It was such a beautiful evening. Calm, still, with that amazing colour. The kind of summer evening that you experienced when you were a kid. The kind that seemed to last all summer long.
After contemplating the reasons why I made some mistakes on shooting yesterday, I realized that I experience the pressure to shoot as much and cover as much as I can when the sky is changing particularly if I have have invested time and money to get there. You invest a lot of time and energy in nothing sometimes. You can turn up and turn up and get nothing. But when something is handed to you, there is the pressure to make the most of it. Rushing does no good.
I have shots that I may have hit the focus on the lens because parts of them weren’t sharp. I shoot everything in manual and forgot to change my ISO and ruined a bunch of shots because I took a chance on a slower shutter speed. Setting up my tripod was not an option, because I really wasn’t here for this shot, I was aiming for that one, but if I don’t get this one, I’ll regret it…
And why was there noise in that other shot, anyway? I’ll need to do some technical testing…
There are a lot of moving parts to capturing an image. Focus, exposure, depth of field, framing, composition, ISO (light sensitivity of your medium), visual distraction, light, digital noise, bits around the frame, foreground, background, depth, leading lines, etc.. I don’t aim to merely reproduce a scene I see either, so there is a certain amount of acquired knowledge in knowing what I can do with an image later. I got one image earlier in the day of a forest I know I will need to shoot again. But I’ll admit it. I was surprised that I could do nothing with this image.
I don’t regard this as a particularly bad thing. Pressure causes mistakes, but with this mistake making helps me learn the lessons more deeply than simply getting it right sometimes. This stuff has to be automatic, the camera an extension of our body, the mind singularly focused. These things don’t happen by accident with photography like many people seem to think. When shooting landscapes – scenes that you would think are just there for the taking – but you find they are not just sitting there waiting for you to capture them. We are more like hunters of the weather.
Some shots are obvious.
But in my contemplation, I also have to make sure I don’t confuse the joy of being presented with a good opportunity for the joy is knowing I’ve got a good shot. Sometimes the most awe-inspiring thing does not translate well. Or maybe you have let old habits interfere with making good decisions in the present.
And I also realized, I’ve been setting my bar higher and higher. It’s getting harder to get the images that I want to make.
If you are an artist that is starting out, or perhaps one that is stuck, you have to understand that creativity is the act of creating, which is an act of doing and that doing is a process. Don’t let perfection stand in your way. Don’t let yourself get fooled into the idea that the next things you create will be something beautiful or whatever it is you want to strive for and therefore you must wait until you have the right idea, the right situation, etc. It’s not going to happen. It’s a little like waiting to go to school until you learn something. Just do. Discover what comes out, discover what your process is, what works for you. This is what art is. It’s work. You got to show up for the muse.
I made some mistakes, but then there were these…
Toward the end of the day, the light took on that mystical quality when a storm might come. dark skies, but with an eerie light that seems to be directionless, making everything lighter than you think it should be. The distant mist across the water slowly crept closer and at one point I wondered how it could have got so close so quickly.
By then everyone had left and we were the only ones there. Just us and this magical moment. That in itself gave pause for thought. Like animals that ran for cover, did the vanished visitors know something we did not?
It was at this particular moment that we felt the imposing presence of nature. Beautiful. But impartial.
We captured a rare moment with the booth empty or I wasn’t talking to someone. With so many people, the day just few by! I am not particularly shy, but I am an introvert, so I wasn’t sure how I would enjoy a full day of talking to people would be. Turns out it was great! It’s hard not to enjoy so such a positive response to my work or the opportunity talk about how the images were captured or where they were taken.
The weather was extremely cooperative – thank you Universe! It was supposed to be hot and humid, but we were beneath a tree out of the sun and it was quite nice. When I was planning this in April with the late snow I found it hard to believe anyone wouldn’t be bundled up, but I was lovely. There was even a risk of a thunderstorm, but thankfully we avoided the rain.
I learned a lot from others who were doing art fairs, so the following is my giving back to that community.
We definitely had some learning experiences:
Having a second person to help was really, really helpful. If I am talking to someone the second person can answer questions for another person rather than risk having them walk away. They can always call out to you if they need answers from you. If doing it alone, I would consider a chair and a book or some kind of busy work and invite the person in.
