"Let's just have us a damn fine read."

Tag: art festival

Won’t You Tell Me

Do people running or contributing to the running of any given “art show”, ( I.e. directors, jurors, sponsors, judges, show staff, administrative assistants, volunteers, charities, booth-sitters, security, and countless others.), understand or even care as to what it means to their show, to the genuine artists, and to the patrons of art and all things artistic when they reject even one authenitic artist in favor of any buy/sell vendor?

Can one, just one person involved in any art show or any one buy/sell vendor who sneaks past some jury explain how allowing such a practice benefits the show specifically and art in general?

I am not talking about craft shows or something-for-everyone-schlock-orgies. I am talking about the shows touted as real art fairs – how can a real artist or artists be given the dismissive “better luck next year” letter and then walk past a brothel of import or production studio kitsch without so much as an inkling of an explanation from those people responsible for the mess we call art fairs.

I would like to see one person from the show side, not an artist trying to suck up to a show, just someone from the show side of things that can explain this excrement and why it continues to feed a situation that leaves artists, real artists duct-taped in a van by any river.

Explain why buy/sell is OK.

Hollow Trees

I haven’t been saying much lately.

I read a lot and I’ve been working on some new ideas for people to see at the shows this year. I did not go south again this year and I have been absolutely amazed at the herd mentality of some people claiming to be artists “doing art fairs” in some forums and blogs on the internet – even the ones that kicked me out for my seditious and, and, and incendiary writing.

So, I’ve been reading, thinking, writing, and painting – I just haven’t said much lately. But now that the early shows are about done, I do have a few things to share with the shows, the artists, the “vendors”, and anyone else that gives a damn or pretends to give a damn about selling art this summer.

The season has started for artists and also for people hoping to be thought of as artists at the art shows this year. Generally the season for me and my peers starts in the midwest with a few “preseason” shows in March and April. No one makes a ton of money at them, but they garner a fairly respectable crowd and they help the artists and those “wannabe” vendors determine what may or may not be successful in terms of inventory and sales this year. It beats the hell out of traveling to Florida and coming home with a hotel bill. So we stay up here to shovel our driveways and prognosticate our entire regular season based on how well a crowd of people suffering from Cabin Fever will respond to new ideas and techniques. These little shows would never work in October or November – but they work in early Spring or at least they give us a reason to put the work out and see what happens. It’s what we do as artists – and the non-artists also get a chance to see how hard they will need to throw their crap at their trailer trash as well as our treasured patrons in order to see what will stick to the proverbial wall.

I have some suggestions for people to think about because I am not smart enough to get out of this dying industry. I stubbornly cling to the hope that the bad guys will go away and my customers will return to the good shows en masse.


The shows make a big deal out of providing water and toilets and snacks to the artists as a way of showing their remarkable hospitality. They also flood the show with their t-shirted volunteers that walk past the booth every 4.2 minutes asking: “Can I get you anything?”. 

Stop. Just stop.

Grown adults can provide their own bottles, or camelskins, or barrels filled with the beverage of their choice. They can bring their own lunch. Hell, they can bring their own apple and granola bar. Stop with the hospitality. Want to show hospitality? Bring buyers. Bring buyers to the show. That’s all the buy/sell as well as genuine artists want at the show – buyers. If you cannot bring in buyers, at least drop the booth fee and keep your water, crackers, and apples. The bottom line? If you can’t bring in buyers, why are you having a show?

Stop telling people at the show they can buy for a lower price on Sunday. It’s not true and it’s foul. Almost as bad are the shows that say in media interviews: “You don’t need to buy, the artists are just as happy to talk about their work with you.”. No. Artists come to the shows to sell their work so they can pay their bills and provide for their families. Encourage buyers to buy art at the show.

