Art Fair Insiders

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

Well, I'm sure to open a can of worms here. Many of us have endured the advent of electronic image submission with the resulting frustration, anger and outright bewilderment that comes at no extra charge with the rejection email or letter. My wife and I have run the gamut of different photographers, background colors, piece selection and booth shots. The results have not varied much during this journey, lots of no's and precious few congrats you are accepted! I have recently come upon some new and I really hope insightful & informative information on the preparation, selection and presentation of our images. Let me preface this with our work is very dimensional abstract wall sculpture in wood with acrylic paints. Other mediums may have entirely different best case presentational requirements. A gradient background seems to be best if your work does not fill the entire shot. Orientation of the works should be consistent - vertical or horizontal, not mixed. Colors should also be similar, ex. Mixing primary color works with earth toned works in the same set is not a good idea. The works should present a unified style without being the same piece over and over ( not sure if I am phrasing this right). Finally the booth shot needs to show at least some of the works in place to give a visual scale to the size of the works. We had been in the habit of selecting images individually based on how good each one was. Sometimes mixing colors and themes in the same set. We had used a. White background only to realize that the jury was most likely sitting in a darkened room to suddenly be blinded by our bright white images, no wonder the scores were low. They spent precious seconds trying to re focus their eyes. The black background came next for us with our images really looking sharp but without any form of "grounding" to give them substance. All these thoughts may be old hat to some of you out there, but were an eye opener for us. I would think many fellow artists would also find this interesting. We have prepped a new set of images and are set to apply to a number of upcoming events. I will share results of those events we had not previously been accepted into. Hope this is of some help to our fellow artists.

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Comment by Alisno Antelman on April 7, 2012 at 4:06pm

I do know of a situation where a very talented artist was juried in to a show but the show director had a talk with him asking him to clean up his booth, gave some critic etc...which was really nice because not everyone is able to be their own best editor. BUT in  a show recently there was a flea market type stand and I'm pretty sure that the show promoter won't allow that person back...unfortunately the other artists around had to do a show with such "ugly" surroundings. It is up to show promoters to "police" quality and ensure a good looking show with truly hand made work. 

Comment by Robert Wallis on April 7, 2012 at 1:19pm

Brian, I  doubt if his booth slide looked like what you saw in person. Chances are much greater that his booth shot was prettied up and organized on his patio or driveway where everything could be controlled and made to look better. That's the way the game is played. Some promoters would stop in and strongly suggest that the booth be rearranged if it was tacky looking and pulling down the other artists around him/her. Then again, some wouldn't give a damn.

Comment by S Brian Berkun on April 7, 2012 at 12:47pm

RE: "many shows are getting over 1000 applicants, the competition is tough and I find it interesting that many people have commented that they've stopped applying to certain shows since that due to technology or competition?"

I remember when Cherry Creek just started out and I thought I'd pass on the initial year thinking they needed to get their act together first! In as few as 3 years later you couldn't get in. There were of course several factors with that show in particular, 1) Turn over rate was low, I saw the same ceramic artist there for 5 years in a row! 2) They seem to not jury in local talent much, i.e., Colorado, that could be for "economic development" model reasons, locals don't spend locally on hotels, food, etc. or it could be elitist, or it could be...etc. 3) They get over 2300 applications a year for a turn over of only about 20% per year. In the case of this show it has little to do with Zapp and more to do with the perceived prestige of the show, just like any high end show. As for the quality of the show lately? It doesn't impress me as being any better than many shows I've done recently. I'm speculating here, however, it might have something to do with the quality of slides and booth shots submitted as I saw one recent artist there whose booth looked more like a flea market than a "gallery" and I wondered, "how did this guy get in?"

Comment by Steve Cebula on January 5, 2012 at 3:40pm
I really don't know the answer to that one. I guess some don't apply for each reason. One thing I find really annoying is when shows extend the deadline on or after the deadline date. Is this just to collect more jury fees?
Comment by Alisno Antelman on January 5, 2012 at 2:45pm

While a white background could be jarring, it works with my work since it's black...and I am starting to get into more shows....All of the points are great but there are exceptions to every rule. I had been on a jury and was amazed at how important the booth shot it...the booth shot needs to reflect your current work, so it's important to keep them current. If you have photos in your booth they should be of the ilk of your jury shots. While on a jury I saw paintings of say...rustic trucks while the booth shot had a ballet dancer--get the idea? Also, please remember to spell check your statements...all things being equal, you don't want the jury to struggle to know what you are saying. That being said, many shows are getting over 1000 applicants, the competition is tough and I find it interesting that many people have commented that they've stopped applying to certain shows since that due to technology or competition?

Comment by Robert Wallis on December 22, 2011 at 6:44pm

If you're concerned about mixing verical with horizontal, try the obvious and go with a square format. The 1920x1920 format is just that, square. Nothing is said about cropping one way or the other except leave black edges. Skip the black borders, and use all the space available.

Comment by Robin Ragsdale on December 22, 2011 at 4:52pm

With national submissions possible via Zapp, local shows have become more difficult to get into. At least that's been my experience. It means our photos must be really spectacular to get the judges' attention!

Comment by Larry Berman on December 22, 2011 at 10:04am

I have done State College, probably about fifteen times over the last thirty years. Until they went with ZAPP, they used to project the jury slides of all the artists at the artist party the evening of the first day of the show. Artists used to come from all over to see the images, even if they hadn't gotten accepted.

Larry Berman

Comment by Steve Cebula on December 22, 2011 at 9:53am
Thanks for the insight, I have not yet been able to attend a jury session but plan on trying to do so in the future. We have done just that with the body of work for our submissions, have you ever applied to State College, PA? They request images of all the types of work you will have on display in your booth, I kind of struggle with that one as we have some other works with a music theme as well as some table top items we make using aluminum that sell very well but are not what I would say are the best works to jury in with. While they are all individual hand made by us items, they are relatively simple works.
Comment by Larry Berman on December 21, 2011 at 8:03pm

Have you ever attended an open jury to see how your work looks projected?

You are correct about white and if your work is photographed on black, the edges have to be clearly defined with the lighting or in post processing or the work won't pop off the background.

I don't believe in the all horizontal or all vertical theory, though if you're applying to a show that projects the images, the presentation will look better if balanced.

What I should add is that if you create a "body of work," you'll have no trouble choosing which images to photograph. What I mean by body of work is a unified style in a similar color pallet. Otherwise you'll run into the problem you've already described where you're mixing styles and colors to choose what you think are your best pieces. 

Larry Berman

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