Art in the Pearl: my experience doing a demo for a technique I’m not good at

Anyone who knows me at all is aware of how much I loathe being less-than-adept at anything I perform publicly. The demo I participated in at Art in the Pearl was a thorough test of my “run and hide!” instincts: I am not great at monotypes. I know the techniques, and theoretically how to use them effectively. I even know how to clean up oil-based inks without using more than a tablespoon of odorless mineral spirits, which is incredibly useful in a plein-air demonstration situation.

What I do not, and probably never will know, is how to make good monotypes. The one pictured below was the only one I made that I liked even a little. True, it has been a few years since I’ve so much as thought about making monotypes, and I jumped into it cold turkey. True, also, that the only monotypes I ever made that I liked were made with stencils, and I managed to take the wrong sketchbook to the park and so did not have any of my sketches or stencil film, leaving me feeling woefully unprepared from the get-go.

Even though I spent the entire four hours feeling like a saltwater fish in a freshwater tank (complete with wide-eyed gawkers watching everything I did), I stuck it out. And I did have fun, for the most part. There were a few conversations with passers-by that were genuinely engaging. It was probably good for me to be reminded that printmaking is an esoteric art that most people know absolutely nothing about; I had to practice stepping outside of my accumulated knowledge to explain what I was doing.

I learned that I do not like doing unstructured demos with the public-at-large gawking at me. Spending my day off standing around answering questions about materials and techniques to laypeople felt exactly like not having a day off. I’ve worked in fine art retail for the last ten years. Honestly, the demo left me a little depleted for the next day.

I had more fun when I finished my demo shift. My boyfriend came to meet me and we looked around while nibbling on a sugary elephant ear. Everyone put so much effort into making that event what it was; I hope they all got something valuable out of the experience. I know I did, even if it wasn’t the easiest or most pleasurable thing I’ve ever done.

Cameo monotype, a photo by Miss Birdsong on Flickr.

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