audience gave a collective “Ohhh!” He was right … then the face took form. 3rd) I call him Mr. Gold Standard. He preceeded the demo by briefly stating his technique to arrive at proportion, then he was silent. He did a 45-min pastel with not one misplaced stroke, efficient, confident, unhurried. Humbling. “Questions?” …. tough when your jaw is hanging open. The first two were human enough to admit they still make mistakes. The last guy might as well have shouted at us, “Learn to draw, people!”

From: Paula D. — Mar 08, 2013

Has anyone had experience as a co-demonstrator? If so, do you have any suggestions? Another artist, whom I know, and I have been asked to demo portrait painting for one-half hour at a local library in April. The audience participation/question time will be for the remaining one-half hour of the hour long session.. My partner-artist took to silence when I placed a phone call to her to discuss the joint venture. It seems complicated enough that I have not directly demoed in front of an audience before. There have been many occassions when artists and the public have witnessed my portraiture by the mere fact they were in the same vicinity. Life drawing is a fav., and drawing in charcoal or ink painting portraits for charity events/auctions has been requested in recent years. I suppose it is the next logical step to officially demonstrate, though I would not have sought it out. Frankly, I am a bit nervous. I can’t talk, paint and chew gum at the same time…even listen to most music in the background while drawing a model in a group setting. One man regularly comments about this at a portrait group I sometimes attend as he cannot undestand wanting silence. Before the demo, I intend to speak of process, bring samples of prior works and as stated before, take questions afterwards. Yet, since it is my first time anyway, how to coordinate things, focus, and successfully demo doubly with another artist? This fellow artist’s style of communication and temperament are quite different… much bolder. Thank you.

From: Aragon — Mar 09, 2013
From: Len Lott — Mar 09, 2013

I was demonstrating in Normandy and during a silent period where my several watchers were hardly moving and very still, a wagtail came along on the ground picking up crumbs from our lunch.The bird flew up to the edge of my French Easel and then to the top above my painting. For a second I made eye contact (startling) with the bird and then he (she?) flew off. Was this some sort of a spirit from the past–another artist perhaps? Perhaps Monet?

From: Jerry — Mar 09, 2013

I give only demos to 8-12 year old project kids who come to our weekly watercolor class. Turns out it “stick the brush in, bring out the paint in abundance and slosh onto the paper” I so carefully cut to give them an opportunity to do a “masterpiece”. Ah! but sub-teens and their love of putting it down in masses of paint. How should I control it or really only appreciate what they are doing in their adventure? We need your thoughts on teaching kids, or keiki as we refer to them in Hawaii. Mahalo

From: Polonca Kocjancic, Slovenia — Mar 09, 2013

I would like to thank you for your inspiring mails and everything else that you share with us.

From: Rick Rotante — Mar 09, 2013

Two great ways to get over being nervous doing demos. The Best way is do the demo first at home. Start it, and talk out loud to yourself about what your doing -go to finish. This way you know what to do, how long it will take and what to leave out. The second way- which takes much longer – is paint with people watching as much as you can. Paint outdoors and with people around, answer questions by describing your process. Show them how you do what you do. Don’t worry if you don’t finish. They don’t care if you finish, they want to see your process.

From: Bill Burrell — Mar 09, 2013

I have found that the most effective way to reduce presentation anxiety (for me) has been to inform the participants that painting is a right brain activity and talking is a left brain activity. So when most engrossed in painting I may seem to be rather incoherent. I find that it is also a good way to reduce the chatter in an ongoing painting class.

From: Sharon Knettell — Mar 09, 2013

I remember my first class at the Rhode Island School of Design when I had to do a demo. I was nervous and I thought my effort was embarrasing- this is until I saw what my students did! They though I was a genius My second attempt was at the Scottsdale Art School, another dreadful effort. I swear I could here sniffs of “she’s not really that good is she”. I am a very, very slow painter and I pick all my colors with great deliberation. I am not a bravura drawer or painter, I am more like a tortoise. It takes me ages to get something on paper or canvas. That is probably the lack of classical training in my youth, which sadly was not available or rare in the 1960’s. I am absolutely blown away by those who can stand up there, talk and do a creditable piece of work.

