An Artist Looks at 76

9730883254?profile=RESIZE_710xMonday, October 25, I turn 76. Will be starting my 46th year in the art show biz.

In the photo above, that is me at my first art show in Hawaii in the 1970's while in the Army.  Only made $25 but I was hooked for life.  I am the one with the camera,

Yesterday, was a whirlwind of medical activity for-me.  I got "nuked" and "pinned."

I have a new heart doctor now that Ilive in New Smyrna Beach.  She had me undergo a nuclear stress test to see the condition of my heart.  Remember nine years ago I had open heart surgery with four valve activity.

In this test, you are injected with a nuclear isotope which ends up stressing your blood vessels and your heart, makes them get dilated. It is no biggy if you can withstand a minute or more of shortness of breath, mild nausea and a little dizziness. Four minutes later your body is back to its normal rhythms.

Later I-went to Walgreens to pick up two prescriptions. I casually asked if they were giving booster shots yet.

I got my two Moderna vacs back in the spring. The clerk said they had the Phizer booster. So I got it in my right arm and my annual flu shot in my left arm. Did not even feel the prick of the needle.  I was lightheaded for about 10 minutes.  That was all the side effects I got.  Slept well all night and I have a slight soreness in my right arm ( the booster one.)

So, you are probably asking what does this have to do with show biz.

I would say,"a lot."

Will feel safer now with the booster at shows.  Will wear a mask if mandated at a show, otherwise, will keep my distance.  After all, we are outside in moving air, and nobody is standing around in your face for a long time.

After 46 years I am finally starting to cut back on the number of shows I do.  For years, I routinely did 27-33 shows a year. This year I did 21.  For 2022, I hope to do 18.  We will see how the jurying goes.

What helped me this year was getting into three of the biggest, Winter Park, Des Moines and Kansa City Plaza.

Sales from these shows equal three or better of the routine shows we do, where you are grinding it out to make 3-4K$. I did well enough at the Plaza that I cancelled my two October shows.  I will do three in November and take December off.

I have three in Florida in January, will probably do 2-3 in Feb, see how the jurying goes.

I love doing the outdoor shows.  I find it so much more rewarding talking directly to my customers.  Sales online, and galleries are nice, but not nearly as rewarding, plus they will not pay the bills.

As I age, the only part of the biz I do not like is the show setup.  At my age the setup wears me out big time. Usually it takes three and half hours to setup, that is erecting the booth with all tarps and awnings and then stocking it.  I usually need a solid one hour nap, or more, to recuperate.

TEARDOWNS are better, only one hour and a half.  I still am exhausted. I will drive home if I can make it in two hours or less. Otherwise I am staying in the hotel.  I always get a good meal, good sleep and a early start the next morning.

For you younger ones, you do not have to deal with failing night vision yet.  It is a serious factor when driving.

I had cataract surgery in my left eye last year.  Plus I get a shot monthly in that same eye to combat macular degeneration, the wet one.

Oncoming car lights create a hard spherical glow.  It is difficult to see clearly the middle road line.  So I keep my eyes on the road sideline.  An old trick I learned in Drivers Education back in 1962.

For the first time in my career I paid a tent guy to setup a Lightdome with Propanels, did it at Winter Park last May.

The $300 for the rental was money well spent.  For a biggy shows where you sell $5K or better, the cost is neglible.

I just bring the art and hang it.  Teardown is easy-peasie . Put the art in the van, then take the money and run.

I plan on doing this the rest of my career.

We are in difficult times with rising expenses  in every category--show fees, jury fees, fuel,cost of goods.

Only the good and smart will survive.  I plan to be one of them.

I still get the thrill of making a sale, no matter how much it is. It takes me back to my first show in Hawaii in 1975. By a waterfall, only made $25 that day, but I was hooked for life.

Still feel that same spirit.  I am a lucky man.

Aloha, look forward to seeing you all in the upcoming months.

