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A Pretty Good Year, so far

Award of Excellence, Levis Commons Fine Art Festival 2011

Award of Excellence, Levis Commons Fine Art Festival 2011

Looking back on 2011, it’s been a successful year by many standards. In a declining economy, my sales are trending upward (thank you!), and I’ve had better acceptance than ever at art shows. I’ve managed to get into many of the top shows on my bucket list, some of which I would love to get into again, and some of which I’m glad I did, but have no desire to go back. My new work is pleasing not only you, but me as well. And even the theft of the Artanic in Fort Worth turned out to have a silver lining. So lets pray for continued success for the rest of 2011, and into 2012. Show apps are already coming due for the winter season. Fort Myers, Coconut Grove, Gasparilla, Winter Park — all due in the next thirty days or so.

And to top it off, I’ve won a few awards along the way. I got to thinking about it this evening, and realized that I had done NO horn tooting about it since last year’s Barrington ribbon. So, without further ado, here’s the list.

  • Images, New Smyrna Beach :: Award of Merit
  • ArtFest Fort Myers, Fort Myers :: Award of Distinction (1st place in Photography)
  • Gasparilla Festival of the Arts, Tampa :: Selected for Judging (an award in itself!)
  • Winter Park, Winter Park :: Award of Distinction
  • Crosby Festival of the Arts, Toledo :: 1st Place in Photography
  • Glencoe Festival of the Masters, Glencoe :: Award of Outstanding Achievement
  • Levis Commons Fine Art Festival, Perrysburg OH :: Award of Excellence (2d Place in show)

I think that’s it. At least those are the ones that come to mind. Thank you, judges and jurors.

A Hard Road – report from Main Street Art Festival Fort Worth

Just got back from the Main Street Fort Worth Art Festival, and man, what an experience! First off, let me just say that this festival deserves its reputation as one of the top shows in the country. Spread out over four days, it is staged over five blocks in downtown Fort Worth. Festival tents are set up along Main Street, and an additional group of artists use their own canopies in a parking area between Commerce and Main. Most artists elect to erect their own canopies under the show structures. I wondered why the show went to all the trouble to set up tents, when most artists have a solid canopy. Well, the reason is the wind. Aside from the show we did a few years back in Rising Sun, Indiana, where Hurricane Ivan closed us down early on Sunday with 70mph steady blasts, the wind here is brutal, violent and destructive. Setup is on Wednesday afternoon, with staged load-in times. The show runs from 10AM-8PM on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, and 10AM-6PM on Sunday. The music continues later, and many artists choose to remain open, making sales until the music’s over at 11PM. Long hours, but generally worth it.

Weather at this mid-April show runs the gamut from hot, stifling Texas heat, to high winds and thunderstorms. This year, we were lucky, in that the storms that rolled across the state on Thursday night did not touch the show. Hail up to 2″ in diameter was reported as close as 20 miles from the site, and tornadoes killed two people up in Tushka, Oklahoma. Friday, the winds gusted up to 60mph, taking many pieces of artwork to the ground, and leveling some artists’ tents. Our tent, in the artists square, stayed standing, but not without assistance from Karyn, who leaned against the corner panel much of the afternoon. I helped our neighbors, Jeanne and Sam Maddox, take their artwork off the walls, and lower the tent to half height. One of the corner joints failed, and no amount of bracing and tie-downs kept it standing upright. By evening, the gusts had died down. Sam came back later, and rejiggered it for Saturday’s show. Saturday, the crowds were out in force. Sales were steady all day, better than Thursday and Friday. But mostly it was smaller prints. I did send a couple of good size pieces home with lucky customers on Thursday, and had great sales all four days of the show.

