Art Fair Insiders

Call for Artists, Making Money at Juried Art Fairs, Craft Shows and Festivals

I know us artists. We're gamblers. Who else would take a risk several weekends a year to travel to a strange city, spend time, talent and treasure to show our work, with the slim chance of making a living. There's always some fellow artist, at nearly every show, that has the story about how they made 50K at one show, or have celebrities fighting over their work... or other urban legends.

The first one happened in Beverly Hills, one of the very first Art Festivals I participated in. They continue at every show, big or small... here are a few I remember.

Please tell me these are real. And add your own!

  • A fellow artist told me about the bold artist who was there last year. He had a tent, and one painting on an easel. The painting was $65,000. Someone bought it for full price. Artist took down the tent and went home.
  • Artist sold a $4000.00 piece of work to a nice lady. She took out her checkbook to pay and started writing a check for $40,000.00. Artist said - no Ma'am, it's $4000.00. Lady says... "if it's only $4k then I don't want it," and leaves.
  • Artist's husband says they had their best show last year in the same location in the pouring rain. Hardcore collectors come to Art Festivals in the rain. They sold $5000.00 of art in that one day [their most expensive pieces are $500, so that's a LOT of sales to a lot of people]. It rained the day they told me the story, they had just a few sales, and husband was sleeping all afternoon, in the booth.
  • Artist says last year, he sold everything in his booth to one customer, full price
  • Customer asks artist to deliver several large pieces to her home, to see which one[s] she wishes to buy. Seduces artist. Buys everything.
  • Artist next to me has only 6  6'x8' large paintings in his booth. Realistic oil paintings, scenes from Mexico... A burro, a hacienda, bouganvillia covered wall, street scene. He is not the artist, but tells me each one takes only 10 minutes, because they are really giclee's with a little paint on them and a heavy coating. $5K each. Sells one every show.
  • Photographer is selling shrink wrapped, sawtoothed, wrapped canvas "photographs" of tropical beach scenes for $65 - $125 [with deep discounts if you buy more than one] and when asked - where was this taken? He doesn't know, his assistant doesn't speak English, they have a rented truck full of these things right behind their booth, and he got juried into an art show.

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This didn’t happen at an art show, but the experience was still interesting .

Years ago, my husband won tickets and back stage passes to a Dan Fogelberg concert.  After the concert we were escorted back stage to the “Green Room” where Dan Fogelberg was with his entourage.  After a few minutes we were introduced to him.  All these years later I can’t remember how we got on the conversation, but somehow we started talking about Georgia O’Keeffe.  At the time (late 1980’s) he said his current girlfriend had been Georgia’s house keeper and companion many years ago and he had the opportunity to meet her and how much he loved her work.  So there we were the two of us, going on and on about her different paintings.  Then, there was that moment, when we noticed the whole room had gone silent…we stopped talking and turned to see why it has gone so quiet in a room that had been so full of sound!  Everyone was looking at the two of us just staring!  We looked at each other and back at the other in the room.  Dan even looked behind him to make sure we weren’t missing something!  Apparently, we had gotten so involved in talking about Georgia we had blocked everything else out…and had been talking for over an hour.  He thanked me for the conversation, saying it was nice to be able to talk about someone else for a change. 

Must add that when I did "green" or "recycle" shows in California, Bryan Cranston used to show up at every one of them, talk to me, and then leave. He never bought anything, but he seems to be interested in the green movement...

We were at the Calgary Stampede last year. There is the outside fair, but inside the arena, there is an air conditioned FINE ART show. (Total realism - large scale western/indian images). One booth had a red sticker on every painting ($15K - $45K each). In shock I asked her if the red stickers means what it means to Detroiter (Sold). Yup. She sold every painting - in the first few days.....

Great stories, whether they're true or mythical...

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I used to do a small fall festival in my hometown, with two tables, some woodwork. Every single year I had the same nutball that would come stand in front of my tables, and proceed to loudly tell everyone (including me) how much better his work was than mine.  Not a big stretch, since I only made picture frames and clocks back then... but I always asked him the same question.  "Where's your booth?"

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