Mike with his paintings at Art in the Park. Manchester, CT. June 7th, 2015.

Mike with his paintings at Art in the Park. Manchester, CT. June 7th, 2015.

I spent Sunday in Manchester, Connecticut at the Art in the Park festival. We hung out at our booth in Center Park, soaking up sunshine—a little too much, actually 😳—and meeting with local collectors and other artists. Mike got lots of interest in his paintings, especially “Filthy Pantry” (not pictured), “Guilty” (top), and “Stand Out” (bottom). I learned a lot just from observing and walking around and chatting with other artists, and thought I’d share.

When it comes to selling art, prints are king. Lots of people were interested in “Filthy Pantry,” and a few asked about prints. If we had prints, we would have sold out. We’re doing another show in July and will definitely have prints on us.

Merchandizing and presentation is an art in itself. You can’t just throw up your tent and toss stuff around. The way that you set things up is important. You want to create an inviting atmosphere so that people feel comfortable walking in. My favorite booth was Stacy Faher‘s. Everything was organized so well and, aside from the fact that her work was gorgeous, your eyes flowed through her prints, brooches, and journals with ease. Her space was so inviting.

Greet every customer. As I’ve learned in retail, even if someone ultimately doesn’t buy, they still don’t want to be ignored when they pass by or come into your tent.

Hand out business cards and other promotional items like candy. Mike and his brother Robbie Pelletier had business cards and passed them out. Robbie also had postcard-sized prints of his art that he gave away. Business cards are like trading cards; not only do they help customers remember who you are and what you do, but they also work well for networking with other sellers at the show. We walked away with a ton of business cards from cool, like-minded people that we talked to. We hope to collaborate with them on future projects and shows.

Bring sunscreen. It was a cooler day, so I didn’t think we would need it. I didn’t bother trying to track it down and pack it. With the sun beating down on us, though, we were hot. By the time we left, Mike, Robbie, Britt, Tony, and I all had sunburns. Mike and I are bright red in a few places. I wish that I’d at least brought one of my lightweight long-sleeved shirts to throw on, and maybe a hat.

Improvise. Walking around, I noticed that no two artists had the same setup. They used all kinds of different things to display their work. Britt got shower hooks because it was so hard to find S-hooks. They came in super handy. We used them for everything.

Selling isn’t everything. Even if you don’t sell a single piece or print, the networking you do at these shows is irreplaceable. We met lots of other artists, started building Mike’s email list, and talked with a couple of people interested in buying prints once we have them. Most importantly, we had fun—even though we were tired, sweaty, and hungry by the end of the day.

Bonus tip: pack snacks and drinks. Britt saved all of our asses and brought water, Gatorade, and Red Bull. The guys ran to the store and grabbed a bunch of different chips. This lady there had amazing Italian ice.

I’m thinking about doing some of these shows for my books. I’ve done signings, but all at book stores. I think it would be interesting to see how well my paperbacks do at these shows. If not this season or in the fall, then definitely next year!

Have you ever been to or worked at an art show? What are your tips? Are you thinking about doing one for your own books? Leave a comment and let me know!

My husband Mike’s website, Art of the Soupcan, is a work in progress, but please check it out!