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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.

Getting it out of my system

Is it that August is traditionally one of the hottest months of year? Or perhaps that it’s the last month before kids have to go back to school? What about all those back to school expenses? Maybe it’s those last minute yard projects or the lure of fishing out on the lake. Maybe it’s just the political climate and the economy.

Sparse crowds at Levis Commons Fine Art Fair 2008

Whatever the reason, August this year has been awful for art shows. People just don’t seem to have the energy for it. Artists are lurking in the back of the booth, reading the newspaper or chatting up their friends. Customers are walking in the middle of the street looking this way and that, but very few show participants are actually engaging in meaningful discussions about art, politics or anything! I’ve noticed this trend at the past two shows — both Gold Coast in Chicago (a pretty affluent area) and in Perrysburg this last weekend at the Levis Commons show (also an affluent area) — people are so burned out that they just don’t care about art.

Oh sure, I had my share of nice conversations with people about my work, as did most of my neighbors at these recent shows. People have said some very nice things, and I do appreciate the people that take the time to make meaningful comments. Thanks to all of you who come to shows to be excited, to be influenced and perhaps to give some new work a home! But the majority of the crowds seem to be there solely as an alternative to the mall. I’d be generous if I said they were window shopping. Maybe that’s why the crowds were so sparse at Levis Commons this past weekend — the weather was hot, there were better things to do, like cut the lawn or go to the mall, maybe the art wasn’t that great last year — whatever the reason, it’s up to me as an artist to make it worthwhile for folks who do show up to get engaged with my work.

Art shows provide one of the few venues where art lovers can actually meet and talk to the artists whose work they enjoy. It’s up to all of us to make the most of these opportunities, even if the weather is hot, or the fish are biting. Life is too short to wander aimlessly down the path.

Looking forward

Well, it’s over a week since Ann Arbor’s annual art extravaganza ended, and I’m pleasantly relaxed. As usual, the shows had their share of hot, humid weather, rain and heavy crowds. While there seemed to be fewer people than in prior years, I made my share of sales, and had more customers than in previous years. But many artists and patrons noticed a downturn in the number of packages being carried down the streets. Still, Ann Arbor is the granddaddy of them all, and a big party to boot. We saw many friends from around the country, including Steve and Anita Baldauf, from Orlando, Wendy Baxter and Marc Zoschke from Springfield, Loel Martin (Chicago), Suzanne (Q) Evon from North Carolina, Glen and Linda Mace, Beth Crowder and lots of other folks we only get to see once or twice a year. It was a lot of fun.

Looking towards the rest of the summer, I have three shows in August. First up is the very pleasant Fine Art at the Village, in Rochester Hills. This show is always fun to do, not just because it’s only 6 blocks from home, but because it is run extremely well by Donna Beaubien, an artist, and veteran show producer. It is this coming weekend, at the corner of Walton and Adams — come by, say hi, take home a wonderful memory to hang on the wall!

Next up is the annual Gold Coast show in downtown Chicago. This is a 2 1/2 day show, and always fun. It is in the River North neighborhood that I worked in when I lived in Chicago a few years ago, and I always anticipate seeing lots of old friends and making new ones. I’ve got lots of great Chicago images, including the bridges on Michigan Avenue, and some interesting industrial shots. The booth is on Superior St., between Wells and Franklin (#737).

And towards the end of the month, you can find us in Perrysburg, Ohio, at the Guild’s Levis Commons Show. This is another upscale village mall with great appeal, easy parking and lots of good art. I look forward to this show as well, as a way to reconnect with our Ohio friends.

In September, I will be back in Michigan for two big shows near home — Arts, Eats and Beats in Pontiac, and Arts & Apples. It’s going to be a busy six weeks!

What Art Shows Should I Do?

Levis Commons Art Festival

Art Fair Databases and show info

One question that gets asked a lot, is “What shows should I do?” While I certainly could provide a list of the A shows around the country, you are well advised to do your own research, walk shows if possible before entering and ask other artists. You can get a lot of information from online forums, including the Art Fair SourceBook forum, the NAIA forum and others. Here are a few of the more useful reference sources:

Sunshine Artist magazine — while the reviews are somewhat biased at times, the show information is usually up to date. They also publish a show guide every other year, in which they rate most of the shows, based on artist feedback. The web site database is searchable, but not terribly useful as it only lists shows and dates. To get the contact info, you have to subscribe to the magazine.

http://www.sunshineartist.com/
http://www.artandcraftshows.net/

Greg Lawler’s Art Fair Sourcebook — on the web and in print. Pricey, but well worth the money. You can pay for regional coverage. The web database is by far the most useful, as it is searchable and contains the artist reviews. The reviews, and in-depth information can’t be beat. Also artist reviews are open to all registered users. The forums on his site are also a good source of show info.

http://www.artfairsourcebook.com

Art Calendar — in magazine form and on the web. Source for show, gallery, grants and other info. Subscription.

http://www.artscuttlebutt.com/
http://www.artcalendar.com/

The Harris List. A small, expensive listing of the top 125 shows nationwide. $65. You’re probably better off with the AFSB for the Northeast at $85 for the online version.

http://www.harrislist.com/

NAIA — the National Association for Independent Artists. The benefits of joining the NAIA are many, including a new advocacy hotline, access to all of the online resource material, and access to the show forums.

http://www.naia-artists.org

The Art List — online monthly subscription list to artist opportunities. $15 / year is worth it, but it’s a lot of info grouped into categories.

http://www.theartlist.com