6 ways to talk to an artist about their work

Does the idea of talking to an artist make you nervous?  What if you don’t know all the advanced art-speak?

Not all artists are naturally outgoing people who talk to people easily.  Artists can be introverted and rather reclusive, which can seem intimidating.

The good news is, you don’t have to be an expert on art to engage with artists about their work.   The following tips are good conversation starters.

Imagine you’re at an art gallery, looking at the  artwork,  and the gallery owner comes over and introduces you to the artist.

Abstract painting with deep blue tones

Chaotic Blue, detail, acrylic on canvas, 50 x 100 cm, by M.K. Hajdin. Sold.

1.  “Wow!”

If the piece wows you, don’t be afraid to say so.  We artists love it when people are enthusiastic about our work, and there’s no need to express it in academic language.  Don’t be afraid to say “I love it!” if you love it.

2.  “A bold use of color”

If the piece doesn’t speak to you,  don’t fake enthusiasm, but find something neutral to say that is based on the piece, such as “Colorful!” if the piece is colorful.   If it’s a bold use of color, you can say so, without having to like that particular bold use of color.  And then move on to the next piece.

3.  Don’t be negative.

Even if you don’t like the work at all, don’t say, “I don’t like this,” or “My kid could have painted this,” or “I could have done this in Photoshop,” or “This isn’t any good.”  It’s insulting, and it shuts down conversation.  Instead,  say something neutral but pleasant, as described in #2, and move on to the next piece.

4.  Open-ended questions:

  • “What inspired you to make this piece?”
  • “Can you tell me more about your process?”
  • “What techniques did you use?”
  • “What materials did you use?”
  • “What do you like about those materials?”
  • “What gives you ideas?”
  • “What do you find visually interesting?”
  • “What artists have inspired you?”

5.  If the piece evokes thoughts or feelings in you, talk about them.  (Unless they’re very negative, in which case refer to #2.)

Does the piece remind you of something or someone?  Talk about it.  This is one of my favorite things to hear from people – my artwork makes them think and feel in all sorts of different ways, and it’s very interesting to get the feedback.  Sometimes it even influences my future work.

6. “I’ll take it!”

This is every artist’s favorite thing to hear.   Except for maybe, “I’ll take it, and five more!”


17 things you should NEVER say to an artist:  Click here.

Artists, do you have a favorite topic of conversation that I haven’t listed here?  Do let me know in the comments.


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2 thoughts on “6 ways to talk to an artist about their work

  1. Pingback: 17 Things You Should Never Say to an Artist | M.K. Hajdin

  2. Pingback: I wrote a couple things about how to talk to artists. | Exiled Stardust

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