Stop the charity auctions during the show. Why do artists that jumped through all the hoops, juried in, paid for a booth, and shouldered all the travel costs and expenses have to compete with their own work in a charity auction during the show? Yes, your show is a benefit, but who cares? As far as I and the other artists at your “benefit” show are concerned – our bank accounts are first on the benefit list. Bring in buyers.

Bring in buyers. Not bodies, buyers. If you need to have stiltwalkers to bring in bodies, then you have a craft show, not an art show.

Bring in buyers.

Stop saying 15,000 or 100,000 or 200,000 souls came to your show. Just stop it. Bring in buyers.

Keep your pompous judges out of my way when I am working with buyers. I bought the space at the show, it is my booth for the duration of the show. Not the judges’. If you are going to have judges, make sure they are qualified and competent and above all else, respectful.

Jury better. Stop with the excuses and the games and jury better. Display some kind of mature business attitude and communicate with applicants. Stop with the cutesy “please apply next year” rhetoric. If slides look like hell, say so. If the work doesn’t fit with what the show wants or envsions, say so. If you don’t like the artist, say so. Stop taking money in jury fees you don’t deserve. Act like you have a pair and communicate. Don’t ignore pleas from artists to communicate, be professional if you are going to have an art show by bringing in artists and, oh, bring in buyers.

Neighbors of mine for this year:

When I am busy selling, you had better be vomiting or bleeding and for a good reason before you interrupt me when I am talking with a patron.

If you don’t have a tidbit or tip about a show to share, do not come to me to ask about what I think about this or that show.

When I am setting up my booth, I don’t want to explain when, where, and how I got my tent – what kind it is, or even if I like it.

I am not going to explain my art to you during a show.

I will never, ever, ever, ever discuss tent weights with you. End of story. Go to Ma’s forum for that stuff.

When you push that 4 gallons of water out of the corners of your pathetic EZ-Down, someone or someone’s artwork is standing not far from where you just ejaculated your rainwater reservoir. Think about that the next time you are at a rainy show and your want to prove what a moron you really are.

Stay within your marked space. Don’t you even think of putting your crap out in the aisle.

Customers and non-customers:

I don’t care if you scored one of my $200 paintings for $35 at the crappy little silent auction the show is having. Don’t tell me about it. Don’t come ask me to sign it for you. If you do come to tell me about it, I am going to sell you another painting out of  my booth until you either buy one or walk out of the booth.

I am there to sell art. I don’t care what your art teacher said I would do for you. I am at the show to sell art. If your art teacher wants an interview, tell him or her I am happy as hell to come into their classroom on Monday and conduct the interview in the middle of his or her workday in his or her workspace.

I am not going to conduct a clinic on art in my booth so you can become an artist. Want to be an artist? Go to school like I did. Would you stop an accountant at their job to ask how they do their work? A lawyer? A surgeon? A meth dealer? Why do you get to ask me in my booth about how you can do what I do? (I don’t know either.)

Don’t photograph my work. I’ll tolerate you pretending I am not in my own booth, but you may not photograph my work.

Stop thanking me for “sharing”. I didn’t share anything. I am not at the show to entertain you. I will be polite to you, but I am not at the show to amuse you as you stroll the art fair. I am at the show to sell my work to people interested in buying art. Brief compliments and criticisms are welcome but my job is to sell art, it’s how I earn my living. Stop accusing me of abusing drugs to make my work, and by the way, I don’t care that you wonder how my mind works or that my work would never fit in with the crap you already have in your home. I am not a fast-food cashier or a waitress for you to browbeat while your friends chuckle. I am an artist.


None of this will happen. The shows will pretent they didn’t read it. The artists will think I am talking about someone else. The non-artists will think I am talking about non-artists, not them because they think they have convinced others that they are artists. (Think about that one, it’ll make sense.) Non-patrons will take umbrage, but not change their behavior. I know nothing will change right away.

But people will know I wrote about it and after all, if hollow trees indeed get chopped down – do they make any noise?


