One of the things I do as an artist is participate in street festivals and, because it’s springtime, I’ve had a few gigs over the past couple of weeks. Setting up for one of these events takes a lot of effort. Aside from the time I spend on creating new images, there is printing and packaging to be done, packing into boxes to be loaded into my van, driving to the events (which have very early morning set-ups and are sometimes two hours away from home), unloading, setting up my tent and putting the art work on display.
Then I stay there for the day which, temperature-wise, can be just right but is often too cold or too hot. I’m usually alone so I wait far too long to use the restroom or get lunch, forget my sunblock and get a farmer’s burn. At a busy show, hundreds and thousands of people come and go. Most are really, really nice but some are weird and say weird, and even offensive things, and these days so many of them take photographs of my art without so much as a glance, let alone permission, that I have given up that fight. I watch for unattended children holding sticky cotton candy and drippy ice cream cones and am always on the lookout for unattended dogs who dawdle at the end of a long, slack leash tempted to leave their mark on a print rack or tent leg. Grown adults come into my tent holding a beer or a cigarette in one hand and wiping their other hand all across my paintings while they bark at their kids not to touch anything. People question my prices, asking for deals, discounts and “best prices” in a manner they would never do in any other sales environment. (And, seriously, my best price would actually be double or triple the one I just gave you. Just sayin’.) If I’m not feeling well or have accidentally cut off the tip of my finger with a blade and a straight edge the night before (true story), I can’t call in sick. And then I spend the entire day pacing back and forth, trying not to look eager and swoop in on people or be pushy. In doing all of this, I also hang my heart and soul’s work out there for anyone and everyone to assess, critique and evaluate–or, hopefully, buy. When the day is done, I put it all in reverse and drive home. Exhausted.
There are lots of different people out there–and I like just about all of them– but I’ve identified one particular kind that I try to head off every time if I can. They come, usually not to buy anything, but just to have something to do for the day, maybe get a bite to eat, and to drop casual comments here and there that have a nasty little vibe. If you’re a street artist, you have to be careful not to let what they say get to you because it can put you off your mood in a hot minute, particularly if you are prone to slipping from glass-half-full to glass-half-empty. I like to get all psychological and new age on them–it usually sends them away in seconds– but I’ve watched other artists have an encounter with this type of folk and have seen them go from optimistic to pessimistic in a matter of minutes. This kind of vibe radiates out and, the next thing you know, that artist across from you is sending her pessimism over your way, even though she started off feeling pretty fine! Here are some of the kinds of things you might hear these negative people say (apply appropriate sarcasm or sour tone of voice as you read these):
- Set it up, take it down, do it all over again.
- Another day, another dollar.
- And now, the best part of the day begins.
- Gotta love standing here all day.
- The economy’s had to have been tough on you guys, eh?
- How many of these you think you’ll sell today?
- It must be grueling to set this up and take it down every weekend.
- You do this all year long?
You know what? This actually is what I do! It’s a part of what I do, anyway. And, when I let circumstances that aren’t ideal and people like this influence me, I might forget what I get to do because of what I do.
I get to work outside on the weekends and to be in different places where I can see new things and meet new people from all walks of life. I get to network with other creative people and try to think up new ways to make the world more fun. I get to have a career where I make my own hours and my own choices about what kinds of sales environments I want to participate in. I get to talk about my work and what inspires me and listen to how this affects others who see it. I get to have access to a living petri dish for my art and a direct market test for the direction it is going in at the moment. I get to use my body to set up a big booth display because I keep myself healthy and in a state of being that can do this. Most of all, I get to do what I love, what feeds my heart and soul, what makes me feel connected to the planet and fully human and what also brings joy and beauty to the lives of others. That’s right, this is what I do. I get to do this.
TRY THIS WEEK: Think on this…try turning your “have to’s to get to’s” now, what do you get to do?