I weathered the storms for decades. I have been in 50 mph winds with my paintings flapping around me like Dumbo’s ears getting ready to take flight. I have been pelted by hail while throwing my cover over the paintings to protect them. I have gotten heat exhaustion while sitting out on the street. I have been snowed on, rained on, blown over, whipped by sand and gravel and even had a cactus fall on me. Yes, I have done the outdoor art shows. This is how I made my living as an artist for many years. I am down to one outdoor show a year.
Getting up at 5 am every weekend and being out in the elements for 12 hours a day is strenuous, exhilarating when art is sold and depressing when nothing happens. So why do it? It isn’t for everyone but I love to meet people. Even on the days when I didn’t sell any art I could meet the most interesting people. I live in Santa Fe, NM, an art town and many people come from all over the world for the art. I also have a background in science and we have many scientific laboratories and research facilities nearby. I loved meeting folks and I have made lifelong friends from both artists, visitors and collectors.
I did manage to make a living from selling my art at shows, gallery representation and later writing and teaching. After the galleries were selling for me and my teaching schedule was pulling me around the country I decided to hang up my tent. I don’t miss the 5 am mornings, or the heat, but I do miss the connections and camaraderie. I have many wonderful stories from hundreds of folks I have met. I am going to share three of my favorites.
After a long hot day, I was inside my tent securing it for the night. The sides were all down and zipped with only one corner open. I felt (rather than heard) someone “knocking” on the wall and asking, Are you in there? I popped my head out and there was a woman I recognized from earlier in the day. She said oh good you are here. I was thinking yes, a be-backer actually came back. But she wasn’t someone that I had talked to about a certain painting she said, I have never even looked at abstract art but I had to come back to find you and tell you that your art changed my mind. I love your work. I can’t buy anything right now, but I just had to find you and let you know.
This was even better than a sale! When art can touch someone in such a way that they manage to return at the end of the day and take a lot of effort to find me in a closed booth, then I know this was big for her. How did it change her life over the years? I wish I knew but she didn’t leave me any contact information. I like to think that it opened a new world to her. Maybe she even tried her own hand at creating. I would love to think that.
It was a calm beautiful sunny morning with a few strollers coming through the show. A man about my age came into the booth was looking at a particular painting. We began to talk and I discovered that he was in town for a science conference. We exchanged some talk around research and then I asked him what type of scientist he was. Turns out he’s an engineer. The painting he had been looking at was a very structured and architectural piece. I guided him to the back of the booth and pointed to a very no-objective abstract painting. It had a similar color range and about the same size. I asked him what he thought about it. He stood for a few minutes, quiet and a bit fidgety. He finally said, “it makes me nervous”. I did a little chuckle and let him know that my science background was in cognitive psychology. I asked him what type of engineering he did and he said mechanical. I have discovered that most engineers like more linear, delineated and structured art. I did find a geological engineer that liked non-objective abstract art. I asked him to play along with me for a moment and I dug out from the back a long narrow bar from my tent set-up. I held this in front of the painting horizontally and asked him how he felt now. He immediately said, “much better.” By introducing a horizon line, he finally felt more at ease and it gave him something to ground himself. We had a great visit but he didn’t buy that painting. I did sell it later to a designer from Dallas so it found a home.
This is my favorite story and my absolute favorite art collector. I was sitting toward the back of my booth sketching when a family came in and began looking at the art. I gave them a moment to look as I observed their interests. The father soon roamed off to take a call but the Mother and daughter, I assumed, remained. At this point I was also selling prints of my work. The daughter was taking a lot of interest in the small paintings. We began discussing the art and she really liked the stories I was able to share with the abstract format. She had a keen eye and was confident in her taste. They thanked me and went to look around the show.
About 30 minutes later they returned and she began to look at the art prints, but her eye kept returning to a small painting on the wall. The mother told me that they were from out of state and that the daughter had been saving her babysitting money to buy some art in Santa Fe. She was probably about 13 or 14 and I asked her if she liked to draw or paint. She said no but she really liked art and wanted to collect it because it sparked her imagination and she liked beautiful things. I said this is the best reason to collect art because it can inspire you to create your own gifts to the world. She decided that she was going to get one of the prints. I pulled the mother aside and asked her if it would be ok if I sold her daughter the small painting for the same price as a print. The mother was very moved and said it was ok but she wanted to pay the extra for the piece. I said I really wanted this to be between the daughter and I and I would be honored to have my art as her first piece that she collected. We all walked away beaming and filled with joy. I bet she has a fabulous art collection now.