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

Artist Image Workshop; St. Louis Art Fair

This was discussed on one of Larry Berman's posts. I'm going to try and summarize what I gleaned out of the workshop, and what is applicable to most artists.


It was a long workshop. It started off initially with the organizers expecting 25 artists, and it grew, and quickly swelled to over 190 artists submitting work. Very much to the credit of the organizers, they agreed to address each and every artist. It started at 9:00 AM and was slow to get started, as was expected, while the judges got used to the public forum and personal critique and start picking up steam. Instead of the one hour lunch break, the judges got twenty minutes, and soldiered on with a few potty breaks tossed in until after 8:00 PM. I stayed there until about the last three or four artists were reviewed, and then the judges talked one-on-one to the few remaining artists that needed some additional help. For the artists, who weren't present, a webcast was available and IMing allowed questions and clarifications to be put to the judges.


Much of what has been preached in these forums about cleaning up the booths and consistency of work was hammered home by the judges.


Consistency of work doesn't mean all identical pieces or same subject material, but it does mean that all the pieces need to be in the same style. Two bodies of work or occasionally three bodies of work would be evident in many of the  submissions. All B&W photos of a waterfall, a couple of flowers, and a meadow are not the same body of work, even though someone might think, "They're all outdoors shots of nature, and they're all in the same style; i.e., Black and white". Sorry, it doesn't work that way. Many repeated examples of it does drive it home that the pieces need to be strongly connected and not tenuously connected by a wish. A comment was made by one of the jurors that they don't want to see examples of luck in getting some pretty pictures. Wood workers, as an example, were in for the same reasoning. One artist had a couple of outstanding tables and wood sculpture. The two different bodies of work could be enough to block them from going past the first round. They want to see a unified body of work whatever the media. One of the  painters had some plein air work that had the consistency of subject material, where water was a unifying theme, but the style of brush work was sufficiently different from piece to piece that it would be difficult to make it into the second round. There had to be consistency that linked everything together.


One of the comments I picked up was that a strongly consistent body of work  would stand a better chance of going forward than some outstanding work of higher caliber that was not consistent as a unified body of work. It may not have been spoken in that fashion, but that was the distinct impression I picked up. It has to do with the vision and direction of the artist. It's hard to understand the direction and vision of disjointed work, but the unified body of work is what will grab the understanding and appreciation of the judges in the brief moment of time they have. If they have to stop, think, and ponder what you're doing as an artist, you're done for the day as it were.


You can't slack off on the artist statement, contrary to what some of us have thought. For the photographers, you can skip the part about what printer you're using as part of the statement. I heard that quite a bit and it's irrelevant. If there is a part about materials, place it there. If anyone uses something recycled or repurposed, that seemed to register highly with the jurors. If you draw on influences from whatever movement or an artist, place that in the artist statement. Whatever you can say in the materials statement or artist statement that will make it easier for the judges to understand what you're doing and understand your vision, the better off you'll be.


The much maligned booth shot turns out to be a much more critical piece of the puzzle. It can make or break your entry at the get-go. Don't slack off on it, ot you'll be wondering why you're having to apply to so many shows just to get into a few. The issues that have been preached ad infinitum really are true. Here's the mantra I heard the entire day; Simplify and  unify.  I don't care if it seems false advertising, it's the same thing you do when you want to sell a house; stage the damn thing. If you don't get past the gatekeeper, it's all academic. Here's the big secret about staging the boothshot; it gives you an opportunity to submit more of your work and show the breadth of it. You want the jury shots in there, or you're screwed. No visible jury shots and they wonder what you're selling. No one says the jury shots have to be front and center, place them on the side (still visible) and get some more work in there on that back wall. Now you can have 4 to 6 more pieces with which to impress the jurors, and yes the work in the booth slide is visible.


An awfully high percentage of the booth shots were just not good, and more than once (actually many times), what was good competent work would have been knocked out because of an atrocious booth shot. Different work from the jury shots would seem like a no-brainer, but it happened many times and that would have been enough to be knocked out in the first round. The judge's comments were frequently, "You don't need to show or hang everything you've ever done in the booth shot".


Keep the booth simple, keep it clean, and get the frou-frou plants and tables out of there. You're not selling plants or casual tables with a guest book on it. That stuff can go back in during the show as far as I can tell, but they don't want to see it in the booth shot, and particularly as frequently the artwork was blocked by the extraneous stuff like that.


Gridded walls came in for their share of grief in the comments. Not because of what they were, but because of how they were used. Fabric artists seemed to get the worst of that, as only two or three shots of their booths made effective use of the display. Most wearable fabric booths had clothing on hangers packed in tightly, and the grid walls would obscure the work. The most impressive wearable fabric artists had their work hanging flat and straight on to the viewer, and would hang a piece of the gridwall more like a retail display. Show the work, not the grids.


Potters seem to have a problem with the work all merging into one undistinguishable mass. Arranging pedestals in descending order from the back corners forward seemed to be a good visual method of seperating them out away from each other. Jewelers seldom had display photos across the back, and those are relatively inexpensive to have printed.


A key issue in booth design was to make sure the booth had a visual rhythm to it. As the jurors pointed out, you're spemnding large anounts of time and money on your work, don't blow it with an amateurish display, Some of the booth shots had 2D work sitting on the ground, and that received a fair amount of scorn as it looked like a trunk sale or yard sale. Place the same amount of thought and art design into the booth as you do your work.


