As I thought on 2014 and my goals, I didn't come up with too much. I'm as much a fan of goals as I am not. The future is its own animal and I don't want to have reason to beat myself up over a sheet of paper I wrote out in ignorance. But I do think thinking ahead is wonderful. There's no doubt that I feel myself touching on my true sweet spot. And so I want to explore that. One resounding theme keeps coming back as I grow to understand my niche in this world: get out there.
"There" starts here. In Minnesota. Last year was all about settling into a new normal. This tundra and its quiet charm is still pretty new to me and though I could have guessed it, I didn't see myself living here. I've been quiet on the most part, but have kept my ears perked for opportunities around here and am learning to pick which ways I want to "get out there."
Last weekend's art fair in Red Wing felt like a stride. It was only my third time, but this show felt like a marker of sorts. I set up my booth in record time, simplified its look and prices, and enjoyed talking with people. I know, it sounds cliche, but take it from this introvert: I truly enjoyed it. And when the post-lunch lull came and I wondered if it was worth all the trouble, I kept thinking, "this is good for me." And it was.
There's much to be learned from people looking at your work, watching what they gravitate to while commiserating among the vendors. I got some great leads on upcoming shows that would be worth my time as well as little insights into what shoppers are looking for.
You'd think that being a shopper yourself is sufficient prep for putting yourself in their shoes mentally. It's not. We creative vendors are too tied to our product, too focused on margins, and too proud of our work to hear the real truth. We're as quick to compare ourselves to Target as we are to established fine artists when neither is reality for most of us. I find that the best insights come from listening to what people say to each other quietly about my work.
Getting out there is turning out to be a great idea.
I am, though, learning what I'm not interested in doing. I'm dwindling down my preferences and gifting. This art fair business may not be for me in the long haul, in the end I'd rather be painting. But it's good for me. It's an exercise. It's an experiment. It's handy experience. My aim ultimately is to amass the experiences I'd later turn over to someone else to do for me. I want to understand their plight and therefore have a starting point, an honest voice from which to redirect the boat when the time comes.
Many of you who read this blog are at a great place to "get out there" too. Whatever that may mean, I recommend it. It may not be time to market your work, but it may be time to network and market yourself. (There's one I need to work on, too!) Or perhaps you need to take one of those painting classes where they let the wine loose in hopes of loosening you up!
Go. Do it. You know what it is.
And as always… keep painting.
More on the art life: