After the 2008 Main Street Art Show, photographer/digital artist Mark Zurek made the following post to the selling photography at art shows forum.

"Tell you what kids, if there is an economic downturn going on, it ain't so in Texas. This was my first major show, and I had no idea what to expect. Imagine a 40' wide street, the center 20' are booths, leaving 10' from the curb to the booth. People shoulder to shoulder, heel to toe, for twelve city blocks for the four, twelve hour days of the show."

"The organization beyond superb, when the storm hit on Thursday (tornadoes to the short north, golf ball sized hail) we had 90 minutes to prepare, they evacuated the streets, then phoned us every 1/2 hour with updates. Set up and take down was equally organized."
"The show separated photographers into analog and digital but kept the style varied and unique (only one "doors of Europe" and one "landscape/wildlife" shooter), so competition among photographers seemed based on talent rather than reputation. Now onto the fun part. We have all heard of five figure shows, and I can attest Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. I was stunned at the final figures, and even more in web orders waiting when I got home."
"We worked our tails off, entertained the folks in the booth with the stories of the images rather than watch and wait, then moved them up from matted pieces to larger framed work. Sales happen when you sell. The time flew, have to hope we get the nod again next year, but we all know there to be no assurance of being accepted. Have to say, without a doubt, Texas sure knows how to party."
The five worst mistakes I made starting the show circuit:
Purchasing an EZUP instead of a Trimline (1st storm did it)
Not having a credit card account (missed all sorts of sales)
Too much inventory (without a database, brought what I liked)
Didn't visit shows, didn't talk to artists (thought it was easy)
Stood back and waited, rather than mix it up and sell (worst of all)

Scroll down to see a few of Mark's images

After Mark's forum post, I called him up and he provided the following information about his style and approach to art shows.
"This is my third year doing art shows, and when I started, I had no idea what I was doing. Like all artists new to doing art shows, I was thrilled to sell my first piece. Over time, Iíve modified my approach in terms of display and learned how to treat it as a business. Iíve refined my market niche to the point where, for today and for right now, what I show is really attractive to people. That comes from trial and error, paying attention to what people say when in my booth, and selling the work. By selling I mean, not sitting on your ass in a canvas chair, waiting for somebody to catch your eye. Weíre (my son Steve works with me) in there entertaining throughout every show we do. I can be talking to a person and look over and everybody in the booth is listening to me. Itís an amazing experience when it all clicks."
"When I sell something I explain that we use digital media and do our own post processing and printing. Within the subject matter itself, what I primarily show are methods of transportation; planes, trains and automobiles. In automobiles, Iíll look for the typical wreck in the field that everyone has seen. But I also want to incorporate more than just the wreck by adding some background and foreground elements. Iíll do the same thing with some bicycle and motorcycle work and World War II (airplane) nose art. The finished piece is vibrant color, like the difference between shooting portrait film and Velvia. One of my most popular images is an old Indian motorcycle shot in infrared and then hand colored. A photograph of a red and blue bike I shot on Pearl Street leaning together like a couple of lovers crosses age, gender and even social categories. Iíve sold it to both straight and gay people. These things are from a nostalgic America that weíve almost forgotten about and strike a chord with people. Theyíre visually captivating and the opposite extreme from the current emphasis on art show photography which is either black and white or European windows."
"Iím no more talented than anyone else. The particular subject matter we do catches their eye, the color is what drags them in and we sell. This is where my son Steve really shines. Heís a bit of a gearhead. If somebody comes into our booth and makes a reference, for example, to the Indian bike, these guys will carry on for a few minutes swapping stories. Meanwhile the guyís got the print in his hand. Steve will look down and say, ďthatís a nice size but what if we moved you up to a larger sizeĒ, then he sells them on it. Thatís what I refer to as the entertainment process. You have to have a product that they notice and you have to sell it."
"This is my third year. Had I known then what I know now, my garage wouldn't be filled with broken tent parts, unsold prints and odd sized frames. That's why I think it takes more than a few years to actually turn a real profit treating art shows as a business."

See more of Mark Zurek's work on his web site


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