It's been a fine Monday, and a good way to start out the week that will include the "first art fair of the season". (Deb B, I am still waiting for that magic call from your fine institution saying you need your favorite wait-list artist on Saturday) And definitely, we will be hanging some paintings in Des Moines, Iowa this weekend, Sunday, at Valley Junction Art Market.
Thinking about the first art fair of the summer, I would guess that most of you don't realize that it's possible to put an entire exhibit of paintings in a Chevy Venture. Well, it is. May I say that the title up at the top of this, is key? Everything in it's place. Absolutely.
Just a couple of times, I've contemplated a larger "art van". One that would allow me to miss-pack an item or two. And then I take a quick look at artists that DO deal with a larger van. Heck, some do it with trucks. And as I gaze at them in wonderment, I see that their vehicle is just as stuffed as mine. Which leads one easily to the conclusion, that if you have more room, you put something in it. So little Chevy Venture, I owe it to you that I pick and choose. Only take the essentials. No extra baggage. No extra display frou-frou. Stream-lined, that's the ticket.
(Can you smell the leap over to painting land?!) Yup. You know it. Just as less is more in the art of stuffing a Chevy Venture art van, it happens on the canvas too. We have to pick and choose. Carefully. No extra baggage. Leave out the unnecessary. Less is more. And all that. But you knew that, didn't you?! Thanks for stopping by.
and here's the current easel occupant, wondering if I will have the aha moment (hour)(day!) that get's it finished in time...
Sack Lunch, an acrylic painting with a ways to go before the signature :)
Saturday, I got an email. It was from the company I order garden seed from. Yes, I had already ordered for 2013. The seed was sitting in the box in the kitchen cupboard, waiting for the proper time. So Saturday, came the email from Johnny's: Start Your Tomatoes. And so I did. That little email was welcome on several different counts, but today we'll focus on one.
I think it highly appropriate to make a list at this point. Here goes:
Gentlemen, Start your engines!
On your mark, get set!
Rev On the Red Line!
Well, it's one for the money, two for the show, three to get ready, now go, cat, go.
Hoist those sails!
Go Big Red!
Step on the gas!
Kick it into gear!
Come On Baby Light My Fire!
Aaaand, they're off!
Sunny Days, Chasing Those Clouds Away!
and of course, Start your tomatoes!
Words to get us moving, surely. Talk of phrases that start something. At the start of something. In fact, maybe at the start of a BIG something.
Yesterday, I was thinking about words like that. Tis the season for summer art fair artists. "Wait" you say. "I still see snow/slush/brown in my yard. Summer art fair? Pshaw."
However, for those un-indoctrinated amongst us, truly, tis the season. The "A" tier festivals have juried and notifications have spewed forth. Level B show apps are due NOW and maybe even yesterday. (Let's not talk about level C, maybe they'll go away if we ignore them, aaach, but a story for another day)
"Now where is she going with this?" I'm sure you're beginning to wonder. Here: have you ever noticed what a starting phrase does for you?
On your mark, get set, and the adrenaline kicks in. Sunny days, chasing those clouds away, while a friendly, happy kids program shows up on IPTV, and kids young and old smile. Go Big Red, and the stadium erupts with "Their Is No Place Like Nebraska". Start you tomatoes, and it's a new gardening season, spring is surely just around the corner.
Drats. We seem to have omitted one.
Congratulations, you've been accepted...
Oh-oh. I need more paintings. What on earth have I been doing with my time all winter long? Kick it into gear! Blast off! Come on baby light my fire! Rev on the red line!
Sometimes we just need a few words to inspire us. Launch us into action. At the start of something. In fact, maybe at the start of a BIG something. I'd like to think so.
PS: as we have already talked about "Congratulations you've been accepted", may I direct your attention to my calendar page? Yup, the beginning of the summer art fair season for the Cooper camp. And a new little painting to help you think summer even more:
Sunny Days, Chasing Those Clouds Away, a nicely sized 12 x 12 inch canvas, and yes, for your viewing pleasure, in my website portfolio. The place with that uber-cool zoom feature...
Welcome to the Cooper studio, Jefferson, Iowa, where today, AGAIN, we will be dredging up the subject of the summer art fair. Specifically, we will peer into the category, dead beat art fairs that live on.
Oh, wait, surely we can call those of the dead beat sort "pretend" or "wanna-be" or even the s-word. Schlock! It doesn't seem honest or just, to the subject of art, to call these wanna-be events anything remotely related to creative. Is it?
Okay. Sigh. Here we go.
Several seasons ago, I was exhibiting at an art fair, about three hours from the family casa. Saturday had been slightly dampish. There was a moderate attendance. I sold some paintings. Nothing earth shattering. Sunday dawned the same. Hmm, do you have to have sun to legally say the day dawned? No sun. But some people came. Not enough people to stop me from noticing the humidity was sky rocketing. Hey, what else can you say about June in the midwest?
About 3PM, I felt it. I could see my trusty art-schleping car right over there in the parking lot. I was supposed to put everything into said trusty car and LEAVE. What? Nobody does that. My artist neighbors looked at me like I was crazy. Sorry guys, here I go. About an hour before the art fair's official closing time, I was at the quick shop at the edge of town purchasing my drive-down-the-road-coffee. I ran back out to the the car, just as it broke loose, pretty much every weather related thing except a tornado. The wind that came with it didn't seem too far off of tornado speed, however. As I drove off, I felt sorta bad for my art fair neighbors, who at that very moment, I knew, were valiantly trying to secure-protect-salvage their art and belongings.
So, the question du jour: is the art fair artist a personality type that is completely oblivious to gut instinct? The tale I just told you was about should I stay or should I go. What about gut instinct for those situations where the question is should I go or should I STAY HOME? Are we such blooming optimists that "bad" doesn't even register on our thought-o-meter? If we try one more time, will we win? That "fine art fair" that now juries in things like painted fence post stumps? Surely there will be great art there THIS year and we will all sell marvelous number of paintings?
A fellow artist once told me I was suggesting an "artist strike" and that would never happen. Wrong on the former, true on the latter.