From: Dora Boes — Mar 09, 2013

I’ve been doing demo’s for years. I like to picture myself successfully doing what I do best, showing others how to draw, paint, etc. I know they are most likely in the class because they want to learn what I can share with them. I’m happy to say that it seems to work ok, for me!

From: Michael Fuerst — Mar 09, 2013
From: Karen Clark — Mar 10, 2013

I am an Art Teacher and frequent demonstrator. A great tactic for all audiences is for the demonstrator to restate the question that came from the audience. This does two things; 1. Gives the demonstrator time to formulate response 2. Gives the audience a chance to HEAR the question said at presentation volume. Love your Twice Weekly

From: Elizabeth B. Tucker — Mar 10, 2013

This is what I do for performance anxiety when giving demos and it has helped enormously. 1) I remind myself that what I’m teaching/demoing is interesting. And I prove it to myself by reminding myself why I was initially interested in the subject. I often will share this with the audience. If I was curious about something then the audience will most likely be too. Isn’t that why they invited me?! 2) I plan and prepare the demo as completely as possible. I do this 4 ways. Before I do anything, I prepare what I will be demoing and practice it in my studio. If it’s a drawing or painting, I do it, time it and talk (to myself) as I’m working. When that is all done, I image how the whole event will go. How I will begin, what questions might come up, what might be a bit boring and how I will fill those gaps….let it just be quiet? Tell a story? Ask the audience a question? I do this over and over until I have a firm vision of what will happen. Third, I write an outline so that I can stay on track and because when I get nervous I forget things. This I keep next to me as my reminder. Finally, I keep a running list of everything I will need for the demo and add to it as I think of something….Materials, business cards, images, whatever…..I just add and take-away as I think of things. 3) Lastly, I know that artists are generally a really friendly group of people and that we all like to hear stories of how to do something. Even if they only get one thing of value from what I do, that is often just the ticket they need to move forward in their work. And that is valuable. One thing that has been really helpful to me is to know if the demo needs to have a finished image at the end. If it doesn’t then I bring an image that is finished so the audience knows what it will finally look like and work the demo to a stage that is good enough to get the info across and where there is a good visual leap to the end, being the image I finished in my studio and brought with me to show.d

From: Norm Bailey — Mar 10, 2013

I’ve always liked the idea that I can have something wrong in what I’m demoing, and rather enjoy figuring out how to fix it to everyone’s great pleasure. But several years ago a guy said, “I can see you’ve really got yourself into the glue, Bunky.” He left the room, never to return, and left a puzzled look on some of the faces.

From: Lois Nelson — Mar 10, 2013
From: Bernard Benoit — Mar 10, 2013

Regarding the remarks of Dan McGrath (above), and others, I think it’s a big mistake to rehearse anything beforehand. Just like anyone else, the demonstrator should be exploring, taking chances and inventing new forms on his feet. That’s what art’s all about, and those who do rote, rehearsed recipes, are missing the creative point.

From: Mike Barr — Mar 11, 2013

Demos should be entertaining, at least mildly. Anecdotes gained over time can provide comic relief particularly at the beginning of a demo – the onlookers will feel at ease and realize you are human. You certainly don’t have to talk continuously, but you do have to talk. A few years back, one famous Australian artist started his demo with some good humour and everyone settled in for a great demo. But then he said nothing else for and hour and a half hours while he painted an abstract landscape. Many of the audience fell asleep, others left their seats, but most endured till the end. It was a lesson indeed. People love to know what colours artists use, so I preempt the question right at the beginning but stress that the painting could be done successfully done with other colours. I recently conducted a demo at a large regional art show and wore a t-shirt that I had painted my name on that morning. Some wanted to buy one, some artists thought it was a great idea and said they would use the idea in their demos. At least everyone knew who I was even if they came into the marquee while the demo was in progress. Photo attached. One last thing. If doing a demo out of doors remember to take off your sunglasses. I was all at sea last year during an outdoor demo. The colours just didn’t look right – then I took the sunglasses off!

From: Keith Thirgood — Mar 11, 2013
From: Dwayne Merry — Mar 11, 2013

Regarding birds, last summer at Yosemite I was squeezing some Hansa yellow when my palette was attacked by a hummingbird. The bird did not put his beak in the yellow, but hovered above it in particular for several seconds before taking off like a shot. Later, when I was painting he buzzed my head dangerously close several times as if to warn me not to try to fool him.

