Monday's Muse - Gasparilla Festival of the Arts

Hey there! How was your weekend?

I had the good fortune to spend a gorgeous Sunday at the Gasparilla Festival of the Arts. This is my favorite local show. Okay, there were some "sofa art"-type pieces. Fortunately they were sprinkled around. Mostly there was a fun variety of styles, mediums, and price ranges. Pretty much something for everyone.

This show gives away almost $75,ooo.oo in prizes, so a good number of artists apply. This really contributes to the diversity. There is also an emerging artists section, which I think is brilliant. It adds some new blood to the mix and gives a chance to someone who might not otherwise be unable to afford the show. Emerging artists are provided with a tent & $250 stipend. Plus fees are waved. They can not compete for most of the prizes, but they can try for a $1,ooo award. For more details on the emerging artist program, click here.

Acrylic paintings on wood by Suzi Scarborough

The fair was packed with folks enjoying the beautiful weather, redesigned riverfront and of course the art. I had a fantastic time searching out old favorites & finding new ones. Ended up buying 4 pieces and talked to some fascinating people. This week I will share my favorites (with lots of images & links). Click on any of the art in this post to visit the artists' websites.

I'd also like to share some Art Fair Do's & Don'ts later this week.

I'd love to hear your thoughts if you've ever attended an art show - as a buyer, browser or seller. Please leave a comment or drop me an email (address in my profile). I'll post all contributions on Saturday. Today I'll kick start us with (what should be) a couple of "gimmies":

Sellers, please display your business cards.

Yes, many folks that take 1 will not contact you in the future. But some might.

Or they may pass it on to a friend.

Or they may want to write your booth number on the back so they can find you 2 hours (& maybe 2 beers) later. While your amazing work may stick in that potential customer's mind, your booth location may not.

And if you shared the card in your pocket when I asked, Thank You.

Excuse me, Miss Chatterbox, please don't bogart the artist.

Yes, the artwork is amazing and you may have made a mystical connection. And I am sure that you are fascinating. But please remember the artist is here to make money; he is trying to focus on everything going on in his booth.

On the other hand, please do acknowledge the artist if you want to.

Many people do like feedback on their work. And some even like to chat if their booth is empty.

Underwater photo by my 6 yr old.
No, this was not in the show. Just messing with you.

Maybe you (or your 6 yr old or your blind dog) could have made it ... But you didn't and the artist did.

And now he needs to sell it! So please move out of the way; there is a potential customer behind you.

Also, didn't your mother ever tell you that If you have nothing nice to say, please say nothing at all? Or at least save it for when you've left the booth.

Just Be Nice - This one goes out to everybody.

Yes, this should be obvious. And yes we are all human. Maybe you are hungry, thirsty, hot, hungover, tired, broke, jealous, recently rejected or just want to go home. (1) I am sure you are not the only one. (2) This day isn't about only you so please don't spoil it for others. (3) Lighten up. Leave if you can and if you can't... just be patient - I promise it will be over soon.

I have a few more thoughts on this topic and would love to hear yours. Please send me your art fair do's & dont's and I will happily post them all on Saturday.

Disclaimer: I have never had a booth at an art show. I love to attend them. And to be honest, I enjoy the people-watching almost as much as the art. I do work trade & consumer shows for the day job and see similar faux pas there as well.

These are simply 1 humble gal's observations. Please add your own - educate me.


  1. I wish I could have been there! Sounds like an awesome art festival.

    Okay, my dos and don'ts list.

    Buyers: Please don't stand in front of a seller's booth chatting to friends. Move away until you are ready to continue shopping because you are keeping other customers from seeing the display.

    Sellers: Don't start packing up until the sale is officially over. It makes people feel awkward to ask to see something or make a purchase when you so obviously want to be out of there.

  2. Great topic!

    Sellers, please make eye contact with potential buyers at the very least (plus a smile and greeting are always good form, and guess what -- they inspire the buyers!)

    Buyers, if we do one-of-a-kind work, it's not too likely that we'll be able to (or want to) make "that same thing but with pink instead of blue".