But can't we individually hone our gut instinct capabilities, and apply them to the art fair venue? Generous would be the two strike rule: give it two chances. If you've exhibited twice at a specific art fair, and neither time was worth it, shouldn't your gut instinct be telling you "don't go back?" Maybe it's time to listen.
And a painting I will be taking to Art On The Prairie - Perry, this November 10th and 11th. And yes, I've gone twice, and they've both been good :)
The Bicycle Pages, acrylic on canvas, 40 x 40 inches, and just put in the website portfolio, where the zoom feature there, is ever so handy for a closer look: portfolio link
Welcome to the Cooper studio, Jefferson, Iowa, where it's come to my attention that a blog post I wrote several months ago is being revisited. So of course I started to comment back. When I ran out of room in the comment box, two things occurred to me:
1. I must be getting too word-y in my old (er) age, and
2. I could also just write a follow up blog post. So here we go.
Thinking about the summer art fair, it also occurred to me, which came first? The chicken or the egg? Possibly at this point, I should give you the link to the original article. And I will draw your attention to a couple of recent comments by Jana and KarenL. Thanks girls, if I get too crazy here I can blame it all on you. (heheheh)
That original article started with the premise that the summer art fair has mostly turned into a lot of schlock. Hey, it wasn't my word, I was just quoting someone else!
The comments on the post then turned toward making money, copycat art, all that ugly stuff. And they made me realize we'd come full circle.
And it was time to ask, "which came first, the chicken or the egg?" Art fair schlock, or money grabbing art fairs that encourage art(ahem)ists to produce schlock for a buck or two, to sell at the money grabbing art fairs to pay the money grabbing promoters for their worthless exhibit spaces? So worthless in fact, that even though promoted as a fine art fair, in reality it is mostly schlock? And of course, to actually sell something there that would qualify as real art (my opinions of what art is, are valid too) is becoming an increasingly ludicrous long shot.
Wow, that was a mouthful of mean words, wasn't it? (and we even had a sermon on not judging this morning)
In her comment Jana spoke about being neighbors to the music stage at her most recent event. Most of us have spent a weekend or two next to the beer tent, the kid's art creation station (?!!!) the "Nebraska lottery booth" (even more !!!!!) Why doesn't some one jump up and done and holler "what about the art?"
If it's an art fair, do we really need the side shows? And I already hear someone revving up their keyboard to tell me that people won't come without the funnel cakes and the music stage. Are those the people that buy our paintings?
What about the people that DO buy our paintings? Are they staying away because there's so much schlock? And if they come anyway, surely their attention span is whacked because there's so much other stuff in the way?
There are a bunch of worthless art fairs out there. I'm guessing you'll agree. I suggest that with artists (or pretend artists) cobbling stuff together (schlock) to sell at said worthless art fairs, it's become one (un)merry cycle. Worthless art fairs forcing people to make schlock that will sell for a ten or twenty dollar bill, that makes worthless art fairs, that...
Arridian came to visit this week. We went to the park. While Arridian's mom was getting her exercise routine in, Arridian and I played on the jungle gym. And let me tell you - for a three-year old, he has a lot of good advice to share. Take this bit, for example:
"You have to go on the trail, and not go on the scratchy grass, cause the rattle snakes live there and they want to bite your leg" "and al'gators like to bite your leg too"
Hunh. Wisdom from a three-year old. I wished Arridian had given me his good advice before the last summer art fair I went too.
You know how artists tend to stand around in clusters before things get rolling on Sunday morning? Sharing show gossip and all that? I ran into a person that was doing way more than gossiping. This artist was like a snake in the scratchy grass, and I should have stayed on the trail (from the artists break room back to my booth), instead of getting drawn into her conversation.
Did she have a good thing to say about anything? NO! One positive word about anything or anybody? NO! She even told me how terrible Ezups are, and how people who use them should be thrown out of the show. They always crash into her tent, of course. I discreetly mentioned mine's never crashed into anybody's, and I use it because I can put it up and take it down easily, by myself, with no assistance, assistance which I rarely have. That didn't even slow her down. I made an excuse about having work to do yet, and exited stage left.
Whew! Who needs stuff like that? And just before it's "meet and greet patrons time"? It took a major self-pep-talk to re-focus on the task at hand.
At the end of the afternoon, and packing, as I was driving away from the show, my route took me past the street corner where her booth had been located. I could see her still busy packing, and I wondered how her day had gone, how her patrons had fared? Maybe she had unleashed all her negative words on me, so that her patrons got only good stuff. I wonder.
But Arridian's good advice is firmly planted in my thoughts now. Stay away from rattlesnakes in the scratchy grass, cause they want to bite your leg. And they want to bite into your positive selling thoughts too. Wisdom at three, to remember as you prep for your next summer art fair.
Welcome to the Cooper studio, Jefferson, Iowa. Where we are praying for (and planning on) rain.
Besides that, about the title, and here we go.
I was at an art fair last weekend. And I was eavesdropping. Not intentionally, mind you, people were just talking loudly and it was hard to avoid.
"Yeah, most of these people don't really make this"
"We're so tired of seeing all this copy stuff"
"Why do these people expect us to buy this stuff when it's all fake"
Yes. Really. Why?
And then I heard this, from a potential patron. In my booth. Talking to me:
"I just bought a painting last year, made with that new kind of paint, you know, it has a french sounding name, kind of like gel".
And so I said:
"You don't mean giclee, do you?
Yeah! That's it!
I tried not to break her heart, but I talked to her about digital copies and how they can be printed on canvas now.
"Oh, no! This one is real. The artist signed it and everything. It even has a certificate saying it's authentic, on the back. I talked with her a long time about it. It's a great painting. She told me what a smart investment I was making, and how the value was definitely going to increase".
And I hear artists say they print giclees so their patrons can take home a "memento" of a painting they like but can't afford.
I suppose someone will tell me that this patron is a one-of-a-kind art dumbo.
Or that the art-fraud artist is a (surely there's only one artist who would ever do something like that!) one-of-kind.
I'm dubious about both of those.
