Art Festivals 101

This time last year, at the ripe age of 45 years old with a one year old to feed, a new mortgage payment and girlfriend enrolled full-time in her first college semester, I made the bold and seemingly selfish decision to take the leap and become a full fledged full-time artist. In retrospect it really does seem like a selfish and hasty decision I made. Christ! I had hardly any savings and very little knowledge on how to go about it. My entire decision was based on two things; one, the four festivals I did the previous year and two, I had been waiting tables and underachieving for far too long and it was time for a change! Also, I feel it only fair to say that having a child will light a fire under almost any sedentary ass, it certainly did mine. One can't ignore the thoughts that start to creep in like, "how will my child remember me?" "Will he be proud of what I've done with my life?" "What kind of legacy will I leave him or will I be able to pay for him to get a proper education?" etc...I deduced that if I was going to do this the best way for me to make a living doing my art, that is to say without having to supplement my income with skills I don't have such as; graphic design work, tattooing, logos, sign painting, framing, sucking... selling... swallowing whatever, etc... (sorry I can be a bit graphic.. hehe) was to do art festivals! At least for a few years until I build a name for myself while building up my inventory and perfecting my craft. The big problem was, what festivals do I do? Shit, there are literally thousands of arts and crafts festivals around the country, and like art galleries, there are really good ones and really bad ones. So I just kind of went at it blindly and tried to stick to shows close to home, keep my travel expenses to a minimum, but many of them were quit disappointing to say the least. Furthermore, I was straight up denied to quite a few of the festivals I applied to, many of them not considered to be very good festivals in the first place. Self-doubt starts to creep in especially when you get rejected to a show, but what's worse is to sit in your booth at a lame festival staring at your own artwork (and their many flaws) as the hours roll passed along with all the faceless people not giving your booth a second glance. After each disappointing festival I did, I started to do more and more research, asked more questions and tried to make each piece of art better than the last. My attitude was simple, there is no alternative but to succeed! Because, what.. was I gonna go back to waiting tables at the age of 46 for the rest of my life? NO! And no offense to those that are my age and still doing it, it's a fine career path that is unfortunately severely under-rated and under-appreciated in this country. In many other countries, especially European countries it's considers to a be a legitimate profession, which on the professional level requires a tremendous amount of wine and food knowledge as well as great costumer service skills. The ones that are truly good at it, it becomes an art form in and of itself! But I digress. I just always had this aching, throbbing desire for a creative career path!Well, it seems to have paid off. This year, so far at least, I've been accepted into every festival I've applied to. In my research I found Sunshine Artist magazine who appears to be the authority on art festivals, much like the Wine Spectator on wine, they put out a list of the top 200 ranked art shows every year. In large part the rankings are based on vendor sales (which can exceed 10,000 per show), as well as the number of quality artists and festival turnout. I've been accepted into a half dozen on the top 200 list already this year, the highest ranked show being Summerfair Cincinnati which is ranked #16 in the country on Sunshine's list. Many of these shows draw up to 300,000 visitors over the course of the weekend.. So even if I don't have great sales (and I'm sure some will be duds for me, whether it's weather or just not my crowd) it'll be great exposure either way. Since many of these are highly desirable shows they can have hundreds, some times thousands of applicants per festival for only a couple hundred spots, the odds are stacked against you, therefore, just getting in can be challenging to say the least, so getting accepted is a victory in itself. This post is not to boast about my achievements (which are still pending), it's more to thank the people who have helped me make it through my first year as a full-time artist like; Brian Mashburn, Jill-Mary Mucciarone and her husband Bill , Wiwat Kamolpornwijit, Jason part of Marisol Spoon and many other artists who pointed me in the right direction and shared their knowledge and experience with me. Here is a great big HIGH FIVE to all of you! Needless to say because of many of you generous people I'm feeling very optimistic about my upcoming festival season. Now it just comes down to a couple of factors,1. Good god please let there be less rain during my festivals this year.2. More tattooed professionals with money, which seem to gravitate towards my work. I realize to some of you that sounds like an oxymoron, "tattooed professionals with money"? What? But for the sake of brevity I assure it's not. And if it's a successful year, i too will have my first tattoo as a reward for doing what I've always wanted to do but was too chicken shit to do it. Hmmmm... chicken shit tattoo? Who wants to scar me with that one? JK!(Trying to) KEEP IT (as real as I can) REAL!YOLO!Erik (or as many of you now know me, Leif)