Like squats… only for your face.

On Monday, I had my first stall EVER at Rowledge Village Fayre.

But what did I learn from this experience?

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1. Don’t underestimate the weather: I obsessively checked the weather for about ten days before the fayre. As I grew closer to the big day, I was checking four or five times a day. Great! No rain due! Glance over the fact that there are gale force winds. 

I arrived at the fayre two and a half hours before kick off to set up my wall-less gazebo. As soon as my stock was put onto the table, it was blown over, even my large glass-fronted framed print kept toppling over. My large orange display board? Forget it, that was threatening to fall over on my head, catapulting my original paintings everywhere.

Thank goodness for mum’s friend offering me a space in the big gazebo. Everyone shoved along and, although it was cosy, it saved the fayre for me.

2. Do some warm up facial exercises beforehand: I am generally a smiley person anyway, but no person’s face is used to smiling constantly for over four hours! Think of it like doing squats in the weeks leading up to a skiing trip… only for your face. Face squats.  My Stall!

3. Paint on the day, but don’t expect a masterpiece: I didn’t take all of my paints and paintbrushes with me. I couldn’t get close to my photograph, and I couldn’t zoom in on a screen like at home to see the detail.

BUT it looks great, and it invites people to watch you without feeling pressured to talk to you. Its a conversation starter! My friends from work said “Now we have seen proof that you actually DO paint!” It makes your artwork authentic and more personal. 

Photo: Talented artist at work

4. I am king of the kids: The tiniest little boy stared in complete rapture as I painted a meercat. I had no idea that little boys’ attention spans could be that trained on something that wasn’t going VRRROOOOM VROOOOM! After a while, he told me “that is a really good painting.” in a sincere and strangely adult way.

Another little girl kept coming back to watch me, saying “I wish I could paint like that”. I told her that at her age, I couldn’t either, and if she started practicing now – she would probably be better than me one day! Inspirational words!

5. I need to man up: Imogen! Be brave! People have spent a while watching you paint and complimenting your talents. Give them a business card, invite them to sign up to your newsletter for the chance to win a painting! Do something or you are the nameless girl at the fayre who can paint, but other than that you are forgotten.

For any blog readers, I am doing my prize draw in June. Anyone who subscribes to my newsletter is in with the chance to win a bespoke painting worth £95! If you have always wanted a painting, what have you got to lose? In my own words, man up!

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6. Don’t forget about your main market: At the fayre, I branded myself mainly as a painter of birds. I forgot my pet portrait leaflets, and I neglected the market of dog owners who were all conveniently at the fayre entering Fido into the “Waggiest Tail” contest. What a wally.

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7.  People are wonderful: Seriously. I felt overwhelmed with all the lovely comments I received. I am so thankful to everyone who came to support me, including the strangers who have no previous investment in me – who just genuinely like what I have to offer!

One lady flicking through my portfolio said “Your paintings are more lifelike than the photographs!” Wow. Day made! 

What have you learned in retrospect after a big event?

Going off photo when the photo is… off

Caution: the following includes an artist with a serious case of “a bad workman blames his tools” syndrome.

As an artist who strives to get animals as accurate as I possibly can,
going off-photo goes against all my principals. 

Funnily enough, it is only when I perceive the photograph to be “wrong” that painting stops being a lovely relaxing experience that comes naturally to me.

Instead, it can instantly become stressful, and I can be heard muttering “hate this stupid dog / eye / leg / insert anything here”.

It’s at that point that I know that a quick fix is not possible. The photograph looks all wrong, and to avoid my painting looking all wrong, I have to go off book, or find a new bit of photograph to copy.

Exhibit A… the loveliest little King Charles Cavalier Spaniel, Bertie.
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Look at his lovely face, fluffy ears and glinty eyes.
Awww. That makes for a lovely relaxing painting session, with a hint of a challenge.

Now scroll back up and look at those legs.
What the heck is going on there???
They are all over the place!

Paws are conveniently cropped out of the image, so I can’t really even work out what is back leg and front leg, what is body and what is tail.

I am left stumped as to what is going on and to how on earth I will paint this random assortment of white limbs.

So I painted it as per the photograph.

And as expected, it looked all wrong.

My own mother gave herself the role of “Quality Control” and told me I needed to change it.

Grumble Grumble.

I love painting, but I don’t love repainting a painting that I thought was a finished painting.

 Back to the drawing board!!

How to prepare for your first art stall

Hello everybody,

This is a little guide on what I have learned for far in preparing for my first art stall at Rowledge Village Fayre. It hasn’t happened yet, so things could still go very very wrong… But I feel like I have learned a lot, so thought I would share my learnings with you today!

1. Never underestimate how much you have to invest: Bulk buying greeting cards, giclee prints and other items is EXPENSIVE. I was prepared for that. What I wasn’t prepared for was how much everything else costs!

You know those little mounts that you get around fine art prints, and even school photographs? They are as expensive as the print itself. And they just get thrown away. Then you add plastic wallets to put them in. EX PEN SIVE.

To keep my (and the customer’s) costs down, I got plastic wallets and just plain cardboard which I attached photo corners to to keep the print secure… considerably reducing the price of presentation of each print, but not impacting on how professional they still look.

2. People need to be shown exactly how to display your goods: Don’t leave it up to imagination, if your prints look great with a black frame and a smart mount, show people by investing in a nice frame. I am getting an A3 kingfisher framed to show people just how fantastic it looks. As proud painter and owner of the original, I hate to say it, but the framed print looks better!

3. The most simple of stalls still has many complex things holding it together. How do you create height to make an interesting display? How do you make all of your products look professional? How do you catch people’s eye in the first place? How do you hang items? Next time you visit a stall, look at all of these things. They all take lots of planning and lots of cost, especially the first time round.

I am planning on using coloured boxes to display my prints, cards and paintings at different heights on the table. I have borrowed two three-panel boards from my mum to hang my paintings off. I have drawn birds eye views of where the table, easel, boards and stock will go. Next weekend I plan on having a practice set up of everything to see how it all looks together.

4. Your painting time will seriously suffer: I am spending so much of my time thinking, writing blogs and newsletters, planning and buying for the fayre that any time spent actually painting is very limited. Someone once told me that when starting a new art business, about 50% of your time will be taken up with running the business, not actually painting. More like 80%!

5. Test the market by getting greeting cards in many many designs: A good quality place will send proofs through to you to make sure the colours are right before you buy. The proofs of mine are done and look great! I am getting between ten and twenty of each card, because who am I to say what people will like the best? I know which are my favourites, but which are yours?

6. Email addresses of interested customers are like gold dust: Create a newsletter so you can get people to subscribe to it – emails and advertising! In my opinion, my newsletter is full of interest and creativity, and I enjoy reading it… but for those that need extra incentive, I am choosing one lucky subscriber at random to win a painting on June 1st. I will tell every customer about this amazing opportunity so hopefully I will get lots of interest!

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7. The little details will make you memorable: In each print and each greeting card, I am putting one of my business cards with a handwritten note saying “thank you for your custom!” or similar. I really really appreciate ANYONE who buys from me and supports my business, no matter how small a purchase. Even just a like on facebook. I appreciate it all! So tell them.

8. Be prepared for your boyfriend to appoint himself Managing Director and Marketing Manager of your company: I actually got told to “check with me before you make any business decisions please.” He was being serious. His Dad also seems to have appointed himself ‘Marketing Executive’… I feel there may be competition!

What important lessons have you learned in the lead up to a big event?