Being an equine photographer is not limited to horse shows and horse portraits! Selling your horse art is another avenue to go down if you are a horse lover and photographer. Being around horses for shows and portraits often brings about opportunities to create wonderful art images of our equine friends! If you have created a collection of fine art images of horses that you would like to sell and make additional income and maybe someday a full time living with, read on for some tips and tricks of the art show circuit!
My husband Flash and I did the art show circuit during and in between our horse show schedule. You need a lot of the same equipment for your show setup but the first thing you will need to do, is get accepted into the art shows you are interested in selling at!
Maybe it’s an art show that you have attended many times near your home or maybe you would like to travel and make the artshow your destination making it a working vacation! Most shows last a few days over a weekend, but there are larger shows, usually more expensive and harder to get into. Let me break down the when where and how for you…read on.
Where to Find an Art Show
You can find art shows everywhere and there are probably a few regular shows where you live that you see year after year. Call or surf your local chamber of commerce’s website and you can usually find the shows on their calendar. The show promoters contact info is usually listed and often there is an application right there on the chamber website that you can download.
You can also find art show & festival listings on such sites as: https://festivalnet.com/state/arizona/fairs-festivals You can put in the state you are interested in and it will show you most of the larger shows. For juried art shows we used this site listed here: http://www.artshow.com/juriedshows/. You can peruse through the show descriptions and the venues that the shows are held at to get an idea of the style of the show. Not all shows will work for you and it’s kind of a learning curb, and there is lots of trial and error that first year of shows especially. On the website you can also look at some of the other returning vendors that are posted. Look at their websites and artwork. Is it similar to your art in price range, and skill level? You must objectively look at other art and know if you are in the same skill category. If you miss-match your show, getting into a show where your art’s quality is 10 times higher than what’s at the show, you WON”T SELL a THING! The opposite is also true, if you land a show that your work is not really up to par with, you will also leave the show empty handed.
Juried shows vs non juried
Juried shows have the best work and are the hardest to gain entry to. That being said, if you have a strong portfolio with a clearly defined style, you can land a juried show even if you are new to the art show world. The juried show has a panel of judges that all vote on what work gets in and what doesn’t. You will fill out a lengthy application and usually provide 5 or so images of your work with the application. You will receive a yes or no in a letter about 6-9 weeks after you apply. Get your application in ASAP as they limit the amount of photographers, painters, jewlers etc per show.
Non juried shows are the easiest to get in as its mostly a first apply, first in basis. There are no judges, just send a sample of your work, pay the fee (yes there are fees!) and show up!
The Application Process
Fill out the application as soon as you find the shows you want. As I said above, you will need to submit 5 or so images of your work. You will also need to show a photo of your booth tent setup. This can be tricky if you have not done a show yet! We actually mocked up our show by setting up our tent and hanging some art inside, setting up a table with some brochures and a skirted table cloth. The brochures were about horse shows but it didn’t matter. What they want to see is a clean well organized & attractive setup.
There is usually an application fee ($25-$35 average) as well as a show fee, if you are accepted. Show fees are due before the show and some shows will let you do a deposit and then balance due a few weeks before the show. Average show Fee’s range from $400-$600 for a weekend or two and a half day show. They can be much higher for the most desirable, and well established or longer running shows. My advice is to start with a few two to three day (fri-sun) shows, and get your feet wet.
Art Inventory, Equipment & Prep
Congratulations! You have landed some shows to put on your calendar for the year! Now it’s time to choose your inventory and begin to prepare for the show. You will first need to choose your tent/booth set up for the shows. Many art shows require a white tent, or at least a white tent top. We started with black for horse shows, then purchased just a white top for art shows. Eventually we bought white walls too. Read the fine print of the shows you are doing and make your purchase accordingly. We really can’t recommend any other tent other than EZ-up. EZup Tent in White for Art SHOWS!!! , You will need 3-4 walls for your booth!
To learn more about the basic booth setup, you can read The Ultimate Booth Tent Setup in our resource pages. You are now going to need a way to hang your art. There are two competitors that both offer great ways to sell your display your art attractively at the show.
The first way, what we use, is made by a company called Pro-panels. These portable, modular walls are great for art shows. They are sturdy and offer many creative configurations for both indoor and outdoor setups for shows. We purchased the gray as we liked the neutral color, but honestly if I were to buy them again I would go black. They are light weight, easy to assemble and store flat. For cost sake, start with enough walls to line the 10×10 booths three walls, back and two sides. Don’t forget the hardware to connect it all. Later you can add more pieces if you decide to!
