This post is by guest author Sharon E. Allen, This article has been edited and published with the author's permission. We've promoted this post to feature status because it provides great value to the FineArtViews community. If you want your blog posts listed in the FineArtViews newsletter with the possibility of being republished to our 48,000+ subscribers, consider blogging with FASO Artist Websites. This author's views are entirely her own and may not always reflect the views of BoldBrush, Inc.
For me, and for other artists who have been "next door neighbors" at recent art shows, art sales at Art Fairs and Exhibitions have been dismal. And while it is a statement on the economy (no "expendable cash" for frivolous purchases like art), I think it's also a statement on the tone and attitude of society as well, and there are some very positive things to say in addition to some negatives. This blog post may be as much of a "pep talk" for me as it is for anyone else!
Tip #1: Be a people watcher and learn to read body language. A painting buddy of mine, who has been in 3 recent shows with me, on Sunday watched a woman in the grassy common area at the center of the ring of booths and made a valid comment to me that truly should have been directed at her but it would have been too rude to do so. The woman stood at least 8 feet away from every booth entrance - far enough out that she felt sure that we would not engage (and she was correct!) and peered towards each booth but never actually took even a single step towards the doorway. My friend looked at me and said "I don't get it. Why even COME to an art show if you're not even going to LOOK at the art?" In my opinion, that's an extremely valid question. Had she never been to a show before and didn't know what to expect? Was she looking for sculpture? Photograph? Something other than paintings? Was she short on time and simply scouting to see if it would be worth her while to come another day? Since he made that comment, I've noticed quite a few visitors doing the same thing, and so I've decided to start acting on it.
Tip #2: Engage the visitor, especially when they don't expect it. I've decided now that when I see someone performing the above non-approach and non-looking, I go out to them and say "You look a bit confused. Can I help you find something? Are you looking for a specific artist or a specific subject? Is there a particular medium that you're trying to find? Jeannie over there does watercolors, I have mostly oils..." By then I'll usually have an answer like "Oh no, I'm just here with my sister - she's the one who's looking for a painting for her bedroom." ("Ah - what is your sister wearing?" goes unsaid) OR you find that she's actually looking for a sunset (or dog, or seascape or...) but doesn't see any in which case you hand her your card and say "Mine are on the inside. Come on over!"
Tip #3: Have a story to tell about each art work - better if the story is true so you can repeat it later if necessary, but have a story of some type. But leave a lot open for the viewer to fill in. One painting that's currently in my booth features bears in a strawberry field, and it's a 3:1 ration studio piece worked up from 2 smaller plein air pieces. I've been explaining that much of my work is plein air work (and explain what that is) and that I often use the small works to create larger, more detailed works. I have the 2 plein air studies hanging below the piece (now - I did NOT do that earlier in the week) and can show them the similarities and differences and then also tell them about the ACTUAL bears that crossed the road just 30 feet away while we were painting. So far that hasn't served to sell any of the 3 pieces, but it HAS led to questions like "How about this piece? Where were you when you did this one? Does it have a story?" They WANT a story. And I believe that IF the story matches their own experience then their heart has been touched and the painting has found its owner.
Tip #4: Be vague, when possible. I've witnessed a lost sale based on truth. To husband: "Oh look, honey! That looks just like the place we visited on Prince Edward Island!" To artist: "Where is that scene?" Artist: "Such and such island off the coast of Georgia". To husband and artist: "Oh. No. It's beautiful, but it's not where I thought it was." Pouting. Ummm...artist, please bite your tongue and do NOT say "excuse me, lady - if it looked that much LIKE the place with the happy memory, why not buy it?" Just smile and say something like "Well, think about it for awhile and if that happy memory keeps popping up all afternoon, then come back!" Hand them your card and write your booth number on it if it's a large fair.
Tip #5: Actively give out your business card or rack cards or whatever you use for advertising. Don't expect them to take one on their own. How many times have you yourself said "Gee, I should have gotten that guy's card because now I can't remember his name." Say, "Here's my card. Visit my website when you need your next wedding... birthday, anniversary, graduation, etc ...gift! Nice to meet you!"
Tip #6: Accept all compliments and shut your mouth. Just say "Thank you so much!" and nothing more. You don't want to sound pompous but at the same time if you say something like "You're too kind" then you sound insecure and unworthy of their praise. Lately I've had the elating but frustrating experience - several times now - of a non-purchasing visitor actually taking the time to make their way back to MY tent to say "I just wanted to come back because I just have to tell you that of all the paintings that I've seen here today, I really love yours the best. You're amazing!" I just grit my teeth and smile broadly and say "Well, thank you!" without adding "that's nice of you to say, but that doesn't buy any paints or canvases!" Hand her my card. Heck, you never know - in another month s/he may be calling to inquire about a particular painting seen today while they were replacing the roof on their house. You NEVER know. So just smile and hand out cards like mad!
Summary? #1 Observe. #2 Engage. #3 Engage. #4 Engage vaguely, but engage. #5 Engage. #6 Engage. See a pattern?
Next week I think I'll develop my opening statement about the economy and societal attitudes ... it's got me thinking deeper along those lines!
So much to paint, so little time!
You can view Sharon's original post here.
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