Monday, July 13, 2009

Art exhibition stories

Well, I am back after a long weekend at the Toronto Outdoor Art Exhibition. I don't know how many of you have done trade shows but it is absolutely exhausting. It's not just the set-up, the long hours (Friday, for example, I was downtown at 6:30 am - meaning awake at 4:30 - and didn't get home until 9 pm, then worked until 11 at home), and the exposure to the elements (we had about 2 hours of torrential downpour on Saturday, the rest was very hot and sunny), it's constantly being 'up and on' that is so tiring. If you have worked retail you know what I mean. My smile was so fake by Sunday it was more like a snarl. It's a wonder people talked to me at all.

Nevertheless, it was a good show for me as always. It was my tenth (!) year at the TOAE and despite a city workers' strike (that means garbage hasn't been picked up in the city of Toronto for more than three weeks now) and the weather, the show went on much as usual. I had a few crazy things happen though!

On Saturday we were standing away from the booth a bit, chatting with friends, when a squirrel ran into my booth. He sat there for a few seconds, looked at the paintings, then decided to jump into one. Not onto - he wasn't trying to climb it - but into! My paintings are of water if that helps set the scene. So he jumped headfirst into a water painting and of course bounced off. He sat there for a second, considering, then made a second attempt! At this point, my husband brought our dog into the booth and chased the squirrel out. The squirrel then ran around the back and up the walls of the booth, along the top and was all set for a third attempt when the dog finally scared it away. Luckily the painting was only lightly scratched by squirrel claws and easily repaired with a fresh coat of varnish.

Another weird thing that happened was that a young man (late teens or early twenties) came into my booth, and considered the paintings for a long time. Then he walked up to me and said loudly, "Don't you think you're overcharging?"
I hardly knew what to say. I explained that I have been painting for many years, that I exhibit internationally, that my work has been featured in magazines (most recently on the cover of January's Style at Home magazine), on television (often on HGTV) and is in galleries that set my prices. I mentioned that he could find comparable prices at many of my peers' booths around the show. I talked about how this is my job, and one painting not only represents three weeks' worth of work for me, but I also incur the hidden costs of studio expenses, supplies, advertising, web design, professional fees and taxes. I talked about how my hourly wage is probably less than he makes per hour, yet I probably (based on his age) have more education. I mentioned the numerous paintings I'd sold the day before (not to mention over 12 years of exhibiting my work) and suggested that fair market economy demonstrated that the valuation of my paintings was appropriate.

"Yeah," he said, "but it's just water." And walked away.

I shouldn't have bothered even talking to him. I'm not sure what he was trying to accomplish by making such a comment. Was he trying to say he loved it but couldn't afford it? Was he a painter who isn't successful? Was he just ignorant? Was he trying to antagonize me personally, or just looking for a fight or someone to rant to? I have no idea what his motivation was. It was simply bizarre.

The only other thing that was a little nasty about the weekend was that there was a bench directly behind my booth that became a camp site for some homeless guys. They did not disturb me and were not even visible from the front of the booth - in fact, they were downright helpful to some of my fellow artists with less stable booths, when a gust of wind threatened to topple displays. But they smoked CONSTANTLY and so I spent the entire weekend engulfed in cigarette smoke. It was pretty gross. I feel like my lungs need a bath.

Anyway that was my weekend - I had a lot of friends and family stop by, even some of my blog readers which was very cool! I got a chance to catch up with some artist friends who I don't see much. I spent the entire weekend with my husband which was great. And made some money which is always a relief! I got lots of feedback on my work as well which is nice. Being an artist is a pretty solitary pursuit most of the time so it's nice to get out and hear what people think. Overall it was a good weekend. But I sure am glad to be home and finished with the show for another year!


  1. Sounds like quite the weekend. I found the squirrel story very funny!
    I finally was able to check out your website (the page had trouble loading the last time I tried, probably my computer) and your water paintings are amazing! So lovely. They definitly aren't just water!

  2. I love your paintings, including the one on the cover of our January issue. I especially love your Water Series – I guess the squirrel and I have the same taste in art!

    Laurie Grassi
    Executive Editor
    Style at home

  3. Thanks, Laurie! I do have a soft spot for squirrels (and Style at Home magazine!)... I wasn't thrilled with the scratches, but it was so funny and made such a great story that I forgave it :)


Hey, why not leave a comment? I'd love to hear what you think. If you're entering a giveaway, be sure to leave your email address if it's not set to public in your profile!