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John Leben's Blog (79)

Winter Art Fairs for a Michigan Artist

I'm from Saugatuck, Michigan. Needless to say, there is not a lot of opportunity to exhibit and sell in the cold North country during the winter months. Since we make our living selling art, and we can't make it through the winter without some sales, Marcia and I have been traveling to Florida every winter to exhibit and to reinforce the bank account. OK... it's not only the bank account, it's also a nice perk to get out of the cold and the snow. 

Some artists from the Midwest, who I…

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Added by John Leben on March 13, 2018 at 11:37am — 4 Comments

Key West Old Island Days Festival - Worth Going?

I've been accepted to the Old Island Days Art Festival in Key West on February 24-25. Any opinions out there about the wisdom of doing this show? Of all the venues for art fairs around Florida, Key West (and the Keys in general) seemed to be the hardest hit by hurricanes. I just wonder if vacationers and visitors are even going down there yet. I've got Images in New Smyrna, then Fort Myers, then Jupiter before Key West comers up

Added by John Leben on November 17, 2017 at 4:05pm — 7 Comments

Gallery or Art Fairs? Where should we exhibit?

Marcia and I opened the LebenArt Gallery in downtown Douglas, Michigan in May. We picked this area because we live close, and the area has become known at the Art Coast of Michigan. The small resort town of Douglas, where our gallery is, also has six other fine art galleries. We thought that would make Douglas an "art destination." This last weekend was the annual "Gallery Stroll," Saturday and Sunday, in which dozens of area art galleries (including Saugatuck) celebrate art openings. It's…

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Added by John Leben on October 8, 2017 at 2:00pm — 3 Comments

Old Town Art Fair in Chicago: Terrific Show!

I'm a digital artist. I sell limited edition prints of my digital paintings in multiple sizes. Its only in the last couple of years the Old Town Art Fair has accepted digital artists, or even printmakers. This show has traditionally been an "originals only" show. I'm delighted that I finally got to participate in this, the grand-daddy of all art fairs. I did very well at this show with twice the sales on Sunday than on Saturday, but this wasn't the case for all artists.

As I mentioned…

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Added by John Leben on June 18, 2017 at 11:00am — 5 Comments

Belleville: One of the Best!

I can't say enough good things about this terrific art fair! It takes place in a small town in southern Illinois only a few miles from St. Louis. I have no idea how they do it, but they bring people out to the show in droves, and they all seem to have money in their pockets to spend on art. But first a couple of qualifications. Not every artist did well at this show. Our neighbor, a very talented painter, was very disappointed. I am a digital artist selling limited edition prints. Could be…

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Added by John Leben on May 26, 2017 at 9:56am — 2 Comments

Great Lakes Art Fair - Novi, Michigan - Great Show!

I've been doing this show for many years. Its a show that many of us midwest artists want to succeed. Why? Because its the first show of the season for many of us in these parts. Its indoors, so weather is not a factor. Its in a great venue and its easy to do. By this time of the year a lot of us artists are running on empty. We need some money to pay the next batch of booth fees and an early April show that can pay some of the bills is very welcome.

It turned out that way for me,…

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Added by John Leben on April 10, 2017 at 10:30am — 10 Comments

Brooksville: Nice Venue, but Dismal Sales

Brooksville was the sixth and final art fair in our winter swing through Florida. It is a small art fair and I didn't expect much when I signed up. And, guess what? I didn't get much either.

This is a laid back art fair which assigns you a space and pretty much leaves you alone. We set up on Friday and were able to keep our van right in back of our booth for the entire setup. In fact, on Sunday we parked in the same place, in back of our booth, all day, so break down was also a…

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Added by John Leben on March 13, 2017 at 1:41pm — 6 Comments

My Lucky Streak Ended in Bonita Springs

I've exhibited at various Bonita Springs Art fairs over the years, including at the mall many years ago. I've done well there in the past off and on, but never great. Two years ago was the last time I did Bonita and took home $4000. I was a happy camper. This year I did around $950. This is my poorest showing in 4 years at any show. I'm jealous of you artists who were at Gaparilla. I was wait-listed this year.

I can't complain too much because the four previous art fairs were good for…

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Added by John Leben on March 7, 2017 at 10:28am — 2 Comments

Bradenton - Arts Festival of Manatee County: A Pleasant Surprise

I was looking for a show for Feb 25-26. Marcia and I are down here in Florida from Michigan for a couple of months and, to make it work, we have to cram in as many shows as we can. Its expensive down here in the winter. I stay away from shows that are organized by professional promoters, preferring shows that are put on by arts groups and community organizations. The one in Bradenton fit the bill so I applied and got in. Its a small show with less than 100 artists, and this is only their…

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Added by John Leben on February 27, 2017 at 11:21am — 7 Comments

Arti Gras in Jupiter, Florida: Good News and Bad News

Arti Gras was our 3rd art fair of the winter season for Marcia and I. This is also the third time we have exhibited at this show. The good news? We had a good show. We sold well and even won an award. The bad news? Most artists did not do well. 

