18 Jun 2010

My First Art Fair Checklist – Follow Up

Posted by Moshe Mikanovsky

Wow! The time I had preparing and doing my first art fair was just amazing!

After writing “My First Art Fair Checklist”, I received many comments with some great tips, encouragements and well wishes. And it was well received. I felt that many of you were there with me, if not in presence, then in mind and spirit. I also had several visitors to my booth who commented on the previous blog post. That was awesome!

Mikanovsky RAW art

Right hand side wall, with Zodiac, the Seen by an Angel series and the Holidays series

Ok, so now let’s get to business. Many of you were waiting patiently for my report about the show and how it went, so with no further due, here it is, my Lessons Learned:

Artwork

  • I believe that my artwork spoke for itself. I received many excellent comments, so that was good.
  • I didn’t sell anything though. Yes, I am not afraid to admit it, the same as I would not be afraid to tell you how successful I was selling million of dollars worth of paintings… I wish. Trying to understand though why I didn’t sell, I came up with a few ideas:
  • My niche art didn’t fit most of the buyers. My art is based on religious subject matter or inspiration from my upbringing in Israel. Although I have paintings of trees and of the Zodiac, the other paintings might be a turn off for some.
  • My unique style (which I did receive many comments on it) is still needs to be “understood”. Presenting for the first time, it takes time to build followers who not only like but also buy my art.
  • Work on paper. I was told that people buy more art on canvas rather than on paper. All my art is watercolor on paper. I did have 4 small paintings in watercolors mounted on panel and covered with resin, which many people really liked, so I am thinking of creating more of these in the future.
  • The show itself. Although the organization of the show was outstanding, I heard comments from other artists that were disappointed with their sales. One even told me that the show attracts many dog-walkers and baby-strollers and not the real art-buyers. But, I did see people buying art. So it might be only personal observation.
  • Not enough marketing on my part. As much as I tried to market the show to everyone I know, only a few of my existing contacts showed up. I relied too much on the exposure of the new crowds that had never seen me before.
  • Attraction of my tent. Although I really liked the end result of my tent, which you can see in some of the pictures I took, I did get some feedback from my mentor that my tent was “too clean” and not strong enough in a way of attracting people in. Maybe it’s true, I still have to think about it a bit more…
  • People like to “find hidden treasures”. I saw how everyone loved sifting through boxes of matted artwork. The art that they didn’t see on the walls but had to go through in the box was hidden from them and attracted them. I will definitely try to have some in the future.

Tent

My tent worked out really nice! We did have prediction for rain, so I sealed the seams of my roof several days beforehand. I was very anxious about it, because I didn’t know if I did it right or not, but in the end, it was great. We only had rain at night between the two days of the show and water did not leak through, so I was very happy. One of my neighbors though had water leaking into her tent and she realized that the tent was not water resistant.

Putting up the tent and taking it apart was not too bad, although in hot and humid weather it was quite steamy inside. I kind of envied the artists who came to a ready tent that they rented. On the other hand, I saved few hundred dollars by borrowing mine and putting it up myself.

Although the organizers asked everyone to bring a white tent, several artists opted for other colors. Either they had the tents already or borrowed them. I still think white is the way to go.

Very important – before going home, always make sure that not only your tent is secure with weights in all 4 corners, but also all your neighbors on ALL sides are secure. And if they are not, insist that they don’t leave before they make sure it’s secure. Otherwise you might come the next day and see that your tent is standing nicely but the tent next door just moved a bit and maybe even collapsed on yours… So do yourself a favor, don’t be shy, befriend your neighbors, and insist that they do their job to make everything safe.

Display system

Hmmm, well, what can I say? As this was my most challenging item before the show, it was also most challenging during the show… Let me tell you why. The wire mesh I used was easy to install and looked quite nice. The problems started with the overnight rains and humidity in the air. The iron mesh rusted very quickly. At the morning of the second day I had to wipe all three meshes and the rust stains on the wall of my friend’s tent will never come off (we tried CLR but it didn’t work… maybe washing it somehow?)

I still got poked and scratched by the pointed edges of the wires.

The S Hooks had a mind of their own and it was sometimes a challenge to straighten the artwork. Drove me a bit crazy all the time, especially when it was windy and each painting was a bit tilted.

I saw many other excellent ways to hang the art. My next article will be dedicated for the other great display systems. It’s a topic that needs its own post.

Marketing

I handed out many business cards and postcards, so I am happy about that. I am sure I will have some returning clients for my paintings and/or my Giclee and licensed products (mainly the Ketubahs).

Many people looked through my portfolio, so I was happy to have it.

My little “marketing surprise” was the shirts my wife and I wore during the show. That goes to one of the discussions in the last article’s comments, regarding what to wear (professionally vs. fitting the crowds). I opted to do it like in trade shows – wear a white shirt with my logo and name, and my website on the back and sleeve. I also had a 3rd shirt on the table, which I put out for a drawing for all the people who signed my guestbook for my newsletter.

And speaking about a logo – the image of the Leo from my Zodiac painting was everywhere – my business cards, my tent’s sign, my shirt, the cover of my portfolio, and online it’s on my blog , newsletter and my avatar as well.

Other supplies

In addition to the list I published last time, I got some new items: 4 weights to secure the tent, work or garden gloves, first aid kit with band-aids and Polysporin, business cards’ and fliers’ holder, pouch for money and other valuables, bungee cords, camera, paint-pen to fix scratches on frames, measuring tape…

I want to thank everyone for their support. As a way of appreciation, I put together a checklist form, “My Art Fair Packing List”. Feel free to download it and use it for all your future events. And be nice, play it forward, and share with others.

Cheers

Moshe

This article was published on FineArtView blog on June 17, 2010

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2 Responses to “My First Art Fair Checklist – Follow Up”

  1. I don’t think you have a problem with your subject matter. You had paintings that would appeal tp,many people. I don’t think your style is off putting either as the subject matter is easily recognisable but just done in an interesting way. T he main problem at the moment is the economy. Ask nearly any artist doing art fairs and they will tell you the same thing. Also it takes a few years to get known, accepted and build a following. You have a good niche market and with time, and your attention to web marketing, I’m sure you will do quite well.
    The best display panels, and almost required equipment at the good art shows in the US, are Propanels. They are expensive and not something you would buy unless you plan on doing a lot of shows. In my experience, you have to find shows where the people come to see good art and not just to picck up some cheap crafty thing.
    For really good info on everything to do with art shows, check out http://www.artfairinsiders.com

     

    Susanne

  2. Thanks so much for posting this! It is very good information and perfect timing as I have my first show coming up in less than two weeks. I am very nervous and anxious, but this helped calm my fears a little bit and it definitely will help me feel more prepared. Thanks again and good luck in your next shows.

     

    Mandy Adamick

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