From: St. Philistine — Mar 11, 2013

I hate doing demos. I won’t do them anymore. Art for showmanship is not germane to making art. Art is all about process, and it takes a quiet, private interaction between materials and the creative mind. Leave demo-doing to the circus performers. Let the unskilled go to work and figure their uniqueness out for themselves.

From: Russ Hogger — Mar 11, 2013
From: Margaret Ferraro — Mar 12, 2013

I too have suffered from demo-anxiety. I never thought there was any cure for this, and the failure of it, but to keep doing it til you had enough experience to improve and not be nervous. My daughters’ wisdom also helps: In asking her if she ever gets nervous when performing (a musician and dancer) she just says, “Ya, but it’s OK.”, and doesn’t make any kind of a deal out of it.

From: Frank Nicholas — Mar 12, 2013

Normally I demonstrate in each class as I teach each week. My students are mostly girls in their pre-teen years. Problems they have as they paint are evident every day. Many times I help them through their problem by doing the same subject they are wrestling with, or helping them remove a given area on their paintings with tricks I’ve taught myself over many years. Our main medium is transparent watercolor. In my four classes I find the kids using the tricks and brushes I use as they work at developing the techniques I’ve taught and demonstrated in our classes. Very gratifying!

From: Rob Mathers, Ont. — Mar 12, 2013

To all of you demonstrators from a frequent attendee, thank you very much for exposing yourselves. It is not easy to talk, think, paint and entertain all at the same time. Setbacks are unavoidable and watching you solve these problems is very helpful. May I make a request? Always show what you are working from. A model, a still life setup, even a photograph helps your audience to understand why you do what you do. Thanks again.

From: Sherry Chanin — Mar 12, 2013

Just a note of advice regarding demos. Creating art is a right brain activity, whereas speaking is a left brain activity, so when you are creating it is difficult to find the words describing what you are doing. Either say them before you begin, or after you finish if you find yourself at a loss for words. Also, if things don’t work out, interject a note of humor about it and everyone will go along with you. We’ve all been there so mostly you have a very sympathetic audience.

From: anonymous — Mar 12, 2013

Long time ago when I was taking art classes, I was working on a painting that was going really well, so most of the class gathered behind my easel to watch me paint. I like humor so to feel more at ease while being watched, I kept talking and joking as I was painting. From some reason I didn’t have any problem whatsoever with the right vs left brain concept. In fact I didn’t know anything about it. This has been going on for about an hour or so when the teacher said half-jokingly that it is obnoxiously arrogant to paint with such ease and crack jokes at the same time. He said that this was supposed to be difficult and that even though my painting is looking good so far, I was probably heading into a disaster. He basically told me to radically tune down my enthusiasm and be more cautious. I think that I just laughed it off at the time, but I did take his frank comment to heart and I am glad that he gave it to me. I learned that people want to watch creation of something beautiful, but at the same time they want to know that they too could do it. Also, if you are overconfident and the painting eventually goes south as my teacher suggested that it could, it would be impossible to save face. As long as you keep it a low key, people forgive mistakes because they can identify with that.

From: valerie norberry vanorden — Mar 13, 2013

I’m afraid if certain teachers allowed questions at the beginning they would be “where do you get your bow ties?, or where did you get those glasses?”. It is my goal to do a couple of demos at least before I die, it’s on my “bucket list”. I’d like to cut up a bit and be known for my humor as well as my skill.

