Friday, March 15, 2024

Post 3rd Art Festival Thoughts

On March 8-10th I participated in the Spring Tempe Festival of Arts, a juried event for regional artists. This was my 3rd outdoor weekend art show and probably the most ambitious yet as it was an 8 hour out-of-state drive each way. This was 3+ days long event, with set up on the evening prior to the event. What is my verdict? Overall it was a really nicely organized and well put together event, very vibrant and filled with a ton of entertainment and art to admire. 

For me it was still a huge learning experience. Participating in these type of events is a huge undertaking and I give kudos to all who make it work! If you are an artist who lives in the Tempe area, I would recommend looking into applying.

Read below for a glimpse into my personal experience being an inexperienced vendor who traveled with two small children (all of us got sick on the way too) so take it with a grain of salt =)

Also I would like to share that if you weren't able to attend this festival but had an eye on some of the new art I've been sharing on social media, I am running a Small Works Sale for a few days. Check it out here as I'd love to find forever homes for these new, colorful landscapes:

From a practical business perspective, especially since this was such a big learning opportunity for me, it was a decent experience.  Looking back at the long weekend, I think I could have been more success if I was a more experienced art vendor or a local artist or if at least I had Kyle to help me throughout the day. Looking forward into the future, I can see tweaking a few things here and there and growing to make this a very successful undertaking.

This ended up being a 9 day round trip for my family which really upped the cost of the event for me. Something like that offsets the overall success but if I were local the end result would be more lucrative. It was a 2 day trip each way as my 4 and 6 year old boys need the drive to be broken up with breaks and activities to ensure their good spirits =) We arrived a day early for the set up and overall have a slower pace with kids. We opted for a 4 day Airbnb vs our standard camping. In retrospective, that was the right choice for our family. My older sister flew in to hang out with us so that was a nice bonus for all of us! She helped to watch the kids during set up and break down of event which was a huge help. Lesson learned: Mixing work with an attempted out-of state family vacation was challenging though I can imagine this working a little better as the kids grow.

In preparation for the event, I created a ton of new work wanting to have lots of choices and back up work. In retrospect, I pushed myself a bit too hard as I was sick most of 2024 leading up to this event. In the end, packing up for the trip was hectic and I was pretty burnt out for the event. Additionally, only a few of the new works sold at the event so I think being more rested vs having more work would have been the better way to go. Lesson learned: Keep working on organization and keep building a stock pile of art in the studio not to feel pressured to create new work for each event.

Saguaro Night, acrylic painting on artist board, 24"x36" (25.5"x37.5" framed), 2024
Available Here: The only reason I've included this new large work in my Flash Sale is because I'm not sure if it will fit into my other festival displays in Colorado so I'd rather find it a good home now and give a collector a unique discount on new art.

With the event in mind, I created a handful of Arizona inspired works. I love the landscape and the colors of the Southwest and saw it as an opportunity to stretch my creativity. Varying up my work some more seemed like a great idea but I actually think it backfired slightly. The Saguaro paintings pulled some people into the booth but there were only a couple of these pieces and I was continually asked if I had more and in different dimensions etc. or if I will have more in the future. I think this kinda tore up the cohesion of my display and took away from my other non-site-specific art.

Saguaro Sunset, acrylic painting on artist board, 14″x18″x1.5″,  2024

Available Here:

Another observation I made is that having much smaller pieces displayed among the considerably larger, much more complex works did not work as I imagined. I tried to create a varied price point which would appeal to more people but I think the gap in price was too large. People were pulled in by the large pieces which they explored and admired, saying the wish they could get one of those but most did not want to settle for the smaller, overshadowed pieces.  I think that in my small booth, there just isn't enough room to give the smaller works enough room to shine brightly and they get overlooked. But each small works is actually more time consuming than is reflected in my prices. In an attempt to meet different price ranges, I've been undervaluing my smaller treasures that I put so much love into, This helped me decide to further discontinue my smaller works as I will plan to focus on medium to large pieces for future festivals. The 16"x12" paintings in the shop are the last for 2024 and I am debating also discontinuing the 18"x14". To help clear space in the studio for more medium sized works, all small pieces are on sale for a few days - grab one while small works are in stock!

Lesson Learned: Keep working on a more cohesive display and don't undervalue your art - it does not work in the end.

Ps. To meet more of the lower price points I will try to offer more limited edition prints but that is a whole big projects of its own. But that's one of the goals.

