The Benefits of A Disappointing Art Show
Most artists on the show circuit know all too well that no matter how much you prepare for an art show, sometimes it just doesn’t go well. Although it can be a combination of factors, often the results are out of our control. Horrible weather, too many events on the same weekend, or the energy is just not there and patrons aren’t buying. An added aspect that can make it more difficult to bare though is if you’ve prepared extensively for a particular show-maybe you’re planning to debut new work, or testing out a new strategy. Your display looks flawless, the paintings are the best you’ve ever done, and still, FAIL.
I have personally had shows that landed all over the map. From the exuberant times of selling multiple paintings at once, to the let down of no one really getting it all. Some artists deal with this unpredictability well; perhaps because they’ve done it longer and have a more seasoned response, but I am not always the best sport about failing. Being a highly introspective person, I am constantly analyzing results and making adjustments. On many occasions this a good thing, but what if, after all our agonizing, it simply cannot be deduced to a mathematical formula? What do you do then?
I did a show earlier this year where such was the case. As the weekend unfolded, I discovered that some artists at the event where having a very similar, sub-par experience. I spoke with one friend who said she was on the verge of tossing her entire inventory and starting from scratch. I met another artist who shared that over the holidays, which should have been her busiest time, her sales were continually terrible, and, after careful consideration, she decided to take all of her work, get rid of it, and change her artistic repertoire completely. Her new work is spectacular, and is being received quite well. Many other insightful conversations were had among us that weekend, like purging art from the soul and taking bigger risks. Those are topics I will share more on soon.
I can’t quite put my finger on it, but wonder was in the air that weekend. So many of us artists were going through the same thing-feeling like we were trudging through muddy waters, not really getting anywhere. In a sense it was invigorating, because we all began strategizing together. Micro epiphanies where happening all around us. I had several artists spend some time with me, discussing my work and new directions it might take. These friends were so giving and caring in their evaluations and relaying of experiences, that I will never forget it. I might even say that, despite the below average financial results of the show, it was possibly my best experience yet. I may come out a different painter because of it. I am contemplating new directions and have already gotten to work on some (don’t worry folks-they’ll still be animals in clothes and birds).
I once had a conversation with an artist I admired that was going through a serious slump. The work was good but wasn’t selling. She took a temporary job in a different creative field to reconfigure her art career, and when she came back on the scene with her new work, she literally took off and is now known nationally. If it wasn’t for that season of disappointing results, she might never have ventured in the new direction. Unique solutions often present themselves at rock bottom.
An artists life can sometimes be very tough, especially the first 5 years or so when you’re still trying to figure the whole thing out. I love talking to artists that have been doing it 20 years or more. They have the best perspective. A bad show to them is like water off a ducks back. They simply pack up and roll on to the next town. I’m getting there! As the year has unfolded, I went from that disappointing show to the best one I’ve ever had (Columbus Art Festival).
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Artists, please comment below and share your experiences. What have you learned from disappointing show results?