Successfully Marketing Your Art through Art Festivals

This is a guest post!

Several weeks ago, we posted our guide, How to Succeed at Art Shows and Festivals, which was a compilation of reader input. The comments and suggestions made were outstanding and we’ve received great feedback about the post. One artist, Larry Berman, suggested he had more to offer and wrote an entire article about getting into and succeeding in festivals and juried shows. Larry offers some great tips and advice for those just getting started with festivals and for seasoned festival goers. Be sure and visit Larry’s website at www.bermangraphics.com.

Getting Started

You’ve been painting for years. Friends and family members give you positive feedback, telling you how much they love your work and suggest that you should be selling. Or maybe you’ve visited an art show and have seen other painters selling their work. You imagine setting up a booth in front of thousands of people who might purchase your paintings. You’ve been told that art festivals can provide a viable way to earn a living doing what you like best.

Creating Artwork that Juries Well and Sells Well

Contrary to what you might think or have heard, it’s not that easy to get into an art show. One of the first things I learned that helped me get into the better shows with my own photography was the importance of having a unified or related body of work. It made for better jury results and helped attract buyers that were interested in a personal style, not just a random piece.

The Application and Jury Process

The application requirements of “juried” art shows are that you submit individual digital images of your work, usually three, four or five, depending on the show. Additionally they require an image of your display or booth. The display image will come across more professional looking if your body of work is unified and matches the style of the individual images submitted.

Some major art shows get over 1,000 applications for about 200 – 300 spaces. Smaller more local shows get fewer applications and are easier to get into.

Jurors spend very little time viewing the images of each applicant so your jury images need to be of the best quality with nothing to distract the jurors. Projection juries use multiple digital projectors and project the entire set of jury images simultaneously, usually for less than 20 seconds per artist in the first round, where up to 50% may be eliminated. Images are viewed by each medium so you are competing with other painters for space in the show.

The preparation of your jury images is the most critical component to your being accepted because your images are all they have to go by. You can be the best painter in the world, but if that isn’t reflected in your images, you won’t get accepted.

Photographs of paintings should not include mats or frames as they make the painting look smaller within the space allocated to each image in the jurying process. The display image should be representative of what your display will look like at the show. The work should be shown hanging in the booth under a white canopy or tent without identifying signs or people. If you don’t have a white canopy yet or have never even done an art show, look for a show (usually only a few of the top shows) that has an emerging artist category where the show provides the display. If you apply in this category you’ll be juried only against other emerging artists.

For the smaller shows, communicate with them, explain your situation, and they will probably let you photograph a grouping of your work or submit an additional artwork image instead of an image of your display or booth.

Where the Shows Are

Online resources have largely replaced print media. ZAPPlication and Juried Art Services are the online application systems that most of the major art shows use. Artists use ZAPP® to find shows to apply to and art shows use ZAPP® because they know that’s where the artists look for shows.

Art Fair Insiders has art show listings besides being an online forum/blog where over 9,000 artists share information. Art-Linx has a large artist e-mail list and art shows pay to have e-mail blasts sent out with their information and closing dates. There are even a few Facebook groups where artists share show information.

For new artists, Sunshine Artist Magazine is the only trade publication for artists doing art shows. The Art Fair SourceBook lists the particulars of the top art shows in the country and also has regional editions. Both are still available, though the SourceBook is now only online.

Most art shows have application deadlines 3 to 6 months before the show actually takes place. Artists doing shows regularly plan their schedule up to a year in advance. For example, Florida winter shows take place in January through March close in September and October. Midwest summer shows close in January through March.

Most areas have nationally rated, difficult to get into shows, and there are thousands of smaller local shows that are much easier to get into and are a good place to get your feet wet, so to speak.

I strongly suggest walking a few shows to see how other artists are displaying. Even better if you can walk shows that you’re specifically interested in. The best tip I can offer is to attend an open jury, even if you have to travel some distance. A few of the top shows allow artists, even those that haven’t applied, to sit in the back of the room to watch all the submitted images projected. It’s an amazing experience and there’s no limit to what you can learn by seeing how your images, or those of your competitor’s, project.

