Sunday, August 14, 2016


Recently I had an artist friend relate an uncomfortable interaction with a random person who basically wound up being a jerk – not just a critical review of works on display but pretty much outright harassment (one reason to pack bear spray at venues like that). It’s times like that when I can totally empathize with the majority of acquaintances who prefer to stay behind the canvas or drawing board, as being a visual artist is a lot of times diametrically opposite the skillset of being a successful performing artist.

A lot of folks don’t realize how hard it is peddling wares: it takes a certain kind of artist that is used to working alone the vast majority of the time to be able to turn around and effectively be on stage in public for hours – it can be really demanding if not totally draining. And that’s all above and beyond the physicality of packing up inventory and setting up at gigs to take it all down again after a few hours to set up again somewhere else some other time, over an over again. In many ways we have an affinity with musicians who tread the same routine, though I can’t say I’ve ever been pelted with bottles by drunks, at least while at a table that is. And like the cartoon posted above, there's the subset of performers who stay so wholly focused on their work to the extent that it becomes a defensive maneuver in itself, if not a self-parody.

I remember one of my first booksignings in Anchorage where I never sold anything and one dude picking up a book, flipping through it and tossing it back on the table saying “you’re not funny” and walking away laughing (some small irony there I thought). Or having it slowly dawn on you after ten minutes of conversation that the other person has actually mistaken you for another artist. But experiences like that are way overweighed with countless moments of pure awesome, like a fan who once drove all the way from Delta Junction just to have her book signed, or a guy showing up with a binder full of every single thing you’ve ever drawn that’s been published etc.

The flip side is that probably just as hard as dealing with the total schmucks is realizing that even if your table is inundated with hundreds of people all day long, each and every single one of them is always an individual that you’re meeting for the very first time, and should always be treated in respectful accordance with forming such impressions. Like even standing up and simply saying hi to someone even though it’s been hours since anyone visited the table. That being said it takes a lot of effort and perhaps a certain type of personality to come across as genuine as opposed to the fake salesperson syndrome.

Maybe being trained as a waiter for all those years has something to do with it, but besides the challenge it’s a humbling responsibility to interact with complete strangers, open up as an artist, expose yourself through selling your work: more often than not it’s far more rewarding than a sale. But that helps too.

No comments:

Post a Comment