3 Jun 2010

My First Art Fair Checklist

Posted by Moshe Mikanovsky

I am doing my first art fair in a few days. Yes, I have done a lot of online marketing efforts in the past, but I felt that it was comfortable enough to hide behind a computer in the virtual world, but now it was time to get out of my comfort zone, and expose my art, and myself, to the real world. So, in the past six months I tried to exhibit in as many art shows as I could; some I got in and some not. And for this summer and the season of outdoor art fairs, I was accepted to one of the shows.

But now that I am actually in, it dawned on me that I know close to nothing about the preparations for such an undertaking. I have walked many shows and saw what other artists are doing, but from looking-at to actually doing it, there is a big difference.

So the first place I looked for information was, of course, the Internet. My searches, surprisingly enough, didn’t bring me the amount of information and blog posts that I was expecting. I am not sure why, as there are many artists who participate in hundreds of such event on a yearly basis. I did find couple of good posts, and some suggestions, mainly on art forums. I also went to an orientation meeting at the Artists’ Network, the organization that runs the show, and had a chance to learn and get many excellent tips.

Here is a quick summary of what I learned. I  hope it will help other artists who are planning to do it for the first time. I am also looking to hear from the more savvy art-fair artists about their experiences. Given the fact that I am writing it before the show, I am probably missing a few things. I will write another post after the show, and see how it will differ from this one…


  • After debating how much work I should have, I opted to bring between 20-30 paintings, in different sizes. This way I hope to have enough to hang on the walls of my tent (see below), with some extra if (and when) I sell some of the work. My paintings are not very large, so I have enough room for 5-10 on each wall. Different sizes will have different price tags, catering to varied buyers’ budgets.
  • One of the best pieces of advice I gotten is to keep all the art work similar. This way, the visitors will “understand” me as an artist and things will make sense to them. This made the decision on which paintings to bring easier – I picked the style I am mostly known for, and for which I am recognized, and everything that doesn’t fit this style, I am leaving behind. As much as I want to sell some of my other work, I think it will hurt my display rather than help it.
  • In the same logic, I framed all my artwork in the same frame profile and color. No mix and match, just one simple black frame. Looks very sleek!
  • I wanted to sell also Giclee prints, but after checking with the show organizers, I realized I can only show original paintings. I was a bit disappointed about that, but I have a plan! I will market my prints, especially those that the original artwork is on display. More details below in the Marketing section… 


  • The tent had to be white and 10’ x 10’. The color is very important. I have seen in the past, darker tents and the experience in them is terrible. First, they feel like a cave and on hot days it’s even worse. Moreover, the color of the tent changes the color of the art! And no one wants that, right?
  • Being on a tight budget, I opted to borrow a tent from an artist friend rather than buying or renting one. If I didn’t have budget restrictions, I would probably rent one, just because it’s my first show. So I prefer to see first if I like it or not, and after that, if I decide to go to many others, to invest in a good tent.
  • It was important for me to practice putting up the tent. I have about couple of hours to set everything up on the morning of the first day of the show, so I need to make sure I know what I am doing. So I asked my friend to show me how to put it together, and then I did it again at home, in my back yard.
  • The last thing is preparing for rain. I hope and pray for beautiful weather on the show’s weekend, but we have to be ready for every eventuality. All tents are NOT waterproof. Their fabric is usually resistant to water, but the seams can leak. To prepare them, I have to use a seam sealer (purchased at a local Canadian Tires in the camping department). Now, I am waiting for the last minute with this… Not sure if it’s smart or not, but my plan is to seal the seams (on my friend’s tent) once I know the weather forecast.

Display system

  • Here, I had the hardest time to find a way to present my artwork nicely and still on a low budget. In the end, I found on one of the forums a suggestion to use concrete enforcement wire mesh. These are sold at the hardware store (like Home Depot). I got 3 of them, each is 4’x8’. I will hang each on a wall frame using white twine. At first I thought to spray paint them white, so they will blend more with the white tent, but eventually I decided to just keep them in their original dark-gray metal color. The only thing I did was to cut their extra wire on all ends, about 2 inches on each wire. These just stick out and I’m afraid they will poke someone’s eye…
  • To hang the paintings on the mesh wire, I will use S hooks. When I built the tent in my backyard, I mounted one of the meshes, and tried everything, and it works!


