Show Report: Feb. 2020 AAOTH OKC

A couple weekends ago I had a booth at An Affair of the Heart (AAOTH) in Oklahoma City. This was my second time to do AAOTH. The first time was in Tulsa this past July. I knew going into it that it wasn’t the ideal show for me, but there wasn’t much to choose from in regards to fine art shows this time of year unless I wanted to drive a long ways. It was a nice show due to the amount of people that attended, it was a big plus that it was a local show, and a big plus that it was an indoor show (didn’t have to take my weights or tent exterior). 

It was interesting doing this show after having done a few fine art shows. The Tulsa AAOTH was my very first show so I didn’t have anything to compare it to. The amount of people that attend AAOTH shows far exceeds any of the art shows I have done. However, I would say the amount of people who actually came into my booth at the OKC AAOTH was on par, or even less, than some of the art shows I have done. So while the crowd was bigger, most of the people passed by my booth, whereas at the art shows I did last year a much larger percentage of attendees seemed to actually come into my booth. 

I didn’t have very high expectations going into the show, but it actually ended up being a really good show for a couple reasons. It was my best show so far in regards to sales, which really isn’t saying much at this point, but that was encouraging. More than that, though, was the exposure. It was nice to get my art out into the local market, and my booth ended up getting featured in a video on the AAOTH Facebook page during the show (thank you AAOTH!). Any additional exposure I can get at this point is a big win. 

So all in all, it was a positive weekend, and I’m glad to be back doing shows after having a couple months off. 

Reflections On Diving Into Art Shows

“Artists, by nature, are gamblers. Gambling is a dangerous habit. But whenever you make art, you’re always gambling. You’re rolling the dice on the slim odds that your investment of time, energy, and resources now might pay off later in a big way – that somebody might buy your work, and that you might become successful.”

Elizabeth Gilbert’s friend as quoted in Big Magic (pg. 105)

Leading up to this year, I had wanted to start selling my photography at art shows for quite some time. I had always admired artists who did this. Throughout 2018, I got lots of positive comments/compliments on my photography, and late in the year I finally decided I was at a point in life where it was a good time to give it a shot. I wasn’t sure if I would ever be able to make a living off it, but with all the compliments I had received, I figured I would be able to make some sales at shows. Now that I have four shows under my belt, and have a little bit of a break until my next one, I figured I would put together a post with some thoughts/lessons based on my brief experience so far.

One of the lessons I learned pretty quickly was that a lot of work had to be done before I could even start applying to art shows. Most of the shows (if not all of the shows) I was interested in required a picture of my booth layout. This meant I almost had to get to the point of being able to do a show before I could even apply to a show. So even though I started making prints in mid/late March, I didn’t start applying to shows until early May.  

This led to the second lesson: show applications are usually due a few months before the actual show. This meant that the shows I was applying to in the May/June timeframe were in September/October/November. So between all the work before even applying and then the time between the application and the show, it took several months from “starting” until my first show. Granted, there may be shows you can get into quickly. I was able to get into a show in July last minute, although it wasn’t the ideal show. So be ready to put in a lot of time, effort, and money before you can even start applying to most juried shows, and then some more time until the shows actually happen. 

Once you start doing shows, be prepared for lots of learning and inefficiency the first few shows. Kudos to you if you can figure everything out right off the bat. But for me, between packing my truck, packaging items, setting up, the best tent layout, tearing down, etc., there was lots of trial and error in how to do things best. It took until my 4th show before I felt like I had a good handle on how best to set up, my tent layout, how to tear down, and pack the truck. And that was with some work outside of shows as well. 

Last big lesson: compliments don’t equal sales, and rejection is a given. If I got $1 for every person who said my work was beautiful, or something along those lines, I wouldn’t have to sell any of my art. And yet I have sold very little art my first four shows. It could be that people are just trying to be nice. But I think it’s more along the lines that it’s just hard to sell art. There are obviously lots of things that go into this, but don’t think that because people are complimenting your art you will get into every show you apply to and that it will be easy to sell it.