But the saddest part of the show happened to us on Thursday night. We had visited our trailer Wednesday morning, which we left parked and locked at the Marriott Towne Place Suites, just a few blocks from downtown. We got a couple of things for the show, and walked over to open up the booth. After a long day of visiting with patrons, we managed to get back to the hotel at around 9:45PM. Coming around the back of the hotel, Karyn asked me,” Where’s Artan?” (The trailer’s nicknamed the Artanic). There was a big hole where the trailer had been parked. The chocks for the back wheels were still on the ground, and the blocks under the tongue jack were still there. A long white arc in the cement showed where the foot of the tongue jack had been dragged along the ground. Evidently the thieves had towed or hauled the trailer out the back entrance to the hotel.

The big art trailer is affectionately know as Artan for short.

We immediately went to the front desk and asked the desk manager if the trailer had been towed for some reason. She had no knowledge of any towing operation, and went to get the general manager, Brian Tigner. We sat down with Brian, and gave him a full report. Brian called the Fort Worth police for us, and after waiting twenty minutes or so, an officer arrived to make a police report. We went out to look at the empty spot again, hoping that perhaps we had just misplaced the trailer. Of course, that wasn’t the case. The police officer gave us a report number, and a phone number for the police department. Brian gave us his cel phone number, and told us if there was anything he could do to help, to call at any time.

The  good news is that we were already set up for the show. The bad news is that all of our back stock and extra exhibit equipment was on the trailer. That included five ProPanels, a good Hollywood chair, the double canopy top and all the extra Trimline parts to set up a double booth. I also had a large number of prints, spare mats, frames, glass and framing parts on the trailer, as well as a full framing toolkit. The canvas racks were full, as we didn’t hang any canvas at the show — just the black and white work, and the new color stories. I also had a couple dozen spare framed pieces on the trailer.

We made it through the show okay, but I spent several sleepless nights worrying about whether the trailer would be recovered in time for our load-out on Sunday night. I need not have worried, since we never got a call from the Fort Worth police. On Saturday, I made a call to U-haul, and reserved a trailer just in case. Saturday came and went, with lots of selling, and less wind, much to the relief of the artists. Many of them had heard about the theft, and came by to offer sympathy and assistance. Thanks to all of you who stopped by, and especially to Vince and Julie, who offered to let us park the rental at their house west of the city if necessary. As it turned out, I needed that U-haul. Sunday morning I picked it up, and made a stop at Home Depot to get some plywood to make a ramp, some tie-downs and a replacement dolly.

In the meantime, I made a report to our insurance agent, who is presently working on establishing a value for the trailer and its contents. I still do not know exactly what will be covered, but I do know that this is a significant loss of both time and money for me. I will be rebuilding the storage drawers for the mats, glass and prints, as well as the rack system that carries our panels and the canopy parts. A new trailer will have to be acquired, and it will be several weeks before I can get that ready for shows.

I discovered several things about trailer thefts during this experience. Several states don’t require a title for a trailer to be licensed, and some don’t even require that you have a license. These states include Texas, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Kentucky. Here in Michigan, you must transfer title to a new owner and you must register the trailer with the state department of motor vehicles in order to tow it on public roadways. The hotel that we stayed at, the Marriott Towne Place Suites, chose not to install security cameras in the back of the hotel. They did, however, block the entrance by parking a van across it at night, so they were aware that there was a theft problem. Too bad the trailer was stolen during the day! They also posted signs saying that all valuables should be removed from vehicles, and that theft was not their responsibility. This wasn’t just the theft of an iPod, though. It was an ENTIRE TRAILER. But at no time did they ever warn us that it was a high crime area. Brian Tigner, the general manager,  led us to believe that their insurance company would be helping us to cover the loss, but when I spoke with a representative on Wednesday, she informed me that the hotel did not have insurance to cover this type of incident. I tried several times to speak with Mr. Tigner directly on Monday, but he was “not available” or “off the property”. I checked out without ever speaking to him in person. He did not offer any kind of compensation for our loss. I was hoping that he’d at least offer to comp the room, but evidently they don’t really give a damn. I do not recommend that anyone stay at this property. (It is a franchise, not a corporate property.) I didn’t feel safe there after the theft, even though we had to walk to and from the show. I’m glad my truck remained unmolested, though.