The salient points of the booth shots are to get in close, crop out the ceiling as much as possible, show all the walls as best as possible (no corner shots), light it well, no open back walls showing the landscape behind, keep it clean and neat, and minimal.


Much of what has been said about the jury shots themselves is what we've been hearing around here. Gradient backgrounds, don't use a white background, and keep all the jury shots in the same lighting style and make sure they match. Don't get too fancy wit the Photo Shop lighting effects to the point where the lighting becomes the focus of the shot.


I'll add more later on, but this gets the gist of what went on. Again my hat is off to the organizers and jurors for a job well done.

Views: 3082

Comment by Connie Mettler on February 27, 2012 at 4:51pm

That was a great review, Robert, with lots of pertinent detail. You must have been working as hard as the jurors taking notes. Everything you said above has been said over and over again here and in other forums. Nonetheless, seeing it is different from reading it or hearing it. Lots of good tips here. My favorite quote, "stage the booth" -- just like you are staging a house for resale. No one is going to live in it like that, but it sure looks good and gives the impression of what it can be for you. Thank you.

Comment by Robert Wallis on February 27, 2012 at 4:58pm

I think the two things to take away were the consistency of the juried work and the need to put design values into the booth image.

Comment by Jan Raven on February 27, 2012 at 5:44pm

Thank you for writing such a thorough review! Larry Sanders staged and photographed my booth shot, so it conforms well with the desired "look." I have three large posters of my current jury photos on the back wall, and when a show only asks for three jury photos, I use a fourth photo that is part of the "body of work" but not pictured on the back wall of the booth shot, so that I effectively am showing the jury four photos of my work. 

Comment by Larry Berman on February 27, 2012 at 5:54pm

Just out of curiosity, why aren't you using the photos on the back wall to show different pieces in a similar style, or have only one on the back wall a current jury image so it ties together. That leaves you being able to show the jurors two additional pieces.

BTW, great review Robert.

Larry Berman

Comment by Janet Miller on February 27, 2012 at 6:30pm

Robert- You certainly covered almost all the important points. (I knew if I waited someone would write the long review!) A few others;  Never crop your art work. That seem to bother all the judges. Don't have work extending above the top of the panel it's hanging on. Take many different booth shots as different shows have different rules. One glass artist showed a small night light. The judges couldn't understand why that person would send that image as one of their 4. I knew because SOME shows insist on seeing "the full range " of work to be sold. BUT if you are jurying for a show the caliber of St L. don't waste 20% of your images by showing the low end work. Plus I will repeat - Put the really good, big work on the back wall where the judges will see it in the booth slide. 

I left at four which was 1/2 way through the jurying and I think that of the 100 artist we saw there were about 5 booth shots the judges really liked! One great one was shot at night so the artist could completely control the lighting. Great idea! I have been dreaming new booth shots since returning.

Thank-you Cindy Lerick for doing this for us. And the judges! I have never had the chance to sit in on an open jury, but I think this was even better as we got to ask questions and receive comments from the jurors.

Comment by Robert Wallis on February 27, 2012 at 10:22pm

I did get complimented on my booth shot from the judges. It was shot, posted here in the forums, and suggestions were incorporated into the reshoots until it was as good as it could get, all things considered. My work wasn't strong as it could be, but was consistent. I've got to figure out how to step it up to a higher level, but the work is understated and quiet so it's not going to get a visceral reaction.

 I just got a rejection from East Lansing today so all this is timely. I did get into the Tupelo Sweetgum Festival if cashing my check is an indication.

Yep, I remember the night light and though why in the devil did they submit that one? I also recall their booth shot had a lot of small stuff in it and didn't have the other more impressive work visible in the booth. That was a red flag.

The other point I didn't bring up was the crowded spaces that look hazardous to walk into. The clay artist judge quipped that she and most women don't want something touching their butt while shopping ;-) For myself, I usually have two Propanels running down the middle of the booth which gains me 13 more fet of display space. It's a little crowded but still maneuverable in without getting too friendly with someone you're trying to walk around. I don't show that in the booth shot, and for one thing it's virtually impossible to show it while being able to see the other two outside walls.

Comment by Nels Johnson on February 27, 2012 at 11:24pm

Cheez-Louie Robert, reexamine what you are sending--if you cant get into East Lansing, you are gonna have a tough time getting into better shows.  EL is a second tier show at best.  It is no biggie, believe me..  I do appreciate you taking the time to report your insights, it has been very instructionable.  Aloha, Nels.

Comment by Nels Johnson on February 27, 2012 at 11:29pm

Just checked your home page on this site.  Two images.  Coe on.  You can do better than that.  I have over 65 images posted.  Show us something.  I do not mean this in a dis-ful way, I just want to spur you onto the next better level--I want everybody to succeed at their art-truely, I mean that.  Show me some stuff Robert.

Comment by Robert Wallis on February 27, 2012 at 11:32pm

I'll get some stuff on there later this evening or tomorrow. I had submitted work that sells, and that was probably the mistake.

Comment by bridget donahue on February 28, 2012 at 11:03am

Thank you for the great information, and the time it took to write it. I really appreciate it! A booth shot is my nemesis. As a potter one question, I have a consistent style in form with different glazes, should your 3-4 shots be of all one glaze assuming they will see the other glazes in the booth shot?  Or is that too consistent?


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