This Year’s Christmas Post

First of all, please visit my BFF, Holly Olinger’s post about the current disaster we call art fairs:

Please comment on her writing and ideas. Despite what some people in our industry (rightly or wrongly) think, it is important to express, not squelch ideas.


Then, when you are done with that – I have a Christmas present for all my readers:

An Opinion from Greg Lawler at

Courtesy of Holly Olinger at NAAI, this is apparently written by Greg Lawler – owner of If you’re an artist that does shows, you know Greg.

This is what several people have been writing about, it is admirable to see Greg Lawler weigh in on this subject matter. You may or may not choose to support his product, you may or may not agree with his perspective – but I do hope you will recognize the fortitude it took for him to post his opinion.

Civility and Trolls

A friend shared this recently:

It has to do with some loser on Reddit reportedly engaging in all kinds of unsavory behavior and the issues that came up as a result of the fallout from the downfall of this alleged “troll”. Many of the issues have to do with censorship/free speech concerns. Frankly I could not care less about the troll that is described in the article and his issues. It pokes into a world I am not interested in investigating – I have a finite number of minutes on the planet and I do not want to waste them learning more about this guy or the behavior he allegedly exhibited.

But, as a person who writes – writes with passion and has a remarkable, if not mythical low tolerance for “taurus excreta”, this article has raised my monobrow a bit.

I have been described as “uncivil” in closed forums supposedly set up for “artists”. I have been labeled a “troll” by others burdened with the intellectual capacity of a discarded hair tonic canister and a wingnut or two.

I have been the reluctant recipient of a few “wagging finger” notes from a matriarch (or her designee) of a website for artists that has descended into a crafters’ circle of so much peace, love, and handholding that you have to clutch a copy of 1984 next to your heart and take a few units of insulin just to get in and read the sugary posts without lapsing into a coma.

I write with passion and I believe what I write. I use a pen name. Nom de plume. Big deal. Samuel Clemens did. Stephen King (the author) did. Lots more. To the people that can’t get over the use of a pen name, my sage advice is to get over it – it’s not that hard to figure out.

Another author, not me – but I wish it was me, wrote this brilliant response to the article linked above. It is in the “comments” section of the article, but I am going to paste it below for your convenience:

Troll 4 days agoin reply to Lee Skallerup

Here’s how the world really works:  A “troll” is anyone who disagrees with ideas that I take as a matter of faith. Rather than counter the troll’s wrongness with reason and evidence, I will label the troll a troll, and advocate for the troll’s punishment. I will ban the troll, and delete his postings. Oh I support free speech for all, just not for trolls.


Brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. Trolls are bad. Trolls are uncivil. Unless one agrees with them.

I write. I paint. I do both with passion. During my funeral, my enemies will never be able to say I wrote and painted without passion. My biggest fear is they will be able to truthfully say I painted and wrote without passion.

No one would dream of censoring a painting. Why is it some go ballistic if I, and those like me express feelings, concerns, ideas, and views on a keyboard? Why is it ok to insist or even advise an author to change a writing style on an internet forum or on a blog, but it is a mortal sin to tell a painter how to paint?

Why is it I get hundreds more hits when I am banned from “artist” sites for expressing my views and question the motives, mentality, and views of the more “civil” yet pompous element of the art community?

“Oh I support free speech for all, just not for trolls. -Troll” . . . 

Beautiful. Beautifully civil words from a troll.

I’m not done writing or painting yet. I’m going to continue what I do under the boardwalk – it’s more civil there the more I think about it – even with all the goat parts lying around.

No, It Don’t Come Easy

(Ringo’s “It Don’t Come Easy” played on the internet, Pandora – not the radio – as soon as I finished writing this piece, it seemed like a good title, thankfully it didn’t end with Chapin’s “Taxi” – that would have been awkward.)


It’s been a tough year for most artists that work the art fair circuit this year.

