This weekend, I will be near home in Kansas City, showing and, hopefully, selling my work at the Brookside Art Annual. This is my third art fair of the year, with many more scheduled in the next couple of months. It is a highly unpredictable way to make a living and art fairs should never be an artist's sole source of income. Weather, the economy and conflicting events in the same town can all sway the outcome of a show for an individual artist.
That being said, the art fair can be a very fruitful experience. In thirteen years of shows, I've sold many paintings directly to people who walked into my booth for the first time and wanted a piece to take home. In addition, my closest relationships come out of my travels on "the circuit." We have in common being resourceful and independent, ready leave the comforts of home to gamble on the financial response of a public we can not predict.
Earlier this year, I participated in the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts in Tampa, Florida and just last week I was in the six-day extravaganza known as the Oklahoma City Festival of the Arts. They both were trials - difficult conditions, far from home in the case of Gasparilla and long hours of sameness in Oklahoma City. The mental path that I stayed on was built by the shared empathy of the artists around me. There was always someone to turn to, to elevate the mood, split a meal, ask advice on the direction of a painting or directions to a hardware store. We took photos of each other, told embellished stories of art fairs past, swapped clothing, and advised on the secret locations of the best coffee and indoor facilities.
When I return home from shows, folks ask, "How was the show? Did you make any money?" The experience doesn't factor easily into the bottom line. Unless of course, you were there.