I've been so excited about the idea of doing art fairs, sitting with my work and meeting people interested in art, networking, learning from other artists and HOPEFULLY making money.


For weeks I've been combing this wonderful, fascinating site to research tents, display panels, the best fairs, etc.  It's because of Art Fair Insiders that I feel like I'm able to make a clear decision, which is that art fairs are probably not for me.  I admire all you artists who do them, but it might not make sense for me.


I have been selling my paintings through my blog and website as well as Daily Paintworks for about five months.  I sell perhaps half of what I post.  My paintings are small and are completed in one day, so a $100 price is okay with me and in this current economy is what seems to help them sell.  Most of my friends who are exhibiting in galleries say that practically nothing is selling- of course the prices have to be pretty high for the average person when you consider the gallery takes a huge cut and there is the expense of framing.  My internet sales are all  unframed paintings.


I've been thinking of making prints of my best work and showing original paintings as well as the prints at the fairs, but through this site I've found out that most art fairs discourage the selling of reproductions.  So now I have to think about how much money I'll have to lay out in order to show my paintings.


Through this site I've found out that a good tent will cost me more than $800.  Display panels perhaps $400-500.  Framing my work at least $65 per piece.  Entrance fees.  It is starting to seem like I'll need to lay down $2,000 just to get started, and pay $300 average in entry fees every time I exhibit. 


And I have NO idea if this money would be a good investment or not.  I mean, how can I try out just one fair without spending a lot of money?  I need a tent and display panels for a single fair.  I need to frame 20 paintings.  Etc! 


Has anyone else agonized like this?  Any feedback would be VERY welcome!  Thanks.

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  • Hi Taryn, 

    If since the beginning you are thinking "I just hate to spend money on anything if I'm not going to stick with this" You are already thinking you don't want to stick with it.

    Your art is beautiful and sellable. You have to give 100% to make it work. You can start borrowing a tent or buy an EZ up that is going to cost you 200.00 Get inexpensive panels like Pat said. You can get very inexpensive frames at IKEA to start. They look really good, they have simple ones that come with mat and glass, ready to hang, then as soon as you start seeing it works if you put your heart on it you will want to improve your booth, panels, frames etc etc  You can have your internet business and in the summer your art show business. But if art shows are not for you then stick with your internet business. It is a gift when you meet your clients, start having a relationship with them so if they want to buy another piece of art they think about you before going to the mall or a gallery. You also meet other artists, learn from them, they become part of your life. Every time I do a show and I meet new artists and clients, at the end of the show I feel so sad when it's time to go home. If they are by your area you will keep running into them all the time in other shows and this has been a great and useful experience for me. Now every time I have a question I e mail them. I also have a great photographer for my art that I met in a show, he gives me great prices and everybody is happy ;) Good luck

    • Carla, thanks.  It's not that I hate to spend money, it's that I am working as a full time artist right now and don't have money!  I am trying to decide if I want to put all this on my credit card or if that is too risky.  I do like the idea of meeting people face to face, artists and collectors- that is for sure.  Your idea about IKEA frames is excellent.  I have a lot of oil paintings on panel that need floating panel frames that are simply not cheap, but I also paint in oil on thick paper, and those could be framed with IKEA frames.  

      Thanks for the nice comment about my work.  The way I do things now, I paint something and post it the same day on my blog.  It is immediately for sale.  If I start showing in art shows I will want to keep some things in reserve- not offer them for sale online- and that's a little worrisome. I will start to work in more standard sizes so  I can pop paintings in and out of frames easily- if a piece doesn't sell at an art fair, I can then offer it for sale unframed (as I usually do) online.

      Thanks for the good insights.

  • Frances, thanks so much!  If I do this one show, I will keep it as simple as possible, that's for sure.  I'm just starting to get the hang of selling online- the ins and outs of the whole thing- and the idea of also figuring out the whole art fair scene has been stressful. 

    My business expenses would be more like 25% if I hadn't started out by blowing $850 on a series of magazine ads that did me no good.  It's been trial by error, that's by sure.  Things have improved since then.


  • I'm with Pat. I'll bet you could rent, borrow and fake a booth good enough to get a couple shows under your belt and see if you like it.


    You can find metal gridwall pretty cheap, around $25 for a two-foot panel. Thrift stores are full of things you could re-purpose. There are some less-expensive shows that allow booth sharing; maybe you can find another painter who would like a booth mate.


    I did my first year "test" with a $200 King Canopy. I had three folding tables, with PVC pipe legs to raise them up. I taped cotton cloth around the perimeter of the tables and tossed a piece of fabric on to cover the top. I made big panels of 2x2s and doorskin for hanging pieces. It served me fine, and the initial cost wasn't too bad.


    • Thanks Steph, I'm feeling more hopeful since reading your post that I could pull this off more cheaply than I thought.
  • Rent or borrow a tent, buy some inexpensive grids for hanging work or make your own pro panels (several folks here have done it), open a wholesale acct with a local frame shop to cut costs there. Nothing you can do about booth fees, necessary evil. What I;m trying to say is that few people start out with the top of the line display stuff. You are a one person focus group right now, this is your research season. If you do a couple of shows and it looks like it might be profitable, you can start saving pennies for a Trimline. Just don't let the details bog you down. Good luck!
    • Thanks Pat for your answer.   I just hate to spend money on anything if I'm not going to stick with this.   So hard to decide what to do. 

      • What bothers me is that although I've sold about $4,000 worth of art over the past four months, I've spent about $2,000 on business.  There are endless ways to spend money- advertising, website fees, Etsy fees, Paypal fees, art supplies- even the place where I want to start teaching drawing wants me to purchase easels and lighting for the class! 

        I just think I need to stop spending so much money, and even a modest display at an art fair isn't okay with me as long as I don't know if I'll earn more than I spend. 


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