It was really odd how things just sort of took off soon after I started drawing my wildlife sketches. I booked my first show just two months after starting. The second show came from that one, simply because a woman came up to me and asked if I drew horses. “Sure!” I said, not really knowing if I could or not.
It all seemed so easy, which was fitting, since I got all the way up to Ojai, CA only to realize that I didn’t have a tent, or tables, or chairs, or all the other stuff that comes with doing an outside show. It was trial by fire, but thankfully when I returned home from that show, I bought the tents, the tables and the chairs… and kept on buying until my walk-in closet is now my storage.
I think about that every time I set up the tent for another show. Two weeks ago, was the Beverly Hills Art Show and last weekend was an outdoor craft show. Same tent. Totally different worlds.
As I prepared the tent to look as professional as I think I am, I was reminded of just how far I’ve come. I know the routine by heart. I figured out how to get everything to Tetris together in the back of my car. I know this world by heart now. Tables, then walls, then big boxes, then each little box in every nook and cranny I can find.
I reminisce back to the day it all started and relive the stories as I hang each one of my most cherished pieces… in just the right way… to hopefully get them adopted by a new family.
The Beverly Hills show was very successful. I sold three originals… three of the very first ones… that have gone to every one of my 30+ shows… ones I totally expected to return to my closet.
The biggest difference came from the hardest lesson… just shut up!
I’ve always been so eager to go up and talk to people as they look closely at my pen lines. I’d tell them my story, and wildly point to each piece, like a PowerPoint presentation… only to hear how talented I am… then watch them walk away.
I realized that I never gave them the chance to tell their own stories. Every time they looked at the picture, they saw ME… then didn’t see THEMSELVES… and in there lies the sale.
So, I shut up… and just let them look… I’d ask questions, and listen to their stories… I found out that their daughter’s teacher loves otters… or that their son is on his way to Africa to be with actual gorillas… and then their credit cards came out!
I didn’t let them know that there’s an equally lovely print in the bin. I let them fall in love with the art and take it home. That added the sweet to the bittersweet moment of saying goodbye.
With each goodbye, there’s also the nagging reminder that I need even better work to take its place.
Now every once in a while, I make something that surprises even me. Lately though most of the sketches have been so-so. That’s not me being overly self-critical. It’s subjective critique. I can tell you exactly what’s wrong with each one.
I’m not saying I’m a bad artist, or that I’ll never create anything good ever again… but what I’m acknowledging is that these pieces are not sellable, not showable… and they need to be if I’m to continue going to these amazing shows.
I can do better. I’ve seen it.
Part of it is also because I’ve changed pens lately. A gel pen is not a ballpoint pen. The muscle memory that I developed over the last few years, simply doesn’t play well with the ink coming out. I like the new look, and I don’t. I’m impatient. I want magic right out of the gate.
Maybe there’s another lesson for me to learn here.
Just shut up.