My church just had a Christmas bazaar. Given the incredibly small table fee, I thought it would be a good test run for when I eventually start going to art fairs.
1. Have Signage (but Don’t Depend on it)
Even though I had a sign that clearly stated that I offered custom drawing portraits for a very small fee ($4 or 5 minutes, $8 for 10) also accompanied by two example drawings, nobody asked me to draw them the first day. Which was really weird. People normally love being drawn!
On the second day, when parents were looking at my work and I started talking to them, I brought up that I drew portraits. They genuinely looked surprised, and did not see my sign. At that point, I actually got a few people wanting me to draw their kids’ portraits.
2. If you have a very high quality, unaffordable painting… have prints of it!
I kept telling myself I was going to have prints of my work available, but I never got around to it. After the Christmas bazaar though, I’m definitely going to have prints from now on. I had my St. Michael painting as my centerpiece which was for sale, but definitely a lot more than anyone was willing to spend. I got so many remarks and compliments about it, that I KNOW if I had prints, people would’ve bought them. Lesson learned.
The art YouTuber, Ellen Brennamen said in one of her videos that she tends to sell prints at art fairs, but originals sell better online. I’m beginning to wonder if that’s a universal thing.
3. Have Photos of All Your Artwork before Going to Sell!
Seems like a no brainer, but of course this happened to me. I managed to sell one of my four oil painted gold saint portraits… the one of St. Lucy. Here’s the problem: I have photos of the three other ones… but the St. Lucy painting was the only one I didn’t have a photo of, so OF COURSE I can’t post a picture of it here and brag about it to you guys. Hurg a Durg.
Wait… nevermind, I found a photo I did take!
4. Don’t be afraid to prop others up.
While I’m on the topic of the painting I sold, I think I know why it ended up selling. You see, I sold the painting to a young couple. The husband walked by booth, was enchanted by the gold paintings and said he really wanted to buy one, and couldn’t decide which one, but they were kind of expensive. I even told him the price was negotiable, to which he refused saying he didn’t want to devalue my work (that’s nice of him!)
Then he said he needed to get a “second opinion” by second opinion, he meant ask his wife.
I told him about a younger artist that I knew who was also selling work that has beautiful artwork for much cheaper. He seemed genuinely surprised by this.
Sure enough, he came back with his wife, and bought one of my pieces. I don’t know if the fact that I was willing to lose a sale to prop someone else up did it, but the fact that I did and they bought a painting anyway shows that it definitely doesn’t hurt to support other artists.
I currently work at an art gallery and there are artists we deal with who are absolutely full of themselves who are more than happy to tear others down to prop themselves up, maybe it works for them, I dunno, but it’s gross and nobody likes it.
5. It was actually a lot of fun!
In my research and talking to other artists, the art fair thing sounded absolutely daunting to me. Usually you have to pay an extravagant fee to have a booth and table, stand around for hours and hope the second you leave for a moment nobody picks that time to come to your booth and buy something.
Even though I didn’t sell a whole lot, I still had a lot of fun! I loved the atmosphere, I loved the thrill of the chance that you might sell something, I loved the ecstatic joy of selling something, I loved hearing peoples’ feedback and getting inspired to figure out what to do for the next art fair or bazaar I do, and I loved striking up conversations to the people who came to my booth!
In fact, as we speak, I’m currently looking up requirements to sell art at Saturday Markets… one of those things I told myself I’d do for years, but never got around to it.