  • There are a few things I printed for the show: Business cards (with my logo image, all contact info and websites), postcards, and a sign for the tent with my logo.
  • I prepared few clear acrylic free standing frames, bought at the dollar store, with some images of my prints, licensed products, commissioned work, etc.
  • I made a portfolio with my CV, artist’s statement, printed articles from local press, list of printed work, images of all my licensed artwork and prints, and all other art related services I offer. I also included a blog post that details my inspiration for the style of artwork I am into. This is a full package that anyone interested can browse, and get more details about me. I could have done it also with a laptop and have my website and blog on, but no access to power supply, and a short battery time on my laptop, will make that a problem.
  • I have another marketing idea I am playing with, but I am keeping it a surprise for now. If I end up using it, I will tell you all about it! 
  • I also got a nice guest book, can’t forget that! Good advice is to put titles on each page, directing people for the information I want them to fill – their name, email address, and comments.

Other supplies

Wow, there is so much under “other supplies”… My packing list is quite long. A few of the things I have in it are:

  • Comfort – hat, sun glasses, sun block, hands sanitizer, headache medicine (hopefully I won’t need that!), water, snacks, change of clothes, high chair (don’t use a low one, better to be high to keep eye contact with potential buyers), Kleenex.
  • Paperwork – sales permit, receipts pad, credit card processing paperwork (luckily, as a member of the Artists’ Network, I can use their service for Credit Card processing), some cash money, calculator, price list and price tags, pens, notebook.
  • And some more: table and table cloth, trolley, bubble wrap to wrap sold paintings, duct tape, masking tape, scotch tape, scissors, cutting knife, safety pins, garbage bags, Windex and paper towels.

Did I miss anything? Probably. Quite a lot of things to arrange!

So wish me luck! And share with me your tips from your experience. And if you are in Toronto, I would love to see you at the Riverdale Art Walk.



This article was published on FineArtView blog on June 3, 2010

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13 Responses to “My First Art Fair Checklist”

  1. Very informative posting, Moshe. I am not in the RAW this year, but maybe next year. Thanks for all the info, I am going to print and save this for future reference. See you at the RAW,


    Julie Clark

  2. [...] Previous Post [...]

  3. [...] I was preparing for my recent art fair, I spent quite a lot of money on traditional framing to all my watercolors. At one point, I was a [...]

  4. You mentioned power and this was the greatest addition to my art display as I was showing running fountains at the time and plan to have a laptop set up at my next show as well. My advice is to buy a marine battery and a power adapter that you can plug in not only your laptop but lighting is essential on gloomy days which were the slowest times so brighten up your booth and you will be guaranteed more of an audience.
    Also a couple of umbrellas in case of rain for customers to use if it is raining and there is standing room only outside your tent. Bug repellent of some sort or spray the grass with a weak solution ofdish soap and water to repel the bugs.
    Food & water especially if you eat healthy, concession stands don’t usually have healthy food.
    A huge smile and a positive attitude are your most important tool!
    Hope that helps!


    Energy Ink Arts

  5. Great suggestions! thanks :-)


    Moshe Mikanovsky

  6. Nice post, Moshe, thanks.

    It looks like the Riverdale show is an art festival, not a fair. Only galleries have booths at art fairs, for exhibiting their artists’ work. Artists have booths at festivals. Knowing this distinction may help your future Web searches. :-)

    A book I can recommend is “Art Festival Guide,” by Maria Arango. It has tons of useful information from an insider. You can read excerpts of it and find out where to buy it at:


    Have a great show!


    John Vias

  7. Thank you John for the comment and clarification. I never realized till now the difference between Art Fair and Art Festival, and it seems that this distinguish is not known very well between artists because I didn’t get any comment about it before. That proves there is still a lot to learn for all of us.

    Thanks again


    Moshe Mikanovsky

  8. Wow! what a great blog. I love all the advice. I will let my mom know! what I need for my next artfair. Thanks



  9. [...] writing “My First Art Fair Checklist”, I received many comments with some great tips, encouragements and well wishes. And it was well [...]

  10. Good advice. You are correct in stating that free good internet resources about starting out in shows is scarce. I do not own a tent/etc. and want to minimize my investment. Do you know what the cost to rent a tent is? Would like to hear more about your show experience/preparation.

    Much success to you.



  11. Thank you DP

    I am not sure how much a tent rental would be. I am planning to search this further. Last year in the show I participated in, they had a tent rental provider that we could use. I don’t remember the prices off hand. Stay tuned, I’ll try to find this info.

    I am looking forward for the summer for the new season of art selling and learning some more….



    Moshe Mikanovsky

  12. I have a barely used 10 x 10 trimline tent for sale. Its clean as a whistle. Contact me if interested


    ronna rahamim

  13. [...] of how to display my prints at Art Walk. I had the idea to use cement reinforcement mesh from this blog and then I knocked off the excess rust on them and painted them with rust blocker paint in flat [...]


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