And yet, despite the slow start and difficulties, and points of wondering why I’m doing this, I’m not giving up yet. There are some great things about doing the shows. I have really enjoyed getting to meet and chat with the people who come through my booth, as well as other artists at the shows. Being fairly shy and an introvert, I don’t have much of a social life, and the shows are one of my ways to be social. It has been fun visiting with others who have connections to the mountains, and seeing the reactions to and explaining to people the why behind my fire hydrant photos. Despite not doing well with sales up to this point, there has been lots of good learning so far, so that has been a positive I could take away from the shows. And finally, I’m of the opinion that it can’t hurt to get my art out in front of more people. 

Also, one other thing I want to point out. If you do decide to start selling your art at shows, don’t think you have to give up everything else and be fully devoted to making art and selling it. I have not experienced this myself, but some people apparently frown upon not being “fully devoted” to your art. However, if you were to give up everything else, not have any source of other income, and then not do well at shows, it could become very stressful in a hurry. I have a full time job, and I consider fine art photographer to be my side gig. It takes so much stress out of it knowing I have another source of income, and I don’t have to count on sales at art shows. Does that mean I’m not going to try as hard? I don’t think so. I would still like to do it full time someday. But until I get to that point, I have a lot less stress, which for me makes it much more enjoyable. As Elizabeth Gilbert put it:

I held on to those other sources of income for so long because I never wanted to burden my writing with the responsibility of paying for my life. I knew better than to ask this of my writing, because over the years, I have watched so many other people murder their creativity by demanding that their art pay the bills. I’ve seen artists drive themselves broke and crazy because of this insistence that they are not legitimate creators unless they can exclusively live off their creativity. And when their creativity fails them (meaning: doesn’t pay the rent), they descend into resentment, anxiety, or even bankruptcy. Worst of all, they often quit creating at all.

(Big Magic, pgs. 152-153)

So, in conclusion, being an artist selling work at art shows isn’t as glorious as most people probably think. Sure, there are some people who do well with it, but based on my experience and talking with other artists, I think that’s the minority. There is a lot of work and time that goes into the shows, and often not the payoff that the artists would like. If you’re thinking about giving art shows a try, be prepared for a challenge, but there is also a deep satisfaction in pursuing something you’re passionate about. 

No way was I going to give up on my work simply because it wasn’t “working”. That wasn’t the point of it. The rewards could not come from the external results – I knew that. The rewards had to come from the joy of puzzling out the work itself, and from the private awareness I held that I had chosen a devotional path and I was being true to it. If someday I got lucky enough to be paid for my work, that would be great, but in the meantime, money could always come from other places. There are so many ways in this world to make a good enough living, and I tried lots of them, and I always got by well enough. I was happy. I was a total nobody, and I was happy.

(Big Magic, pg. 113)

Show Report: Art in the Park 2019

This past weekend I traveled all the way down to Friendswood, TX (southeast side of Houston) to participate in the Friendswood Art in the Park. Back when I started applying for shows, I made it a goal to try and participate in a show each month. When I was looking at shows for November, I was having trouble finding shows within a few hours drive of OKC, and happened to stumble across this show with a Google search. I would have preferred a closer show, but since I couldn’t find anything else, I decided to apply and give it a shot if I got in (and as you can now tell, I got in.)

Friday

I left Friday morning at 6:00 A.M. to try and get to Friendswood with enough time to set up before it got dark. I have heard from many, many people about the horrible traffic in Houston, so between that and having to drive through Dallas/Ft. Worth, I wasn’t really looking forward to the drive. It actually didn’t end up being too bad on the way down. I made it in a little over 7 hours. There were a few slow spots in DFW and Houston, but nothing too bad.