  3. Sellers: I agree with the friendliness. Yes, your work is wonderful. But you ARE THE SELLER, so smile and be friendly to the customer. You never know who maybe a large purchase. Please don't chat with your friends when a potential buyer is in the booth. It gives the impression you could careless.
    Don't begin packing up early, you may miss a sale.

    Don't negotiate a lower price unless you are really willing to purchase it.
    Don't ask for an art lesson from the seller. Find a class.
    Don't be critical with a friend in front of or near an artist's booth.
    Do be friendly, complimentary and show the artist a little appreciation.

  4. To looky-loos, most art will not match your sofa, so please try not to critique based on your own décor.

    There is not always deep "meaning" in artwork. I have a piece that constantly brings questions as to why I stopped 1/2 down the page, left a gap and restarted the rest of the drawing. I guess I could make up something really deep, but I literally misjudged my scale of a live model for the page. You can ask if you feel the need, but mystery is not a requirement.

  5. Sellers:
    1-get to the venue early so you have plenty of time to unpack and pull yourself together.
    2- look professional, you maybe an artist, but don't wear your coffee stained tea shirts and ripped jeans. trust me 1st impressions are everything.
    3-price everything. yes, if a customer has to ask you the price it does stimulate conversation, but what happens if you are busy with someone else. you could loose a sale if your piece is not marked.
    4-presentation is everything, make sure your booth is well thought out, well lit and neat. fresh flowers and chocolates don't hurt either.
    5-enjoy yourself and smile.

    1-agree with all the comments about, my 5 year old could make that, standing in front of a booth chit chatting, rude behavior, etc.
    2- please do not blurt outloud that the seller's price is too high. you don't know how much time went into the product or what the cost of goods are. it's just plain rude.
    3-do compliment the artist if you like their work.
    4- do buy the piece if you really like it. it's one of a kind and you may never see anything like that again.

  6. Buyers - If you think you can make it "think it" don't "say it".

    Seller: please put the price where I can see it without "lifting" the art or "moving" the art. It makes me nervous I might break it or hurt it.

    Maybe have a list of future shows you will be at so I can find you again after thinking "I should have bought that!"

    There are so great tips here love all the good info from comments.

  7. All great comments. Glad you started this topic of conversation, Stacey. As you know i already gave my 2 cents at the forum, how as a aseller I think it's important to first greet someone walking into your booth, smsile and say "hello" and then back away. As a buyer I cannot stnd to be either hounded or watched like a hawk so I like to give customers or even browsers some space and breathing room.

  8. Yes there's a fine line isn't there between being friendly and hounding....think artists often have to be reminded that, whilst many are there just to enjoy the art, fairs are also a retail space. They're there to sell. They're there to be professional. Don't hover. Sit down if possible - to me it adds a more relaxed air than standing about. Don't expect everybody to like you work - some won't. But don't take it personally. When you go shopping, you don't like everything do you. And stay at your booth, or have somebody else stand in for you. Empty booths are really annoying. And buyers, my pet peeve, don't ask the artist to give you instructions on how you made a piece! It's okay to ask general questions but to want to know every little step is a bit rude.

  9. Don't ask the artist to create a piece for you that will break copyright laws.

  10. Everyone has made such good observations. I can't think of anything to add. Looking professional is one of my pet peeves. It is so important! And have a name tag on so the customer can address you by name. Personally, I think sitting is rude. I think you should stand and mingle with the customers and smile!! Thanks for this post!

  11. Very helpful! I'm going to be doing farmer's markets and festivals soon, and I liked all of these tips! I think I'll use the one from slommer "have a name tag on so the customer can address you by name". I hadn't even thought of that one, and I've been trying to cover everything beforehand so this goes as smoothly as possible.

    Also, couldn't agree more with asking about how a product is made. I get that one. OFTEN. "What kind of resin doe you use? Where do you get those thingies that you put in your...because I want to start doing resin and..." Yeah. Some general questions are fine. But...that is just rude.