Category Archives: The Business of Art

I Broke My Own Rule and Got an Expensive Education

In my first year of art as a business, 2019, I decided to make myself a rule that I would only apply to be a vendor at an art fair or other art event if I had been there at least once just to observe… and sample the fair food. I broke that rule. I mostly regretted it.

That’s a picture of the disaster that is my studio one week after participating in Art Beat in downtown South Bend, Indiana. The rest of my house doesn’t look so good either. I’ve had a week to rest up after all that work, now it’s time to put my house and my life back to normal.

I had never been to Art Beat before this year. I meant to go last year, but — like most in-person art events last summer, it was canceled. It seemed like a big deal to so many other local artists. There was a lot of buzz about it on social media. It seemed like it would fit my schedule since it was local. It was a one-day event on a Saturday, so it didn’t conflict with my day job or my volunteer responsibilities at church. Since other artists seemed so anxious to be accepted, I assumed they had experienced a good volume of sales there. There weren’t a lot of other options available to me.

I applied. I was accepted, and then I was accepted again to the “fine art scene” where I supposed my work would be a good fit. I was hopeful of making a significant profit for all the work and expense I put into it. I was so wrong.

Now, I want to say emphatically that Art Beat is a great event! It was well organized. It was well attended. The music was good. The food was really good! The parks department and all of the volunteers did a fantastic job. If I had been there just as a visitor to have a good time, it would have been a lot of fun. I might have even done a little shopping. But it was the wrong event for my art, and I would have known that if I had been to Art Beat in the past.

In the three weeks before Art Beat, I started a new job that wasn’t going well and required a lot of overtime that I hadn’t anticipated when I signed up. So it wasn’t until two nights before that I was filling the required sand bags to weigh down my canopy. That was a minor disaster, starting with the discovery that the bags I had ordered were the wrong type and didn’t hold enough sand. I had to improvise with less than attractive gallon water jugs. The night before, I was up past midnight packing the car and printing signs and price labels. And then correcting them and printing again. Luckily I did get some sound sleep once I hit the pillow.

The day of the event was SO HOT. SO, SO MISERABLY HOT. I drank so much water — a few ounces short of a gallon, and still I didn’t need to use the port-a-potty until 6:30 in the evening. When the wind picked up and we couldn’t leave the back of the tent open to let some air in, the tent got unbearably hot so that we had to stand outside the tent to greet people. I thought my husband might pass out, so I sent him to the bar across the street to sit in the air conditioning and drink ginger ale for an hour.

What did I get for all that work? Well, I sold three of my smaller paintings. I thought that might mean I would at least turn a profit. But no. After subtracting what I had spent on the event, I calculated a loss of about $100. If I were to subtract the damage to merchandise and equipment that got knocked over by the wind (or by me) then the losses are about double.

I gained other things. I got many kind compliments. (Enough to give me swelled head.) I met some very nice people, including the artists in other booths nearby, and I met the publisher of an online magazine that features local artists, poets, and writers. He invited me to submit my work. He kindly posted on Facebook about my work at Art Beat too. I got to spend the day with my husband, which we hadn’t been able to do for a while. We didn’t even get into a fight setting up the tent like we did when camping.

The most important thing I gained for my business was a little “education.” I learned that my rule about only applying to events with which I am familiar was a wise rule that I should never break again without very good reason. I learned that outdoor events are a LOT of work. I learned that I really need a good van if I’m going to do more of them. And I learned that I’m going to need to search for events that are better suited to selling my art, or explore some possibilities for selling online instead. I gained experience.

I need to paint more. A lot more, because selling art isn’t the fulfilling part of art business, making art is the part that feeds my soul. I am toying with the idea of having a sort of clearance sale to move out the art I’ve already made and make room for new and even better creations. If you’re interested in a bargain, stay tuned!

I’m also contemplating starting a YouTube channel, though I haven’t settled on what type of content that would be if I do. I know that people who buy art, often do because they feel a connection to the artist. I know that the artists whose work I want to own myself are artists I’ve become acquainted with through their YouTube videos. I’m not so comfortable with the idea of putting myself out there like that, but neither were they.

Art Beat 2021 is only a week away!!!

So, I’m sitting in our spare room this evening trying to do preparation for Art Beat and my friend Myra insists on “helping.” I think I might finish faster without her help. ONE WEEK TO GO! (keep scrolling)

Next Saturday, August 21, 2021, I will be participating in Art Beat in downtown South Bend, IN from 11am to 7pm . Come see me — and my art! I will be in the “Fine Art Scene” booth F135, which you will find at the north edge of Howard Park on the south side of E. Jefferson Blvd. just east of the bridge and S. Niles Ave. Here’s a link to a map, but that map is only half of the event. Besides art, there will be food, music, and dance performances.

Below are some of my newest works that I just framed for displaying at Art Beat. Of course you know that the photos never do a painting justice, so come see them in person. Hey, don’t forget to stop by the ATM on the way there! Or bring your plastic because I also accept credit cards, as do most of the artists you will find there. Help keep an artists from starving!

Art Beat 2021

If you follow me on social media, you already know that I’ve been accepted to participate in Art Beat on August 21st in South Bend, Indiana. I am very excited! And I’m very busy getting prepared. I’ve bought frames that need to be attached to canvases. I’m making a list of everything I’ll need to bring along — must not forget a chair to sit on! And most importantly, I’ve painted some fresh work to display. Here’s a snapshot of four oil paintings and one acrylic (the floral) that I finished this month:

And here’s an ink and watercolor piece that turned out well:

There was a sixth — another watercolor, but it was a disappointing mess. They can’t all be winners. Reference photo credits go to Pixabay.com contributors Free-Photos for the frog and klimkin for the chickens. My model for the cat portrait was Lucy. She gets paid in cat treats. The model for the apples was a couple actual apples. I should probably get around to eating those soon, before they go bad.

For my next painting, I think I want to go BIG. I asked my Facebook friends if they’d like to be volunteer models… so far no takers. I might have to bribe someone, or actually pay them.

Anyway… come see me at Art Beat if you’re in the vicinity on August 21st from 11:00 am to 7:00 pm. There will be food, music, and dancing besides the art. Some of my artist friends are also belly dancers and they will be in one of the groups performing. All sorts of fun in Downtown South Bend.

New Directions

If you were a follower of this blog in the past, you may be wondering what happened to all the older stuff.  Well, it’s been deleted.  I am taking this blog, and my life in a new direction.  It is my aim to become a working artist.  That would be the opposite of a starving artist, I suppose.  Instead of musing about the creative process in general — in which I was boring myself — I will be showcasing my artwork along with the same sort of snarky commentary that my Facebook friends seem to enjoy so much.

So, keep coming back to see the finished art ready for the marketplace, to see art in progress, and to read about the adventures and misadventures surrounding it all.  I’ll let you know when I’m going to have an exhibit so you can come see my work in person, and when I’ll be entered in a show or contest, so you can vicariously participate in my successes and help me lick my wounds when those clueless judges do me wrong.

You can participate in my art too.  I am planning to let my readers occasionally vote on which direction a piece should take, or what subject matter to tackle next, or even to submit a photo to be considered for subject matter.  Because I am not above a little bribery, I am also toying with the idea of giving away some freebies — my art on a T-shirt, perhaps.  Of course the best way to participate is to purchase art.  There will be opportunity for that too!  I have to sell the stuff or I’ll run out of walls to hang it on.