Painting outside in public is really not scary, especially in New York City. While that may seem odd the fact is that NYC is one of the most artist-friendly places to paint. Most people will walk right past you, they are busy getting to where they need to be and have probably seen things a lot more unusual than someone painting in public.
Those that do stop will do so simply out of curiosity, and for the most part are tourists. I use these types of encounters to make people feel welcome to the city–I ask them where they are from, if they paint, what type of art they like, etc. If they are still interested in watching me paint, I will often just go into demo mode and start explaining what I’m doing–at that point, they either become truly interested which could result in a sale or new student relationship, or they get bored and leave–either of these results works for me.
They key is to remember that you are doing something you love to do, forget about everyone else and what they may or not may think of your painting. You are not doing it for them, you are doing it for you! Stay focused on what you are doing and don’t worry about what everyone else is doing. Really concentrate on the painting, carefully observe your subject and confidently put it on the paper.
Here are a few ways to attract less attention to yourself and to get through any encounters that do occur:
- Reduce your visibility – leave the big equipment home and just bring a sketchbook and some watercolors or pencils.
- Find a place to sit or stand with your back to a wall, tree or other surface so that people will have to walk directly up to you if they want to talk. This greatly reduces the number of encounters.
- Paint with a group or take a workshop (I have two coming up in NYC–Bryant Park on 7/31 and the Flatiron Building on 8/21–click here for details)
- Look visitors right in the eye and offer a big friendly “hello”! Remember, you are doing something you love, let them know how much fun you are having. No one can put you down for doing something you love to do!
- Work in a size that suits your pace–I never go bigger than 11×14 when I work outside and most of the time I work smaller than that. This allows me to finish each piece in one session and to get further along faster. The more finished your painting is, the less to explain to visitors.
Have fun and remember, you are out there for your own enjoyment and learning, that is something to be respected and admired!