Monthly Archives: May 2009

Outdoor Art Shows

Plaza Art Fair 2010 smysnbrg Flickr CC license

There are lots of great posts about the “how to” of displaying and selling artwork at outdoor art shows.

 This is not one of them.

This post is about what went on inside my head the first time I mustered up the courage to finally show my art for sale at an organized outdoor Event. It is a big step in the life of an artist when they finally decide to take the plunge and try to sell their work in a public setting. It was a big step for me.

This is how it went…

I had heard so often from so many people, “You need to sell your art at Mayfair!!”  that I  finally heard it.  I did some investigation, laid down my fee for a “booth”, and found myself accepted as a participant in the annual big deal fundraiser for the local prep school.

Holy smokes. Now what?

That’s when the inside of my head, my Inner Children,  as they like to be called, started going crazy.

“What did we DOOO???”   “Why did we DO  THAAAT!???”   “What are we going to DOOOOOOO?????   There was all this running around inside my head, raising of dust and making of noise, screaming, hair pulling (from the inside), rending and recriminations.  “We can’t  do Mayfair! We’re not  good  enough !”

My Inner Children are for the most part a loud and unruly bunch.  There are one or two, maybe three, that have some sense.  Those three, maybe four, had finally had enough of the noise and confusion, and shouted, “Shhhhhhhhh!!!! If you don’t be quiet, Leslie will never be able to Think!”

It got quiet in there, and I began my Planning.

The mechanical aspect of setting up an outdoor art show consisted of lots of busy work. Making pegboard displays that were sturdy, buying lights and extension cords, hand lettering some business cards. The whole crew of Inner Children worked creatively and quietly like good little voices…er…children should.

When it came time to decide what Art to display, things began to break down.

“I like that one!  Let’s sell  it!”

“No! We like  that one.  We don’t want to sell  it.  We want to keep  it!”

“How are we supposed to make any money if every time you make art, you like it and don’t want to sell it?  The house is already full of art. We don’t need any more.  Sell it!”

“No! I’m keeping it.”

“Maybe we can get her to make another one just like it that she won’t like so much, and then she can sell that  one instead!”

“Great idea!   ~sounds of running feet in side my head, and then tugging on my hair, from the inside~   “Leslie!  Make more Art!”

Some folks call those Muses.  I call then Muse-ances.

And so it went for the month or so leading up to the show. In the process of keeping the voices Inner Children happy, I made lots of Art, some of which I did keep, but we won’t tell them.

I set up my display in the back yard, and arranged my art the way I thought it looked best. Of course I heard differing opinions, and did lots or re-arranging, until I finally decided on my original good judgement.

The day arrived of My First Outdoor Art Show. Setting up my booth went smoothly, because the Inner Children were kept busy. They really work well together if I have planned for contingencies and keep them on task.

Once I was all set up, and all that remained to do was wait until the show opened, they started bickering.

“I don’t think that picture shows off so well there. Move it”

“No. If you move it, then where are you going to put that other piece?”

“Lean it up against the wall.”

“Yuck! That is wholly unprofessional!”

“Why did you wear blue jeans? All the other artists look like artists in their colorful outfits. You have on jeans and a black shirt. Artists are supposed to be colorful. What were you thinking?”

“Your business cards look amateur. Why didn’t you have some made? Look at hers. They are embossed !”

“No, you can’t have an hors d’oeuvre. You’ll get spinach in your teeth. How would that look? Eeewww.”

“Here come the customers! Stand up straight! Smile!”

“Why is everyone just walking past the booth? Don’t they know how talented you are? They are not even looking! They must not have very good taste.”

“They are walking by because these are the worst pieces of art I have ever seen in my life! I told you we should have tried to sell the one she likes.  But, Noooo.  You said, ‘Let’s make new ones!’.  These are poor excuses for art, and I totally understand why no one is even LOOKING!

“That one is too expensive! No one will pay that price for that!”

“Why did we even agree to do this in the first place? Who does she think she is, anyway? An Artist?”

“Shhhhh. Everybody be quiet!  Someone is in the booth….”

A lady was intensely examining one of my detailed pieces. She stopped for a second, then turned to me, “Did you draw these?”

“Yes,” I said, all else in my head becoming suddenly quiet.

“These are gorgeous!” she said. “You are very, very talented!”

The Inner Children all started elbowing one another, nodding and grinning. “I told you so.” “What a smart lady.”  “She’s got such good taste.”  “I’m so glad we did this!”  “Let’s plan on doing it again…”

I think one of us had the presence of mind to say thank you to the lady with the great taste as she wandered off to the next booth of art…


someone elses photograph

How often has this happened to you?

You are flipping through an art magazine, or a National Geographic, or looking on Flickr, and you come across a photograph that is so great that you can’t wait to pull out your pencils and spend a relaxing afternoon making art using that inspiring photograph.

Sound familiar?

Hold on a minute!   Put down that Prismacolor! Drop the Derwent!

Whose photograph is it?

I know, I know…why does it matter?  You’re just going to do a little sketching, and it’s such an inspiring photo, and who’s going to notice? All you are going to do is spend a nice afternoon doodling…

That’s fine. You certainly can use the photograph to practice.  It’s a perfect tool for that. Using a photograph lets you take as much time as you need because you don’t have to be concerned with a model moving or growing tired.  You don’t have to worry about a still life set-up being eaten by folks who might stop by to watch you draw.

Here’s the deal…

What if all your hard work practicing making art all comes together in this one piece of art?   The shadows are just right, the perspective is spot on, the orange looks like an orange. You are so proud of it, and rightly so. It’s a real work of art!

Your result is so grand that you want to show it at the next gallery show, and maybe make and sell some prints of  it to kick off your art career. Your drawing is a winner and you know it. You can almost see the red “sold” dots at the gallery, and hear the cha-ching of the money rolling in…

Wait a minute. Go back to the question, “Whose photograph is it?”

I don’t want to say this, but better you hear it from me than from the copyright lawyer that represents the photographer, or the artist whose winning painting in the arts magazine you used for practice.

Here’s my little warning lecture, and then you can get back to your drawing…

If you make a great piece of art from someone elses photograph, without permission, you can’t ever sell it.  Period.  Really.

And you can’t display it as yours.

And you don’t want to risk selling it or displaying it in the hope that you won’t get caught. Caught happens.

It doesn’t matter that you drew the piece of art. You did not take the photo. You would be “infringing the copyrights” of the photographer. That sounds so technical, but think of “infringing” to be exactly like you opening that photographers wallet and taking out a few bucks without him knowing.

Be warned… if you were to take one of my photographs, draw a picture of it or from it, without getting my express permission to use it for your own personal gain, or to sell in your online store, or display it at an art show,  I would have to hunt you down with my lawyer in tow (he’s got a cute little briefcase full of documents, and he wears a bowtie) and extract my money from your wallet.

You could of course ask permission from me, the photographer. You might get a “yes”, and if you were serious about wanting to reproduce and sell the art you make from the photograph, you and the photographer could reach an agreement about you paying him a flat fee for use, or a percentage of sales for the privilege. That would be called a licensing agreement.

Can you never use a photograph to draw from? Are you destined to have to worry about the model having an itchy nose, or the apple being too tempting?

Not  at all.  Here is what you can do…

Buy a camera, and take your own pictures!  Then you can use your own photographs to make works of art to your ‘arts content.

And you won’t ever have to meet my guy with the bowtie.


Copyright Act of 1976

Harvard Law School

Rogers vs Koons