From: Mrs. Prior — Mar 13, 2013

Regarding demos – here are 7 things I have observed. 1. Demos get easier the more you do them. 2. Let people sketch, draw or do a step-by-step while giving your demo. Not all demos are step-by-step – but if you have the audience just staring at you the whole time – it could add to your feeling of nervousness or shakes. But students that are engaged and actively practicing (even a little bit) can take their eyes off of you as they work on skills and focus on listening. 3. Practice the demo ahead of time to get a general idea of each step you will cover. This will provide structure and comfort for you during the actual demo. Note that you also then tweak and modify the demo by using feedback or just from your learning. Your initial demos may need to backtrack because you may have skipped a few key things, but that is part of your seasoning. You can also keep a small list of steps that you will cover – (cheat sheet) and this little note can add to confidence by keeping you on track if the shakes start up. 4. Begin starter demos by selecting subjects (or using media) you are comfortable with. This may sound obvious, but without realizing it – we may give demos using a lesson, media, subject, EOE or POD, or topic that is not quite a strength, and this can lead to nervousness during your delivery. So start with familiar and well-known lessons and give yourself room to grow. 5. Remember that sometimes things are just “off” because of multiple factors. Like the class (or audience) can also influence the success of your demo. For example, if there are some folks with critical spirits in your audience, you may sense that (esp. at first) and it may interfere with your flow. Or if you are giving a demo to certain individuals (i.e. experts, friends, strangers, mentors, etc.) that could factor in – or if someone is tapping (or coughing, moving a lot, or just staring a certain way) – this could also combine with where we are at that day and other factors! 6. Consider having multiple projects going. For example, in one flamingo lesson, I actually had a few different pictures going at the same time. The first one started with basic steps – but at least 4 students were not paying attention. I started another picture for them – while I then went back to the other sheet and added the later steps. Then returned to the second picture and said, “Okay, for those that are following this picture, the next step is to lightly sketch in the rocks on the foreground.” This multiple picture approach allows you to cater to differing attention spans (and adds to your demo practice as well). 7. Celebrate you! Without being cocky, remember that your demo is a gift to the audience – because not only do we all learn by sharing ideas – and a live demo has a potent lingering rippling effect – but your demo is sharing an essence of you as an artist – and your version, your twist on things, your presentation is all yours and is not good or bad -it is what you gave that day (it is what it is). And sometimes I start my demo by saying, “Now, okay, you may know how to draw (or sketch, paint, create) this item in a different way, but this is my way.” Or I may say, “Okay, there are numerous ways that you can draw a sailboat in the water, this is just one way I am showing you today – you may decide to use a different way, but learning this style will only add to your foundation and will give you more options. Okay, so the first thing we start with is….” But it takes the pressure off when you do not come down hard on yourself to do such and such – just be yourself and let them feel you as an artist!

From: Diane Williamson — Mar 14, 2013

I am an Australian face and body artist (not tattoos) so while I am teaching a workshop or painting on people I ALWAYS talk to them…not idle chit chat as this distracts me, but my design analysing, self talk thoughts that go on regardless…I find this gives me a great rapport with my paintees and they know what I am doing on them too . If I get to a spot for a few moments when I am not sure what to do next, I ASK THEM what THEY think I should do or what they are liking best and why they think this is working, …this not only gives me a few moments to “regroup and refocus” but involves them, makes them think therefore learn… and realise this is ART, not just muddling about having fun. My students always say they they’ve learnt a day of info by lunchtime in this way. I can also say that when I have attended workshops I can greatly enjoy watching silently if the artist is a quiet one. A spirit of reverence pervades the room in this instance sometimes, which can be very special. The most important thing is to demo only what you are good at and then relax , get in the vibe so your creativity flows. This is uplifting to everyone including yourself!

From: Stan Dark — Mar 14, 2013

I remember reading in my studies in school that contemporary art had lost its meaning with the loss of story which the church supported and provided in past art. This bothered me. I remembered artist such as Norman Rockwell, who was considered and illustrator, but there was true story telling and meaning deeply felt in his artwork. I think that art that makes individuals feel deeply and cause them to search for the meaning for themselves within the artwork is actual a stronger way to tell a story. So much of the time I don’t purposely attempt to tell a story but a story finds its way into the artwork, and the meaning of the story belongs to the viewer.

From: Dave Kaufmann — Mar 15, 2013

Some women painter’s videos are a lot more enthusiastic & confident than other painters . They are relaxed & let their marks create the story.

     Featured Workshop: Liz Wiltzen
031213_robert-genn Liz Wiltzen workshops Held in Canmore, AB, Canada   The Workshop Calendar provides up-to-date selected workshops and seminars arranged in chronological order. 

The Street Musician

mosaic, 20 x 24 inches by Ilona Brustad, MI, USA

  You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013. That includes Fiona Guy of South Lake, West Australia, who wrote, “A thought for Mr. Wong: Usually people only attend a demo if they need to learn how to do it, therefore the person giving the demo must know more about it than the attendees. I find that thought helps.” And also Michael Warner of Rochester, NY, USA, who wrote, “It may be obvious to you that it seems 99.9% of everything that is written on your site strikes right to the heart of Calligraphers (of which there are now more than 20,000 in the USA alone).”    

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