Above I have posted a link to a site that sells mesh panels. These are lighter and may store easier, but didn’t seem as durable as the Propanels. There are other types of walls, I would go walk a few art-shows and see what people are using. See what looks best to you and go that way. It’s an investment for sure and it’s good to talk to other artists and see if they like what they are using and why. You will also need to choose a hanger system and whether you go with Propanels or mesh walls, they all have their own accessories to choose from. You can also make your own, just test it out before the show!
In addition to your display art for sale on the walls, you will want some smaller, matted prints to put in a print bin, so you can offer less expensive items to sell (many shows will require you to do so). To save costs, we used our Epson wide format printer that creates STUNNING Prints! They now have a newer version, ours is about 7 years old but still works fantastic! This Epson printer goes up to 13×19! We used professional paper & inks to print the best quality possible. The great thing about doing the printing ourselves, was we were able to reprint our top sellers in the evenings after the show. For example, say your “Appaloosa horse” was a top seller and you only started with 5 matted prints in 11×14, and you sold out that first show day. Now you can print 10 more to have for the next day of the show! We also bought in bulk, acid free mats with backing & bag included in packs sizes 8×10 pre-cut 8×10/5×7 mats, 11×14 11×14/8×10 pre-cut mats, white , and 16×20 16×20/11×14 pre-cut mats . We liked the neutral white color for our art, black is also an option. Those were the matted print sizes we offered for sale on the spot. Even though the mats came with backing and clear plastic bags, we would recommend you keep extra glassines 8×10 glassines for flat art , 11×14 glassines for flat art, 16×20 glassines for flat art in those same sizes to put your matted prints incase the original bag rips- it does happen. Always use archival mats, backing and glassines! Don’t forget your price stickers (you can buy these at any office supply store) prices should be clearly marked at the shows!
Don’t forget your print rack! Print Rack to hold your matted prints for sale
To hang your work on the tent walls, ezup makes a great system. I still would recommend showing canvas or metal prints that don’t need frames. Glass & frame adds weight to your images and isn’t great to hang in a vinyl tent. Canvas and metal prints are very popular and you will do great selling either or both. People like being able to go home and put up their new art purchase on the wall!
The Show Setup
You will be assigned a booth number and when you arrive at the show setup day – usually the day before or sometimes the morning of. You will pick up your show packet at the welcome desk, sign in and get your booth spot and show map.
You will be allowed to use a loading area and it’s best to always be early as the show setup is often chaotic with vans and trucks pulling in and out, cars going every which way! Here you will need your booth setup, table & chairs for you, print hangers, lights for your booth, skirted tablecloth and print bin, show promo materials like cards, brochures and the like. Make yourself a checklist and clearly mark all boxes and plastic bins. A banner is great to have and not too expensive. Get the specs from your printer and then design it in that size and for less than $100 you can have a nice big banner that hangs across the top of your booth for great visibility.
Lodging at the Shows
The art shows are really setup for the traveling artist. They almost all offer camping and most art show circuit artists have an RV, camper or some kind of traveling lodging. Many shows have actual RV hookups, but most at least have dirt parking lots within walking distance to teh shows where you can park and sleep after the long show day. Many shows start at 10AM and go into the eve, 7PM or so, especially in the summer.
Your RV or camper should have a little room for a computer, printer and storage for your extra mats & printing paper that you may need for the show. If there is no electricity, the best thing in the world you can have is a generator! The “genie’ is a life saver and can make any spot in the dirt a home with enough power to run lights and a computer and printer into the evening. It’s also good for that homemade cup of espresso which I desperately needed before the show! We use this 2000 watt Yamaha, nice and quiet! Yamaha generator, purrs like a kitten!
Signage, cards & promotion & protection
We talked above about a banner for your booth tent. We like PS print for all our printing needs: PS Print, great for banners, cards & brochures! They are fast and reasonable: PS Print link, we have used them for over ten years! You will want your banner, cards with your phone and website. Brochures are a nice touch but really expensive if it’s a big show. We would make a limited number and not set them out. Then only people who really stayed in the booth, asking about this image or that one, sizes and finishes. They are brochure worthy! Not just the bored guy collecting every brochure from every booth!
You will also need a receipt book or you can do receipts on your computer and print if you want to go that route. IT means one more small printer to clutter up your table with, I just do a nice size receipt book with pre-stamped our logo with address and phone. We also get another stamp that says all sales are final and pre-stamp all receipts with this. You must be clear on your policies at the art show. It’s also good to have a small plastic standing frame that has your policies there too. You can never be too clear!!!
