How I Fared My First Art Fair - AN ARTSY JOURNEY #1
It was like stepping out of a time machine. Instantly I was whisked back twenty-six years ago - all because of a watercolor brought into the shop for framing . . . with a very distinct signature.
My mind raced back to another place, another time. Back to 1987. I was once again in my subcompact Chevy Chevette jammed-packed for my first art fair of watercolor paintings.
It was seven o’clock on Saturday morning in August. It was already terribly hot and humid. The rising sun had turned the non-airconditioned Chevette into an oven on wheels. I had just finished working the night shift at the hospital as a registered nurse and it would end up being the easy part of my day.
I circled around the grassy park looking for spot No. 89. Number 87, 88 ... as I approached 89, dismay washed over me as I discovered I had been assigned the cement entrance rather than a lawn spot. Suddenly the tent stakes I packed for securing the tall display to the ground were useless. But without anchoring the lightweight frame one gust of wind and the display would be spinning in mid-air like Dorothy’s house in Kansas. I had to do something. So I turned around the baking Chevette and headed to the hardware store and lugged back four cement cinder blocks to use as weights.
With the tall display racks set up, the cement space was a bit cramped. I decided the lush grassy space alongside would be perfect for the bin that would hold shrink-wrapped art prints. The ground felt a bit damp probably due to an early morning mist from the sprinkler system, but I thought no problem. I unfolded the metal legs, wrestled the heavy wood box onto the legs, and then piled in the prints. The weight quickly sunk the display into the sodden grassy soil. The art was eye level for a four-year-old. But there was no time to ponder adjustments as the fair director strutted up to me armed with a clipboard an inch-thick with papers.
“Juried entry form and sales tax permit, please,” she said.
I rifled through my make-shift office: a Tupperware container of pens, a receipt book, stapler, tape measure, and other items. I pulled out the tax permit. “I must have left the entry form at home,” I said, checking my pockets to find only rubber bands.
“No form. No show,” she announced. Her squinty eyes dug deep into mine. Her jaw set tight into a stubborn line.
Moments passed as I stood frozen under her heated gaze. My heart hammered in my chest as I remembered the hours it took to fill out the lengthy entry form and photograph my artwork all in hopes for a coveted spot in this juried show.
I drew in a deep breath and sweetly asked, “Perhaps you have a copy of the congratulatory certificate I received from you.”
“Yes, it is an honor to be in our show,” she beamed.
Her comment seemed like a ray of hope. I gave her my best smile and asked, “Could you check your clip board? Maybe a copy would work just this one time?”
Her eyes scanned my booth. “I’ll make an exception this time.”
I let out a breath that I didn’t realize I was holding.
Needless to say I was glad to see her turn on her heel and leave.
I checked my watch. It was time for the show to begin. There was a churning feeling in the depth of my stomach. I had been dabbling in adult education watercolor painting classes for more than a year, elated with the challenge of learning something new, captivated by the complexity and independent nature of the watercolor media. But, now, standing among a sea of other art, I wondered if anyone would buy one of my paintings? Up until that moment, I had only given my art away to friends, like the barn painting, now brought into the gallery years later.
It turned out, on that sweltering hot day in August of '87, people did purchase my paintings.
At first I was driven by the challenge to learn more about the watercolor media. Quickly, I discovered the illusive watercolor washes had tenacity, and a mind of their own. Now, years later, I realize the paints are a bit like me! You see, I did leave the medical profession and entered the world of art. More recently, I've been writing junior fiction. My career path has been a journey filled with many challenges, and like in most all of our lives, there are new ones every day. Tenacity has kept me moving forward, learning to face daily challenges head-on, making the best choice I can with the information I have at the time.But dealing with those consequences is the best part because it's the place where life happens!