The Nitty-Gritty in the Arts Business World. Exploring Art Events and Art Show Options, A Troubled Art Market


We learn in life to be successful is to continue trying, even when things are difficult. Something goes wrong, you change your approach until it works, right? But what if your goals aim is in an industry that is wrought with disorganization and businessmen trying to make profit off you?

(Enters the art world)

In the art world there are many options to try when marketing and selling your art. One of the best things an artist can do is get exposure. Exposure is important in getting your name and style out there, of connecting a name with a face. Artists apply to art shows, competitions, galleries, pop up shows, salon openings, outdoor markets and more. We spend so much time and money to hopefully make a brake. But during the process of trying all these different strategies things inevitably go amuck. It’s like driving. Driving is generally safe but the more you do it the more risk you put yourself in. So while driving the road of the dangerous path to being an artist I have had many people rear end me, keep me stopped when I should be moving forward and so on. Here is my crazy story of the things that have transgressed this past year…


RAW at Celebrities

Tale of RAW

I found this appealing art market online. They do art shows all over Canada at various locations, it is free for the artists so long as the artists can sell 20 tickets at $20 a piece. I am accepted to do an art show with them at The Harbour Art’s Centre downtown Vancouver. I am well supported and sold 20 tickets quickly, making the company $400. A few days after I make all these sales I am notified that the location for this event has been changed to Celebrities Night Club. Woah. I didn’t sign up for this. I have to let all my friends and clients know the event has been changed, a few people ask for refunds (rightly so). I decide to do the event anyways…and what a nightmare. They crammed all the artists into this night club full of drunk people and music so loud you can’t talk. The lighting is poor and the atmosphere was something to be desired.

I learned a valuable lesson that night, people don’t want to buy art at busy gay nightclubs, they want to drink and dance!


Northern Nostalgia at Massy Books

Tale Of the Girl Who Wanted A Solo Show

Last March I was surrounded by wonderful people who gave me the courage to hold my very first solo art show Northern Nostalgia. Life was great. I went into partnership with a gentleman who saw potential in me. He put up the fees for the gallery rental and paid for a liquor license. I spent countless hours and money on marketing, not to mention the $500 worth of booze, missed days of work and a few hundred in food for the event. The big day was was approaching, my partner rented us a hotel for two nights downtown Vancouver and everything was set. We arrive the night of set up at 163 W Pender to find the building locked and the lights off. I start to panic. The manager of the building isn’t picking up his phone. Eventually he answer’s. “Hello, yes, did you not get my email?….well the building is permanently closed…I am so sorry…I can’t say why but I can say there is a lawyer involved…..” After pressing for more information he eventually tells me that the place was infested with bed bugs! Yuck! Even though I feel my dreams drifting away I am also relieved that I didn’t have bed bugs falling on my clients and moving into my paintings! What a name I would have made for myself!

Shock turns into panic. My mind is spinning. I’m thinking. I have people showing up to this event, not to mention the flyers I canvased around the city, not to mentioned the paid hotel room, booze, marketing….ahhhhh! All this time and money, it’s all wasted! What does a girl do in time of stress? Yep, you guessed it: calls her mom. Mom is pretty bewildered, but she mentions someone that “knows the city like the back of her hand” Go mom! I call this women up and what do you know? She is the owner of a Massy Books with a brand new art gallery above it! The wheels start to turn again and with my partner alongside helping we set into motion a new plan.

The show happened, and it was successful. I am so grateful for the people who helped me and showed up for support. I am also very relieved no one went home with bed bugs!


Set Up at Art!Vancouver

The Tall Tale of Art!Vancouver

Marketed as Vancouver’s only art convention with a promise of thousands in attendance, how could I say no?

I arrive to set up and I’m given my spot number. I find the location I am meant to be in and the person with whom I am to share the space with has left no room for my art (this happens more than you think). I had already mentioned to the organizers that I would be arriving later for set up but they said I would have enough time. This changes everything. The artist who has taken my spot is unreachable. After too much waffling the organizers finally decide to move me to another location. This left me at somewhat of a disadvantage as the catalogue had me down for a different location. It was very difficult for people to locate me. The organizers did nothing else to help my situation. I think I would have felt much better about this event if I had made even a little bit of money, but most of the artists didn’t sell a thing.

This event is one of the highest charging for artist’s in Vancouver, and they have just doubled their prices, again. The exposure was great, but the organization and the fees aren’t worth it. I only saw a handful of artist’s selling art. I can only hope more affordable Art Conventions come to town.


A Hopeful Beginning

Tale of The Winery Art Call, All for Nothing

An art call went out to artist’s claiming to be the highest paying awards in Western Canada. The theme for the call out is “Joy of Life” and the winner’s art will be featured on a wine label. I am accepted to compete and I feel thrilled to be given the opportunity. But there are a few things that are different about this competition that don’t sit right. Firstly, the owners of the winery want copy-write ownership of the three place winners. Secondly, they change how they want the paintings done half way through the competition. The rules went from painting the theme Joy of Life to receiving an email to come plain air paint their vineyard. Thirdly, most the “money” for winners are gift certificates for things most artists aren’t interested in from other sponsors (golf, bridal, horse stuff). One example of artists not being paid money.

So I have already started my painting. I work hard and go to all their events, buying their wine and helping to promote their business. I slowly start to realize these owners are geniuses! They are paying pennies to get logos for their winery and own beautiful works of art for a fraction of the price! All while driving business to their establishment! This is brilliant! On top of all their brilliance they decide their winery is now an Art Gallery and they will charge 50% commission for any of the art sold. Wait…what?

I was diligent to coming to their events, working for them and they turn around and want half my profit? Again, these people are brilliant, but this artist won’t be taken advantage of. I said no, no to selling my painting to a company that only seeks to benefit itself when it claims to benefit artists.


My Finished Piece for Vinoscenti Three Seasons Art Competition

Artist’s are a particularly vulnerable lot. We have big hopes and dreams of our art being accepted for something unique and desired. Moreover, we want the people we go into business with to be fair and honest. All to often people see our hopes and dreams as weaknesses and aim to make a profit of us.

There is a positive twist in all this. From all these difficult experiences I have learned what questions to ask, to expect the unexpected and most importantly, what does and doesn’t work for me in my art practice.

There is also a positive side to all of this. My art sales have doubled from the previous year. I have met so many interesting and inspirational people at different events that have helped my practice to improve. I have a community of wonderful supporters that help me keep my head up in times when I question myself as an artist. Even if some of the above events seemed to be bad choices I have become so much stronger and driven by the experiences.

Thanks for reading!

You’re faithful, struggling artist,

Melissa xo





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