Home      Paintings      Photographs      Prints      Animal Art      Work in Progress      Blog      About      Contact

Beverley J. Hanna - Blog top frame

Thursday, April 28, 2005

The outdoor artshow from an artist's perspective:

June 13th:
Uh oh....the show deadline is the day after tomorrow! I surf to the website and go to the Artist Enquiries section. After reading all the guidelines, I put my application package together, and send it off, fingers crossed.

I really want to get into this show, for a number of reasons - first of all, it's just a few blocks from my home, so if I forget something, I can go back for it - (uh...and then there was the time I did a show in Pittsburgh and forgot an essential part of my display booth...but I digress). Secondly, although technically an "outdoor" show, this one is under canvas, so the weather isn't likely to wipe out my entire inventory, plus the security is terrific.

I love doing this show. Unlike most shows, the organizers go out of their way to make it a good experience for the artists. They provide "gophers" so you can have a bathroom break occasionally. The artists are supplied a free breakfast and unlimited liquid refreshments - much appreciated when the temperature in the tent goes over 30 degrees C. Every artist gets a mini-site on the main website which is included in his/her application fee. There is usually a great party too. The camaraderie and sense of togetherness among the artists is exceptional. It's my favourite show, so I REALLY hope I get in.

June 30th:
I got in!! My acceptance package arrived today. Now I have to hustle to start the frantic preparation for the show itself. Organizing the art I'll be showing is a lot of work - I have to contact all my galleries and get work back from them; I need to print a number of giclees, and get all my new stuff framed and make sure I have enough business cards, brochures and greeting cards. ACK! What am I gonna wear? I've gained weight, so nothing fits any more! My display booth is totally disorganized, since I forgot to clean it up after the last show. Where are my easels? Do I even HAVE any greeting cards? The prints all need signing, matting and packaging, and I don't have any authenticity certificates! The framer calls to say the frames I've chosen have been discontinued by the manufacturer and I need to re-order.

July 29th:
Over the next month, it all comes together and it's finally time to load the van. It's like a three-dimensional jigsaw puzzle to get everything fitted in. Back and forth from the house to the van, fitting things in, around, behind, underneath and on top of everything else. Finally, at 10:00 p.m., it's all loaded and I can gratefully hit the sack.

July 30th:
Friday morning...I can't start setting up until 10:00 o'clock, so I have a good breakfast. I'm going to need it. Hop in the van and head to the show. I'm there early, so there isn't a problem with parking as there will be later in the day. I find my spot in the big top, and begin to unload. Back and forth, lugging the heavy parcels and boxes until the van is finally clear. Move the vehicle to the parking lot and come back and start setting up. First, the display booth which takes a while, as I need help to do it and have to wait for a "gopher" to assist me. Once the booth is up, it has to be decorated and the lights set up.

Thank goodness for the complimentary water! It's getting hot in the tent. The noise is incredible, with over twenty artists setting up at the same time...hammering, shouting, laughter and the sound of van engines outside the tent, as well as the traffic on the road nearby. Everyone is excited, hot, sweaty and tired. It's a long day. Whoever thinks that being an artist is a glamourous occupation really ought to try it sometime.

Finally, the booth is set up to my satisfaction, and I can begin putting up the paintings. There's an art to this too, deciding what pieces go where, balancing the visual impact of one piece against another, one frame against another, and all without damaging the delicate framing. Once the layout is determined, the pieces can be hung. I use a velcro system, so the work can be shifted around easily. I put them all up and make sure it looks good, and then one at a time, I take each piece off the wall, remove its protective covering and clean the glass before replacing it carefully.

At last it's done. I plug in the lights, and Voila! A beautiful display of fine art. By now, it's four in the afternoon, and I'm dirty and sweaty. Time to head home for a very fast shower, as the show opens at 5:00 p.m. I need to look as good as my booth. We are open 'til 9:30 on Friday, which is an unofficial Preview night. A lot of people come to see the pick of the work, and several sales are made that evening. Some of the other artists are talking about heading to a bar after the show, but by this time I'm so tired I can't see straight, so at closing time I make sure my booth is shut down for the night and the security guy knows where the light switches are, while I head home for a good night's rest.

July 31st:
Saturday - a new day....a great day! It's bright and sunny, and I get to the show early. A lot of people are there already, and some of the artists are already making sales. All day long, it's a steady stream of people. Most are browsing, having an enjoyable day at the waterfront, appreciating the art. Many are fellow artists, and these are people I love to chat with, exchanging ideas and techniques. A few are serious buyers, whom every artist in the tent hopes will stop in their booth and purchase their wares. As the temperature climbs, the pace slows. The smell of the grass crushed underfoot is the only thing that seems fresh. The energy of the morning is replaced by the lethargy of a hot summer afternoon. By the time we close at 8:00 p.m., all the artists are ready for the party which lasts 'til the wee small hours.