There are several things to be thankful for. No one was injured. We were set up for the show, and had our best show ever, sales-wise. I met many, many nice folks, and made some additional sales on Monday, which will help to offset the cost to replace all of the work lost on the trailer. My friends tell me that they are amazed at how well I’m handling this hard road. But to be truthful, I’m angry. At the thieves, at the hotel for not providing better security, and myself, for not protecting my own property better. The police tell me the only way to really protect a trailer that is parked is to use a police boot. Other friends told us of their experiences with trailer theft. One artist had their trailer stolen while it was still hitched to their tow vehicle! Another had a cube truck stolen with all of the equipment and artwork aboard.

After spending a good part of Monday making phone calls, I got on the road again, towing the U-haul back to Michigan. I made it as far as Hope, Arkansas on Monday night. Tuesday morning, I had to detour around a haz-mat spill on I-30. Traffic was backed up on State Highway 67 for 15 miles, and was barely moving. After waiting in line for an hour and a half, I found a back-road, and drove around the delays. Tuesday night, big storms rolled in again, with tornadoes spotted in downtown St. Louis, and up near Springfield, Illinois. I spent some quality time under the 1-64 underpass on I-255 waiting for reported hail-storms and tornadoes to pass through. Luckily, there was just heavy rain. I made it to Springfield, and holed up with friends for the night. Wednesday I finally pulled the trailer into our driveway at about 9:30PM. I’m extremely thankful that after all the hardship that Karyn and I are both healthy and safe. Seeing some of the damage from the tornadoes puts it into perspective for me. For me, it’s only stuff that’s gone. Stuff is replaceable. Lives are not. While I’m still adding up the losses, including the $650 it cost me to rent a trailer to transport my show setup home again, I’m also counting my blessings.

While I still can’t believe that this happened to us, I am using this opportunity to rebuild my body of work and my show setup. It’s unlikely that the property will be recovered. Thanks to all our friends who have offered assistance and sympathy during this difficult time. A large number of my limited edition prints are now floating around in the unknown. What bothers me the most is that some thief may be selling my work at a huge discount in some flea market in Bountiful Butt, Oklahoma. If you do run across my work in such a venue, please let me know, and please do not purchase signed originals from anyone except me. And wish me luck as I travel the hard road of an itinerant artist.

First Friday in Northville — Photography Night at State of MInd Gallery

The first Friday of every month, downtown Northville galleries and restaurants host the monthly Art Walk. This month, the resident photographers at the State of MInd gallery in Northville, MI will be at the gallery to share stories with you. The Art Walk is a great opportunity to get inside the heads of local artists, and this month’s event is no exception.

Watching the Sun Go Down

"Watching the Sun Go Down" -- Rock figure at sunset, Lake Superior

I’ll be there, as will fellow photogs Kim Kozlowski and Sooney Kadouh of MetroDevious. If you are interested in local color or southwestern themes, we’ve got you covered. Consider yourself personally invited to join us at State of MInd, 120 E. Main St in Northville, this Friday night, January 7, from 7-9PM. We’ll have some tasty stories as well as some tasty snacks to share. You’ll be able to see my Michigan work, as well as some of my classic doors and windows from the Southwest.

And that’s not all. Each of the photographers will be offering a 20% discount on anything purchased during the event. No coupon necessary — just come on by and join the throngs!

Arts, Beats & Eats: Moving on Up (or Down)

This Labor Day weekend, the new and improved Arts, Beats & Eats extravaganza moves to Royal Oak from its 10-year home in Pontiac, Michigan. The new venue still features big name music acts, 55 food vendors, and a small, select group of national artists tucked away at the end of Washington Avenue, near Lincoln. This is one of the best shows in Michigan. The music is top-notch, the food is delicious (for street food), and the art is absolutely spectacular.

I’ll be there, showing my quiet Western landscapes. Find me in Booth 56, on Washington, near Lincoln Ave. Here’s a taste of what I’m showing. These images are from my springtime shoots in southern Arizona and New Mexico.

