Question & Answers on Art Fairs – Part Two:

I have some questions from readers who have read my book Art Fairs: 10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started.

Here are some additional questions I received on art fairs. I hope they too are helpful to you. Thank you again, everyone who has purchased the book. I very much appreciate it! (To see Part One of the Question & Answers click here.)

Q: Regarding booth design and what makes customers feel more welcome / comfortable with entering – did you notice if it made any difference if the artist was posted at the front or the booth – or the very back?

A: Me personally, I never want the customer to feel they are being pounced upon. I vary my approach. Sometimes I sit in the back of the tent. Sometimes I stand to the side out front. Sometimes I sit across from it. Sometimes I busy myself in the booth, or on the print rack, so I have something to “do” while talking with a potential client. This way they don’t feel the artist is going to eat them. : ) Every setup for shows is slightly different, so I just stay flexible. And I like to mix it up if for no other reason than 8 hours is a long time to stay in one spot.

Q: Excluding price – Did size make a difference? – ie – did people tend to buy items based on how easy they were to carry away? for example with canvases, did people mostly purchase canvases smaller than say 18 x 24 inches…

A: This really depends. If you are doing a show that is in a tourist area, then things that can fit into a suitcase or carry on are good to have. But on the same token, anywhere there are tourists there are also locals, possibly looking for something for their living room. So I have a mix of art. But I also do a mix of art because of price points. This way I have small paintings under $100, and larger paintings for more.

You can always offer to ship bigger items to people (although it helps to have an idea of the cost prior to shipping, so buyer’s are too shocked at the cost of professionally packing and shipping art).

Side note: In this economy, I have noticed that large pieces of art will move if they are really inexpensive (ie under $100). My issue with this, is that it then devalues an artist’s work. And by default, the value of the art around them. I do not feel that selling a piece of art for less than it cost to create (painting, materials and time) is good business sense. However, I know artists and galleries who are taking this approach and are somehow talking themselves into considering themselves profitable. It’s all in perspective I guess. For me, if less is coming in then going out, it’s not profit. And for those artists who’s parents or spouses are supplementing their career by buying all of their supplies. I think it’s not a good idea to forget about those costs when pricing art. Because these artists are then devaluing their art. And training those who purchase it to do the same. But that is again, simply my opinion.

Q: Have you had anything stolen? During the open hours of the fairs, has anyone slipped a print under their shirt and walking off when your back was turned?

A: Theft is always something that is on my mind. And the last show I did, I specifically didn’t bring jewelry, even though in this current economy, art isn’t selling as much as jewelry at shows. And so I have started a line of jewelry to supplement my art income in a new way. I didn’t feel that I had the ability to watch small items enough. And given the cost of silver, theft is easy.

That said. I don’t think I have ever had a print stolen from me. I did have a small painting stolen once after a show closed. (And it was at an art fair with security, so the sad thing is – it would have had to have been another artist who stole it. But that is really the only thing I ever lost. This past fall I had someone steal a pair of sterling silver earrings I had at a local store. But, the owner of the store felt that it was her responsibility to have kept those items safe and she paid me for them the same amount she would have paid me if they had been sold.

Q: Do you have any business related books we can read?

A: I am currently working on a business related book for artists. In it I combine my background as a management consultant with my art background. So hopefully I will create something that is unique, and very helpful. I am currently testing out the advice and the templates for this book with other artists as well as one of my galleries. Once I feel that the information has been field tested sufficiently, I will publish it. I intend to have both a book and working templates in both PC and Mac friendly files available for this book. Stay tuned for more details.

And of course, feel free to check out my book on Amazon for only $9.
PDF version on Etsy  $9


Artist Organized

2 Responses to “Question & Answers on Art Fairs – Part Two:”

  1. David August 21, 2013 at 10:19 am #

    “I do not feel that selling a piece of art for less than it cost to create (painting, materials and time) is good business sense. … …. Because these artists are then devaluing their art. And training those who purchase it to do the same. ”

    Unfortunately there is not an industry standard for pricing. A guideline I got from one of my gallery reps was $1 per sq. in. That’s not a hard rule but simply a starting place for determining your pricing. It’s also important that you are consistent. So once a per sq. inch price has been established for your work, you can apply that formula to other sizes of your work. That way a 10×10 that sells for $125 can set the price point for a 20×30 to fetch close to $600-800. It helps no one, not even the artist to undercut your prices. It’s a circular effect: If your prices are (appropriately) high (not ridiculously high) then that helps establish a standard for other artists to use for pricing. It also (as mentioned above) sets the expectation for the buying public. An additional note;Be sure to charge sales tax so that doesn’t come out of your “profits”. That goes for income tax too. Remember that you will have to pay income tax on what you earn. A painting that lists for $1000 at a gallery, sells for $1085 (TX sales tax) Translates into$500 to you after the gallery commission. Roughly 20-40% of that will go to Uncle Sam leaving you with $375 approx. Factor in materials $85 and your take home is $290. What that breaks down to per hour of course depends on how long you spent on it. 12hrs = $24 pr. hr. 40hrs = $7.25.

    If you’re doing trade shows and fairs, you don’t have to give up %50 commission but you have overhead considerations: Tent, Table, entry fee, electrical, transportation… additional time spent selling the work which would increase the total number of hrs. invested in the piece. Then there’s both hard and soft costs associated with marketing. The bottom line is, when trying to make a living as an artist, you MUST approach it as a business…. a creative business. Otherwise, it’s just a hobby… an expensive hobby.


  1. Question & Answers on Art Fairs – Part One: | Artist Organized - November 13, 2012

    […] Stay tuned for Part 2 – where I’ll answer more questions for you about pricing, booth setup and more.  And to purchase a copy of my book on Amazon click here. PDF version on Etsy […]