Fortunately, there are still a few artists out there, who, when they talk about one-of-a-kind, mean real paint on real canvas.
And then the junior high crowd cruised by: "Hey, lady, do you know where they sell the frozen hot chocolates?"
Welcome to the Cooper studio, Jefferson, Iowa, where once again, I have a tip for all the art fair artists out there. And if you are an art fair artist, I hope I am not writing this for you....
I just came from reading a blog post at Artist Daily. The title of the post is Getting Trashed. And of course it's not really to be taken literally. It's an article about backing off the stress level of painting for framing, otherwise known as "each and every painting I paint MUST be PERFECT!" The interviewed artist, says the exercises she recommends are literally to paint for the trash can. Kind of like get off your high-horse and play a little.
The article caused my mind to wander back to the art fair I was at earlier this month. The very art fair, where yet again, some clever (???!!!!) artist used an ever-so-convenient black plastic garbage bag to package their art to send home with their patron.
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong!
And I mean that! People, people --artists: Is your art really garbage? Primed for the trash can? Ready for the garbage guys to pickup on Monday morning? Then why on earth are you putting it in a package that is universally recognized as a garbage receptacle?
Surely you know there are clear bags available out there? Clear bags that are clean and fresh and make your customers proud to carry their new art home in? Pristine, clear plastic bags that protect the art in transport, yet display your exceptional work to all the other admiring art fair patrons, who will of course, then come running to your booth to get something equally as lovely??
Figure it out folks. If you can't find them on the shelf, then go to your local hardware store and put in an order. Yes, it will take an extra bit of effort on your part. But isn't your art worth it? Surely!
Okay, if I'm wrong, and it's not, then just revert back to the black plastic.....
Enough said. Have a lovely rest of the day.
Surely after reading all of that you are ready for something enjoyable to look upon? Here you go, then:
Soaking It In, an acrylic painting on a perfectly sized 24 x 24 inch canvas. Available for your viewing pleasure with "zoom capabilities" at my website portfolio.
Follow up note: The above painting Soaking It In, is now in the collection of a fine patron in Wheaton, Illinois!
It's time for the first art fair of my summer. The target is, as you noted in the title, Springfield, Missouri. Never been there, except via Google maps :)
"What?" you say. "Going to an art fair you've never checked out?" Not hardly. I even know what the house looks like that my awesome art exhibit will be parked in front of:
Such a pretty house, kind of a shame to block the view with a white tent, eh? Just for the weekend, I promise. And the paintings will make up for it, you'll see.
Did you notice the lovely blue sky in the photo? I am fairly certain it will be equally lovely this Saturday and Sunday, May 5th and 6th, for Artsfest on Walnut, the historic district of Springfield, Missouri. See you there Springfield.
Welcome to the Cooper studio, Jefferson, Iowa. Yes, the very same Jefferson, Iowa where John The Appliance Guy lives. Maybe I should give you a little background info so you can figure out where this is going, eh?? Because, when I was talking on the phone with one of the daughters a bit ago, she wanted to have a John The Appliance Guy in their town too, and I'm guessing you will as well...
I'm sure I've told you before about moving to Jefferson. It happened in August of 2009. The house we bought here had two born-on dates at that time--the original construction in 1901, and the renovation (dios mio) somewhere in the 60's or 70's. Yes, we wish they had made some alternate decisions at that second time, but water under the bridge. And safe to say, the kitchen was one of the first rooms we undid their "renovations" on. And while we were at it, it was, absolutely, new appliance time.
Now, Jefferson does not have a big box store, about which I have learned to be very pleased. But back when the appliance shopping became mandatory, well, we're always TOLD that's what you do---you go find your nearest Nebraska Furniture Mart, or Home Depot, or at the very least, the Sears store. And we did. But we weren't very happy about it. We came home empty-handed, with a whole bunch of questions unanswered. We did have a list of the models we kind of liked (we had to write our own list) and we'd copied down the prices from the little tags hanging on the front of them. And we agreed that for a big box store, we didn't seem to be getting much of a deal.
On the west side of the courthouse square in Jefferson, is an appliance store, named John's Appliances And TVs. I can't exactly remember how it was that we decided to stop in. But we were greeted, smiled at, and extended an offer of help. Certain that we couldn't afford anything less than big box store prices, we told him what we were looking for. John showed us the exact same refrigerator that we'd looked at in DesMoines. Did you catch the word SHOWED in the previous sentence?? In fact maybe we need to upgrade that word. How about demonstrated? We got the full tour of that refrigerator, all it's special little features, we heard about the warranty info, and installation, which of course was complimentary. And when he opened the freezer compartment to show us that, there lay the price tag. And of course you want the happy ending--it was $75 less than what we'd looked at the "big" store. We bought the refrigerator and stove that day, and then as soon as the tile floor was in we went back for the dishwasher.
So now you are wondering how this is going to become relevant to a blog about painting. Pretty simple actually.. It's all about the smile and the greeting and the friendly information. It's the personal ambiance. The manner in which it's presented. It's the personal PR.
The summer art fair season has started for some, and will happen soon for the rest of us artists planning on partaking. With any luck at all, there will be patrons walking by. Will you do the big box store thing? Let your customers fend for themselves? Will you greet them like you're annoyed, or maybe even not greet them at all? Will you just stay sitting on your directors chair, countenance impassive?
Or will you be the John The Appliance Guy of the art fair world? Smiles, and greetings, and information about your art. Hey, maybe you can even throw in that free delivery and installation. Consider it. And while your considering, maybe you should fold up that director's chair and park it out behind your booth for a while. It's hard to be helpful and available when your derriere is parked nonstop in a chair. You can get it back out when there's a lull in the traffic.
Because when I talked to my daughter on the phone this afternoon, and about their house building plans and appliance needs, she wanted a John The Appliance Guy, not a big box store. Just thought you'd like to know.
Welcome to the Cooper studio, Jefferson, Iowa, where I am hoping you did not miss reading that title up there. But then again, I suppose if you did read it, you're already doubting me. Entertainment, Fishing And Art. Yes. Yes, I will tie it all together in the space of one brief blog post. Watch. Read on.
