Thursday, April 15, 2010

Art Shows

My booth at the Woodlands Waterway Art Festival
More of my booth
Vern Rollins, a painter and neighbor at the show and me!

I put some photos on the post because I'm used to doing so and didn't finish any pieces today. Although I did get a couple started.

For those artists who do art shows, skip this part. You know it already. But, for those of you who don't do art shows , I thought I'd tell you a little bit about the process. First, we DO NOT travel as a caravan from one location to another like some giant circus--although the carny analogy does work a bit!

Basically, almost every art show you attend (or think of attending) is juried. Meaning, you can't just pay your booth fee and show up. You and your work must be approved of in advance, up to 6-8 months in advance. This is done not by using a resume or reporting a history of sales at a particular show. And while some shows still require slides of your work and one of your booth display, the majority of shows are using online application services --zapplication, Juried Art Services, Entrythingy. So, for every show an artist is interested in doing, he/she will have to apply--pick images of the art and one of a booth display and send them in, along with a jury fee. Then, you wait a couple of weeks/months to find out if you have been selected by the jury to participate. Most all shows have a limited number of spots for their show. Some shows may receive 1200 applications for 150 spots--so your chances of getting accepted are spotty. So sometimes you apply to more than one show on a weekend, in hopes of getting in at least one of them. Or, if you get into two, you have to decide which one to do. You can't send a representative. Artists must be present (admittedly the better shows are better at policing this than some of the lesser shows).

If you are in, you get to send them more stuff--money (for your spot), more money, if you want a corner, still more money if you want electricity, and sometimes more money if you want a specific location. Then, some shows want to know how long your vehicle is--try measuring Sweet Ride in a 6 foot snow bank. Others want a copy of your drivers license, some of your business insurance, some a special passport sized photo for your pass to get into the artist lounge (thanks, Sausalito!), some want your vehicle license number--what happens if you get a new vehicle between now and then?. And, of course, if you are going to donate a piece to their charity auction (THAT is an entirely different post and one I will address soon.), they want to know (again, 6-8 months out) what the piece is, what its title is, want a digital image of it--usually a very specific pixel size.

So, basically, we artists apply for our jobs constantly--no tenure here, baby! If the jury is good and qualified, it will choose artists whose work has artistic merit. If the jury is not exactly qualified, they'll choose what they like. Most juries are supposed to change from show to show, but some recycle their judges pretty often.

So, if you get in, you pay your money for your spot to display what you juried with. And in a very few cases, a commission on the sales you make. In return, you get crowds and advertising for the show. But, you do not get a booth/tent/canopy or walls. The artist is responsible for all that. That is what Sweet Ride is for. We shlep it to the show and put it up and take it down. And, you can only display what you juried with--can't show jewelry if you got in with drawings....

Some artists do a huge number of shows in a given year. Others not so many. But, we artists do make friends at these shows. Our geographic circles may only intersect occasionally--I see my pacific northwest friends at shows in California, Arizona and Idaho but not as much in Texas. But, the really good shows, artists do travel much further afield.

While we don't have total control over our "job"--since we can't always get into all the shows we would like--we do have control over much of our livelihood. and that makes it worthwhile!


  1. All of that, and amidst it you must create your art and then have the guts to put it out there. Takes courage. I admire all of you artists who undertake the challenge.

  2. Great analysis of the process. So great it left me wondering why it is I do it. But all things I like to do seem to involve constantly auditioning.

    Do really enjoy the pals along the way. So much so I am thinking of applying for a show for Christmas based on who will be there. Is that irrational?

  3. While owning a gallery has it's own set of challenges, I only sort of miss the shows. I will be in only one ...and of course that is ArtsFest in July. Glad I got in, and that it is here in Angel Fire, and indoors, as I don't have a tent!

  4. Good info here. I was going to tell you that I saw a TV commercial for the Southlake show coming up and they had one of your paintings in the commercial....pretty cool!

  5. The post was posted 'cuz I actually had 3 different people ask if we were a caravan going from one place to the next. Thought I could provide a little insight on the real process. @Jacqui--not irrational at all. Go for it. @Jeb--I hope I get to see the commercial. does that make me famous? Will you be going to either show? If you do, I hope you'll stop by & say "hi"! @Kath--Looking forward to catching up some at ARtsfest.


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