After figuring out where to park, I ate a quick lunch and then got started setting up. There were 3 side-by-sides available for the artists to use to unload their stuff. That was definitely a good perk. However, I just used my dolly since it wasn’t far from my truck to where my spot was. The weather was beautiful for set up, and set up went really smooth. Since they had to move the booth locations the night before the show (due to recent rain and muddy conditions) and I didn’t see any place to plug in, I figured we wouldn’t have electricity and didn’t put up my lights (more on this later). I was completely set up by around 5, with some time to spare before it got dark. I think I finally have a pretty good system down for setting up, which helps a lot.

After getting set up I headed to my hotel and got checked in, and then got dinner at a Wendy’s. The rest of the evening was spent getting stuff ready for the show and watching some TV.

Saturday

Fire hydrant picture taken in Kemah on Saturday morning prior to the show starting.

The show didn’t start until 10:00 on Saturday, so I left the motel around 7:45 to try and get some fire hydrant pictures before the show started. I almost didn’t bring my camera for the trip, but by the end of the trip I was really glad I put it in. I got a few pictures, and then headed to the show. Right before the show started I was given my booth sign. I didn’t have any rope with me to put it up, so I had to run back to my truck and dig my rope out to put it up. That was a little bit annoying. It would have been nice to get that the day before when I was setting up.

It got busy pretty quickly after 10:00, and it stayed busy until around 3:00, at which point traffic slowly started tailing off. Around 4:00 I started noticing a few booths that had lights set up, and shortly thereafter noticed a couple extension cords running behind my tent. I went behind my tent and looked, and at some point after I finished setting up a generator had been placed back there with some plug ins. By 5:00 I was wishing I had put my lights up, since it started to get pretty dark inside my tent. I had meant to ask about power when I arrived, but in my hurry to start getting set up, I forgot to ask them, and my assumptions were incorrect. Lesson learned. Haha. The show ended at 6, but I shut down around 5:45 since it was really too dark to see anything in the tent.

Lasagna dinner at Frenchie’s on Saturday evening after the show.

Other than the lack of light towards the end of the show, it was a good first day. It was the best day of sales I have had so far (which isn’t saying much), the weather was beautiful, and I had pretty good traffic through the booth most of the day. After the sun went down, it cooled off quick though. By the time I left, I was pretty cold, even with my fleece jacket on. After I left I stopped by Frenchie’s Italian Restaurant for dinner. I got their lasagna. I highly recommend stopping by there for dinner if you’re in the area. It was delicious. I really wanted to try one of their desserts, but I was too full for that. After dinner it was back to the hotel for the evening.

Sunday

Picture taken Sunday morning prior to the show starting.

On Sunday the show started at 11, so once again I left the motel early and took some time to get some more pictures. I got to the show about 40 minutes early to give myself some time to get set up and then walk around and see some other booths. It was nice to have some time for that. Since I’m by myself I’m not really able to walk around during the shows.

The traffic was definitely slower on Sunday. It wasn’t dead by any means, but not as busy as Saturday. The weather was absolutely beautiful once again. Thankfully I made some sales on Saturday, because I didn’t make any sales on Sunday. The show ended at 5:00. I finished getting everything packed up at 7:00. I was a little bit worried about packing up in the dark, but thankfully there was enough ambient light that it wasn’t a big problem. As with the setup, I think I have a pretty good system in place now for the tear down as well.

After that it was back to the hotel to get stuff ready to leave early the next morning.

Final Remarks

My main complaint with this show was that the communication could have been much better. The only communication I really received between my confirmation in July and the show was my booth location a week before the show. The two shows I did prior to this sent out at least one email prior to the show with details such as parking, rules/regulations, electricity, hospitality, sales tax, etc. Once the artist application was removed from the website, I couldn’t figure out a way to get any of this info for the show. When I got to the show, there was no check in booth. I just had to ask around and find the person I needed to talk to about finding my spot and setting up. And as I mentioned before, I didn’t get my booth sign until the start of the show. So in the “leading up to the show” phase, I have definitely experienced better.