Here's a list for you to get us started:
Howto & Style
Autos & Vehicles
Film & Animation
News & Politics
Nonprofits & Activism
People & Blogs
Pets & Animals
Science & Technology
Travel & Events
Any of you who have ever uploaded a video clip onto Youtube should recognize that as their category list. As you upload your clip you are supposed to pick which of those categories your video best fits into, I assume it's part of their version of SEO.
Did you notice there is no category labeled Arts? I think we only have two options with the Youtube folks:
1. They don't consider art worth a category (ignorants) or, and most likely
2. They lump us in with some other group
By the process of elimination, and plain old logic, I'm thinking when an artist posts a video clip, like I do (example) we are supposed to click on
(tah dah) entertainment.
Now before any of you get annoyed and leave just because I called us hard working artists "entertainment" let me point something out to you. Have you exhibited at a summer art fair lately? How many people were there to enjoy looking at art, and a beautiful day in the park? Were they there to buy art or to be entertained? Think about the last gallery showing you went to. How many people came to enjoy the wine, cheese, and social mingling (the entertainment) versus how many were there to buy a painting? And better yet artist friend, have you, yourself gone to an opening, knowing you weren't going to be buying a painting, but just to enjoy the party??
Told you so. Artists are entertaining. Or at least people want us to be. Let's move along, now.
My husband is a bass fisherman. Yes, that is a specific group of dedicated people, even though many of us don't understand :) They have tournaments, and clubs, and television shows. Believe it or not, sometimes I even watch one of those television shows with my spouse. Because it's entertaining. Seriously, I am not kidding you. It's hosted by a guy named Mark Zona, the show is called Zona's Awesome Fishing Show. Who'da thunk it, huh? But here's the deal, Zona offers his viewing audience something:
1. He's friendly-approachable
2. He gives bits and pieces of knowledge
3. and he's entertaining
Did you (no pun intended) catch that? He's entertaining. He's entertaining enough that even artists like me watch his show. And have I shared that the closest I get to fishing is once or twice a year I sit in the bank of some lake with my library book, while my husband cajoles that fish to eat his lure?
Now granted, entertainment is not Zona's main gig. It's fishing, and telling people about fishing. But I am telling you, he makes it easy on the people he's talking fish to. Never a dull, dry moment on Zona's Awesome Fishing Show.
So why is that blog of yours dull and dry? Why do you post a painting image and say something like "here's a painting of my neighbor's barn?" Or back to the summer art fair venue, why are you sitting in your chair in the back of your booth? With a frown on your face? And I know at least one of you will tell me that "you don't have time to read blog posts that are fluff, you need solid facts. Good knowledge. Don't waste my time, nosireeBob." Did you know Zona educates fisher-guys about fishing while he entertains? Surely the host of an Awesome Fishing Show is not the only one who can multi-task. Surely an artist like you or me can do it too, right?
What's the phrase? It's easier to catch flies with honey, than vinegar? (bearing in mind of course, that we'd lots rather have patrons than flies, but surely you get the picture) And there's another that sort of fits: a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down? Heaven help us if we ever have to force art on our patrons, like that phrase might suggest, but surely you can see the value of, if they are there to buy a painting - your painting - that you should be helping them to have an enjoyable experience. An entertaining sort of moment. Surely you can see that, right? I though so.
So lighten up. Smile a little. Have some fun with it. Be a treat to your audience, your tribe, your fans, whether it's at your blog space, your gallery opening, or one of those summer art shows coming up in the near future. Be entertaining.
And on that note, how about a painting? This one's called Playin'. It just moved to ArnoldsPark/Okoboji, Iowa to be ready for the season opening of the Wine Bar Art Gallery, the first week of May. Happy summer!
Playin' An acrylic painting on a 12 x 12 inch canvas. Will be in my portfolio shortly, but as I said available at the WineBarArtGallery in ArnoldsPark, Iowa for your personal viewing pleasure! Thanks for stopping by.
Welcome to the Cooper studio, Jefferson, Iowa, where outside my window it's anything BUT what that title says. And it IS still March, right??
I should probably, at this point, tell you about the seasonal I was referring to with that title. The summer art fair. There's nothing more seasonal than that, right?
And guess what? The calendar is beginning to build. As follows:
Omaha Summer Arts Festival, Omaha, Nebraska June 8, 9, & 10, 2012
Krasl Art Fair On The Bluff, St Joseph, Michigan July 14-15, 2012
College Hill Art Festival, Cedar Falls, Iowa July 20-21, 2012
and then (pensive sigh)
Prairie Village Art Fair, Prairie Village, Kansas Friday, June 1-3, 2012 ---waitlisted (aaargh, but I was told 70% of the wait list gets called)
So if I had to pick a list that would make me a totally happy camper (er, artist) that's a heckuva good start. Bump that wait list to a confirmed, add a few key others, some paintings to my favorite galleries, and I am good to go. I should probably go prime a few more canvases.
Or wait: maybe I should just show you the little canvas I signed this morning? Okay:
Plaza Meeting, an acrylic painting on a nicely stretched canvas measuring 24 x 12 inches. And of course, available for you to zoom in for a better look, in my portfolio. Just click your ol' mouse on painting. It will take you there straight away. Thanks for stopping by.
Welcome to the Cooper studio on a beautiful sunny Iowa afternoon.
Speaking of Iowa, we have a new law about texting and driving. If you are driving our way, you best watch out. It evolved from people's ability (or inability!) to text and drive at the same time. It really puts a crimp in the local high school kids life style--they live to text and drive. We have a neighbor who is high-school-aged, and struggles to walk, but she has attained some pretty cool transportation: a three-wheeled cycle that's hand pedaled. She comes around our corner on the way to high school each morning, and guess what? She can text and pedal at the same time, and she's legal. I think that's the epitome of adaptability. Being adaptable. To the max.
