Agony & Ecstasy… Looking down the road
Is it odd for a 67 year old man to spend a lot of time thinking and planning for the future? I hope not. I spend a lot of time thinking about how to approach the traveling artist thing. It’s the agony of not knowing mixed with the ecstasy of anticipation. It really is important, you know. After all, one of the reasons for buying a Class A motorhome was to have the outside basement storage to carry all the art festival gear. (See Back Roads & Brushes) But beyond that, there’s the question of just what kind and size of festivals we plan to do.
I don’t have any work in art galleries. That’s been my own choice. I’ve made that choice in order to have complete freedom over what we do in the next few years. We prefer doing festivals, everything from specific art festivals to the annual town square festivals found in almost every small town across America.
The eternal dilemma for us is that the shows we like to do are generally a combination of arts and crafts. Sometimes, the mix includes some really low end crafts… and a lot of not-so-good art. But the booth fees are low and the shows have been fairly easy to find and get into. I know… you get what you pay for, most of the time, but we’ve done some pretty decent markets and shows that have reasonable booth fees. The First Saturday Arts Market in Houston’s historic Heights district is a great example of a great venue with a good mix of higher end stuff, with very reasonable booth fees.
Our booth has never fit the description proscribed by conventional wisdom. We almost always have too much stuff, and the frames don’t all match. One of the things I want to avoid is stopping in a small town, getting into their annual Kumquat Festival on the town square, and setting up a booth that doesn’t fit the venue. A booth with nothing but 16×20 paintings, all in gold frames, would certainly get us some attention, but I’m not sure it’s the kind of attention we’d want. And I’m not convinced we’d sell any of those paintings in those venues, even at my very reasonable prices. Might get a lot of lookers, but in some places, folks would just think we were showing off. And there’s a logistics issue: we just won’t have room to carry very many framed paintings that size.
We’ve always felt that if we’re going to do these smaller festivals, then we’ve got to be able to compete for the dollars in the buyer’s purses. After all, there’s not much point in doing the show if we don’t really intend to sell anything. I’ve said before that I’m kind of past the “rich and famous” dreams, but we still want to sell art and generate income while we’re travelling. One of the things I’d like to do is keep trying to create a little mini art gallery. A sort of art boutique. When you think about it, one of the things that makes an art gallery interesting is all that different art in all those different frames. When we’ve set up near jewelers and people who do wood crafts, I’ve noticed that the variety of small items seems to draw the folks in. Their curiosity is piqued just by seeing a lot of stuff to look at. Nell’s floral minis accomplish that for us, to a certain extent, but we need to do more than just stop people. We need to draw them further inside.
Right now, I’ve done enough work over the last few months to do the shows we have scheduled. And even if we do really well, reality says that I’ll still have inventory left over for future shows. So, for the moment, I have the luxury of being able to experiment, draw, sketch, and play around in the studio without any pressure to build inventory. But there’s always the elephant in the studio: what are we going to try to sell when we finally do go on the road… what sizes… and at what prices? Am I spending my studio time wisely?
And… again, at this point in my life, should I really be agonizing over this?
I’d love to hear your thoughts…