Oct 8, 2014

Art Fair Confidential

This is my favorite painting from Forest of Arts last weekend. It was my third art fair and I decided to bring my paints along so I wouldn’t be staring at customers all day while they look around my booth. I started out reworking an old treescape that didn’t feel finished but in the heat of the day my attention span dissolved and I started painting abstracts and experiments (below.)

Deciding to participate in art fairs happened suddenly. I had been interested for years but always came up with reasons why it wouldn’t work. Then I was interviewing Jennifer Lommers about the opening of her new shop Studio 262. Afterwards I asked her a technical question about putting her work on-line as prints. In the course of her answer she said, “I was willing to make mistakes.” I’ve heard the sentiment a million times that we need to be willing to make mistakes to learn and reach our goals but in contemplating starting a business I was hampered by an irrational fear that any less-than-professional impression I made would be instantly and permanently imprinted world-wide. Something about Jennifer being a real and inspiring person instead of a personal-growth book triggered a complete rewrite of that program and I found myself immediately impatient to go out and make mistakes.

I had to remind myself of that eagerness many times while I tried to make a nice booth set-up on a limited budget. Because I know a few basic carpentry skills I assumed I could build display walls…someone should have filmed that slapstick. Two art fairs later, my set-up had no remnant of my original construction. I was tempted to feel bad about wasted materials and time but remembered the importance of mistakes. It’s no different than a painting. They tend to be better when there is some struggle and revision involved leaving mysterious under-layers, textures and edges. There was nothing to do but be happy I finally took a risk and then turn the table-saw on to rip all that wasted lumber into framing material. 

At the first fair I looked around at other people’s booths and realized that most of my efforts were somewhat unnecessary. I was so afraid of doing things wrong I did a ton of research on-line and developed some high-standards for myself. Other artists who were starting out came up with nice displays with just folding tables and crates and such. If I had that sort of willingness to jump in I could have started doing art fairs years ago and while that might not get me in to the high end art fairs right away, who cares? Starting out small then growing seems like a sane and natural way to get into a financially risky endeavor like selling art.

I have one more fair next weekend in Newport. Then I will take a break, work on paintings and make a schedule for the application deadlines for the fairs I want to get into next year. 

Here's my booth from Forest of Arts: