Belinda's Bash

Belinda Naylor-Stables

Belinda Naylor-Stables

Are you normal?

Some people want to be normal and worry that they’re not. Others try not to be normal and worry that they are. What is ‘normal’ for an artist? And how do you best show off your brand of normality or whackiness in Open Studios? Because, as the artist, you are definitely on show alongside your work…

What’s normal for an artist anyway?

Perhaps we don’t want to think that 'artist' and 'normal' can sit side-by-side in the same sentence. But, believe me, there is normal artist behaviour. For example, every artist goes through a process to arrive at a work. Even if you think that you don’t go through one - that very fact is a process. Some Open Studios visitors are artists themselves and want to learn more about process through others. Other visitors are not artists and view the approach to art or design as a mystery. We live in a complex world so it’s also normal for processes to show a cross-pollination of ideas. Maybe a key question to help you prepare for Open Studios is: ‘What are you going to show visitors about your process?’

What else can you do to live up to the title ‘artist’?
Latest in a mound of art experiences - the pamphlet for this summer's CSM exhibition

Latest in a mound of art experiences - the pamphlet for this summer's CSM exhibition

Most of the Central St. Martins Degree Show exhibitions took place in London last month, June 15, 18 - 21.  I’ve been before – and wasn’t quite sure what to expect this time. I wondered if the context of their new building would impact the work. I left the exhibition with the feeling that the stark slate grey backdrop was a good foil to the show – simply offering up a gigantic space.

I met Herts Visual Arts member Liz Sargeant there, who graduated from Central St. Martins this year. Brilliantly done.

Sharing and caring were strong elements of the collective show. Each artist did one or more of these things:

  • Shared what they had discovered or their process of discovery
  • Showed how they have grown
  • Edited their work to a point of clarity – removing inessentials
  • Helped me to reflect - or decide to make a change - through their work.

Technical ability and powers of observation were also strongly evident - they did one or more of these too:

  • Demonstrated very interesting and promising powers of observation
  • Offered a surprising ‘take’ on surroundings or emotions
  • Showed great talent and mastery of their materials
  • Or created such a new view of the familiar that technique didn’t matter.

With Open Studios looming I guess two key questions for HVA artists are: 'What aspects of your work do you want to show?' and 'How do you signpost and label your venue and work so that the visitor can first of all find your exhibition and then make the  most of it?'

How normal do you want to be?

For those that have done Open Studios already, you’ve probably made up your mind about how to put on a show. For those that haven’t done Open Studios it might be hard to know what to prepare for. I’d say:

Don't think you have to bamboozle visitors with a psycho-analysis of your work. Being able to talk frankly and factually about your work is all they want.

Remember that people are curious about your studio. What visitors find there speaks volumes about your creative life-style and state of mind. What does your studio say about you? Could it or should it tell more?

Ideally a piece should work whether it's being viewed from 3 metres away or 30 centimetres away. Though this is not true for some intricate and delicate arts and crafts – it holds true for larger works.

Show off your positive idiosyncrasies – the ones that help you explore and create in the direction you do. In her book ‘101 Things to Learn at ArtSchool’ Kit White’s 93rd point is, ‘Cultivate your idiosyncrasies’. She says, ‘Every hand, every eye, every brain comes with its own built-in distortions. These distortions represent your signature, your personal slant on the world. When they manifest themselves in your work, do not be afraid to embrace them…’

Personally, I'd avoid 'hard sell' because it could put visitors off visiting you again - but it's your decision. Finally, decide how eccentric you want to be. Fawlty Towers could be a brilliant training video – of what not to do! See Fawlty Towers and Satisfied Customers on YouTube.

Happy preparations!

If you have any tips on normality and Open Studios… or you want to share the experience of any good art shows – or you have also graduated and want to share the good news, then go ahead here. We’d love to hear from you…



Interesting read Belinda Most of my chums and colleagues just think of me as an Arty-farty, but they'll still bike and play footie with me. At least most will be having a look at my stuff in Open studios. So not that wierd!Missed all the fine art graduate shows - you've just made me realise!!Cheers Paul

Degree shows - Central Saint Martins

Thanks Belinda, for your kind comment. It was great to chat with you at the show - thanks very much for coming. I think your summing up of our degree show is very perceptive. Exhibiting in our new building at Kings Cross certainly presented us with challenges as well as the amazing opportunities resulting from the buzz created around our relocation from our former sites around London. We felt we managed to rise to the occasion - we brought out our creative 'wackiness/oddness' against the backdrop of this huge, purpose-built (and some would say corporate-style) building - giving visitors a feast for their senses and hopefully, something to think about... There are examplles of some of our work here, on our degree show website, for anyone interested. Liz Sergeant

Login or become a member to comment.