In late February, I went to Crafty Fest at Artpool to try and sell some of my pieces. It went really well. The first week of April, I went to Indie Market in downtown St. Pete and it was a bust. A few weeks later, I went back to Crafty Fest, but this time to do both days instead of just one.
On the first day, my table was not well-positioned and I got badly sunburned relatively early in. I left my table and sat under someone else’s tent. It didn’t really matter; no one seemed to give a shit anyway. So I sat a ways away, painting as I spied on the people that would stop to look at my stuff. When someone smiled, laughed, and really stopped to look at more than a couple of my pieces, I’d walk over and start to talk to them.
One woman really liked a lot of them. When she told me she really wanted to remember the details so she could tell her friends later, I hinted that if she were to buy one, she wouldn’t have to worry about remembering it. What a concept! She asked about the price on one and – given how poorly things were going – I aimed low. Really low. “Twenty dollars,” I said. “Oh my!” she responded, “I could never spend that much! I just paid ten dollars for two chairs!”
I’m not really sure what chairs have to do with art, but that’s the story of how I brokenly sold a piece for $6.12. The only sale of the day.
I was not excited to go back for day two. That first art fair had gone really well, but this was now two in a row that had not.
That morning I woke up wondering why I was going to bother driving out to do this. “Fuck brushing my teeth, fuck putting on shoes, fuck doing anything to get ready or look presentable. I’ll go and I’ll expect nothing. I’ll spend the day painting.”
So that’s how I approached it and, right away, it felt pretty great. I had become a lot less concerned with others’ perceptions of me since my most recent (and only successful) stint in treatment, but this was a step forward still. And not giving a shit about whether or not anyone would buy any of my art – here (on this day) or ever again – it was a relief. “If there’s no market for my art – fuck it,” I decided, “that’s not why I do it anyway. It was an exciting prospect that making art (something I’m going to do no matter what) might also be something that’d free me from having to wash dishes or bag groceries for the rest of my life, but if that doesn’t work out, it won’t be the end of the world. Whenever I make something new, I’ll just give it to a friend or anyone else that wants it – and then figure out some other way to pay bills. I mean, this whole painting thing is new to me. It’s not like being an artist has been my lifelong dream.”
Things didn’t go as awfully as I prepared for. I sold quite a few pieces and made a good deal of money. That meant my street-sales record was now 2-2 and my hope / optimism concerning the possibility of art saving me from less fulfilling “work” was renewed. And the experience was even more successful in terms of the quality of time spent painting and the lessons I learned regarding acceptance and expectations.
I can be filthy and paint pictures as I smoke cigarettes barefoot on downtown sidewalks… I can do whatever it is that I do, and … that’s it. Things work out.
And I’m not talking about people appreciating my paintings and buying them. (That’s just a bonus). The best moment of the day was before any of that happened. It was the moment I realized that I was no longer dreading the day to come. It was the moment that I felt free of expectations. The moment that I felt free period.