I had so much fun creating these Southwestern landscapes and feel that I captured something special in each one. It is somewhat disappointing that I had to bring more of the new work home than I expected. But I like to look on the bright side and hope that this will provide a unique opportunity for my followers from other parts of the US to acquire one of these vibrant scenes since they are all new and radiate a Southwestern flair I have not captured previously. Additionally since some of these are on the smaller spectrum of my work, they are part of the Small Works Sale. Check out all the listings here:

Probably the biggest obstacle for me is doing something like this with two small children. It really is harder than I imagined and I knew it would be hard because I've done two events in 2023 prior to this one. I tried to organize a fun vacation for them along my work trip but that took a great effort and in the end I don't think the vacation aspect was as fun as I promised the kids. In reality, I need Kyle with me working the booth for the duration of the entire event. That's what we did in Durango and it worked so well and was so successful. Living in a remote region, even events that are 1 to 4 hours away are a huge mission for our family of 4 but I am hopeful it will get easier and I will keep improving!

Lesson Learned: Nothing is easy for anyone - its just part of life. We loose some, we win some. In the end its what you try to make of each opportunity =) I would say we gave it a solid effort, despite not hitting all the marks. I feel very lucky that we were even able to attempt to pull this off! Plus we got to see the Saguaro again and that is priceless <3

My take away is that the Tempe Festival is a great opportunity for artists. Its a really big event full of a variety of art and craft. I think that having participated this season, I would do better at the next event but I plan to try a few other events in Colorado first. I do love Arizona so I hope to do another festival in the future when I am a slightly more seasoned art vendor and a much more rested and organized artist.

Additionally besides my own short comings listed above, I think my booth location was oddly placed though I realize you don't always land the best spot at these events. I found that the majority flow of people was in the opposite direction of my corner display, most of them not seeing my booth as they strolled with the pedestrian traffic. This was different from my experience in Durango last year where all booths were corner booths from every angle and were easy for the passerby to take in. My booth there had much more traffic than Tempe even thought it had only a small fraction of the actual foot traffic. Some of my neighbors also shared with me that they weren't doing as well as last year - that's another unpredictable factor at these type of events. Sometimes its just luck!

Lesson Learned:
Sometimes the foot traffic number ex. 150,000 festival visitors in Tempe vs 10,000 festival visitors in Durango does not always reflect in over all artist success at an event.

This lesson was HUGE - I learned that I must get an outdoor rug for next event lol Look at that yucky asphalt! Each event I keep making improvements and keep learning things that may seem so obviouse to someone else. 

Doing these events is a huge investment of time, effort and money for artists. I mean how do you quantify Kyle and I each taking 9 days off to do an event like this? I think gaining experience is priceless though and this was a good one.

I've been slowly improving my display for each event. First I purchased the booth and Kyle and I created DIY Pro-Panel Type display. I got a special table cloth and other display props, a print display holder not seen above, as well as professional booth hanging hardware for the art walls. For this event we got more of that hardware, a director's chair (low camping chairs suck for getting in and out of constantly plus you look odd sitting low to the ground and its hard to get up when you are tired). A banner for the outside was an exciting addition this time as well - we need more professional signage etc.. We keep working on creating upgraded artist bio posters and always making sure to have enough business cards - I ran out at my first event =)

Lesson Learned: There is ALWAYS room for improvement. Art Festivals are a lot of work so staying committed to mastering the set up is crucial.

Take a look at the photo-shopped rug Kyle added to my booth after the fact - what an improvement!  Now I must shop for the ultimate booth rag =) ps. this was  for a submission so we had to block out my name etc. Wish me luck for that one!

So there is still so much to learn but I think I am getting closer with each event. I see these festivals as a great opportunity to connect with my collectors and to be a part of the greater art community and sharing my work with new audiences. I'm a terrible sales person and an introvert so being a vendor is still a challenge for me. I don't like to approach people or to try to sell them somethings. Perhaps that may be my greatest obstacle. Introvert or not though, I am persistent and enjoy figuring things out against the odd so maybe there is still hope for Sales Person of the Year? Maybe my bad jokes don't help hehehehe Wish me luck with my upcoming applications for the Summer and Fall here in Colorful Colorado <3 Thank you Tempe for inviting me and for choosing my art!

And if you read this whole post, it means you love my work and should check out my Small Works Sale Here:

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