Tag Archives: artist’s life

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!

I’m a Calendar Girl!

I got a bit of fun affirmation — my painting A Tangle of Irises was chosen for the April page of the 2021 Elkhart Art League calendar, Art For All Seasons. It’s so cool to see it in print!

A dozen other local artists are also featured, of course, and I’ll bet they got a kick out of it too. It’s all lovely work, so I’m sure everyone who has one hanging on their wall will be enjoying them. Life has been so rotten in the past year, so THANKS Elkhart Art League friends for giving us all a sweet punch of cheerfulness.

Thanks to the Elkhart County Convention and Visitors’ Bureau for sponsoring the calendar too. Local friends, if you want one they might have copies left at their visitors’ center at 3431 Cassopolis Street — that’s State Route 19 just north of I-80/90 exit 92.

Here’s hoping we soon find ourselves living in a healthier world that will allow for art shows and art fairs where we can share our art in person too!

(The original Tangle of Irises is finally varnished and dry, so it’s for sale on my gallery shop page, if you’re interested.)

Words of Gratitude

I don’t want to leave this until it’s one of those long overdue posts. There are some people who deserve my thanks. It’s only been a few months since I began working toward art as a vocation (that is, since I’ve been making serious attempts at getting paid for my art), but I have already received so much priceless help from some phenomenal people – people who I haven’t even met. I want to bring much-deserved attention to their amazing work and acknowledge them for what they’ve done to help me get started.

First, there was Robin Sealark. I found her on Youtube when I was looking for an instructional video on mixing flesh tones. She had a great video on that topic, and so much more. Robin is young and full of energy, witty, charming, and adorable. Her paintings are full of vibrant color and she dares to experiment and reinvent  herself. Watching her videos made me feel like I already had a friend in the business.  I would like to spend the first profits from my own paintings to purchase one of hers.

Next, there was Stefan Baumann. Wow. Just wow. I may have watched all of his lectures on Youtube (there are a lot) and I know I’ve watched at least a dozen of them a second time. I’ve never seen, or rather heard, art classes taught the way he teaches. I am so amazed that instruction this valuable is available for free on Youtube. The gift that he has given to the artists of the world in these videos is enormous. If you are a painter, you need to watch them. Even if you don’t paint in oils, you need to watch them.  Even photographers should watch them.  You won’t agree with everything he says, but you need to watch them.  I’ve added attending one of his workshops at his Mount Shasta ranch to my bucket list.

Finally there is Patrick at  Art Storefronts.  He does their podcasts.  I have determined that I am not quite ready to purchase their software/services to set up an e-commerce website with “Live Preview” (a super-cool feature where you can see what a painting will look like on your own wall).  But they have so much genius advice available in those podcasts on the topic of marketing art.  I’m so thankful that they offer it for free.

Besides the great people I’ve found online, I’ve been encouraged by some great people I’ve met face-to-face:  church friends, friends at my day job (which I’m not quitting any time soon), old friends that I only get to see on social media, and especially my new friends at our local Urban Sketchers group — it was phenomenal to sit down with a group of strangers, talk and laugh like we’d known each other for years, and walk away friends.  I look forward to getting to know you better.  I’m so glad I live in a city where people care about art and artists have the means to find each other.

Most important of all, there’s my family, not one of whom ever told me that I would starve if I tried to make a living as an artist.  Really.  Not one discouraging word from one relative ever.  Not when I was a teenager considering attending an art school instead of a traditional college.  Not now, after I’ve had other jobs for decades and decided to get back into art and make it a profession.  Not even one snarky comment.  How rare is that?!!