August 1st:
Oooohhh....Sunday morning. I drag myself out of bed and stumble to the kitchen for my first restorative cup of tea. That accomplished, head aching, I get ready for the show, and head over to the restaurant for my complimentary breakfast (included in the application fee), eventually getting down to the exhibition tent a half hour late. Breakfast has helped a lot! I feel human again. Sunday is even more busy than the day before, and partway through the day, there's a thunderstorm, driving everyone into the big tent for shelter. Trapped inside for a half hour, there's nothing to do but look at (and buy) the art on display. Most of the artists make their best sales during the storm.

Finally, the weather clears and so does the tent. There's another little flurry of activity late in the afternoon, and at 5:00 p.m. the announcement comes that the show is over. There are still a few latecomers trying to view the art as it begins to disappear from the walls into bubblepack and boxes! Eventually, the busy concourse takes on the appearance of a war zone, as walls come down, boxes and crates appear, and, one by one, the artists pack up to leave. So many calls of "See you next year!". So many sweaty hugs. So many friends I won't see again until next year, next show, maybe never. We're a tribe of nomads, coming together a few times a season to share laughter, fun, camaraderie and, for a short time, love.

Finally, the big tent is empty, the van is packed, and, as I try to ease my aching muscles, I take a last look around, I vow I will NEVER do this again. Well, until NEXT year....

© 2004, Beverley J. Hanna

(Unfortunately, this show, Midland WaterFest, which was one of my favourites, will not continue, as the main organizer can no longer manage it, and there is no-one else willing to take it on.)

The Value of Community

Sometimes, artists tend to feel left out of the mainstream. We lock
ourselves away in our little studios, creating in something of a social vacuum. The only time we get to socialize within our profession is at art shows, or poetry or literary readings if that's our medium, or whatever is the formal presentation of our art. Some of the more interactive art forms, like theatre or dance, have the opportunity to interact with others in the troupe, even before the interaction with the audience, but for many of us, it's a solitary business, creating.

Being on the Board of the local Arts Council, I can see that this
is one of our biggest challenges as artists....getting all these solitary, creative hermits winkled out of their shells and joining forces to create a cohesive community that will be of benefit to all of us, emotionally, socially and financially. The Tsunami Relief Benefit was the first time I'd seen that happening locally, and it's a shame to have a few disgruntled people put a damper on it. There's a bigger issue here than the division between those who donate a percentage and those who donate outright.

Towns which have a coherent arts community benefit in a
myriad of ways...as tourist destinations, economically as people
come to visit the various galleries and craft outlets and spend
money in the local hotels and restaurants, quality of life for
residents in terms of creative outlets, hobbies and new careers,
and increased land values as neighbourhoods are upgraded to
suit the increase in upscale clientele.

With governments cutting back on arts funding in schools, it
becomes imperative for artists to come together to make sure the
arts are given the respect (not to mention the funding) that is bestowed upon sports activities. The way to do that is by supporting local arts councils and becoming involved in community projects designed to promote the arts.

Bev Hanna

The Mystique of the Artist

One thing I've learned as an artist, is that when I do my best selling, it's because the customer learns something extra about the image that they think no-one else knows....how it came about, what it means to me, the artist, and how it relates to them. They like to feel "in the know". I've begun printing out little stories to go with the pieces on the wall when I show. It makes a big difference in my sales.

People (at least when they are buying original art) want to buy a piece of the artist, as well as the art. There is a mystique about artists - we are perceived as being different from the norm - more quirky, less inhibited, freer somehow. People love to be able to say to their friends that they know the artist who painted the piece on their wall - even if they've only met that artist once. I've lost count of the number of times people have said to me, "Oh, I wish I could do what you do." They've invented some romantic story in their minds about what artists are and do, and they think I fit that mould. Who am I to disabuse them of that fact? They don't need to know about the frustration of artist's block, or the sheer drudgery involved in setting up that pretty booth that does so much to show off the pretty art.

It's as though we are all conspiring to keep "art" as a kind of esoteric activity performed in some rarified atmosphere accessible to only a privileged few. The only way many people feel that they can participate is to appear to speak knowledgeably about the art they've purchased and the artists they know. If only they knew...anyone can "be an artist". All it takes is passion, dedication and a LOT of hard work.

Bev Hanna, S.C.A.
Beverley J. Hanna Fine Art
"Creating exquisite images for the discerning collector"

Beverley J. Hanna - Blog bottom frame

Home      Paintings      Photographs      Prints      Animal Art      Work in Progress      Blog      About      Contact

Page design and all images © Beverley J. Hanna.   Please don't use them without written permission.
Content copyright protected by Copyscape website plagiarism search