I’ve thought about writing a post about art shows for a long time.Every now and then I will get asked how hard it is to do shows. People who have a hobby and are thinking of turning it into a job. Always the optimist, trying to figure out a way that is not only informative but also not negative. If I had known all that was involved when I started would I still have walked this path? For me YES! It is a lifestyle that is worth all the ups and downs. With this said it is most definitely not for everyone. So here is what I would like people to know about this wacky world I live in.
Change always seems to be a mixed bag. Painful at times yet if you persevere, rewarding in the end. I have been a working artist for 30 plus years. Continually growing in my craft and enjoying almost every minute of it. There have been a lot of changes in the art festival world these past few years. When I started there were very few “Art Shows”. I showed my work at flea markets, music festivals, college campuses. You never paid more than 20 or 30 bucks for a space. We didn't have booths back then, it was a card table or a blanket on the ground. It was an exciting time. You didn't see buy and sell vendors really. No one had thought of it yet I suppose. What you did see were very talented artists taking risks with the work they made.
Fast forward to 2018. To be a working artist now days you really have to wear several different hats. Not only do you create the work your showing, you need to be part business person, photographer, promoter, advertiser, traveling saleswoman, weatherperson, interior designer,psychologist, truck driver, mechanic, performer and magic maker.
There are basic steps to being a working artist. First of course is creating the work. Artists spend thousands of dollars in materials and tools to develop their craft. We work seven days a week, 14 hour plus hours at times, all while trying to live a somewhat normal life. Most love this part of the job. I certainly do. Creating is like breathing for me.
So now that you have the work figured out then there is finding the shows that are a good fit for what you do. Now in the old days you would have an area that you showed in. I would mostly stay on the west coast, venturing to Colorado, Arizona and New Mexico. You would have professional images taken, which by the way are anywhere from 75.00 to 150. A shot…..You would fill out an application, kind of like a resume for what you do. Then send it all in with a booth payment and wait for the results.Sometimes you would get a rejection letter but most times you would be accepted.
Nowadays with the internet this process is all digitised and automated. Your images are jpegs and the process is all on line. Each time you apply for a show the cost to be juried is anywhere from 20.00 to 50.00. Your competition is huge! Say an average show has maybe 150 to 200 booths. Now with the internet there are artists applying for shows all over the country. You’ll have 1000’s of artists applying for these booths.Your odds of getting into the shows you apply to are very slim. Kind of like playing the lottery….. Most artists that do this for a living will apply for the whole season of shows. These shows will be anywhere from 300 to 700 dollars each on top of the jury fees.
So you have your work figured out, your show schedule in the works. Then there is your booth. Gone are the days of card tables and blankets.There are different types of booths these days. The one I use and have used for many years is a Trimline. It does well in extreme weather. I have been in snow, rain, hail, wind, extreme heat. All the time praying to every god that exists to spare my sorry ass. You can not believe how horrified and lucky I have been through the years.
Watching storm lines that are green with tornados hovering ,golf ball size hail, biblical winds and rivers of rain. Your booth not only has to look really good it has to withstand all these natural disasters.
Let's say you have gotten into your dream shows, your work is fabulous! Your booth is secure and looking great. You’ve driven 10 hours to the show. The booth space is in a fantastic location. The sun is shining. The stars are all aligned. There are tons of people. No one is buying anything. For whatever reason the energy is off. It is just the nature of the game really. There are so many things that can go right or wrong in this business. The minute you think you have it figured out everything changes,
So why am I telling you all this? I am hoping that people will have a better appreciation for the arts and what we do as artists to show our work. Art is important, whether a person chooses to show the work or not. The next time your at an art show remember what it took for that person to be there. I admit there are way too many arts & crafts shows anymore. The magic has definitely been hard to find in some of these places I’ve been. Still what a boring world it would be without street artists.I am truly blessed for all the adventures I’ve been on and wonderful people I never would have met if I had stayed home. Namaste.
I always like to end these rants with some good music. Here is Hugh Laurie with his version of Saint James Infirmary. Brilliant! Have a great week!