Stay safe, stay focused and make great art.

Votes: 0
E-mail me when people leave their comments –

You need to be a member of Art Fair Insiders to add comments!

Join Art Fair Insiders


  • I always love reading your reports about your travels and shows. 😁

  • Great read, Nels!  I look forward to your contributions for lots of reasons, but I love that there are seldom misspellings or grammatical errors. My 7th grade English teacher made me critical for life! Haha!

    If you are on Sanibel in November I'll look you up to say "hello!

    I haven't been in the art show business, but my body is about as old as yours is.  I can relate.


    • My mother is responsible for me using correct grammar and correct spelling. I cringe when I see someone using the word "to" instead of "too" or "your" instead of you're. It's short for "you are."


    • I had a great English teacher in Eighth Grade, Martha Pence.

      She taught me well. Thanks for the comment.

      • I was an English teacher. (Don't tell anyone, but sometimes I edit the writing on this site.)

  • Lu Fuller by her husband, 53 years in the business. 

    Best show ever, Central PA. Festival of the Arts, State College, PA.  1970's,  upper 5 figure show.

    Favorite Show, Central PA. Festival of the Arts

    Best one Day show, Presbyterian Church, Cinncinati, OH. equaled Summererfair. I was outside at our trailer framming prints in the snow.

    Best Biggie show. Winter Park, FL


    Best two day show, Naples National

    Worst Show- Westheimer, Houston, TX. Arrived to find my hotel on Fire and no help finding another room. sleep in my van. Went to eat dinner with other artist at close of show, our vans were parked in an enclosed parking lot and 10 vans were broken into. five years later they used company checks that were stolen at the Mall of America.

    • You guys were in the biz when it was still magical.

    • Wow! Your worst show was really bad! New story for me. Thanks for that input, Wally. 

      (One of our worst "scares" was at Old Town in Chicago. We always parked the van on the street where our booth was going to be the next day. There was no day before setup. For years the committee had warned that there was no parking and towing was going to occur. The next day as we were taking a cab to the show there was our van going the opposite direction being towed to the impound lot in the bowels of the city.) Another worst story that luckily was not us, is several jewelers we know were robbed at gunpoint after several shows. 

      I remember you madly framing behind the booth at the shows. Our best show ever was at the Guild show in Ann Arbor in 2004 ... nicely into the $20,000's. Thrilling. 

      • Connie

        Your comment reminded me of the story some years ago of jeweler being robbed as they pulled into their garage. robbers had followed them home from show in their hometown.

        My father was a jeweler in Lexington, KY. and our house was broken into several times looking for jewelery.


  • I so much enjoyed reading your post. It bought back memories  Like you, I went thru it all. My first show was in1980 touring malls and getting all word of mouth show information from fellow artists. Its so nice to now have things like “Art Fair Insiders .”   Homemade screens to Pro Panels. Charge machines to the Square. Glare glasses for night driving. I phones .

    Aging does wear you away but thats much  better than rusting away. At age 80 I will do 9 outdoor shows in 2021. Its what I love to do.   I dont need many shows for income as I have SS and some investment income since I always invested 5% of everything I ever sold. I did change from Litedomes to EZ ups and narrow my travel range to only a few hotel stays. Im now very happy with $3,000 at the smaller rural shows ( which is pretty typical for me) over the bigger dollar Ann Arbor type shows.  I could never get much into the virtual things as it is just not enjoyable for me.  I now seldom stay in hotels as im usually 2 hours or less from home. Of course I have my regular doctor visits now and take my pills and did my share of operations and hospital visits.  

    I gave up prints, frames ,glass , matts and bins years ago and do only originals for a simplier older life. I do have a hard time with inventory now as people and past customers quickly buy everything I paint.  Looking back I wouldnt  change a thing and I will continue on until I cant get up in my directors chair in my 10 x 10 anymore.

This reply was deleted.