Getting Accepted – the Display

You’ve gotten through the jury process and are actually going to put together a display. White tents or canopies can range in price from $200 for an EZUp at Sam’s Club (or Caravan at Costco’s) to $900 for the starting price of a Trimline canopy, the sturdiest canopy you see at art shows. You may consider renting a tent to start off, but rental tents are usually opaque, not letting light through, so your paintings will not be viewed well. Canopies like Trimline and Light Dome (lighter but still sturdy) are translucent, designed to let light through and make the artwork hanging on the walls look good.

Inside the canopy you will need walls to hang your paintings on. The most professional looking are the carpet covered Pro Panels. They look like walls of an art gallery but light weight and sturdy. The best alternative are mesh walls made by the Flourish (Trimline) company for all types of canopies. They are made from a vinyl mesh and roll up taking very little space in your vehicle.

If you sell reproductions of your paintings, you will need a display bin for your unframed work. You will also need a desk or table for making sales and displaying promotional material or business cards. Pro Panels makes carpeted desks in the same style as their panels. Your vehicle will probably determine what type of display you eventually end up with unless you plan on always renting a van. When I downsized from a full size van to a minivan, I stopped using my Pro Panels and went to mesh walls because they fit better in a smaller vehicle. I now rent my Pro Panels to artists who do shows in the Pittsburgh area where I live. Whatever canopy you decide on, make sure to use lots of weight in each corner to reduce the chance of wind damage.

Making Sales – Taking Credit Cards – Packaging

You need to be able to take credit cards. The Square (and similar credit card processing companies) allow anyone with a mobile device and a data plan can sign up for the Square and take credit cards wherever they are.

For packaging the sold painting, I’ve always been a believer in using large clear plastic bags so your painting can advertise for you as your customer walks around the show.

Resources

www.zapplication.org

www.juriedartservices.com

www.artfairinsiders.com/

www.art-linx.com

www.sunshineartist.com/

www.artfairsourcebook.com/

 www.flourish.com/

www.lightdomecanopies.com/

www.propanels.com/

Leave a Comment!

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About the Author: Larry Berman

Larry Berman has been exhibiting his own photography at art shows for over thirty five years and is currently working with artists as a consultant photographing their artwork and improving their jury images.

20 Comments

  1. Thanks Larry for this straightforward and easy to understand advice. I have read other articles, but it all seemed so complicated. I also like how you spent time on the jurying process which is often omitted.

  2. Terrific summary, Larry! I can add just a few things from my 30+ years of doing shows.
    – Way in advance of a show, make a list of what you need to take. Invaluable when you try to load that van. Update the list as you think of things to add.
    – Have postcards printed ahead of time and mail them to the customers in the town you’re going to. Some artists offer a small discount for the show weekend although I don’t.
    – If you don’t yet have a mailing list, start one. Put out your Guestbook and invite folks to sign in with an email and a street address. Treasure that book as if it were gold (I take mine home every night with me.)
    – Try to help out your neighbors at the show…they’ll reciprocate (rolling up tent sides, lunch breaks, etc.). If someone asks you for magnolia paintings and you don’t have any, send them to that artist who DOES have them.
    – Be on time to open and close your tent each day. Show organizers take note of that, and you might want to be asked back.
    I just finished a 17 day show in Charleston, SC. You have to be ready for all kinds of weather…slow days and busy days…keep a good attitude about it all because it rubs off on others! Thanks to Xanadu for the forum you provide us to speak out!

  3. Thanks again for going through with all your helpful tips. Would just like to know how to deal with another artist who pushes the limit of his space with overhanging awnings etc. and plops his chair and umbrella in the middle of the isle? Being a woman, I find this happens to me often.

  4. Awnings shouldn’t be an issue. Everyone uses them because it keeps the rain or sun off the people browsing your work. They shouldn’t visually block your booth.

    Middle of the isle depends on the specific show regulations. Some shows don’t care, some require you to be within your 10×10 space and some just don’t allow coming out into the isle in front of your booth. You shouldn’t be in a position where you have to confront another artist. If the show regulations don’t allow sitting in the isle (maybe because of Fire Marshall regulations, it should be up to the show to enforce their own rules.

