I do like a personality quiz. There’s something appealingly Daliesque in discovering the public building that most represents my taste in men, or which Jane Austin book reveals my secret sporting ability*. Surreal answers aside, the one fixed point in these random tests is my high score as an introvert.
If life consisted of hiding in the studio and pretending to be otherwise occupied when required to speak to anyone other than the studio spiders, introverted is all I would need to be. I’d have a considerable talent for the task. But most of my time is spent in front of other people; teaching, chatting, selling and generally being a pleasantly outgoing and engaging person. Indeed, my livelihood depends on it.
Fortunately, connecting with people is a skill that can be learned. It’s terrifying, like most extreme sports, but comes with practice. I made it a rule, when I started out as a printmaker, to engage with strangers whenever I could. Not in a mad person on the bus way. Think more inept British person breaking all bounds of normality to mumble something about the weather. I still make myself do this to keep my hand in; take away the art and I’m back to staring at my shoes and avoiding all eye contact.
Over the years I’ve actually come to love this duality and my outgoing role as an artist. I like meeting people, hearing their stories, coaxing lovely prints out of students and taking part in shows and fairs. I weirdly adore giving public talks about my work: an evening all about me and a chance to show off in public, what’s not to like? Turns out that inside the introvert, there’s a borderline extrovert waiting to break free. It just takes my job, backed up with some hard core training, to make the switch.
Ask an Artist podcast explores the artist’s persona this week, the how and why of developing a professional public face. Have a listen and tell your friends – we’d love to have your company
• Tate Britain/talented (obviously)
• Sense and Sensibility/downhill running with mixed success