I’m going to quickly catch everyone up. I’ve done 5 festival shows since my last blog, had a gallery opening and an open studios.
Danville seems so long ago! October 4th, 2008. It's my birthday, and I'm alone in a strange city setting up a tent in the rain. Danville is a small suburb, located southeast of San Francisco. The jury for this show initially rejected my application because of the nudes, but allowed me to reenter with landscapes.
I ended up bringing both, and despite rain, and a terrible turnout, I did very well. This early on in my career, “very well” is making back my costs with a small profit. Oh, and all I sold were nudes :)
my landscape "buffer" wall
inside the tent
After Danville, I had small local show in Pismo Beach. It was cold, and wet, and miserable, but only one day. I won’t be doing this show again!
Two weeks later, I was in Sacramento. This was an expensive show ($700!!!), and my first one indoors. The economy was tanking, but we were all still in denial back then. Looking back, I can say this was the highest quality show I’d been to. Most artists showed up in formidable custom trailers, big rigs and vans. Here I was, alone; with my lowly Uhaul trailer in tow.
The show was fun, and I did well, selling two originals for the first time at an art festival. This show also resulted in several commissions and a small publishing deal-I’ll write more about that in the future. I came home ready for more!
In November, there was the 31st annual Pasadena fall art festival. Sounds fancy, but the show was a bust. Horrible! I was in tears just trying to find parking for my car/trailer. The promoters promised artist parking, but it was a mess.
Located in front of city hall, the show was poorly attended and badly organized. There is nothing more frustrating than jumping through hoops to meet all the requirements and rules of a show, and then seeing they aren’t enforced.
For example, the show required HANDMADE items, and that the artist be present.
Directly across from me was a photographer’s booth. The actual photographer didn’t make an appearance the whole show. There was also a woman selling beaded bracelets. They were cheap, plastic beads, 3 for $5. What on earth was she doing at a fine art show?
Good for her, though. She was the busiest booth in the show. Half of the show was taken up by car dealerships, timeshare sellers, window and blind companies and a kid’s inflatable party jumping raft thingy.
I don’t want to sound angry, but I was. The show was a sham. It looked like a flea market, and I paid $300 to be there, plus gas and hotel and STRESS.
It’s all part of being a (working) artist. You take risks in the hope they work out, but there’s always a chance everything will go wrong. You live, you learn, you adapt, and move on-if you can afford to.
Speaking of, my last festival of the year was also a disaster. It was the Paso Robles film festival, and I took a chance. They stuck us out in a dirt-filled field in the middle of no where. Yet somehow I managed to sell an original right off the bat.
Bands were scheduled to play the site that evening (The Bacon Brothers), so while all the other artists closed up shop early; I went home, grabbed my track lights and rented a generator. I ended up staying there until ten at night for both days. There I was, the lone artist, all lit up in the dark and the freezing cold, hanging out with drunken concert-goers and port-o-potties. In moments like these, I wonder at what point I lost my mind, or if I even had one to begin with. All the hard work resulted in a decent show, but I’m still cleaning up the dirt.
Somewhere amid all the festivals, I held my last open studio in Paso Robles, and had an opening at the Haub Gallery in San Luis Obispo with my abstract work.
That’s a brief history of my life in art festivals for 2008. There is so much more to write about. I haven’t even touched the surface. I’ve gone through a move, a major personal loss (my kitty of 18 years), relationship issues, depression, pending bankruptcy…oh, yes.
Some important things I’ve learned:
-navigating a trailer in reverse
-dressing the part at an art show is important
-light rain isn’t a bad thing because people have to take shelter and end up staying longer
-my tolerance for driving long distances is increasing
-northern California seems to like my work better than southern California
-given you have good work, the size will often determine whether it sells or not
-given you have good work, the colors will often determine whether it sells or not
-lowering prices does not mean you’ll make more sales (strangely, raising them may).
-once you have all this information about SELLING art, CREATING art while keeping true to yourself becomes more complex.