We are winding to a close the summer art fair season around here. Artists (and may I say wanna-be artists?) are beginning to look ahead to 2012. There are those who are calling it quits. The art market is such that they can no longer make it as an art fair artist. Others are trying to hang in there by employing the culture of cheap. Thinking how quick and gimmicky and cheaply can I make something to coax that twenty-dollar bill out of a patron's back pocket? Forget the concept of developing and growing their artistic expression. Those folks will take a few art fairs down with them when they go--art fairs are called fine art fairs for a reason and it has nothing to do with the flea market mentality.
I suggest all of those people in the last paragraph, as well as their peers, need to adopt the attitude of adaptability. If one venue is not working for your art, do you lose sight of your art in the desperation of selling something? ANYTHING? Are you shirking your long developed painting style to swing over to something popular and trendy that purportedly "sells well"?
Artists by definition are creative people, and shouldn't we be creatively working toward developing a marketing venue that works with our art? Changing out our artistic style just to fit into someone else's marketplace seems like a pretty serious dead-end to me.
Yup. There's the mortgage to pay, and we all need some income. But if we really want to get there as an artist, I don't think there are many valid short cuts. Hey, you're not here because someone told you it would be easy, are you? And not many of us want to be known as mundane artists. Just "so-so" artists. Do we?
Being adaptable in finding/creating marketing venues for you art--I'm all for it. Cobbling up something, or changing out your artistic style to something trendy that someone's told you will sell better--that's not adaptability. That's losing--losing out on being an artist.
And so completes another round of cheering for the artist to take the high road. Don't you just love it?! Thanks for stopping by.
Welcome to the Cooper studio. Yup, still on the topic of that summer art fair. Who'da thunk it was so complicated, eh?
The summer art fair. And no, we don't have to limit ourselves, it could be a fall event--we'd even allow winter if you move it indoors. Think art festival, then it becomes season-less or generically seasoned. However/whatever.
Today we need to talk about one of the major problems with the art festival venue. In a nutshell? Rampant abuse of the format.
I've looked into the history of the art fair a bit. The original purpose was for a group of artists to show their work, sans a brick and mortar style gallery. It makes perfect sense that the local art center or art gallery would help with that, organizationally speaking. They often pull in a lot of volunteer work, and their mission statements tend to read like:
Our Mission: To bring People and Art together
Our Vision: To enhance the quality of Life through Art
Our Goal: To provide communication and aesthetic appreciation of the visual fine arts, through the use of education
It's About the Art.
Experience collaborative, creative merrymaking at its finest. Join friends old and new...
From a spark of love of the arts and small town life, the idea of Art on the Prairie grew with dedicated planning...
How did we get from that to a company directing a collection of 14 art fairs? And in the off season hosting a "boot camp" to tell artists what they need to do to be art fair artists? Average price to "show your art" there? $479. And then the company grows and needs to make more money, so of course, another art fair is created. Is it about the art, or about the company needing more revenue? Please don't tell me you need a moment or two to think about your answer.
And of course, they are not the only culprits. When the local school dance team needs a fund raiser, their moms decide to host an art fair. When the town 4th of July festival isn't big enough, they add on an art fair to attract more attention and numbers. Does it matter that they don't have a clue about showing art and their mission statement doesn't have anything to do with promoting art?
"We can charge the artists to show us samples of their art, and make some money there, and then we can pick the ones we like to exhibit their art at our fair and make even more money there." "We can make money, lots of money" .
Which is all well and good for the hosts of art fairs. But what happens when there is an art show every other weekend? When the art fair patrons begin to see the art show as "just another art show, and we went to one last weekend so why go to this one, it's pretty much the same."?
Obviously the art fair patron is the ultimate decision maker regarding the success of the art fair. But the artist doesn't need to be the hapless victim caught in the middle. If you are an art fair artist, or planning on becoming one, do some questioning first:
1. Who is hosting/directing the fair?
2. What is their goal or mission statement?
3. Is it business or is it art?
Think of it like this: Is it called an art fair, or a money fair? Whoa. Caught you, did I? If as artists we would chose to exhibit at events that put the art first, could we thin out the events that think of their revenue first?
Because when the art fair host thinks "anything for a buck" it trickles down to the artist. And when the artist thinks "anything for a buck" they start to use phrases like "cobble something together to sell next weekend/next year". That's not good for the artist. It's not good for the art fair patron. Most of all it's not good for art.
When you look at that schedule of art fairs for 2012, please, put art first. Thanks for reading.
Welcome to the Cooper studio, where we've predetermined to talk again about the summer art fair.
Aaaah, sunny days, the green grass of the park scattered with cute little white tents, happy artists selling their fine art....
Oh wait. How much of that line is fiction? Imaginary? Delusional? A sham?
I've spent quite a bit of research time lately on the topic of the "fine art fair". Some of them have a heck of a history.
Every time I looked up one of the grandaddy art fairs, and was able to find their mission statement, they all seemed to have something in common. Some examples for you to peruse:
---Wanting to create an event where local artists could showcase their work to the community, Womer established the first 57th Street Art Fair in 1948
---The Annual Edmonds Arts Festival began in 1957. The mission then as now, was to celebrate and promote the arts with a lively and pleasurable presentation of local and national work.
---It all began one hot Chicago summer in the early 80's when four neighborhood artists (Bob Smeltzer, Joe Kotzman, Tony Cachapero and Rodney Patterson) decided to have an art fair--a picnic in the park. Rodney suggested that it might be a good opportunity for local artists to show and share their work to each other and to their neighbors.
Did you catch the commonality? They are all working to showcase the art, to friends, neighbors, community. To "celebrate and promote the arts". So how did we get from that, to this:
---Art Fair has become both tired and tiresome. It's held in the absolute hottest part of the summer. The prices are ridiculous and most of the so-called art is schlock. How many times can you mill through the crowds viewing the same old fare every year?
--Taken from a news article about parking garage revenue during the AnnArbor Art Fair, but certainly not a unique thought amongst art fair patrons.
What jumps out at you from that comment? Maybe the SO-CALLED ART IS SCHLOCK?
