Art Fair Insiders

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

Hello everyone and Happy August.  I'm always extremely interested in Art, Artwork and the trends that people follow.

Love to hear from you and get feedback on what you are seeing out there at Festivals, Galleries, Stores and more.  Are people becoming more interested in Glass work, Wood crafting, Metal art pieces, Paintings, Gems or other items.

Thanks for any comments and have a wonderful day and always smile.

David

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Hi and very good point,  I have had to create a much larger inventory then I did before and I have checked with several buyers and they said Paintings are not high priority right now, but love the Wood frames, rustic, grain, shaded types of wood pieces and specialty glass items.

Thanks, David

I do acrylic paintings of birds and wildlife on the basswood country round plaques. $40 to $250. I find much of my sales are for second homes. For example in Michigan many customers will say " this will look nice in my cabin up north".  Or this would look good in my cottage at the lake.  An abstract probably wouldn't work well for them. Price really doesn't seem to be an issue,  Some will buy the cheapest and some wont hesitate to buy two or three $200 pieces.  You just don't know the situation of anyone walking into your booth. I stick with one central theme for everything hanging up rather than a hodge podge of a number of assorted pictures such as kids flying kites on a beach, a deer, flowers, landscapes, plus a few little kitten pictures. 

Hi Barry, thank you so much for your feedback and offering some great advice.  I think you are using the right approach and logic and I can see how that works well for you.

Have a really great week.

David

The "smalls" sell.  Period.  Almost anything under $500 will move, but especially pieces under $100.  I have concluded that I need that big "signature" piece to get people into the tent, but they are rarely going to take it home.  What they take home are the small, "gift" size pieces.  So, I create locally themed mixed media work (have done for years) and have plenty of that in the $45 to $175 range, a bunch of medium size originals in the $200 to $500 range and a couple of big "wow" pieces to grab 'em.  It's the same in the galleries: I'm in 3.  The little pieces go home here and there, and the big pieces go home once in awhile. I've done ONE show in the last 3 years where I sold nothing but big originals, and I was stunned.  Naturally, that show is on hiatus until further notice!

I will also make this comment, which will piss some people off, but it's true: what I am seeing selling in 2D wall art is "design" abstracts.  Minimalist, monochromatic without composition or really anything of interest, but  what they show on the DIY shows.  And pour art.  This is the latest greatest thing and everyone wants it.  So, why the rest of us painters work so hard is a puzzle.  People will walk past a beautiful painting that an artist has put his heart and soul into -- to take home a beige canvas with a gray drip down the center.  I watched this happen again and again at a show last spring. Beige and gray with glops of gold leaf.  No skills or discernment required.

I continue to sell my cities, and my wildlife, so this is not sour grapes, but it IS discouraging.  The biggest selling artist at one of my galleries does drip art and pour art.  That's a rather sad commentary on the collecting public.  I know art is art and we shouldn't criticize other artists, but if collectors are only buying what they see on DIY shows.....

That's my two cents on paintings.  Other things sell very well at shows.  I watch glass and pottery go home at every show I do.  What I think is in play is that baby boomers have plenty of discretionary income but not much space.  So they don't mind paying $2000 for a glass piece that will fit on a piano, or a table in the foyer.  I don't see money being the issue with glass and pottery.  Plus, ever since the recession, "functional" art has sold better than wall art.  It's a rationalization: something that can be used, as well as pretty.

The other thing which sells well in all the galleries and at a lot of shows are pieces made with upcycled items.  Fish made out of reclaimed metal; dogs built from tin cans; people LOVE this stuff!  So do I!  If I was clever enough to "see" it and make it, it would be my new genre!

I enjoy shows and would love to continue to do them.  I love meeting people.  I love visiting new places across this beautiful country, but very few of them are real moneymakers except for people who have really affordable, eye-catching work that speaks to ALL.  That's a tough nitch to fill.  One of my favorites, who does it very well, sells staged photos of anthropomorphized cats.  They are very cool.  Everyone loves them.  Everyone knows someone who loves cats, and everything in his booth is reasonable.  I've seen him nearly sell out at shows.