  5. My biggest problem is not going in looking like a first timer and the fear aspect. Thanks for the assist, boot and helping me to decrease the fear factor. I feel much easier now about approaching the process for the first time.
    David B. Hicks, Tampa, FL

  6. Thanks, Larry!
    This was a neatly wrapped-up article that touched on important/main parts of vending during art shows. I appreciate the insight to what goes on behind-the-jurying-scenes as well; I don’t think I’ve been able to read up on that before because it hasn’t been available (or easily found).
    I love the additional thoughts @Helen K mentioned as well!
    I hope no one takes this wrong.. but.. I took from the title of this post that I’d be learning more about MARKETING my art in festivals, not so much “First Timers: How to Tackle an Art Fest”, or “Being Prepared to Give an Arts Fest a Try”.
    I’ve done a few local shows (SLC) in years past (am currently preparing for one this August), and am braving new lands this summer by taking my booth to California where I’ll vend during a large outdoor Handmade Market of sorts. What I want to know, and perhaps was hoping to find here based on the Marketing title was:

    – How to successfully stage your booth to match your brand: be original/unique/creative
    – Ideas to catch the attention of attendees with your display so they come IN to your booth and not just walk by
    – Interacting with customers appropriately
    – You’re one in 50, 100, 200, 300+ etc other artists at this show: why should attendees buy your stuff versus your neighbor’s?
    – Appropriate signage: artist name/piece title/pricing
    – Price points: offer a range of products/originals in a range of prices to appeal to all sorts of wallets, but do it carefully. Be sure that you aren’t cannibalizing your own sales by offering every single higher-priced original as simply a $10 print (for example).

    I read a few tips from the “How to Succeed at Art Shows and Festivals” blog post and it had some great thoughts. Thanks!

  7. My first experience at an art festival was as an invited artist. They provided the tent for me and waived my booth fee. It was a great experience and I sold almost $4000 worth of artwork and discovered people that were passionate about my work. It was a truly amazing and eye opening experience. The only problem I have now is “getting” into the arts festivals on my own. I’ve gotten as far as the waiting list 2 times. I’ve even had my images reviewed and worked on by Larry for this past years applications. I know my work is nontraditional and appeals in a personal way to individual collectors who are excited about it being different. Apparently, my work is not immediately appealing to jurors for festivals. I am truly at a loss for what to do next.

  8. THis is all very exciting, but i participated once in a local art show, paid 300 USD plus some investments in the displau equipment. Sold nothing. The problem is that you are supposed to have extra money to invest in art festivals and fairs, but people are not really interested in art. They come to fairs to buy mostly crafts, furniture or just out of curiosity.You can keep on spending money on this, but no effect, really. many come to spend mot more than 50-100 dollars. Then you are supposed to paint really small works and sell them at 100-150 dollars. No or very little profit.

  9. 52 years doing art festival. from 1957 to 2009

    All the information and comments listed above are extremely important and must be respected and followed to be successful. Here it’s all handed to you as a fabulous gift.. I spent my whole life fine tuning my displays and my particular style of doing art Festivals. I always aimed for a double booth.

    I started at the age of 16, showing my paintings at the Washington Outdoor Art Festival in Greenwich Village, NYC in 1957. I know of only one other person who has been in this Art Festival business as long as I have. I’m no longer at it . I quit in 2009 after 52 years of doing art festivals. I traveled all over the East coast, the South and Midwest in my van and trailer and a full time assistant.

    Doing art shows us a way of life. In my opinion, there is nothing like it. It solves all the issues artists have. It’s fantastically perfect. All solutions to all problems are found by being present and receptive at art festivals. In every show thousands of people come to see you and your work. What gallery can offer you that? The answers to it all come to you, clients come to you, all kinds of art connections come to you: doctors, lawyers, therapists, lunch menus, new relationships, all kinds of valuable info, good weather, bad weather. It all comes to you, for you. All you have to do is be there, be open, loving, grateful and sincere.
    Patience can easily be added to the mix. All the challenges that come up in art shows are lessons in life. Whatever issue one needs to work on is clearly shown to you. The opportunities for personal and artistic growth and art business growth are beyond description. It’s a perfect way of life for an artist because to be continuously successful we have to push ourselves beyond our comfort zones. It keeps you alive and fresh. I’ve done it all, I’ve seen it all-from exhibiting in coffee shops in Greenwich Village in the 60s to exhibiting in major NY, Miami, Chicago, DC, and other galleries. I’ve had my own gallery at least six times. Currently I have i have a 7000sq.ft gallery and studio in Asheville NC. I currently employ 11 assistants. It all started with the Art Festivals. I’ve started and organized art festivals ( Las Olas Art Festival 1969). I’ve painted from figurative to very large abstracts, worked in clay, sculpted in wood, welded, went from 3D mixed media and back to painting. I’ve had a few “no-sale” shows in my life as well as many five-figure shows. I’ve been in little-known church shows as well as in great national shows and have also been rejected from those great shows. I’ve been kicked out of a show once, and I’ve been in the White House presenting art to the President. The spectrum of my art experience has been very wide and on top of that nothing remains the same. I all began with the art festivals.
    There is no better profession in the world than being and artist, always challenging, never boring.
    God willing , I’ll die with a brush in my hand.

