By Susan Gallacher-Turner

Brenda has been on both sides of Portland Open Studios Tour. First, she was a visitor on the tour, watching artists’ demonstrations in their studios. Now, she’s teaching other artists on the tour how to demonstrate their work to tour visitors.

Below, Brenda doing her “how to demo demo” during a workshop.

For those of you who go on Portland Open Studios Tour, you may not realize all that goes into making it work every year. There are meetings, committees, and assignments that cover legal issues, signage, publicity, website information, graphic art for the tour guide and map, tour guide sales, studio safety, artwork exhibition, and demonstration techniques. Portland Open Studios Tours have been running for a decade, thanks to the expertise and dedication of artists like Brenda.

As part of my cluster group, I met Brenda at the very first meeting. Her calm professional attitude mixed with her contagious enthusiasm, really got me excited about being part of 2008 Portland Open Studios Tour. I got the chance to ask Brenda how she went from visitor to tutor and here are her answers.

Q. Why did you decide to go on the studio tour the first time?

A. I heard about Portland Open Studios from a friend who told me that all the artists are working in their studios. I was very curious to see how other artists’ created their own work and how they worked in their studios. I was also interested in seeing what caliber of art we had in Portland. It was the connection that I needed because I am so isolated in my own workspace/studio.

Q. When was that?

A. I believe my first trip out to Portland Open Studios was in 1999 or 2000.

Q. Can you remember specific artists/studios that you visited that inspired you?

A. I heard about Kitty Wallis, so she was a definite stop. Her workspace and intimate studio setting as well as her love of teaching while she was demonstrating her work was very inspiring. I loved the colors of her work and wild mark-making! She had a sign-up sheet for those who were interested in taking a workshop from her, so I signed up!

I also remember visiting Kimberly Gales, Gene Gill, Pam Green, Dawn Phelps McConnell as well as a few ceramicists, glass blowers and collage artists. Sometimes I’d make it to a studio that was just a few doors down from one I had visited and found something that was truly unique. Each artist was very unique from the other. All inspiring!

Q. Over the years, what volunteer jobs have you done for Portland Open Studios and what, if anything, have they taught you?

A. I’ve held many volunteer jobs with Portland Open Studios. My first was Volunteer Tracking. I was asked to talk to the artists in the workshop about volunteering, and I didn’t know what to say. I’ve also sold Tour Guides at events, and done the Demo on how to demo for the August workshops. I’ve also been doing the pre-press sales and I get a kick out of that job. I learned that I’m good with sales. It’s fun to call and talk to the patrons, especially after a few years, now they know my voice and my name.

Q. Tell me about the benefits of Portland Open Studio for the artist before and after the event.

A. A huge benefit to Portland Open Studios is the networking with other artists and getting inside the art community. One of the biggest benefits I’ve had is through the pre-press sales. Through that, I’ve met and spoken with art gallery owners and art organization leaders educating them on the event. From this, my name is recognized or at least they’ve heard of me. As an artist, this is a big part of marketing my own work.

I’ve formed friendships with other artists through this organization that have lasted over the years. These artists also know other artists, and before you know it, you have networked with dozens of artists in very little time. Because of the friendships I’ve made, I’ve gotten many other opportunities. We’ve hung our shows together, shared information about the community, helped each other when in need, creating critique groups, gathering for paint-outs, the list goes on.

Q. You’ve gone from tour visitor to tutoring artists who are new to the tour…how did you get from there to here?

A. I guess I’ve gone from being a visitor to tutor pretty quickly, but it didn’t happen overnight! This only happened because I said yes to the opportunity. Over the course of my 4 previous Open Studios, I’ve shared how I paint to the visiting public. This easily transitions to teaching artists on how to demonstrate their work. I’ve tried out a few different ways on how to demonstrate, as well as viewing the artists in the tour who are demonstrating, and learning what worked and, what doesn’t! There are some truly exciting demonstrating artists out there.

Q. What advice would you give artists who are considering applying to Portland Open Studios for next year?

A. If you’re considering being an Open Studio artist, ask yourself these questions: What can you give back? Do you consider yourself to be a professional artist, or want to be? What makes your work special and can you share that with others?

You can see Brenda at work in her studio during the Portland Open Studios Tour this year October 11, 12 or 18 and 19 by picking up a Tour Guide at many retail locations around the Portland metro area and any Art Media or New Seasons. See Portland Open Studios for a complete list of retail locations.

Visit Brenda Boylan’s website at www.brendaboylan.com.

Above, Brenda doing a demo for visitors in her studio.

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