Shortly before reading the comment, I read another--this one a discussion at ArtFairInsiders regarding (of course) lackluster art fair sales, and various artists comments about if they would be exhibiting at art fairs next year. One artist said even with poor sales, she was not quitting. She would "cobble together" something that would sell.
What happened to celebrating the arts? Showing our work to the community? If the purpose of an art fair is to showcase our work to the community, shouldn't we be showing our best?
(here comes the politically incorrect part) Are you an artist, or not? Are you being delusional in calling what you exhibit at an art fair ART? Ouch. I suggest if you are cobbling something together that you think will sell, adding to the patron impression that the "so-called art is schlock", then maybe it's time to re-think your game plan.
There's always a discussion out there somewhere about "what art is" and there are a bazillion different answers. I suggest that "schlock" is not one of them. I also suggest that if you are cobbling together something to coax a twenty dollar bill out of some art fair patron's pocket, that something is not art either. The summer art fair is not dead, but it has been seriously injured. Injured by artists who have put grabbing a buck, in front of creating their art. Yes, we all have to make a living, but we'll do it best by keeping our priorities straight. Art fairs were created to showcase and celebrate art, not schlock.
If you are an artist planning on exhibiting at an art fair next summer, I'm asking you to bring your art. Bring your best art.
Welcome to the Cooper studio, home again, after yet another summer art fair. You know, the little white tents, scattered around the park, or maybe up and down the street around the town square. Yeah, that summer art fair.
Before I left for Lake Forest, Illinois and Art Fair On The Square, (my most recent adventure) I was reading at ArtFairInsiders, a website for art fair artists. Several other artists had posted what event they were exhibiting at, and one specific post has remained on my mind. The woman had mentioned the weather forecast for the town they would be exhibiting in. Something about the forecast from hell, and please pray for them. Ha.
Let's talk about YOU being the artist at the summer art fair. There are a lot of ways we could/should look at this:
1. You and the physical work of exhibiting
2. You and the art work
3. You and the specific fair suitability
4. You and the business. Yes, I'm sorry. There will be math.
But let's begin at the very beginning, it's a very fine place to start...
You, and the physical work of exhibiting, at the summer art fair. Unfailingly at a summer art fair, there is a patron who romances the game. "Oh, it's so wonderful that you have such a great talent, and it must be so much FUN to come here and show your paintings! I'll bet you just love your job!" And her friend would be the one who assumes the tents are all set up and free for the taking by any artist wanting to show some art. I am so sorry to disappoint you, but that's not quite the way it happens. First of all, it's work. It's work coming and it's work going, and it's work in between. It's hard work. Do you shy away from things requiring physical labor? Then DO NOT consider the art fair venue. Let me explain. Please.
The white tents? It's BYO. Yup, you load them into your van at home, and you unload them when you get to the scene of the art fair. And they are not light weight. Set up? It's your job. Sometimes there's a stray boy scout or two, volunteering. But usually not. And do you realize how heavy a box of paintings can be when you have to carry it across the park lawn to your booth space that's at the top of the hill? Yup, still your job. Yes, get a cart for that, something more to load and unload, of course. And when everything is hung and pretty (also your job) there's the meeting and greeting to do. And smiling. And explaining. And discussing. Now, that part is all very enjoyable, but after 8 or 10 hours, you just might start to wear out a little. But never mind, because if it's a one day show, then everything has to fit back into your van for the drive home, and yup--it's YOUR job. If it's a two day show, most artists leave the white tent on site, but a lot of us load the paintings back into the van for safe keeping overnight.
Did I mention when it rains, no one comes to the rescue? All of the setup, all of the tear down--still the job of the art fair artist, whether it's raining or not. And when it's 103 degrees and the humidity is even higher?? Still your job.
Remember I mentioned weight? True, I was speaking of the weight of the white tent you are lugging around, but even THAT weight requires more weight. To hold it down. Because sometimes the wind blows in the park. And if your little white tent catches that wind it easily becomes a sail--unless you've weighted it down with weights on each corner post. Fifty pounds recommended. Each. And yes, that's your job too.
Do I sound grim? Sorry. I don't want you to be misled. To romanticize the whole thing. The summer art fair is a marvelous and fun place to show your art work. Well run events can have upwards of 20,000 people through in a single weekend. And visiting with a few of those people, about your paintings is a pleasurable thing, and that's the gospel truth. But it's accompanied by hard work, and don't you forget it.
Next up: the art work you want to exhibit at the summer art fair. My inherent lack of political correctness will probably cause some toe stepping. Ouch. Stay tuned.
I had a new opportunity this past week--why am I just now getting around to telling you about it?? But then again, it was THAT kind of week.
The opportunity: a new gathering of artists to work with. And almost in my own backyard! Actually the next town north, but who's counting? We gathered at 3PM to paint from a still life setup and then at 7PM had a model come in for life drawing. At the end of the evening, I walked out feeling like the new semester had started! What a work out! Results? Sure---
Also, I'm gearing up for September art fairs:
--Labor Day weekend: Art Fair On The Square, organized by the Deer Path Art Guild, Lake Forest Illinois, September 4th and 5th.
--September 25th: Octagon Art Fair, organized by the Octagon Art Center, Ames, Iowa
Two things happened recently to bring me to this thought place.
1. An art festival that bills itself as a fine art fair gave 21 artists awards at the fair. Three, maybe four, would get fine art billing at FASO. The remaining seventeen or eighteen would either be considered fine craft, or in the case of numerous exhibits, folk art. Nothing wrong with either of those. However, with that unbalance of judging, I say a statement has been made. The vision has been narrowed.
2. An artist friend, who has always been an independent thinker, open to new ideas, and willing to try to understand other people's thoughts is changing. The free-thinker has taken to labeling groups of people. Using generalizations. "If you think this about this subject, then you belong to this group, and therefore all the rest of your thoughts are just like theirs too" The liberal is turning into a narrow-minded thinker, able to see only one way. Again, the vision has been narrowed.
It's kind of scary when it happens, isn't it? My way or the highway. Whew. The original purpose, the original thought, the original reason for being, gets lost in a clutter of tunnel visioned thoughts.
It can happen in the studio too, you know.
