Knitting a dress (The Meadows) © Samantha Groenestyn

Last Sunday I made my debut into the world of illustration with my first solo show at Kichi-Ba Tea House in Brisbane. Gouache paintings dangled from the rafters by silver art clips and twine, tea-light candles twinkled in old jars on eucalypt tree stumps, the chilled, wet winter air smelt of jonquils, the Veuve D’Argent flowed into tiny mismatched thrifted glasses. Acoustic guitar hummed softly in the corner and my charming guests pored curiously over their pocket guides handed out upon arrival. The promised forest of paintings materialised.

© Kaitlyn Fitzpatrick

Besides being an outrageously fun evening, it was quite the opportunity to learn a thing or two about myself, others, art and illustration.

Perhaps the most striking revelation was that people need to be led. In every way.

© Kaitlyn Fitzpatrick

Since the show, I’ve run into numerous apologetic would-be attendees, who are sorry that they forgot all about it. This is not something an artist can do anything about, since I sent out many reminders in many different media, including face-to-face, text messages, personal emails and facebook reminders. No matter how conscientious your campaign, there will always be some people who simply forget.

c Kaitlyn Fitzpatrick . Poetry by Carly-Jay Metcalfe

Some guests are rumoured to have said, ‘It’s not as if I’m going to buy a picture of Sam to hang on my wall.’ This is a symptom of how difficult it is to convey to people what it is an illustrator does. Yes, my paintings were for sale. But these paintings are personal works, created to demonstrate what I am capable of. Some demonstrate my take on portraiture. Some demonstrate my ability to conceptualise. Some demonstrate applications for illustration, such as menus or product illustration. It seems this point was lost on many people, and could be emphasised more firmly.

© Kaitlyn Fitzpatrick

My self-portraits, in particular, are an interesting point. To me, they are not self-portraits. I consider them narratives or depictions of knitted garments, in which I happen to be the model since this is the most convenient way for me to work. I hardly see myself in them, and should note that others in fact do, and that perhaps I should go to greater efforts to source other willing models. I don’t think they are a wasted exercise, though—at least those present could see the likeness and judge for themselves my portraiture ability. One guest was particularly taken by how I conveyed so many different aspects of my personality in the various portraits, which is an interesting thing to know about my work.

© Kaitlyn Fitzpatrick

Showing people everything all at once and speaking with them individually is an amazing way to gather feedback about your work. There is no predicting who will like what, and everyone has a favourite, and it’s just lovely when they tell you about it. It’s not only revealing for the artist to display so many facets of herself for everyone to see. It’s revealing to learn who is attracted to the homely warmth of Ugly lamp 2, and to learn that little girls are enamoured of Death is dead. Never assume anything. Even your favourite little piece that most people overlook is somebody else’s favourite. Your niche is out there.

© Kaitlyn Fitzpatrick

People love stories. I printed out little business card sized show guides, with a sentence or two on each painting. Everyone loves a little thing to touch and to keep, and they love to hear a little about the painting and feel like an insider. I spent a while talking about my Christmas in Paris to purchasers of some greeting cards of Sacré Coeur. Divulging little secrets to people draws them into your world.

© Kaitlyn Fitzpatrick

Speeches: totally not mandatory. Michelle, the owner of the tea shop, and I talked this over. I thought it should be simple, to the point, and only include one thank you. Nothing worse than a sixteen-thank-you speech. Michelle preferred not to speak at all. We’re both more into personal one-on-one interactions, and don’t mind explaining the same thing several times over. We played it by ear, and in the end felt a speech would have interrupted the natural unfolding of the night.

© Kaitlyn Fitpatrick

You don’t need to martyr yourself financially. A wise businessman suggested that we charge entry. Michelle and I weren’t so taken with this idea, as we can be far too generous. On further consideration, we acknowledged we’d gladly pay entry to an art show with live music, French champagne, fancy snacks and a beautiful, secretive setting. If charging a little money can help you make a really memorable event, do it. It’s crucial to make your first event a true spectacle—word spreads, and people look forward to the next event.

© Kaitlyn Fitzpatrick

While it’s more exciting for me to see my own paintings in print, as greeting cards and tea towels and the like, it’s more exciting for other people to see the originals. My no-bullshit Russian friend assured me she wasn’t so impressed by my paintings online, preferring the linework in my sketchbooks, but seeing them in person reversed her position completely. Allowing people to experience your work in more tangible ways can win you more fans. And you have my Russian friend’s word for it that the digital representations of my work do the real things ten percent justice. The ‘merch,’ of course, was a necessity, because while original art is beyond the reach of many people, it can be made accessible in more exciting forms than simple prints, and I know how hard it is to turn down cute stationery.

A heartfelt thank you to everyone who made this show possible, and to all who came and enjoyed themselves. x

In Edinburgh, I taught my friend Elizabeth to knit. We spent bright, sunny, ten degree Scottish summer days in The Meadows weaving wondrous creations. Elizabeth, ever ambitious, made her first project a dress–a clever amalgam of grey and white scarf-like rectangles.


10 thoughts on “L’exposition

  1. Congratulations on your first exhibition! Nice evaluation, and helpful pointers. I was looking forward to your show for weeks when something else came up. Looks like it was a special night, you set the tea shop up beautiful. I love the way you’ve hung your pieces. Look forward to coming to the next one 🙂

  2. J’adore 🙂 Such a lovely night for an exhibition of such high calibre – it was a really special night and I felt blessed to be there. I love how this post explores the layers of what an exhibition is (the concept of expectations etc.) and I can’t wait to talk to you about this on Sunday! Congratulations again – prettiest exhibition I’ve ever been to xoxo

  3. Congratulations Samantha! I wish I could have seen your exhibition, I love how you’ve presented your work, really beautiful!
    Again, Bravo!

  4. The wise business man friend…I need to speak to him. He is sensible! I would never have thought of an entry fee. But you are totally right. The location and vibe are worth a small entry to fund it a bit. I love the photos.

    • I know–I hope to bother him some more, he is really a friend of the tea shop owner’s. The trick is, once people are paying, they start to think of it as a Real Thing, not just as supporting their little cousin or something. x

  5. Congratulations on your exhibition! It looks truly beautiful, the way it’s presented, and it looks like it was a wonderful evening with the perfect atmosphere. Although I haven’t seen any of your work in real, I absolutely love it. You’ve got a great style!

  6. Thank you for visiting and commenting on carefreecomposition.com. I appreciate the blog like. Congrats on all of your creative successes and those you have yet to imagine.

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