Goal Update: When I went back to painting three years ago, I wrote down one of my short-term goals was to be in an art fair. This month I did it. I chose the Ravenswood Art Walk for my first one because of its convenience (basically in my neighborhood), it has indoor options (smaller space, no need for tent rental, weatherproof), and it has one of the lowest booth fees on the circuit. It seemed like the least risky investment in time and materials. Afterward, I’m here to tell every artist to try an art fair. Here’s why.
Feedback from visitors. I brought only my best work to the show, so I was confident in the quality of my art. The fair let me hear how people responded to it. I had a few different themes on display: beach, sidewalk gardens, traditional floral still lifes, and water towers. People were very complimentary of my work, and I got to have some good conversations about my art and art in general. I’m happy to chit chat, and I asked everyone who stopped which painting they liked best. There wasn’t a clear favorite, but the comment I liked most was, “Each painting has something that draws me to it.”
Networking with artists. I work alone in my basement studio, and I miss having colleagues, even meetings (kind of). My location in the art fair was a big open room with ten other artists. It was like my office at the Art Institute but without a boss lurking around the corner. We spent two long days together killing time, sharing tools, going on beer runs, and talking about the art-fair circuit. I was the only first-timer, and the other artists were open with their suggestions for where I should try to show. The internet is great and all, but there’s nothing better than talking face to face with people who have the experience I (may) want.
Marketing experiments. I said to a friend that my goals at the fair were to look good (booth-wise) and hand out all my business cards. I also brought a couple of non-art items to sell—buttons and note cards. In my 8 x 6 space, I brought twenty paintings, most of them small, many priced at $100. I brought two large paintings that I knew wouldn’t sell but would look good and get people’s attention. Sure enough, my 22 x 28-inch painting of Montrose Beach was my number one talking point with visitors.
Self-review. I had to edit the group of paintings I’d show, decide on framing, titles, display materials, pricing, and packaging, and keep in mind expenses and logistics of hauling all this stuff to the venue. This being my first art fair, there were many first-time decisions (and expenses) that I won’t need to consider next time. And when is the next time? I don’t know.
You may have noticed that typical reasons, like making money and moving inventory, are not on the list. No, I didn’t sell a lot, but I still call it a successful event for my professional development. I swear.
Later is what?
After settling into various desk jobs, I always said I'd get back to painting later in life, and later is now. Again means that I tried once before. I decided to write about my painting endeavor, too, as a learning tool, an accountability tool, and to stay sharp in case I have to go back to a desk job. Again.
I love periodicals, and if I weren't trying to devote more time to painting I'd mail paper copies. Sign up here, and I'll conveniently send it (blog posts, sales, and new work) by e-mail instead.