Isn't art supposed to be about what the artist has to say? Our vision? If we are told what we have to paint/create "to fit in" or "to sell", or to "get an award", or (insert your own whatever) is it still art? I am beginning to wonder.
At the aforementioned art fair, I saw so many exhibits priced cleverly to sell. Trinkets made inexpensively to coax a twenty-dollar bill out of the back picket Forget finding something special and committing. Am I stepping on your toes? I am sorry. Yeah, yeah, the economythemortgageblahblahblah.
Here's a challenge: grab a piece of paper and draw 2 lines down to form 3 columns. (no, it's not a test, I can't draw straight lines either) On one column write fine art, on the second write fine craft, and on the third, write folk art. Take it to an art fair next weekend. Thanks to over zealous art fair producers there's one on every corner--but that's a subject for next time. At each booth quickly decide which column they fit best in. At the end of your art fair tour, count up and tell how you think we are doing.
I get to go first: I think a whole bunch of exhibitors at art fairs are backing off, narrowing their vision of what they are really capable of, and for a couple of reasons.
1. There is a glut of art fairs out there. Producers who produce a string of art shows are seeing how much they can get from artists wanting to show their work. $745 for 100 sq feet of space on a street for two days--really? The game has become volume, instead of quality.
2. Patrons are becoming immune to art fairs--there's one every other weekend--it's taking a lot to capture their attention.
3. Judges reward cleverness instead of solid work. Are even the judges becoming immune? Do THEY need in-your-face kind of things to lure them in?
I say it's narrowing our vision. Artists are creating what these pressures are telling us we have to, instead of what we know we should be.
At an art fair earlier this summer, at that lovely early morning time on the second day when the artists have arrived and the patrons have not, a group of three of us were conversing. The guy behind me, a jeweler said "God, I hate jewelry. We don't need it, and the people that buy it are so vain. I wish I could show my drawings instead." I didn't know whether to laugh, cry, or pat him on the head and tell him it would all be better soon. What I didn't tell him, was what I should have: "Your vision has been narrowed, time to get back to the real".
Fine thoughts for a Monday morning, eh? Now go have a lovely painting day.
This is a location specific post for art lovers in the Cedar Falls region of Iowa.
Art fair directors keep a "wait list" of artists who juried just below the cut off line, and I was on one of those lists. That's now ancient history, because I have just become an official exhibitor at the College Hill Art Festival. Someone cancelled, and I got the call. Yay!
Cedar Falls is a wonderful college town, University Of Northern Iowa, and I am looking forward to showing my paintings there. The schedule is as follows:
Friday July 15 2011, 12-8PM
Saturday July 16 2011 10-5PM
The street address in Cedar Falls is 915 west 23rd Street, just across from the Henry W. Myrtle Gallery.
This painting has just returned home from the Dundee Gallery in Omaha (yes, it makes me happy to see it in person again!) and I will be ever so pleased to show it to you in Cedar Falls this weekend.
Welcome to the Cooper studio, Jefferson, Iowa, where today, due to circumstances beyond my control, and even though it's a Tuesday, today is run-day. Get out there and go. A couple of miles down the bicycle trail and all of that.
A couple of months ago I wrote a post that started out with running. post It focused on getting the timing right, in light of school traffic. Well, school is currently on vacation, but the timing of the run is still pretty darn important, only now we have to blame it on the weather people, as they predict their heat&humidity lofty highs for Iowa July.
And what does all of that mean?? A change up. My running shoes met the trail about an hour earlier than the usual. Beat that heat and humidity. If it's too blazing hot to run in the sun, then change it up and run an hour earlier. Don't keep going with the same-old, same-old. Different conditions demand a different schedule.
And you know by reading this blog in the past, that I'm required :) to relate that to art/painting somehow, don't you? Change up.
How about change up and the art fair artist-exhibitor? It's not hard to find a cluster of artists at an art fair, before opening on the second day, lamenting the economy and how that makes it so hard to sell a painting. Aren't they ripe for a change-up? How many of them are looking for it, with both eyes open? And how many of them are just doing it the way they've always done it?
I know I've aired this belief before, but it's been brought to my attention, that it needs to be thrown out their again: there are too many art fairs that are the same-old, same-old. Nothing's been done to improve or grow (except for the price!) or enhance. And year after year, the same artists keep buying an exhibit space, hoping to sell a bunch of art. Even though they didn't last year. Or the year before. Where's the change-up?
It seems logical for art fair directors to keep going with a show as long as artists will buy that 10 x 10 chunk of week end real estate. And that puts the ball in our court as artists. Do we really need THAT art fair? Maybe when applications open for next time, we should just ignore it. Will we keep paying $595 for that 100 square feet? Hmm. Maybe it's time for a change-up.
So here's the truth: we didn't even unload the car of art exhibit from last weekend's Prairie Village Art Fair (Kansas City). And for a very good reason. Tomorrow we point the art van towards Omaha, Nebraska, and the Omaha Summer Arts Festival.
As my husband left for an early morning meeting, he mentioned that he'd already watched the weather--it should be a good morning for a run. I am so trusting :) I put on my NB's and headed out.
It was a good morning. Until I was eight blocks from home. Then came the drips--just a few at the start. It was definitely more than a few drips by the time I was to the bike trail. People driving by in their cars were beginning to look at me like my sanity was questionable. I took the short route home. By the time I got home, I didn't really need any additional H2O to make the shampoo work.
But as I walked back through the garage and saw the EzUp leaning there, I couldn't help but think, "Wow. Glad I'm not at an art fair this morning." I can remember my Dad telling us when we were kids "You may be sweet, (like sugar) but the rain's not going to melt you ". (he saved it for those times, when it was POURING rain and there were Holstein calf bottle babies that needed fed)
But. Art fairs and EzUps. EzUp, by the way, is a brand name for one of the white canopied art fair tents. Let's swing our discussion that way this morning. Tis the season, and all that. And I just counted--I exhibited at my first art fair in 1993--that makes this my 18th year. I've learned a few things, and I'll be glad to share.