Off the walls or ordered?
You will have your best images in metal or canvas on the walls in different sizes for purchase. You will need something a little nicer to show the prices of those images. We created simple white cards with plastic that people use as name tags at conventions to make our price tags for our display art. We would put the name of the piece, the size and price, printed out on the computer and used velcro tabs to place next to the print. It looked nice and was clean and all the info there for the customer to see. If someone wanted to buy that print, that size, right off the wall, you may ask them if they minded waiting till the end of the show to pick up. We never had anyone say no to this as it is for sale, but it is also your display print for the show. Most artists don’t can’t afford to have two or three of everything on the wall. So you get the big red dot stickers at the office supply and you put a red dot next to your sold prints, but people can still order those prints for delivery after the show.
You will need that receipt book with carbon copy and take all their info- name, phone, email, shipping address and deposit or amount paid. It’s so easy now to keep even better records as you can also photograph each receipt. DON’T LOSE your receipt book!!! We use our trusty paypal here POS system to take deposits and payments in the booth at the show. IF you have pre-stamped your receipt book and you have setup your online receipt in paypal, yo you are covered and that’s a good thing!
People, all shapes & sizes, from all walks of Life…
Each art show will have its own vibe and customer base. If you do a non-juried show, like a street fair, you will have a blast people watching, but you may not make so many sales unless you are selling dog visors for $4.95 or fuzzy puppets from china for $7.99. Expensive flat art weather or not it’s photography or watercolor or oil, doesn’t sell as well at the non juried shows. If you are going that route, have something small you can sell for under $10 and have a lot of it. Notecards or small 4×5/5×7 mat prints… this is what will be most popular at those big non juried shows.
At your more expensive juried shows, you will have a mostly more affluent crowd, willing to pay you your asking price on your art without really blinking. Those were our best shows and eventually we dropped all of our non juried shows where we didn’t sell as well but enjoyed the people watching and the funnel cake being sold a few booths over!
One more word of advice, on the art show circuit, people are people and they will say things to you that will make your mouth drop open. Sometimes they just don’t know any better, but you must be thick skinned to do this business of selling your art. Not everyone will love it and sometimes they will be quite blunt about it. Smile and nod…great thanks I’ll consider that… thanks for stopping by… when in your mind you are thinking quite the opposite!!!
After the Show…
The show often ends earlier on Sunday, especially if it started on friday eve. Being a team, my husband and I always have each other to rely on. I stay with the booth and dogs (we almost always were able to bring our dogs… but this is changing), I’ll go get the car, my husband may say… meanwhile I start packing up the non sale stuff and then the small prints. When showtime ends, I carefully take down the art and pack it in art boxes which you should have see link here: Art boxes for transport to shows
Then the print hangers, lights come down, then lastly the tent. We have done so many horse shows and art shows together, we have our teamwork down and dialed in! But what about the solo photographer? How do they do it all on their own? Well, it is way harder, but you can actually hire people for booth setup and take down help at the shows! Especially the juried shows, you can pre-set this up before the show and have a team of people ready when you get there. It’s a great service, and many single women artists use this service so they are able to do the shows by themselves.
After Show follow up…
You are finally home and you had a great show. Now there is still a few things to do before closing that show and getting ready for the next one. Inventory doesn’t sound fun, but you need to know which of your display prints sold so you can re-order them for the next show. You also need to see what matted prints sold in the bin and print more of those. It’s good to identify your best sellers… which ones did people really respond to. Also, was there an image or two that everyone just ignored? An image that didn’t even sell in 5×7? Keep track. Maybe it was just that show and then the next show that becomes your most popular seller. But if a few shows go by and that one image is still sitting there with no sales, it may be time to rotate that image out and try something new in its place. You do have limited space and a limited number of prints to display, if you have a non-seller, take it out!
You need to place all your orders in a timely manner! You gave each customer that ordered a print from your booth display a timeline of when they can expect their order to arrive. Order those prints and then send a nice follow up mail to each customer with a tracking number to their order, and a thank you for their business. It’s a nice touch and they will appreciate it. Always be thinking about customer service and you can’t go wrong! You will earn repeat business as many people attend art shows regularly and will look for you and buy from you again!
New samples for your booth and customer orders are in, money is counted and hopefully there is a big smile on your face as you are amongst the percentage of people in life who love what they do and get paid for it!
Now it’s time to prepare for the next show! Best of luck!