As far as the show itself, it actually exceeded my expectations. With the lack of communication leading up the show, and the show not being on Zapplication like a lot of other shows, I was kind of skeptical going into the show. There was a nice mix of mediums, along with performing arts and food trucks. There was pretty much always at least some traffic through the show, and I had a lot of people stop in my booth to take a look and chat. As I mentioned earlier, Friday was my best sales day so far, which still wasn’t great, but still a positive. I was actually really surprised at how much interest there was in my fire hydrant pictures. I haven’t expected to sell a whole lot of those, but the sales and interest so far in those (particularly at this show) has been encouraging. All the people I encountered were great. A couple of the previous shows I did were better about bringing around snacks/drinks to the artists, and having booth sitters stop by, but that’s not a huge deal to me. Just something I figured I would point out. I didn’t visit with other artists as much at this show as I had at my previous two shows, but I still met and chatted with a few, which was nice.

So all in all, a pretty good weekend. It was fun to visit a place I have never been to, to get some pictures while I was there, get my art out in front of some more people, and meet some more artists. I’ll definitely consider this show for next year. I have a couple months until my next show, so hopefully I don’t forget the system I have put together for packing, setting up, and tearing down 🙂

If you want to see the pictures I got over the weekend, go check them out on my website.

Trip Report: 10/19/19 Fire Hydrants

This past Saturday I decided to take a day trip to photograph some fire hydrants. It had been a long time since my last trip, and I figured I better get a trip in while the weather was still nice and I had a quiet weekend. I decided to go up to northwestern Oklahoma. The route I took is in the picture below.

Friday night and Saturday morning I had scouted out some possible pictures along this route using Google maps and street view. I had done that for trips before, but not to the extent that I did it for this trip. By the time I left, I had a pretty good list of pictures to try and get.

I believe I left around 9:00 Saturday morning. I wanted to let the sun get up a little ways before I headed out. My first stop was Calumet. I quickly discovered that Google street view isn’t necessarily a reliable source for what things currently look like. One of the buildings I wanted to get in the background of a picture had been torn down and a new building was in its place. I got a couple pictures I was wanting to get, along with one I hadn’t planned for.

That was the general trend of the day. There were a couple other instances where either the fire hydrant I wanted, or the building in the background, were no longer there, which was always disappointing. One of the most disappointing ones was the fire hydrant in the Google street view image below from Okeene, OK. I was really wanting to get a picture of that hydrant with the church in the background, but the fire hydrant is no longer there. I was pretty bummed out about that.

Another really disappointing one was the fire hydrant in the street view image below from Clinton, OK. I really wanted to get the old fire station in the background of this fire hydrant. But when I showed up, there was a stop sign behind the fire hydrant that ruined the picture. I thought maybe I just missed the stop sign when I was looking at street view, but in the street view, the intersection has a stoplight, not a stop sign. So I got a good lesson to not necessarily get my hopes up based on Google street view. Haha.

But even though there were a few that didn’t work out, there were a few that were surprises. In Calumet I was able to get a fire hydrant with several drilling rigs in the background, which is the first panoramic fire hydrant image I have done, and is quite fitting for the area. I also got the image below as I was leaving Okeene. I kept driving about a 1/4 mile after seeing this before I convinced myself to turn around and get the picture. I’m glad I turned around and got it.

I grabbed some food at Jiggs Smokehouse in Clinton before hitting the road back to OKC. Jiggs is in a really random spot. I would have never known it was there if not for Google maps. It was on the pricey side. Over $12 for the food below and a small (think kid size) drink. The food was great though. So for taste, I recommend, but if you’re on a budget, probably not the best place.

So there you have it. Disappointments, surprises, and some good food. Generally how each trip goes. Haha. All my pictures have been posted on my website. You can check them out here. Leave a comment about which one is your favorite!

