Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Wait A Minute! My First Outdoor Art Show

I participated in my first juried outdoor art show this past Sunday, The Flagler Fine Arts Festival. It's location in Flagler Beach, FL is just about perfect. It is warmly sandwiched between the rolling waves of the Atlantic Ocean and the smooth salt waters of the Intracoastal Waterway at an intersection filled with a steady stream of locals, beach goers and bikers enjoying "just another day in paradise." I said to my husband, while we started to unpack the car (at 7:45AM), "what better way to spend St. Patrick's Day then out here under the warm sun and by the ocean with other artists! Even if I don't sell anything I'll be a happy camper!"

My friend and her husband arrived shortly after with their beautiful, professional tent. She makes excellent jewelry and is a pro at these shows but as she didn't plan to participate she kindly offered up her tent (THANK YOU!!). Luckily, this also included the much-needed help to set it up! It didn't take long for the four of us to "get 'er done" and after several warm hugs and numerous votes of good-lucks they left me to wrangle with how to display my works.

I pounded nails into the wood slats (behind and attached to the hanging canvas I had made for "walls") and hung two paintings. They looked greaaa....oops! No sooner were they up when down they went. Slamming face first onto the gritty ground. Apparently, their weight rolled the slats forward just enough for the paintings to slide off the nails. After scratching our heads we came up with an idea that might work, if only we had a few more items...sooo off my loving husband went to the local hardware store.

As it turned out, he was gone just long enough for me to learn that I could make "chains" from looping the large number of cable ties I had brought (cable ties and duck tape = a must for ANY situation) together and with the help of one of the volunteers who held the paintings up while I attached the chain of plastic ties to the top tent poles. It was working! I had just finished hanging the final painting when my husband eagerly returned with a small paper bag.  I greeted him with the, "oh thank you anyways, Dear"routine and he sat down a bit dismayed while I pondered my next dilemma.  How to display all of my new "mini" paintings without wire backs?

I then bunched them together on and leaning against the small card table in the back corner and took a few long draws of my now cold coffee. Then one of my art friends and "next door art show neighbor" brought out a wooden A-frame shelving unit and offered to set it up between us so I could use one side and she the other (see below). Phew! Thank you, Linda Solomon! Problem solved. Now I could sit down, right?

My small works display shared with fellow artist, Linda Solomon. 
If you've been to outdoor art shows you kinda know what not to do. The image of the "bored artist" sitting inside their tent while everyone walks past flew through my brain. Or the ones that sit behind their tents and eat or knit. Well, I didn't have a "back door" so didn't have to worry about that. I put my chair out in front of the tent and sat down for a few minutes and quickly felt the beating sun on the back of my neck, plus people were now arriving in small droves so I donned my green St Patrick's Day hat and stood up...for most of the rest of the entire day.

The steady flow of people and sporadic conversations left little time to sit anyways. I was able to sneak in a yogurt, a few bottles of water and a short trip to the public rest room and later in the day a short run around the park to say hello and see what the other artists were up to. My friend and owner of Hollingsworth Gallery, J.J. Graham, had the tent next to me and was entertaining the crowds with a painting demo which he smartly continued with for most of the afternoon. I couldn't help but to think how much easier it is for we artists to sell our work through the gallery system...even with their well-earned commission...our time is definitely better spent inside the studio then out here on the street. But I was determined to give it the college try.

J.J. Graham - artist and owner of Hollingsworth Gallery
demonstrates his unique approach using acrylics.
I smiled and waved at many nice people, talked to handfuls of people that love to paint but were still searching for "their way" and heard many a story about a son or daughter who is in the business. Soon it was time to think about closing down. Yet I noticed there were people still arriving and we were given instructions not to begin tearing down until 4pm. So I decided to wait a minute or two.

This was when I noticed a couple in my tent talking about one of my boat paintings. I gave them space. They walked away. Then they returned. Twice. I then stepped in and we talked pricing. They took one of my cards and left saying they might call me tomorrow. Oh well. It was time to close up.

Packing up seemed easy enough. Same with the tearing down of the tent. As we stood by our cars we heard who sold what and I reminded myself that I was fine with not selling anything, that it was a good test and suddenly felt how much my feet and legs were hurting. I guess it was warranted after standing for almost seven hours straight and maybe those "bored looking artists" sat down for a reason (I'm such a newbie!).  I just couldn't bring it upon myself to go to the studio to unpack/unload my car and instead hobbled home to enjoy some corned beef and cabbage. And a glass of wine. Or two.

The next morning my body and brain was on slow and just around 10:30, while I was briefly out with my dog, I received a phone message from the couple I had met at the festival saying they wished to buy my large boat painting after all. I returned the call and we happily agreed I would bring it over at noon. When I brought the big painting in I noticed they had already cleared a space for it and were anxiously awaiting my arrival. And seeing that the house sat directly on the ocean and was filled with boats and sea fare, I knew this was meant to be.

"Sea Fence" - resting in her
new home.
The woman then asked if I happened to have the mid-sized boat painting in the car and I said yes (again, thankful I hadn't taken the time to unload yesterday) and brought that one in, too. They found a space for it over their gas fireplace and noted that coming into the home from the beach you would see both paintings.
"Mill Pond (Tethered Friends)" and
"Sea Fence" in their new home.
They decided to buy them both.  It was such a pleasure to see these paintings come to life when placed in their new home and I felt such peace.

Afterwards, I reflected on all the work I put into this show, laughed at all the ups and downs, the "strategy" of creating all those new "small/affordable" paintings that didn't sell...and how I felt the presence of my mother with me (she spent her summer weekends doing outdoor art shows on Cape Cod for twenty years).  And reminded myself that all I need to do is to keep painting for me and with passion for what I love to paint - the ocean life, the farm life, the clotheslines - because you just can't force these things. You just need to be patient, work hard at what you love, seek out new opportunities (even if some seem like flops) and wait for the universe to do the rest.

P.S. A big thank you to festival Director, Justine Wintersmith and the city of Flagler Beach for supporting the arts and putting on these great events. While this is the only one I am able to participate in, the festivals are held on the third Sunday of every month through July. Brush on!


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