Art Fairs (and the absolute embarrassment of talking about your work…)

So, another year, and another Affordable Art Fair is over. It’s an unusual experience for me, in that I get to meet a lot of people who are interested in printmaking, but who are also interested in buying my work. There were a lot of questions, as always, and sometimes it’s hard for us artists to articulate our answers in a clear and informative way (in other words, we can be unsociable, inarticulate and slightly feeble).

The most important thing here is to appear confident – if you look at the ground and scuffle your feet while you’re talking about your work, then all those lovely potential customers won’t feel too confident either. They’re hopefully going to spend their hard-earned money on your work and they need to feel that they’re making the right decision in choosing one of your pieces.

I know how hard it is though – I’ve never come across an artist who actually likes talking about their work (“I’m not a Performing Seal” and “My work speaks for itself”, etc.,) but like everything in life, the more you do it, the easier it gets.

It really can give you valuable insights into what people like about your work and what they don’t, and it forces you to verbalise what it is you’re trying to achieve. It doesn’t harm, either, to have a little talk prepared in your head before you start (but if a slightly bewildered look keeps stealing over your customers’ faces, then you may need to work on the content of that little talk….)

Talking to art fair visitors is also great for making you feel like a bit of an expert – you tend to forget how much experience you have. When you’re in the company of people who aren’t artists and therefore may not know too much about your work, and the processes you use, it can make you feel very knowledgeable and that’s rather nice.

All that noisy confusion of the fair certainly brings you down to earth – no bad thing for artists who can get very precious about their work if given half a chance. A few days of art fair visitors walking past your work as if it was completely invisible (or even worse, saying loudly to no-one in particular, “Well, I don’t like that”), certainly toughens you up. If nothing else, you learn to shrug internally and ignore it, at least until you can get home and start weeping into that pint glass of beer, wine, or whisky (depending on how bad it’s been).

If you really can’t face talking about your work, then you can always talk about the practical side of your work, your processes or the equipment you use for example. People are always interested in hearing about my printing press. (It’s an old cast iron Albion relief press made in 1841, purchased for a bargain price on eBay and brought all the way from deepest Norfolk to London on the motorway, strapped on to the back of some bloke’s van…..)

Above all, it’s a pleasure to be surrounded by people who appreciate the value of original art and who see a sense of value in what artists are trying to do.

So no more Affordable Art Fair for another year, but if you were one of those people who stopped by for a chat, thank you very much for coming (and to those of you who bought something, an even bigger thank you!)

And now I guess it’s time to get back into the studio and get on with some work, sigh…



2 thoughts on “Art Fairs (and the absolute embarrassment of talking about your work…)

  1. Gail – I can't see that many people would pass you by, but hope you were successful at the show. I know what you mean about talking about yourself. When I did an exhibition (amateur compared to you) I found it extremely difficult to write a personal statement about myself and my work – writing in the 3rd person and blowing one's own trumpet doesn't come easily to most people….. I notice that you have an exhibition in Cambridge this month – already in the diary to go and see, as I live just outside the city. Can't wait to see your work in real life.

  2. Thanks Lynn – I do think that trying to express yourself verbally is really difficult for a lot of artists and I guess that's why we try to do it in a visual way – otherwise, we might have become writers or musicians instead…
    Hope you manage to get to the exhibition in Cambridge – hope you enjoy it, if you do!

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