Friday, January 10, 2014

Demo Is A Four Letter Word

It disguises itself by hiding in other words: Demolition, demon, demonstrative, demote, demobilization, democracy, democrat, demographic...there are about 140 different words that come to mind that start with those four letters. Not many of them are very positive or exciting. Most are negative.  Some are scary.  Why do we artist do demos when they make us so nervous? Well, at least it's nerve racking to me.

My first public demo was coming up quickly. It was to be on the second Saturday of December at Poulsbo's Bluewater Artworks Gallery and Framing on there regularly scheduled art walk. There was going to be another artist there, a band and refreshments too. It all sounded like it was going to be eventful and fun.

Making up my mind on what to demonstrate wasn't happening and now it was the day of the demo...Oils take too long to dry. I need a blow dryer and an extension cord if I do watercolors.  Am I going to need a table or will they have one for me? I could demo pastels, but I really need to somehow do something that shows change quickly. Do I need to do something that shows my versatility?...These were just a few of the thoughts that ran through my mind. I was a bundle of nerves and wished I hadn't signed up for it, but kept giving myself pep talks anyway. What if it flops and I make a fool of myself? No, no, no, just stay positive. It'll be fine.  Just relax and have fun.

My little pep talks didn't help much. I decided to bring everything.

My tool kit is an artist tackle box that used to be my EMT box when I worked for an ambulance company many moons ago.  Now it has been re-purposed for storing my portable art stuff and it's kind of cumbersome to carry.  Especially when I'm trying to carry other things at the same time.  After getting that all organized with paints, pastels, and brushes; I filled my portfolio with different types of paper and different sized boards. Collected my easel, butcher tray and my blow dryer; than, noted to myself that I needed to remember my watercolor brushes and paints because they didn't fit inside my tackle box.
After being satisfied that I had everything I could ever need it was time to load the car. While loading the car, I wished I could just make up my mind.  Choose a media and pack just that; keep it simple, but my nerves wouldn't let me be decisive.

I arrived with plenty of time to spare for setting up my station.  The car was running low on gas, but there was no time to fill it before the demo.  First thing I did after arriving was deposit my purse in a drawer in the back of the store. No way did I want to lose that. As I was setting up, I notice that they had a table ready for me. It was smaller than I wanted it to be, but that was okay.

My easel is a fold up, compact kind and it hadn't been used in a while so it took some figuring out to get it to stand properly. That was about the time that the band started playing. They sounded great, but were really loud and my station was only a few feet from them,  "How on earth am I going to do a demo and speak to people with the music being so loud?"  That was about the time that my sign came to me. It had my name and the word, watercolor underneath.  Finally, a decisive moment, "Cool, I'll do watercolor...wait, where's my paints and brushes?" A visual of my brushes and bucket of paint came to me, "Ugh!"  It was still sitting on the counter in my house. Great!

Shifting gears wasn't too hard, but all that time setting up my easel was wasted as I didn't need it now.  It will have to be a demo with pastels because oils are definitely out of the question.

The time arrived to start the demo and the music began. Maybe I won't have to say anything. I was demoing drawing by erasing with pastels and a kneaded eraser. A fascinating process.
Several puzzled people who had read the sign asked me if I was doing watercolor. As charmingly as I could muster, I raised my voice so it could be heard over the music, "No, I forgot my paints, so it will be pastels today."

It's a good thing I interact well with people. 

Things were going pretty well. I even felt myself relax a bit until, I pulled up a photo to work from on my Acer tablet. 
A man approached and said, "I have a question. Can you do this without using a photo?" I was astonished that someone would ask me that and in such a I'm-going-to-stump-this-artist kind of way. I'm pretty sure a wrinkle between my eyebrows appeared as I said, "Yes, but why should I?"

Okay, yes, I admit, that wasn't very professional of me.
I did take the time to explain that I needed a reference in this case to start with, but once I got going I would ditch the photo.  He seemed satisfied with my explanation.  In the meantime, a few people left. Dang it! Was it because I was using a photo? Was it because of what the guy said? Was it because of my answer to him?  Was it because I contradicted my sign and did pastels instead of watercolors? Maybe they just left because they had to leave.

That man did stump me after all and made me feel all nervous again. Doesn't he realize that this is my first public demo ever?

I did think of a lot of things I could have said after the fact like: That is why Picasso's work is so abstract. He didn't use photos.

I wish I would have said something witty on the spot or showed him the drawings I had on display that were done without a photo reference instead of what I actually said. The best answer I could have given was what my husband said, "You should have just told him: 'Yes, but there is a lot of distractions right now with the music and people'."

I should have brought my husband.

From that point on it went pretty well. I met a few great people, passed out cards, talked about my work over the sound of music...bending towards each other at times to be able to hear each other speak...and had a few people add themselves to my e-mail list. All in all it was a pretty great experience and people seemed to love my work. Now, it was over and I needed to pack up all my stuff and take it all back to my car. I think it took me an hour to do so. Definitely only bringing one thing next time.

Everything was finally packed into the car. Other than being tired, I felt great. 

Relieved that I made it through the night no worse for the wear, I got in my car and drove onto the freeway, "That wasn't so bad.  It was actually kind of fun."  Then, I remembered that I needed to get gas. Then, I remembered that I left my purse in the drawer in the back of the store. Then, I remembered that my phone was in my purse.  I started to panic, "What if everyone is gone? What am I going to do?"

The freeway exits were miles apart and I had just passed one. At the next exit, I turned around praying that someone would be at the gallery and that I would make it to a gas station.

Thankfully, someone was still there and I was able to get my purse. Now all there was to do was get my gas tank filled...and get a burger.  I don't normally eat fast food, but if there was ever a time to eat a nice fattening, juicy burger this was it.  I'll have to say, it was one of the best burgers I've ever had.

That whole experience was absolutely exhausting, but I learned a lot about what not to do. Now, if I ever do another demo, it will be done differently and demo will not be a negative, four letter word anymore. It will be a well-planned demonstration. A demonstration to watch and remember in a positive way...I hope.

More Stories:
A Lesson In Fashion Turns Into A Funny Tattoo Story
Mission Impossible-Almost
What If I Do This?


  1. You can do it girl! And you did!

    1. I did do it didn't I! Thank you for your comment. :-)