Saturday 4th June 2011 was an exciting day for me because it’s the first time I've taken part in an art fair. I was hoping to sell my landscape paintings and signed limited edition Giclée prints. The day started perfectly, the sun was shining and the birds were singing. I wasn't panicking about setting up my stand because Thomas and I had done it the day before. All I had to do was get there on time, and even the buses were kind to us that morning, they didn't leave Thomas and me waiting.
One of the things I forgot to do the day before was label my paintings with their title. Luckily we arrived early in Solihull and managed to pop into a stationery shop and got some address labels and some bubble wrap. You can never have too much bubble wrap!
When we got to the studio at the Solihull Library and Arts Complex, it was filled with all the artists and their work. The first thing that struck me was the lighting. Everything looked normal the day before but the lighting brought everyone’s artwork to life. The studio looked stunning. Even my stand looked great and the lighting made my paintings shine.
I was feeling nervous and not having the labels done added to my stress. Ideally it would have looked more professional to have typed the labels, but I had to write them by hand instead. Thomas reassured me saying that it looked more arty having them hand written. After all I’m an artist, I can do what I like, within reason of course!
With my state of panic you can imagine my surprise when Cheryl, the technician, came over and said how she was drawn to my stand because it was so calm. I think it had more to do with my paintings than me. I was also a bit unsure about my stand because of the number of pieces I had. The other artists had bought a lot of pieces I only had a handful. Cheryl liked the fact that it wasn't cluttered, I told her it was only because I didn't have enough paintings.
Due to the nature of the work, the life of an artist can be quite isolating, so it was great meeting other artists and sharing tips and ideas. It also gave me reassurance meeting the ones who were able to make a living from it. Ian Ridley is a water colour artist and had the stand next to me. He was extremely helpful with his knowledge and wisdom. One of the first things he did was kindly offering me the use of the back of his Velcro boards. They were perfect because I was able to display two of my signed limited edition prints there.
Everything was now set up and ready for the public. I was nervous and excited at the same time. I had worked in sales up until about a month before the art fair. I enjoyed it and I have met some fascinating people during my experience in sales, so why did today feel so different? I was so nervous and I didn't feel confident. I've never had a problem selling other peoples work. I guess it is different selling my own. This was the first time I was doing it. I always had other people selling my work in the past, so this was new territory for me.
Once my nerves settled I was fine and it was great meeting the public and seeing how they react to my work first hand. It was a pleasant surprise. Many loved Shine for its colours and the positive message. It is an uplifting painting.
Hope Floats was also popular, especially for one lady. Her father was ill and she wanted to give him the painting. Unfortunately she wasn't in a position to buy the painting, but I did have the image of Hope Floats printed on my leaflet, so she was able to take that away with her. The meaning of the painting is, ‘even in times of despair there is always hope’. The hearts in Hope Floats represent people who touch our lives in a positive way. I was really moved by the lady’s story and her reaction to my painting. It was an emotional encounter.
The morning went quickly but it was obvious when it was lunch time because the studio was deserted. My stomach was rumbling too so it was great to be able to get out our packed lunches and eat it without the fear of being asked a question with a mouth full of food!
The more people I met the more at ease I felt and by the end of the day I felt back to my normal chatty self again. There was a great mixture of people there and I had a lot of fun meeting them. Sadly I did manage to scare one lady off with my smell. Well it wasn't exactly me, it was the flowers. I think it was the lilies she objected too. Fortunately most people reacted positively to the flowers!
Allsorts was a great experience. I learnt a lot and it was fantastic meeting fellow artists. The day went extremely quickly. I really enjoyed it, even though there were moments when I just wanted to hide and let someone else sell my paintings for me. I did ask Thomas but he rightfully refused to do it. Although I didn't sell any of my prints or paintings, I did have a lot of interest and many walked away with my leaflet and details. It was touching for me to see how people connect to my paintings. Hopefully this will be the first of many more art fairs for me.