I am a digital artist. I create surrealistic images with environmental themes using humor and fantasy in the mix. My lowest price point is $28 for small, unframed limited edition prints. I sell a ton of these. My highest prince point id $695…

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Added by John Leben on February 22, 2017 at 12:11pm — 5 Comments

Florida Art Fairs vs Arizona & California Art Fairs

In the winter us Michigan artists look for warm weather and a reasonable market for our art (that market is not here in the frozen North). Marcia and I have been heading south to Florida every winter for shows during February and March. We've had reasonable success at the shows and had the added benefit of getting in some beach time.

Next winter we're wondering if we can have the same success out west. My brother lives in Arizona and I haven't seen him in years. It might be fun to…

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Added by John Leben on February 11, 2017 at 10:29am — 10 Comments

Artfest Fort Myers - A Great Show!

After freezing our tootsies at Images in New Smyrna Beach, Marcia and I headed for Fort Myers for our 2nd show of the winter. The weather forecast was for sun and temperatures in the 80s. YES!

We were one of about 50 booths that would be open on Friday evening so we got there early on Friday for our scheduled setup. We were escorted into the art fair in order of our booth numbers. Although we had to park on the street about 50 feet from our booth, load in was pretty easy. Just a short…

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Added by John Leben on February 7, 2017 at 11:30am — 6 Comments

Images Art Fair - New Smyrna Beach, FL

One of my first Florida art fairs was Images. That was 30 years ago. I bombed at that show, but  was smitten by the "art fair" lifestyle and the opportunities art fairs present for actually making a living with art. My goal has always been to be a professional artist but that show, and a few others around the same time, convinced me that making art was not going to pay the bills and feed my family. 

At that time I was also working as a freelance media producer... a much more lucrative…

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Added by John Leben on February 7, 2017 at 10:48am — 1 Comment

Images: New Smyrna Beach, FL: Documentary from 1985

The last time I exhibited at Images was in 1984 when I was a youngster, just testing the potential of art fairs for selling my work. I didn't do too well, but I was intrigued by the art fair culture. The last time I was in New Smyrna Beach was in 1985. This time, I was there as a television producer. I brought a crew and shot a documentary called "Art Fair." It aired on a few PBS stations around the country at that time and garnered an Emmy nomination in Chicago (I didn't win). Its still an…

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Added by John Leben on December 16, 2016 at 1:19pm — 13 Comments

Six Wasted Days at One-of-a-Kind Show

Here's the thing... I'm not saying that all the artists at Chicago's One-of-a-Kind Show at the Merchandiose Mart wasted their time. I'm just saying that I wasted my time there. I felt like they gave me some kind of magical "invisible" booth. The few people that did visit me, I truly appreciate, but most did not. But, I'm getting ahead of myself. 

I signed up for this show with lots of doubts and trepidation. The $2500 booth fee is off-putting to say the least and I managed to dodge…

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Added by John Leben on December 6, 2016 at 5:58pm — 17 Comments

Chicago's One-of-a Kind Show: Questions

I'm a 2-D artist selling prints of my digital paintings. I'm exhibiting at the One-of-a-Kind Show at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago for the first time. Two questions for you 2-D artists who have done the show in the past:

1. Should I bring my Pro Panels? Do most 2-D artists use them, or is it better to just stick with the white walls and use nails to hang things? 

2. Booths are given four track lights. Should I order a couple more? How's the lighting?

Thanks, John

Added by John Leben on October 18, 2016 at 11:39am — 3 Comments

Opening A Gallery: A followup

Well, I've done it. I've signed a lease on 1000 square feet of gallery in downtown Douglas, Michigan. We'll open for business in May. YIKES! Yes. It's crazy. Most galleries fold in a year or less. And, yes, I can show my work to more people on one weekend at an art fair, than I will probably reach in an entire season in my new gallery. But I'm still gonna do it. Here's why:

1. I did a test run a few years back in a gallery space on the highway outside of Saugatuck and Douglas. I kept…

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Added by John Leben on October 15, 2016 at 2:50pm — 9 Comments

Opening a Gallery: A Profitable Alternative?

I’ve been exhibiting in art fairs off and on for about 40 years, but only in the past ten years or so have I jumped into this crazy business with both feet. During these recent years I’ve had some modest success and been able to make a comfortable living at it. I’ve been able to fulfill a lifelong dream of making a living at being a professional artist. I know, however, that as I get older it will be more difficult to withstand the physical demands and uncertainties of the art…

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Added by John Leben on August 17, 2016 at 12:27pm — 9 Comments

Display Panels: Time to Upgrade

Seems like there is always an added investment to make your portable 'gallery" more attractive to those elusive buyers. Its hard to put a number on how this kind of an "upgrade" will help, but Marcia and I decided to move ahead and get new (or used) display panels.

My black fabric Graphic Display Systems Display Panels are showing their age. They have served me well over the years and I've done several upgrades to make them more secure and easier to set up. I originally bought the two…

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Added by John Leben on July 30, 2016 at 10:53am — 1 Comment

Belleville: one GREAT Art Fair!

I can't say enough good things about this terrific show. From the $115,000 in pre paid Art Bucks bought by the community, to the donation made by Wells Fargo bank to fund elementary school kids to pick out and buy artwork for their schools, to the reasonable size of invited artists (105), to the lunches and breakfasts and dinners supplied for free to the artists, to the excellent venue in around the fountain in the square, and to the people of Belleville who come…

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Added by John Leben on May 16, 2016 at 11:30am — 7 Comments

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