You may be sweet, but you won't melt in the rain. True for you, but not so for your paintings. They need protection at crazy places like the summer art fair. And you just thought those rows of little white tents were for pretty? Pshaw.
There is a joking phrase among art fair artists: "EzUp. Easy down". Many exhibitors will tout the durability factors of various brands of art fair canopies, but the bottom line is, none of them are perfect. I've seen more than one of every brand go down. (I was at Fountain Square Art Festival in Evanston, Illinois 2008, were you?)
1. Do you have help available for setting up your canopy at the fair?
2. What do you exhibit? and what is the impact of "weather" on that medium?
3. What amount do you want to invest in a canopy?
I consider all three of those when I think about art fair canopies, and I always come back to "yeah, there's #1 ". I almost always travel to art fairs solo. Setup is my job, and mine alone. EzUps are easy up, and so I use one. Here's what I've learned about them:
1. One person can easily put it up, solo.
2. Their canvas tops are NOT canvas, they are cheap nylon. Depending on the year and the model, they leak like a sieve.
3. What rain doesn't leak through, pools in the corner depressions--the number one reason for a collapsed tent.
4. There's a big difference between weight on top of the canopy, and weight on the legs or "feet" of the canopy--the first you don't want, the second, you must have! Weight those corner poles, 50 lbs of weight per pole, minimum
5. Artists who think hanging said weights, suspended in air, are crazy.
I could go on, but that will get you started. Yay! that EzUps are easy to put up. Leaking like a sieve can be fixed--Ace hardware sells a spray on water proofing material designed for camping gear--it takes four cans to cover an EzUp.
Let's give the sagging corners issue it's own paragraph--I did call that the #1 reason for EzUp downfall. My first EzUp lasted eleven years. I was at an event in Kansas City with a Friday night preview. Saturday morning I got back to the site and there was my EzUp hanging (literally) on top of my Pro Panels (Pro Panels--now there's some strong construction) Made me glad I always put my paintings in my car overnight. But there was that EzUp carcass hanging there, a couple of the corners still holding what looked to be about 40 gallons of water each. In fact there was so much water weight, the aluminum tent poles did not just bend and fall down, the metal was literally ripped/shredded. Too much weight. That situation HAD to stop. Here's my learned fix: I now have four tarp straps, you might call them bungee cords, that hook into the center peak post on one end and each corner post, at the other end. It keeps the corner seams from sagging. The tarp straps alone are not strong enough to hold up 40 gallons of water, but the point is, with the straps in place, that volume is never allowed to accumulate. And the straps stay on at the end of the show, folding up with said EzUp.
50 pounds of weight per pole! Keep those tent legs On The Ground! Have you ever thought about how an art fair canopy looks kind of like the sail of a sailboat? The wind must think so as well, because the same action is certainly a real (and DANGEROUS) possibility. All it takes is one little weird gust of wind to pick up a canopy of that size. Who do you want it to land on? A mother pushing her baby by in a stroller? Your potential customer, standing there, trying to make a decision? How about your neighbor with his exhibit full of blown glass? Right, I thought so. You want your canopy feet to stay firmly planted on the ground. Omaha Summer Arts Festival staff even walks through the show before opening to check each artist's exhibit for proper weighting. Yay! for them. All art fairs should have that policy. Artists who think they can weight a canopy with a plastic milk jug filled with water or sand---dios mio! And DO NOT for a moment think you get better action from those weights if they are hanging off the ground. Have you ever seen a fifty pound weight swing in the wind, big wind of course, but have you? Scary!
A young artist friend of my daughter's did a first show last summer and asked for advice--I wrote them a book's worth. But I'll spare you here. However! If you have any specific questions--feel free to ask. Art fair advice--I've got it.
This past weekend was the season opener. Yup, the first outdoor summer art fair of the year--at least for Iowans. As artists we always gear up for the first big opportunity of the year. Everything is fresh and clean and the world is our footstep and we are rarin' to go.
Hunh. Sometimes it appears that we've spent too much time home alone in the studio. Please refer to my post title, because what prompted me to write this--well let's just say I hope I don't get prompted as such again.
A few years ago I was at Art In The Park, in a lovely little city square style park in Owatonna, Minnesota. At setup time, the day was already very warm and yes, a little bit taxing. Art fairs are not for faint-of-heart artists. The artist exhibiting across the park sidewalk from me was a ceramic artist. As we completed our preparations for a day of meeting and greeting patrons, most of us were busy finessing our exhibits. The guy across the sidewalk, well, not so much. He pulled his lawn chair up to a rubbermaid tote tub, parked his derierre on the chair and his bare feet up on the tote--did I mention he'd been walking around bare foot all morning?--so feet, NOT clean. And that's how he greeted people coming to view his art most of the day. At that point, I told myself, "Now I've seen it all".
Not so. This past weekend, Riverbank Art Fair, at U of Iowa, Iowa City, Iowa a fellow artist gave the ceramics guy a run for his title.
We were midway through our day. I looked down our row of little white tents, and did a double take. Three booths down, an artist was flossing her teeth. Nope. I am not kidding. And yes, she had people in her booth looking at her work.
Wow. Fellow artists: I thought you knew! Showing our work out in the world requires a bit of professionalism. What would you do if you went to the doctor, and when you walked into his office, he was sitting there on a lawn chair with his dirty feet propped up on a rubbermaid tote? Or what if you went to visit your kid's school teacher, and while you talked the teacher was busy flossing her teeth? Or what if you went in to get a hair cut, and the stylist was sitting in her chair with her sweatshirt hood pulled up over her head, her arms crossed over her chest and wearing the world's biggest scowl? Let's pretend you went into a tax accountant's office and they were sitting in the chair, reading a book, and didn't even say hello to you, didn't even look up. How much of your business would that accountant get?
Possibly I have read too many articles on the subject of representing our own art. Maybe that's why I thought EVERYONE knew. As artists, we are NOT an elite group of people who can disregard giving courtesy to those around us. I encourage you to remember, that when you exhibit your work at an art fair, you are not only representing your work, but yourself and all your artist peers as well.