I participated in a show during the first weekend of February. I have waited a while to write about it so lessons could sink in. See, I do not regularly offer my paintings for sale. I know that I need a tremendous amount of improvement before I deserve regular, large sums for my work. I’m just so far away. I’m slow. I’m inconsistent. I’m too influenced by what other people are successful with. It’s safer to read about painting than to paint. It’s easier to look at other people’s awesome work and then get lost in my own thoughts about “can’t” and “odds.”
Well, I got some feedback, and here’s what I learned.
- I must have help from an experienced professional.
Having Frank Baggett, also from Humphreys County, Tennessee, have his booth directly across the aisle from me was invaluable. We had talked a couple of weeks before, but having him there with all of his experience with setting up such a show as this proved crucial. From displaying work to fixing lighting problems, from crowd information to an invitation to meet up afterward, he was a great guide through these waters. You should look up Frank Baggett. The second day he had to fill up his wall space again. He sold and sold.
2. My prices are good.
I am not a professional. I am not in galleries. I am not the worst representation of traditional, straight-forward oil painting. I am also not the best. My work ranged from $175 to $2000, from 6×6 to 72×36. I had a 36×36 for $1500, the same price as the 72×36. The $2000 piece is my most recent work, built in the way I like to build, and has quality. I put in a lot of time and consideration to each inch and into finding the perfect frame.
Experienced painters and collectors remarked on my prices. They actually affordable. That is the key to being collected. The editor of LensWork (my favorite publication, probably), Brooks Jensen, had an editorial about things that are collected. While some expensive things are sought by the few with money to afford them, most collected things are easily – well – collectable. Stamps, bottle caps, baseball cards, shoes, hats are all things that are widely available and affordable, which is exactly why they are collected. I cannot get $3000 for a 16×20. If I could I would. If more people can afford my paintings and digital work, perhaps more people will.
3. I’m not cut out for booth-type shows, but meeting people was great.
Most of the crowd just strolled on by my booth. They were there for other looks, for expressionistic color, for home decor, or for something of a certain size and orientation. But when people did stop (or even slow down and glance over) they looked. And looked. And looked. It seemed they looked – not “at” the works necessarily – but “into” them. Their comments ranged from “I like the softness of your work” and “This looks like grandpa’s place” to “This is the best thing I’ve seen at these shows” and “You’re not just a painter. You are an artist.” I’m a bit isolated at home in Humphreys county. Typically my family members are the only ones to see my work. Them and the few that happen to see something in an Instagram feed. So getting to meet and hear from many strangers that were all positive was nice. Nice.
4. Field work is good. Following vision is good.
I sold mostly location paintings (plein air paintings). Most location paintings are, for me, just for color or value study. Field work is done small and quickly. As it turns out, people liked them. I was encouraged when my “studio” work, slow and contemplative, was also well received. One couple of friends came up twice, measured my $2000 studio piece twice, and never returned. I guess their style person advised a different direction. That’s alright. I have a couple of friends that would like to live with it for a while anyway, so I’m gonna let them!
My digital work was very different and well received. the 72×36 piece sold. I was encouraged to do more of that type of work, and I’m going to.
5. I must push on.
There is no stopping. The old work must be forgotten and new work must be made. I have been given the encouragement to press forward in this endeavor. After deciding to try to learn to oil paint roughly 7 years ago, I’ve had many reasons and opportunities to quit. This past experience has me thinking that I won’t, that I shouldn’t. Will it all be for naught? Will I ever make supplemental income? Is this just a waste of time? Could I be using my time better? What I know is this: I have chosen a direction of travel. I am carrying on in that direction.