Show Report: 2019 Joplin Arts Fest

IMG_4169

This past Friday and Saturday I participated in the Joplin Arts Fest in Joplin, MO. Although I participated in “An Affair of the Heart” back in July, the Joplin Arts Fest was my first “fine art show” to participate in, so I was excited to see how it went. 

Friday

I left OKC around 6:30 A.M. Friday morning. I had to stop at my parents’ place on the way to Joplin to grab a couple things. I was planning on hanging out there for an hour or so, but rain was on the way so I grabbed what I needed and headed up to Joplin hoping to get my tent set up before the rain arrived. I got to Mercy Park around 10:15. I got checked in, unloaded my tent, and then parked my truck outside the festival area while I got my tent set up. I didn’t want to unload everything and leave my art sitting out in case it started to rain before I had the tent set up. 

It took way longer than I had expected to get the tent set up. I could definitely tell it had been a while since I had set up the exterior of the tent. Before I raised the top up to put the legs on, I strapped the sides of the top cover down to keep it on, and figured I would do the rest of the straps after it was up. After I raised the front up, the wind caught it and blew the front of the top cover back up over the top. Then later something didn’t seem quite right after I put the first couple walls up, so I took them back down and rearranged how I put the walls up. Just a couple examples of the rust that needed shaken off.

I eventually got the tent put up, and pulled my truck up again to unload the rest of the stuff. Just as I was starting to get stuff unloaded a light rain started to fall. It didn’t rain a whole lot, and thankfully I was able to get everything unloaded into the tent without anything getting wet. I left to grab lunch when I got to a good stopping point, and then came back and worked on getting the tent put together some more. It was fairly breezy during the afternoon, and after getting some stuff set up, I decided to change the layout due to the way the wind was blowing. That was a pretty big pain, and another thing that added time to getting everything ready to go. Thankfully I was able to get everything set up prior to the show starting. I cut it way closer than I thought I would, so it’s a good thing I didn’t hang out at my parents’ place for long.

The Artist/Patrons reception was from 5-6, and then the show was open to the public from 6-10. The weather was great for the show that evening. It was quite busy from 6-8, and then slowed down the rest of the evening. I spent some time while it was slow visiting with Randall Kronblad and his wife, who were in the tent next to me. At 10 I closed up the tent and headed back to the hotel. I thought having the show after dark was pretty neat. The lighting adds another creative element to the tent setup for each artist. I don’t expect there to be many shows where the show happens after dark.

Saturday

The next morning the show started at 9. It started out slow, but the crowd picked up later in the morning. It was fairly breezy in the morning. Not near as bad as Vinita was for me earlier this year, but still breezy enough to shake the tent around a little bit. Some rain came through around noon, but thankfully the wind died down while it was raining. The worst part of the storm went to our north. After the rain cleared out it was pretty nice right up until the end of the show. Right at the end a few more showers came through. Nothing significant, but enough to get the tent wet right before having to pack it up. I had a fairly steady flow of people through my booth most of the day. It wasn’t crowded by any means, but I at least had people coming through. I was able to visit with Randall and his wife quite a bit throughout the day as well.

At 4 I started getting everything packed up. I had my brother, his fiancé, and my mom there to help out where they could, which was nice. The weather ended up bring great for the tear down, which I was quite thankful for. I think it was about 6:30 by the time  we had everything packed up. We went and got some ice cream from Braums before hitting the road.

Final Thoughts

In regards to sales, it was very disappointing. I didn’t make a single sale the entire show. I think some other artists did fairly well, but I wasn’t one of them. I had lots and lots of oohs and aahs and compliments, but no sales. That was a big bummer. But with that being said, it was a good experience. It was a good show for my first show. The crowd was much better than “An Affair of the Heart”. I had much more traffic through my booth, and had much more conversation with visitors. It was also great to get to visit with Randall and his wife quite a bit. Hopefully I can run into them on occasion in the future. I was able to briefly meet an artist that will be at my next show, so I’ll have to try and find him there. There were volunteers roaming around offering drinks and breaks if needed, which was nice. The musical performers were great. I didn’t find them distracting or overwhelming, but a great compliment to the show. And it was nice to be able to try a different layout and some tweaks I had made since my last outdoor show. Each show brings learnings and things to try at the next show.

