Selling Art: Lessons Learned

I did it! I sold art. In public even.

I did it! I sold art. In public even.

So Labor Day weekend, I was selling art at a fair. For the first time ever. I am not generally a nervous person by nature, but I do spend a fair amount of time thinking about and sometimes over-thinking details. And naturally, I thought about all the things that could go wrong. But nothing went wrong. It was actually a perfect day. And even better, I learned a few things.

My obsessive list-making is good. I consulted with an artist friend and thought about all the different things that could happen during the day. The result was a very detailed list covering everything from tools and change to lunch and a spot to sit. Luckily for me, I didn’t have to use the clear plastic sheets to protect anything from rain. However, I did need tape to secure the back of a painting to the easel when a stiff breeze kicked up. In the end, it turned out I packed very well…a few extra items, but not too many. Careful planning and a list was well worth it.

Having attended several art fairs as a buyer was very helpful. It can be really hard to watch people walk by with nothing more than a fleeting glance at your work. Especially when it’s work you busted your butt on. But I have been on the other side of the booth and tried to remember how I feel when I am shopping. Sometimes I am just browsing and don’t want to block up the booth. Sometimes I am not interested. Sometimes I like the work, but don’t necessarily want to engage the artist. Hell, sometimes I am just trying to head to a make a pit stop at the bathroom or a food truck. I have been cornered in a booth more than once by an artist who wanted to explain in detail every single piece I even walk by. Maybe it’s just me, but when enthusiasm spills over too much, it feels like desperation and can be a major turnoff. So I just kept my cool, said hello and answered questions when they came up.

But some people do want to chat. I had quite a few conversations with people who wanted to know more about my process, the materials I use and my background. To tell the truth, I enjoyed that as much as the actual sales I made. It was wonderful to be able to share ideas with other people who have the same interests as me. I even made a few new connections and have a few lines out on possible commissions.

Kids are eternally the best customers. Genuine excitement about what they like is just wonderful. A few different times throughout the day, kids would cluster around part of the booth and chat with each other about what they like. Adults fear being so verbal┬ábecause of the risk of coming across as ready to buy, and justly so. But it’s so fun to hear a little crowd saying “I love these colors!” and “Oh, look at this one. It’s so cool!”.

My fears were all unfounded. I was worried people would come up to me and criticize my pricing or ask me if I really felt a belonged there. I knew those fears were somewhat ludicrous, but they still held on. There were a few small art fairs in college that were fundraisers for the Student Art Association. Without fail, there was always someone loudly talking about how overpriced and insane everything was. Which I can undoubtedly say, it was not. So I was bracing myself for some loudmouth to be rude. But it never happened. Everyone was wonderfully polite and I never saw so much as an eye roll.

I have a really, really awesome husband. Most of the people I know and friends I have appear to have good relationships. As far I can see, everyone is happy. But I know that appearances can be deceiving. Knowing that, I count myself as very, very lucky. My husband pushed me to buy the last booth at the fair. He bought me canvases and paint because he knew I needed them (I never said a word). He watched the kids for hours at a shot so I could paint uninterrupted. And together we loaded art, supplies and kids at 6 a.m. so he could drive for an hour and help set up. I know a lot of people aren’t lucky enough to have a supportive partner in life, and that is probably the most important part of all this. I’m kicking myself for not getting a photo of both of us in front of my table together.

Everything went well, I made a few sales and had a great day. I can’t wait until my next fair!

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