    Jonas Gerard’s Secrets of Success:
    Art that’s alive sells. That is the most important lesson I have learned and am still learning. It has to be alive and fresh. Not last year’s fresh; this year’s fresh.
    Making art cannot be an option. It has to be a must, a passion, a reason for living. It’s not an occupation. It’s a way of life. You eat, sleep, walk and breathe art. The artist’s canvas is his whole life.
    The work has to be as honest and truthful as possible. A mind set on success and abundance will bring about success and abundance. Faith is trusting in the good. Fear is putting your trust in the bad.
    Every brush stroke, every gesture in the clay, every click of the camera must be from the heart. Make art as if your life depended on it.
    The honesty and purity of the process of making art is more important that than the results. Making art for the sake of getting good results and ignoring the passion of every step along the way creates good-looking “dead” art. Dead art does not sell.
    The world out there is starving for uplifting soul food. From my point of view, art that’s alive can fill that void. When it does, the sale is inevitable.
    Gimmicks and formulas appear to be the solution but ultimately don’t work; there is no juice in that.
    Clever concepts of what might sell do not define what a true artist is. There is no real satisfaction in that.
    Art shows are a way of life. I’m a painter and I love what I do and I get paid for it. Can you beat that?

    1. Your energy and wisdom says it all. Thank you. Have you ever exhibited at the St. James Court Art Show, Louisville, Kentucky?

  10. Julia, doing art shows is a small business and, like any other small business getting started, there needs to be an initial investment for a professional display, presentation of your work as in matting and framing, and jury and booth fees. Also, if you’re finding that lower end “crafts” sell well but not your work, you might be applying to the wrong type of shows.

    Candace, that was not my intention. My article was written about getting into art shows and and I apologize if the title might have been better suited to the content. I can probably offer a million tips on how to market in your booth but getting into a show is the first priority.

    Here are a few tips:
    Your domain name should be your name or business name. Register both as a dot com if possible. If you can get your name, your booth sign should be your domain name with internal capitalization. For example, my name is Larry Berman and my booth sign is LarryBerman.com. It solves the booth name sign and promotes your web site at the same time. And by using upper case for the first letter of each word it makes it much more easy to read as individual words. And make sure to take the sign down for your display picture. Another tip is never put your e-mail address on a business card. Always send them through your web site to contact you so they can be reminded of the artwork you create. And every page on your web site should have both your phone number and email address link so they don’t have to search for it.

  11. No one yet has mentioned qualifying art shows before entering them. For example, I find that shows which charge a fee to enter attract qualified buyers. The people may not buy my art, but they are there to buy! Shows that include wine tasting and/or food tasting, a continuous round of musical events and hours of children’s activities do not necessarily attract buyers. The attendees for these shows are usually young families with child-related expenses or teens and college students with no money; maybe a $20 in their pockets for food and beer and individuals on a fixed income! The demographics are just not there. Of course there are exceptions, but choosing shows where sales are more likely is just good business. Shows will provide their demographics in advance. If they don’t want to do that, chances are the event is merely one to stimulate sales for the community businesses and the art is entertainment for the attendees. Art shows are expensive so artists need to make sure the money they spend to display their work is invested well.

  12. I have been researching this process for well over ayear now and tiptoering into the waters of self promotion. This is the clearest most comprehensive summary i have encounbtered. Juried Art Services has been a great soiurce for me. I am looking forward to tapping into the other items mentioned and finally getting myself into a quality show. Thanks for the very useful advice.

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  15. Sorry, I not speak good english.Great site. Lots of useful info here. I’m sending it to a few friends and also sharing in delicious. And of course, thank you to your sweat!

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