Oh, I know, I know – some of you just had a fan-damn-tastic year and nothing has affected your sales and in fact, you are on track to having the best year ever, etc., etc.

Others will say they are just starting out and they know just what to do (like walk around a show with a crab cake and wax poetic as if his or her opinion might just matter some day) to find a way to get people to decide to buy art they don’t need, probably don’t understand, and feel they cannot afford rather than just get another 3oz glass of crappy white wine to walk around with like it’s a $200 bottle of champagne and then go home.

A lot of people at the art fairs are blaming apathetic (even antagonistic) semi- or half-assed crowds on the economy for their lousy sales. They are right. If the economy was not making it’s presence known at the shows, we would not be having these problems with buy/sell merchants, pseudo-artists, crafters, commercial studio reps, ancillary and even completely un-art-related booths hawking their wares, and paid entertainers situated where artists are supposed to be selling their work. The shows have become a place where some divorced dad can take his kids on “his” weekend and show the judge pictures of his picture perfect family at the “art show”. They’ve become a place where it is not necessary to buy anything and still of course be welcome. “I think I’ll go to the art show and stand in front of some scumbag artist’s booth and talk about my latest prostrate cancer with whoever will listen for 45 minutes.” or “Let’s grab a bunch of us girls and walk around at the show to get some good ideas for our next crafter circle/bake sale.”.

The focus is not on encouraging customers to support the show and purchase, the focus is to get that crowd to just show up. Some shows even thank the crowds on Facebook for raising tons of money for local charities while the artists already went home broke after paying for juries, booths, hotels, travel, and overhead. Many artists cannot continue to run their businesses with compliments and “ooh’s and ahh’s” and “Thank you for sharing’s.”. My favorite line from a couple of weeks ago in St. Louis: “If you charged to come into the booths, I would  probably pay a couple bucks to see this booth!”.

Classy. Really classy.

It does illustrate a paradigm shift though. Why buy when you can just experience the show? Get those artists to talk to you and, (Viola!) you are entertained – more bang for the buck – “value added” as they say. Bitch about them if they are sitting in the back of their booth completely exhausted too – it adds to the Gestalt of it all and gives a reason not to buy art at the show.  Why? Well because the artist was just SO grumpy. She didn’t smile at me and say “Hi”. How dare they come here and not entertain me!

How do I know this stuff? How could any artist not?  I and other artists have witnessed the shift probably the most this year over previous years. There is a pent-up demand for art that is palpable at every show this year. The sin of covetousness is well-defined in the eyes of art lovers at the shows, or maybe more evident in the ridiculously craned necks of people looking inside without actually stepping inside – because for some reason, people think if they step into a booth, they may be obligated to buy something. Sigh. Instead, they should probably go to a chiropractor over an art show.

So, they want to buy, but they aren’t buying – what’s the problem, then?

People are afraid to buy. They don’t know if they will have a job next week, next month, next year. On top of that fear is a desire for people to pay down their debt. Like our grandparents and great-grandparents in the Great Depression, they want to live within their means and to “waste not, want not”.

Sounds great, except no one is selling apples on the street corners to survive that I am aware of. Rather than encourage people to support the artists at the shows, what are the shows doing besides bringing in those stilt-walkers and demonstration painters and whatever else to keep the crowds there long enough to take a picture of how big the crowd is for next year’s brochure?

Are they making sure there is plenty of food, drink, music and diversions so people will come to party? Sending VIP’s out with those asinine “Art Bucks” or whatever cute moniker they can print on them so they can walk around and buy trinkets at the show AND look even more provincial than they really are in the eyes of their neighbors? Yep.

Encouraging art buyers to come out and buy art? Jurying in artists instead of buy/sell merchants and studio rep’s? Ignoring political blacklists and encouraging avant-garde, handmade, designed and created by the artist works of art instead of stamped-out, mass-produced, crafty, low-quality and even lower class bric-a-brac crap unfit for a garage sale? Removing fakes and posers when they are found? Nope.