The Assay Manager's Office, Vulture City AZ

Picturesque ruins of the assay manager's office at Vulture City, AZ

Doorway, Vulture Mine

Mess Hall doorway with view to boarding house, Vulture Mine

Chloride, New Mexico

"Doodle Dum", Cassie Hobbs' Workshop

Drop by if you have a chance. The weather’s gonna be fantastic, and the show runs four days. Friday from 4-9PM, Saturday and Sunday from 11AM-9PM, and Labor Day from 11AM-5PM. Hope to see you there!

Watering Hole, Las Cruces & the Organ Mountains

Watering Hole near the Organ Mountains, NM

Upcoming Shows – Wells Street Chicago & Crosby Festival Toledo

It’s the second week in June and the weather was absolutely frightening here in southeastern Michigan over the weekend. Tornadoes to the south in Dundee and Toledo sent many scurrying for shelter. I was very happy not to be at a show last weekend, and my heart goes out to all those folks who have been displaced, injured or worse.

Saturday crowds made it impossible to walk at the 2009 Wells Street Art Festival

Saturday crowds made it impossible to walk at the 2009 Wells Street Art Festival

Next weekend is the giant two-day affair in Chicago. The upscale Old Town Art Fair is joined by the scrappy Wellls Street Art Festival for some great art, hot music, beer in the streets and a rollicking good time. I’ll be displaying some black and white work as well as some favorite landscape images from my Western collection, so drop by and see what’s new! I’ll be in the Wells Street show, on the west side of Wells, booth 52-54. Big booth, lots of work, the show runs from 10AM-dusk on Saturday, and 10AM- dusk on Sunday. Long, grueling hours, with a brutal load-in early Saturday morning. We’ll be there, so you be there too!

At the end of June, I head down to Toledo, to the laid-back Crosby Festival of the Arts at the Toledo Botanical Garden. This is a show I’ve done for a few years now, and it’s a nice affair with about 250 artists under the trees along the paths of the park. I’ll have a double booth there, too, same as always, towards the back. Looking forward to visiting with old friends and meeting new ones. Find me in Booth 126-127.

In between, I’ve been working on developing some new work, managing some home improvement projects, and generally laying back. I’m getting a bit antsy to be traveling west again, to be honest, but there’s a lot to be done on the homefront. In July, we’ve got the massive Ann Arbor shows to prepare for, so I may not get the opportunity to stray far from home for a while.

10,000 Miles Down the Road

Dusk over the Organ Mountains

Las Cruces, New Mexico

It’s been close to a week since I got back to Michigan after six weeks on the road. And I gotta say, it was great to see my baby at home again, even though she spent most weekends with me at the shows. One thing I learned during the 10,000 miles I drove from Michigan to Florida to Arizona back to Florida and home again: there’s a lot of interesting scenery on I-10. Was sorta sad that I had no time to stop and make photographs, but many mental notes were made. The Atchafalaya Basin, the Texas hill country west of San Antonio, the Davis Mountains, Steins, Texas Canyon in Arizona, the “Thing”… many places and many stories just waiting for the light.

The shows themselves were a mixed bag, sales-wise. Florida started out strong, with ArtFest Fort Myers and ArtiGras in Jupiter. (See my previous post on ArtFest.) We had spotty weather, though, with winds and rain at Fort Myers, and cold days in Jupiter. I spent a couple days after ArtiGras in Orlando at the Baldauf-Astoria, and then headed west on I-10 towards Las Cruces, where I stayed a few nights with my mother’s sister, Nema.

Chloride, New Mexico

"Doodle Dum", Cassie Hobbs' Workshop

The two of us drove out to Chloride, a well-preserved silver mining town near Truth or Consequences. The owners, Don and Dona Edmund, have spent the last twenty years working on the town, and gradually restoring the cabins and the general store. It’s well worth the trip out there just to see the Pioneer Store Museum. We also had lunch at La Posta in Mesilla, and visited Bowlin’s bookstore.

