I wrote the following post last weekend as a post on Facebook and Instagram, where I received an overwhelming amount of feedback and encouragement, a great majority of which was from other artists who could relate to what I shared. It is a raw and honest look at where I landed after the experience at SOFA and how it impacted me. I thought my blog readers might appreciate reading about it too, so I am reposting it here:
"I’m still processing my experience at SOFA Expo Chicago last weekend. On the one hand, it was an experience of a lifetime to be there after a decade of attending the show as a spectator/dreamer. On the other hand, I did not have any sales, nor did the majority of the artists in the area around me. Many of them with years of experience at this particular show with outstanding sales in the years past
There were a number of contributing factors; the show was under new management, the floor plan was not as open, traffic did not flow well on the end of the hall I was on. Our gallery was given individual small booth stalls rather then the single large gallery space they’ve had in the past- which proved most difficult for people to comfortably view the work, and the buzz in the air that tension over the impending election was causing uncertainty in the buying crowd- overall sales across the entire show were down.
All of the above, and more, were factors outside of my control. It’s impossible to plan for all the variables and all had nothing to do with the art. And yet. And yet....
I’ve never participated in a show before where I didn’t at least make my investment back. And usually that investment would afford me a profit plus a career benefit of future opportunities making the risk highly worthwhile.
Many of you have followed my journey preparing for this show, but you may not have realized just how much an artist has to invest of their own resources. Yes, the show is oriented to galleries and being repped by one is the only way to get in, but many of these galleries are unable to foot the 80-100k bill alone, so the artist contributes financially to the space their art will cover. Like most of what we do as career artists, and not unlike any other small business owner or entrepreneur, we invest a great deal up front and work very hard to generate enough income from that investment to keep going.
We not only have to sell our work, but we sell our image, we sell our stories, we sell our love and passion. We polish and refine and practice our statement, and we happily share what we do with you, the interested viewer and potential collector.
Making the art is only a small fraction of what it takes to be an artist.
People are often surprised to hear that our studio time is not where we expend most of our efforts. And somehow never quite grasp the risk involved in doing this job. It all seems so glamorous from the outside.
Much of that risk really is outside of my control. And yet...
In my logical brain, the side that was meant to analyze, and decipher, and process information, I can take a step back and still feel good about what I created and the fact that I was given such a tremendous opportunity to begin with. It knows the variables it can change, and those it had nothing to do with. In my logical brain, it is a business, it’s not personal. But that logical brain is at war with the vulnerable creative brain- The one that poured its whole self into these canvases and feels raw and achy, as if hanging its very soul on the wall for you to judge.
As much as we artists do create because we just need to create. We also need to eat and pay our bills and keep the lights on like everyone else. It can be damned exhausting to do this work. The energy and time and money it takes.
This experience was a little like being drafted into the NFL and then spending the first season sitting on the bench. Okay, I hate sports and have no idea if that’s an appropriate analogy, but it’s what keeps coming to mind. Will there be a next season for me?
Honestly I’m still in recovery mode and right now I feel more than a little discouraged. For the first time in many years, I’ve entertained the idea of going back to a traditional job. And I’m not at all sure my health would sustain it. Not the most encouraging post I’ve shared in a while, but it’s the reality in my life right now.
That picture of the cape wearing baby in the mix? That’s my granddaughter whom I was babysitting during the weekend of the show. I committed to watching her for her momma and daddy before I knew there would be a scheduling conflict. So I even sacrificed my time with her to be at SOFA, spending overnights as Grammy in charge and tag teaming by day with her Yia-yia and Aunties.
As an artist I am always weighing the cost of any particular endeavor compared to the potential benefit. There is always a risk, a gamble involved. Multiple streams of revenue would be my answer to how I manage if you were to ask. But multiple streams of energy and time don’t always match. And multiple streams can have dry spells all at the same time as well.
I’m grateful for all that I’ve experienced and achieved. Grateful for all the love and encouragement I’ve received. And grateful, even, to have a bit of a legacy to leave for my grands, even if it’s just a bit.
But today I have to admit, I am tired.