The shows are catering to the lowest common denominators of the audiences of their shows. Those booth slots need to be filled. There are costs associated with putting on an art show, it’s too expensive and even prohibitive to cut the costs and put on a smaller, quality driven show – so let’s have a circus. Let’s encourage the one demographic that in all probability will not buy and get them to come. Let’s create a “new normal”. The new normal is to come be entertained at an art show rather than set the bar higher and teach the community about art – let’s lower the bar and encourage people to not know any thing about art, but at least know what they like – maybe. Lately, people at the shows like what costs under $20 and looks just like the one their sister-in-law just bought except she ordered hers to match her couch.

Are all the shows doing this? Of course not.

Are all artists over-priced, arrogant know-it-all’s that wear only black and look down their noses at the public. No. (Some wear khaki as well.)

Are all the attendees of art shows slack-jawed yokels without a clue as to what is art and what is a trailer park? Not by any stretch, but the shows treat them as if they are or should be.

So what’s the problem? How do we as artists get people to come to art shows and buy art?

Simple. The answer is simple: We can’t.

People need to get back to work again. That’s the only way they will start buying art again. The shows that are stooping to the lowest common denominator will eventually fall over like a dinosaur into a tar pit. The crappy vendors will gravitate toward some other capitalist venture like a moth to a flame. It’s not about the art for them, it’s the dollars. Hot dogs today, crab cakes tomorrow. Wooden frogs today, used cars tomorrow.

When times get better, people will buy the art they have been parading past on the show aisles the last couple of years. They want what we have – they just cannot justify it yet.  Our customers aren’t satisfied with a piece of garbage welded onto a stick. They aren’t happy with taking pictures of our work and printing it off on large format photo paper to hang on their walls. They grow weary of artists that don’t take chances and try to grow and develop. They wave off alphabet photography, cheap prints of yet another misty mountain a la Ansel, the beaded crap, the imported garbage, the reconstituted toys, and the salespeople trying to pass themselves off as artists.

When times get better, our customers will buy again. In the meantime, people who are not our customers are coming to the shows and buying bright; shiny things. It’s their time right now, let them have it. I sold a large piece a couple of weeks ago. People stopped to watch the painting leave the booth. Most people didn’t really care because  they knew and know they will never buy a piece of art like that. Who cares what they think? They aren’t my customers, but, this is important: some people were actually showing some anger in their eyes. They want to buy art again. They will buy art again. The trick for artists is to hang on and keep an eye on innovation and development while keeping the other on the prize and not on the garbage at our shows. Many of my best customers tell me it’s about the painting – they have to be in love with it – price matters too. Work they love at a fair price matters. It matters more than anything else at the show or in a gallery. (Yes, I heard you Alex!)

We can’t change the economy, but we can recognize it is in everyone’s best interest to get people back to work and earning money. When it gets better, we will be here and ready and we have to have our best work for the people that love art at a fair price. At the same time, artists will know full well who the “good” show directors and promoters and gallery owners are. They’ll know the “bad” ones too. Hell, we already do. Don’t forget who is hurting you when times are bad – will they stop hurting you when times are good?

If you are an art patron, an artist or a good promoter – just hang on – it will get better, “it don’t come easy”.

Yeah, I’ve Been Busy . . .


So, shoot me.

I’ve been a little busy. I am still pretty disappointed with the shows, as are many artists – but it isn’t always the shows’ fault. There are a lot of other issues coming into play. Here’s a pretty good article that takes a look at what is going on regarding the visual arts: (Opens in a new window.)

I really like what the author has said. It’s very thought-provoking and certainly an intelligent take on a very important subject.

This is worth your time if you are a genuine artist, or a real art critic, or if you just have a passion for art.


I love this piece! I found the link on (You have to register to view, but if you love art you should be participating anyway, right?)

Here’s the direct link if you are not interested in joining the forum.

Nice work!