"Business of Art - Art Fairs", ART BUSINESS

How to Prepare for Art Fairs

Art A Fair has been called Southern California's premier International summer art festival, which draws visitors from all over the world. Since I am a new artist at this fair, I have used yesterday to educate myself how to best prepare for this particular event.

Laguna Beach is a popular tourist destination, because of it's beautiful beach and charming sea side town. People come to bask in the sun and to stroll through the many stores and galleries that line it's streets. I have always wondered what type of art speaks to a tourist the most. Is it little mementos of the place they are visiting or is it that painting that catches their eyes, that they just must have no matter how large or at what price.

So a little homework had to be done. Fortunately the event organizers of Art A Fair had enough forethought to compile some key information for fair participants and I will share what my take of it is.

A Day at the Beach by Paul Gustave Fisher

Art Fair Pricing

It is very important to learn what price range sells the best at a given show. Based on the location and type of clientele a show attracts it allows the artist to make a careful selection of what type of paintings to show. I don't think it makes any sense to drag a $10, 000 dollar painting to a show where the average sales hover somewhere under $1,000 dollars. This does not mean that such a painting can't sell given the right client, but if you are planning to cover the event costs and your overhead, it's like playing Russian Roulette and chances are slim to hit the jackpot.

Sales Comparison by Medium

A close look at buying patterns of show visitors soon revealed that notecards sell like hot cakes. Followed closely by anything else that is very light in weight, which includes original water colors and prints.

Booth size

You have only a few seconds to catch the attention of a passing visitor and nothing is more important than to have an inviting space that beckons to be explored. In my opinion a larger space allows for a better flow of traffic and acts as a better backdrop for your work. People tend to come in waves and while your space might be empty at one point, it can fill to capacity in the next. Considering that you should be found in a bobbing sea of heads to answer questions and have room for everyone to see your lovely work, aim for the largest space you can afford!

Layout of Booth

a. Number of paintings to show

I don't know about you, but booths that are crammed with art work are too overwhelming for me. The images melt into one huge blur and I often find myself walking right by. This is why I believe in strategic planning. A large space with a key selection of paintings carefully arranged makes a statement. That does not mean that you should not show all your work, but carefully select how to make groupings that are easily distinguishable and give the eye a place to rest. For example four closely hung 9 x 12 inch paintings hung in a group can be next to one larger 36 x 48 inch painting, flanked by several tiny painting that would occupy an equal space. Taking a cue from decorators, try cutting out equally sized pieces of brown paper at home. Place it on the floor and start filling it with your work. Step back and look at the arrangement. It will be easier to judge what goes best together, and looks aesthetically pleasing. Once the paintings hang in this configuration, the room between the brown paper will be the wall space, acting as the resting place for the eye, before announcing the start of a new grouping.

b. Flow of traffic

I actually consider the direction of traffic as people are walking towards my space and select my strongest paintings to face in that direction. The strongest paintings have the function of attracting the attention of visitors and luring them in to see other equally stunning pieces.

c. Promotional Material

Business cards, postcards

Promotional material should be placed within the booth. People love anything that's free and pretty and that reminds them of something. Postcard size cards are my favorite, because they remind my visitors of my signature piece and gives them information where to find me and see more of my work. I actually know of people who were so sweet and framed them! That led me to make magnets of my work :)

Men are more likely to pick up a business card, so have them ready!

Poster Available

Off to the Fair by Frederick Morgan


1. Paint on location

People love to watch artists create and it usually stops them right in their tracks. Make sure you can see approaching visitors, so they do not have to tap you on the shoulder and scare the heck out of you. You want to talk about art and not that you might need medical attention. Remember you are actually painting not for your benefit to get that latest commission done, but as a performer looking for an audience. Children love artists, so love them back. They tend to drag their parents into your booth, because they like to see what is being done! So as you see someone approach,even the little ones,  be very approachable and invite them to engage in a conversation. Sometime a smile and a hello will be enough, other times as you gauge the visitors body language an opportunity is presented to tell them what you are working on. Just avoid lengthy stories. When the visitor is starting to fidget, let go!

2. 100% of your attention should be aimed at visitors.

There will be times, when you start to count how many flies have visited your booth on a given morning and the urge to read or munch away, or call your best friend to share the latest gossip, seems like the most logical thing to do. Don't!

Each and every visitor is important, regardless if they come in a flock or as a lone visitor, who might have stumbled into your space while looking for the bathroom. You should be there welcoming them with open arms, ready to assist if needed, even if it is to just give directions. People remember those "nice people" who make them feel special. I know, I speak from experience!

I will continue to add to this list as I share old insights and learn new ones. I am still struggling with what theme to go with. The dilemma of the portrait artist is that there are never enough paintings available to show, let alone sell. So my challenge for the time is how to unite existing work under a cohesive umbrella that is appealing to this type of audience.

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