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Summer Slump

I'm not sure if this is an appropriate topic for a blog entry, but I'm going to write about it anyway. The summers can really be a challenge for our art business. When school ends for the holidays, and everyone packs up their suitcases for a well deserved vacation, things at the studio get super, super quiet. This should be no surprise for us, as it happens every year, but it is nonetheless painful every time this season rolls around.

What we have observed over the years is that we do in fact sell art consistently, so long as there are people seeing it. Whether that is at an art fair, or here in the studio, when we get enough eyes on our artwork, it sells. The problem of course is that when people stop coming to the studio, our sales suffer exponentially. Once families return for the school year in the Autumn, things tend to get busy again and sales revive. This is a seasonal fluctuation that we can plan for and expect with some regularity.

The problem of course is that our bills and expenses don't tend to take a holiday. The economic concerns of late have meant that the springtime did not give us as much of a buffer against the summer slump, and we're feeling the pinch more this year than most. Don't worry, we're going to survive, but I'm challenged now to find inventive ways to get our work out there in front of loads of eyeballs so that we can diminish the pain.

One strategy I had was to attend the Comicpalooza event here in Houston. This is a huge event, with something like 30 to 40 thousand people. We booked a booth, and spent three days in the Houston Convention Center as scores of people passed by my artwork. The problem was that they just passed by. Comicpalooza is filled with diehard fans of comic book characters, science fiction addicts, and television fans. They are looking for fan art, almost exclusively, and my booth was a complete failure. I didn't earn $100 from the event. You might guess that the cost of the booth was somewhat more than that sum.

Not to be beaten, we attended an art fair at a local hotel, where we also bombed out. No one came. Ultimately, a collector contacted Bogdan after the fair and purchased two pieces of art, so the event paid for itself... but still no real profit was made.

We're now taking artwork to install in a local coffee shop, with the hope that people enjoying a latte will be overcome with the need to purchase paintings. It could happen. We have had some success with that strategy in the past. I am writing grant proposals, and emailing art galleries hoping for representation, and applying for exhibitions all over the place with the hope that I can get my work seen.

The point of all of this is not to whine, ok perhaps I would like a bit of sympathy here. But the larger message is that as an artist I must learn to diversify my income streams to such a degree that I can survive these fluctuations throughout the year. We can expect things to be different during an divisive election season, and people tend to spend less when they are worried about the future. Inflation has made people more circumspect about their spending. We went to a rather nice restaurant yesterday at lunchtime and there was only one other table taken. Everyone seems to be feeling the same lull in sales of late.

So what are those diversifications? I do think we should be applying for grant money whenever possible. I think we should explore online teaching opportunities, and really starting to attend every art event in our community. We need for people to know who we are, and to stay top of mind. I think we should continue to explore other streams of income like commercial photography, graphic design and social media marketing services. I am also working to expand our new nonprofit to such a degree as to one day earn a salary for my work. There are any number of things that we could and should be doing, that can help us through the valleys. Things that can bring a little financial relief, but that don't impede us from continuing to create art. I have often commented that making a living from art is a very strange endeavor. The short answer is that we have to fine something, because we're not going to stop painting and creating. That's simply not an option.

Enjoy your summer... and buy art wherever you go. You'll make an artist very happy.

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