So, if I had it to do over again, I would do a market analysis before I made the first piece of art.  If that sounds too calculating and un-"artistic" so be it; this is how I make my living and the market is in flow.  People buy everything online now, and that's the world we live in.

Carol, I've only done 3 shows total so far, and am already starting to see in effect a lot of what you've mentioned. Only on my 3rd show did I finally sell 2 original paintings (to people who weren't friends or family). The rest of my sales were repros and cards. But I would see people walk past with more functional art - ceramics, wood, glass, metal...and not nearly as much 2D wall art.

I also am not saying this to complain. But having only done shows for a short time, I still need to find my niche. I'm trying to paint what I love painting, while still paying attention to what sells...it's hard.  For now, I'm really enjoying the experience and learning a ton, and getting a lot of great advice from my booth neighbors who have many more years of experience than I do.

Oh absolutely -- I wouldn't try to discourage you, and I hate to sound like a cranky old woman (which I am!). It's a very rewarding way to show your work.  You share your stories and the public shares theirs.  Making your niche align with everybody's "sofa" is how you do it.  So you do what you love in a way that people walk in and say "I LOVE that!"  And once in awhile they'll actually take it home, too. 

For the last decade or so, I have paid attention to the "Pantene Color of the Year." I'm not joking!  So, I paint what I paint and weave that in.  Sometimes it's a color that everyone hates, so it never takes off.  (Violet, for example, was underwhelming....but every piece sold!)  This likely sounds too commercial for some of the purists, but keeping food on the table is literal in my world.  Honestly, though, if painting weren't so darn therapeutic, and I wasn't so old, I'd learn to make glass, or build furniture. 

There's a slippery slope with merchandise, too, if you're a painter.  You can put your paintings on pillows, for example, and they can sell like hotcakes on Etsy.  But don't bring them to most shows, because you are locked in to your medium and the fiber artists had to jury too.  But you CAN get them licensed to wholesalers who will use them, and sell them all over the world.  You get cents on the dollar, but you can create a stream of passive income that way.

The other piece that is daunting for painters is digital art.  And I will just leave that right there.

Keep painting, though - it's never not satisfying, and the more you love it, the more people who see it love it.  And then....

Such great stuff and words.

Thanks

David

Hi Carol.....good additional feedback as well...I agree that I have sold many of my paintings in the past and commissioned work such as Wall Paintings, Paintings and Metal/wood.  But these days I'm seeing a shift in what people are looking for.  Someone with just Wooden frames hanging on a wall will get a buyer in a second vs. a major Custom One of a Kind Painting that took many hours of work.  

Thanks

David

Carol - you hit the nail on its head !

I could not have written it better!

love and peace

Heike

Wow, Wow, Wow such great advice and a lot of ideas and focus points. Thank you for sharing and giving me such wonderful Feedback.

Have a super week and keep killing it as you do. There are times I have hundreds of hours into custom paintings and Wall Art but I can truly see a trend shift. What you said truly makes sense.

David

The comments Barry made about the wood pieces are very applicable.  That's another way for a painter to make work more accessible.  People DO like the unusual presentations, and he's right: it isn't money.  It's something else.  They want "different."  One of the ways I've adjusted is prints on canvas, wood and metal. With as big a body of work as I have, I could just print on different substrates for the next 20 years!  So I'm trying those out, to see what is most appealing.

The best thing we can do for our sales is talk with our collectors.  When I say your headline, David, I cracked up, because I just sent out an email blast to my collectors asking that very question: "What do you want from me?!!" 

Wow, that is so good, yes we all need to start asking collectors and prospects what is it they are now looking for or have any interest in. From what I'm seeing there is no set rule but smaller, cheaper and Unique is the it factor (Glass, Wood, Metal, Prints.  Painting it better be the right batch of designs, logic, local items, local cities, etc. that people can totally relate to.

Thanks so much for sharing

David

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