This weekend was the 50th Annual West Shore Art Fair, last weekend it was the 60th Annual South Haven Art Fair; milestone events, both. As with every fair so far, they have been my first. First year giving the art fair circuit a try and first time at each art fair I participate. As such, it is all new. Perhaps because this was a semi planned out endeavor and I not relying on it to pay my bills, I do not have high expectations of how I will do. I did, however, set out with one expectation, to break even. OK, TWO expectations, because I was also really hoping I would make more than breaking even so I could buy myself a lovely new mega set of Faber Castell Polychromos coloring pencils. No, they are not cheap. Because I am talking about, not only the big 120 coloring pencil set, but the one that comes in its own wooden box. That, or more Daniel Smith watercolors, also not quite cheap. Well, sad to say, initial investment of applications, insurance, booth fees, canopy, displays, and inventory- I am far, FAR from breaking even still. Polychromos and Daniel Smiths will have to wait.
However, none of the above means I am not having a wonderful time and getting to experience moments which are worth more than any sales. I share here the moments I come home with. Last weekend was brutally hot and sales were slow for everyone. But I got to meet and make friends with my booth neighbors and I spent most of both days deep in conversation with the couple- mainly the wife. Funny, smart and just good conversation. During one of those moments of conversation a little girl wandered into my booth and looked all about. "You did all this?" she asked. "Yes." I replied. She looked amazed. "How long have you been painting?" she asked.
"Since I was your age. "I told her. She browsed, I gave her a sticker and she attempted to get mom to come over and buy her something, But mom had other plans. As the little girl ran off to her mom I heard the following: "Mom! Guess what! The lady said she started painting when she was MY age!" She was so excited about this! It made my day.
This weekend there were two moments in particular which I hope never to forget. One was on Saturday when a little girl in a wheelchair who, in the company of her very patient grandmother, thoughtfully selected one of my greeting cards. Once selected, she took out a small drawstring coin purse and counted out the money. I ached to give her the card, or to take back the initial price and give her a symbolic price. But I also felt that there was a sense of pride in her careful purchase. And I didn't want to take this moment from her. So instead I placed her card in a paper bag and included a post card and stickers.
Then today a teenaged boy wandered in and studiously pored over my paintings. First the octopus art, which made sense to me as the other stuff us more feminine or childish, in my opinion, and I assume most teen aged boys would have nothing to do with it. I greeted him and he said "I'm looking at your art." it was a statement.
Mom hung back but kept an eye on him. Then he came to my frumple fantasy stuff and stopped in front of my experiment with watercolor print on wood with clay and other embellishments (photo below is not good quality but it's more about showing you what he was fascinated with). "I don't understand this. What is this?"
I didn't quite understand what he meant. So I pressed for clarification and he said, always just as serious as he was at first "What is the context of this?" It was this question which started a conversation and I honestly told him what my process and thought are, about how I like to mix a real element and add fantasy, perhaps what I wish the world were like, a place where tiny creatures live in harmony with nature, communing, loving, and communicating with nature and animals. "Master Hare" he said, still with little expression, and he took out his phone and politely asked id he could photograph it. Most artist don't like to have their paintings photographed but to me, in this moment, this felt like an honor. I got the impression this young man had mild autism or something similar- and this image got him talking, connecting, and wanting to take a piece of it home. This was an honor. As it was when a lady came back three times and took nearly a half hour to decide on which of my frog pieces she wanted to buy. She then returned a fourth time to show a friend my stuff.
I never imagined that what has provided me respite from the past challenges, what has been my learning and return to creativity could speak to other people. It is an honor, even if I am not selling as much or making a profit- this beginning is more fulfilling and inspiring than I imagined it would be. They may not know it. If you are reading this, and if you purchase one of my pieces, you are taking a part of me with you. Getting to see the pleasure it gives you is a reward in itself and the best incentive to not stop this adventure. I love that moment when, sitting in my corner and sometimes out of sight, I hear people comment on what they see.
I can't wait to see what the next shows will bring and I can't paint and created fast enough to get all the ideas I have out of my head and on paper and clay and wood and... so many ideas so little time!