Finding Art Show Inspiration

Spring has fully sprung and with it comes a springboard of festival and art show opportunities right on through Fall. Its a great way to get out and get in some walking, but also a boon for artistic inspiration.

Here are some tips to take full advantage of the opportunities.

All Genres are Game

It doesn’t matter that all you do is draw, or that you draw or paint a particular subject or in a specific medium. If you are looking only for the same genre and medium you prefer, you’re missing a lot. There is motivation to be had in every artistic genre and medium. I’ve been motivated to paint by looking at ceramics and even jewelry. And if the work itself doesn’t provide that inspiration, sometimes the artist’s dedication and unique approach to their craft will.

Composition and Design

I made a big point of this in my video (below) but its a huge part of creating good art. A part that all too often is totally ignored by lesser artists. I love good art shows for this because I’m so often taken to school in the area of composition and design. These two artistic qualities are tightly intertwined but I would define composition as the artful balance of the elements in the piece. Design takes that a step further by the careful choice and arrangement of shapes, use of negative and positive space and combining those elements into a dynamic, graphic visual that moves the eye or interacts in ways that may have nothing to do with the realistic depiction of the subject. For me, a piece with great design can dispense with the realism entirely and still end up with an abstract that is artistically compelling.

Colors and Textures

Being primarily a watercolorist I frequently look for this type of inspiration. In addition to paintings and drawings, great colors and textures can be found in abundance in works like woodworking, ceramics, sculpture or jewelry. Art exhibits can provide a prime opportunity to visualize various color combinations and palettes you might not have thought of otherwise.

Subject Matter

A good art exhibition often times sends my creative imagination off in unexpected directions with an artist’s unique treatment of certain subjects. Not just choice of subject but the point of view, scale, lighting, placement, crop, combination with other subjects or objects, etc. Interesting treatment of a subject can also supply clues as to how you might treat a totally different subject. Let your mind roam free with the ideas you encounter. “Hey, I never thought of combining a flower and vase with pruning shears in exactly that way, maybe I can do a similar thing with…”

Talk to the Artists

This is perhaps one of the most fun and engaging activities at an art show. You’ll learn a lot and strike up some interesting conversations in the process. Its true a few exhibitors are hesitant to talk or share. If they’re sitting in a chair behind their booth reading a book, its a good bet they prefer to be left alone (hmm, not so good for sales either unfortunately). Most artists, however, are anxious to discuss their work and some will even talk your ear off. Take advantage of it, but talk to them about THEM and their work, not about YOU! I like to engage an artist by complimenting them on something I specifically enjoyed in their work. This is a great conversation starter. Being specific is important! Realize that good artists are used to general compliments on their overall exhibit. Its ok to do that, but try to point out something specific that particularly impressed you. That tells them you are really studying the work and engaged with their art. Want to know how they did it? Naturally. A few questions about their chosen medium and technique is ok, but avoid a long list of very detailed questions about their technique and process. Some artists are very protective of those details. Let them bring it up if they are willing. Other great conversations starters are usually questions about the subject of their work, why they chose it and what about it appeals to them or what inspired a particular piece. Finally, be considerate. In shows such as the one in this video, some of the artists can be quite busy selling, answering questions, explaining their work, etc. Wait your turn, talk to them briefly then get out of their way. If you want to talk more, come back later and engage them when they aren’t busy.

How to Find Art Shows

If your area has any arts organizations, thats a great place to start. Greenville, SC has at least 3. Our Metropolitan Arts Council for example lets anyone get on their email list for free. I get notice of any upcoming arts related events and call for entry notices as well. Google-ing “Arts” and your closest and largest metropolitan area is a good place to start (i.e. “arts Greenville, SC”).

If you really want to get into the show circuit and perhaps even travel to a few, check your local book store or magazine stand for Sunshine Artist Magazine and pick up a copy, or subscribe online. This is the premier publication for art and craft show listings across the US and Canada. You can also access listings on their website.

Also check out Although I found the site a bit confusing and difficult to use, they seemed to provide a ton of links and listings for arts and craft shows across the US and Canada.

Get out, enjoy some great weather, exercise and ART!