Fountain Hills

Fountain Hills, Fountain Sunset

After leaving Las Cruces, I had an easy drive to Phoenix, where the Great Fair in Fountain Hills and the Carefree Fine Art and Wine Festival promised great sales and good weather. Alas, neither was forthcoming. The weather in Arizona, much like the weather in Florida this winter, was cold and rainy. Sales were very slow for good art at the Great Fair, and quality quite spotty. We were amazed that such mass-produced buy/sell crap could get into a show next to fine art. The jury selection process consists of writing a check — there’s no other explanation for the wide range of quality. With almost 480 artists, there are at least 180 too many vendors at the Great Fair. Two rows of booths on both sides of Avenue of the Fountains extend down to the beautiful fountain for which Fountain Hills is named, with additional booths along the drive. I was across from another good photographer, Timm Chapman, and that set the tone for the upper end of the show. Good stuff, bad stuff, good stuff, bad stuff.

The infamous Savings Sock booth

Don't tell me this was juried in!

No show complete without doggie visors

One good reason I'll never go back to Fountain Hills (it's not the customers!)

Booth Sign, Fountain Hills

What, are they kidding??!

Interspersed between the doggie visors, scented candles and glass nail files were at least another dozen photographers, none of whom seemed to be doing very well. The weather continued its uncooperative behavior, with cold temps and rain on Sunday, which drove most of the crowd away. Many artists broke down in the morning, with the permission of the promoter, and by five the threat of another storm had the rest of us scrambling to get up and away.

In between shows, I spent some time exploring the Phoenix area. I managed to get up to Wickenburg and the Vulture Mine, which was a great experience. I also climbed Pass Mountain, on the recommendation of a friend. I previously wrote about that, in an earlier post.

Carefree promised a better crowd, and more importantly, a higher level of art at the show. Put together by the experienced Thunderbird Artist group, the show is set up around the amphitheater and sundial on the charming downtown streets of Carefree. Setup on Thursday night was semi-chaotic, and we ended up dollying across Cave Creek Road to our location on Ho Road. (Or was it Hum?) We were sad to discover that the street sign marking the location of Ho and Hum Roads had been removed by the local authorities, to make room for a streetlight. Friend and fellow photog Darren Olson was set up at this intersection, and had a pretty good show. Matt Suess and Christine Hauber were sharing a booth down the street, and I was pleased to finally meet Christine.

Other than that I never had a chance to walk the show. From what I did see, the art was predominantly western, large, and wonderful. Saturday night the threat of a bad storm (once again) caused many of the artists to break down and leave. Sunday morning dawned cold and gray, with light drizzle. The holes in the show were glaringly obvious, and while we all had permission to leave early, many decided to stay and wait for those hardy souls who might brave the weather in search of fine art. Alas, the weather was not going to cooperate.

Before the show, Carefree AZ

Early morning shoppers at the Carefree Fine Art and Wine Festival

The featured artist, a glass artist, had left all of her work overnight, and merely had to turn it over to empty the evening’s storm water from her vessels! But the rains came in full force, promptly on time as the show opened at 10AM, and we all gave it up around noon. Most everyone was packed and gone by 3. We had a great lunch at Carefree Station — highly recommend.

The sticky buns from Big Buns in Carefree

The BEST sticky buns in the world!

So, Monday morning found me back on the road to Florida. Another stop at Nema’s, where we drove up to the base of the Organ Mountains, and had a fine dinner at the famous Cattleman’s Steakhouse. I meet people at shows who are familiar with Las Cruces and Mesilla, and Cattleman’s is an institution. I have to say, it used to be better, but it still serves up a fine rib-eye in an authentic atmosphere.