This show made 3 out of 3 outdoor shows that I have been rained on. I’m really hoping I can break that streak soon. Thankfully there weren’t thunderstorms like the previous two, and overall the weather was much better than I was expecting.

For the one night I stayed in Joplin, I stayed at the Best Western. The room definitely wasn’t anything fancy. Not bad by any means, but nothing fancy. The service was great though. I got a snack bag when I checked in. The front desk clerk called shortly after I got to my room to check if the room was ok. Saturday morning there was an employee offering to make waffles for anybody who wanted one. So I wanted to give this place some kudos for the service.

Finally, I want to give a big thank you to Steve Doerr for the mentoring/feedback he provided during the application process. This was the first art show I applied to, and after submitting my application, Steve got back to me with some feedback to help me improve my application, and allowed me to resubmit my application. That was great feedback to receive as I was just starting to apply to shows, and I am very appreciative of it.

Thanks to everybody who stopped by my booth as well!

It’s Official!

Screen Shot 2019-03-06 at 8.06.58 PM

My business is officially registered in Oklahoma! I have thought about doing this for a long time, and the time has finally come. Really excited, but also kind of daunting thinking of everything I need to do over the next couple months. With all the changes coming I wanted to point out a couple ways you can stay up to date, provide an opportunity to help me out, and have some chances to win a gift card. So continue reading!

Blog

I haven’t posted on the blog in quite a while. I haven’t really had a whole lot going on lately other than doing a bunch of research/learning to get this business going, which is pretty boring. However, with getting the business going, there will likely be more to post going forward, and I plan on posting at least once a month to highlight what has been going on and what’s coming up. So if you want to stay in the loop, I suggest signing up to follow my blog. You can do this using the form that is located at the upper right of my blog. (The form is shown in the picture below for reference.)

Screen Shot 2019-03-06 at 8.25.43 PM

And just for signing up to follow my blog, I’ll enter you to win a $50 gift card of your choice.

Facebook

For more spur of the moment type posts, you can like my Facebook page. This could be pictures of working on my art, eating at a local joint while on a fire hydrant trip, or many other things. Obviously not as in depth posts as on my blog, but you can keep tabs on what I’m up to on a more frequent basis. As with my blog, if you like my Facebook page, I’ll enter you to win a $50 gift card of your choice.

Favorite Photos

Last, but definitely not least, I need your input. I have picked out a set of what I consider to be my best pictures. However, it doesn’t do me much good if I like them and nobody else does. This is where you come in. I have created a survey that you can take to let me know which pictures are your favorites. For the favorite picture questions, you will need to choose your 5 favorites. I’ll use this feedback for determining which pictures I need to focus on first for selling at art shows. Only 100 people can take the survey, and those who complete it will be entered to win a $100 gift card of their choice.


So there you have it. A few more notes regarding these gift card giveaways are listed below. I hope you choose to follow me during this new journey, and I would really appreciate the feedback on the photos. Even though it’s going to be a fast and furious few months, it should be fun and exciting.

  • You can enter into all three gift card giveaways, but you can only win one.
  • I will get in contact with the winners after they are chosen to discuss which gift card they would like.
  • I must be able to purchase the gift cards in Oklahoma City or online.
  • The deadline to enter is 5:00 P.M. CDT March 13.
  • The winners will be chosen using the “randbetween” function in Excel.
  • Multiple entries by the same person in the same drawing (for example, the same person taking the survey 10 times) will disqualify that person. The same person can enter all three different drawings, but not multiple times in the same drawing.