Tuesday I was back on the road, with three days to get back to Bonita Springs, and, you guessed it, more rain. One out of three days on the road was gorgeous, with puffy clouds dotting the blue sky, and the horizon beckoning. The miles flew by like a knife through butter. Arriving Thursday night in Bonita Springs, it was rainy, with more of the same predicted for Friday’s setup. And sure enough, it poured most of Friday, so Karyn and I waited until later in the day to get our tent up. We were able to have dinner with our close friends Wendy & Marc Zoschke (Vetro Caldo Designs) and Anita & Steve Baldauf, where we presented Wendy with her very own “Savings Sock” from the Fountain Hills Great Fair.

Saving Sock

Anita and Wendy share a laugh

Darren Olson

Darren Olson's warning clamps to alert drivers not to knock down the awning poles

But the Bonita Springs National Art Fair was a disappointment. The weather was beautiful all weekend, in the low seventies. Perfect for an art show. But attendance was light. Most of the artists spent the weekend wandering around talking to each other. And that’s not a good sign. We ran into C.C. and Shiu Ping Lee, P.J. and Dick Commerford, RC and Kim FulwilerMichele LeVett, and Madison Latimer, the Crazy Chicken Lady. We had a party. But we didn’t sell a whole lot of photographs. I’m coming to the conclusion that South Florida has far too many art shows, and far too few patrons. Colorful sells, as does jewelry and wearables, but photography is tough.

Okay, so on to Winter Park, the crown jewel of my early spring schedule. I had high hopes for Winter Park. It’s a great show, in a lovely part of Orlando, with some of the best artists in the country. The last time I participated, I did well and we had a great time. So I was definitely looking forward to being in the show again this year. Winter Park was the main reason I rearranged my schedule and drove 5,000 miles back and forth between Florida and Arizona.

I headed up to Orlando on Monday afternoon, and played golf at Timecuan with Steve Baldauf on Tuesday. I carried my clubs for 8,000 miles without a single putt or drive anticipating a little more golf than I actually played. Again, with the chilly temps. It turned out to be a nice day, and we had a good time. Wednesday I caught up on paperwork, and then Thursday it was time to setup the show. Thankfully, it didn’t rain. No, it saved that for Sunday afternoon. But Friday and Saturday the weather was good, and we had great crowds. I won another award, an Award of Distinction. The artists dinner on Saturday night was awesome, and then we headed out to another party.

Rainy morning at Fountain Hills

Rainy morning at Fountain Hills, Avenue of the Fountains

Sales on Friday and Saturday, again, were slower than expected. Sunday, usually a day where all the buyers come back and go crazy, started out well, but by noon, the rain had started up again, and the weather radar was not looking promising. Still I had some good reactions to the new black and white work, and prints were flying out of the bin. Once the torrential downpour started, however, it was all over. We packed up the art, rolled down the walls, and went off to see some of the other artists while waiting for the park to clear out so we could get the Artanic in to load up. Then we went to Starbucks and had a cuppa joe. An hour later, some of the madness and the flood waters had subsided, and we were able to move the trailer onto the street and get packed up. Winter Park, on the whole, is a well-run show, with very very high quality artists and work from around the country. From the guys directing traffic in the close-by artists parking areas, to the load-in and load-out process, to the awards judging, this is a high-class act. If invited, I would definitely go back.

We saw lots of friends at Winter Park, of course. Glen and Linda Mace were there. Wendy and Marc were there. PC James was there from Chelsea Michigan, and we had dinner with him and the Zoschkes at Denny’s after breakdown on Sunday. Antoni Kowslowki was there. Lots of friends. Lots of good times.

The Navigators eat lunch

Our traveling critters, the Navigators, love french fries

Monday I dropped Karyn at the airport, and hit the Florida Turnpike. 1250 miles later I was finally home. The drive back was uneventful. I think it was warmer in Michigan than the average temp in Florida this year. Would I drive this many miles next year? Probably not. With the economy the way that it is, and the logistics, I may stay closer to home next winter. But I say that every year. Wait and see what the schedule turns up. In the meantime, I’m gearing up for a solo exhibition, two shows in April, and a full summer of traveling.

Happy Trails everyone!

Ho and Hum Road intersection, Carefree, Arizona

The corner of Boredom and Ennui