We need a ground sheet to work on with the backdrops to avoid getting the backdrops dirty. We were able to brush off any dirt that day, but I can see how difficult it could have been if it had rained the night before.
The chicken wire and drapery hooks worked great for hanging the work, but you have to be willing to accept that the images won’t be exactly perfectly aligned with each other (OCD sufferers – talk note!). But if you want to move any of the work around, it is really easy to do so if you are selling a lot, this can make life much easier.
The two outside canvases (with the dog) were hung by screws screwed into wood. If you want them to be even, this is the way to go.
I liked the ease of stapling the cloth to the frames. The back wall was done this way. But getting them off was not as easy. We used clamps for the other side, once the frames were up. Easier to dismantle, a lot harder than I thought it would be to get them up. We are still thinking about bungee-cording them for tautness (is that a word? My computer thinks not), but I am also considering velcro.
We needed more time for set up, but what we really needed was for one kid not to have had an early morning soccer practice at th same time we were supposed to be arriving at the location and especially for me also not to have forgotten where that practice was. The argument about forgotten shoes also would have been nice to miss.
The fact that we were down to one car after the started went on our Saturn meant we had to take two trips instead of one which also would have been preferable to avoid. So given all that, we did pretty ok all in all. The learning here is something we like to say in our house – there is a very high probability of low probability things happening. You are not going to know what hits you, but it will probably be something, so you have to be flexible in your plans and resourceful. Have options. Figure out what the priorities are ahead of time, think worst case, best case scenarios (that is my project manager in me, not my artist talking). That will help you make better decisions under pressure.
On the flip side, we were not competing for space to unload so I am not sure how confusing that could have been.
Get more sleep. Ahhahaha! Ok, never mind.
Bring snacks and water. Maybe have someone else look after that for you.
Next time I would spend more time on developing an organizing system for little things and then learn it. Organizing things don’t actually help you as much as you think unless it’s easy to remember under stress and flexible enough that if things don’t go according to plan, you can still find the thing. When I was a camera assistant I used to have everything labeled and color-coded and category systems for finding things quickly and packing and unpacking. You would think that I am a control freak by this admission, but in reality it’s just the opposite. It’s more like a safety net for when my brain falls out of my had.
I had ended up using a card table which, when planning, I thought it was too bulky but in reality, we needed that surface space. I think a narrow longer table would be the best option, but if so, I might opt in for a table top easel rather than the standing once I had. A ten by ten space is not that large, and anything that inhibits people from walking in needs to be considered. Although I am pictured inside, for the most part I stood outside to allow people to walk in. Most of the other booths had some form of table so walking into a booth wasn’t the default behavior of most of the visitors unless someone was already in there looking at the work.
About the easel, I have read by several other art fair people not to use easels. But at the last-minute I brought one in and we put one of the metal prints at eye level. This turned out to work out very well and caught a lot of people’s eye. The downside is that it is bulky and it inhibits people from easily looking at any nearby work.
Business cards just fanned out on the table worked better than those in a holder. Easier to grab. Putting a few images on the table allowed people to gravitate the table.
I’d put an eye-catching sign that said I took orders. I would have a price list of different options of things I wasn’t currently carrying available as I got asked if I would do bigger work and what sizes and that’s all in a spread sheet on my computer somewhere.
I was going to have a photo album of my other work. I didn’t do it because I didn’t have time, but I really don’t think this is a good idea now. I have a degree in image arts specializing in film. I’ve since spent countless hours learning and practicing my craft. Why would I anyone want to see my work in the way they view their own snapshots? I think if someone is considering a work for a particular space or asks you about other work you have, then that might be the appropriate time to bring some thing like that out.
The back of the frame walls bothered me as there wasn’t a booth next to us, and I think next time I’d like to get some waterproof tarp material to deal with that. Had I known, I might have considered hanging images on that side but I’m not sure I’d feel comfortable trying to keep an eye on it if I as talking to someone else.
I think you really need walls. We had one side that we were going to leave open since I was going to put the table and easel on that side. But it is just too hard to look at images with a busy background, so we ended up hanging the backdrop.
If I ever get it matted in time that is. I’m thinking that I might keep it though. I think on those crazy days, I could look at this, take a deep breath, imagine the smell and the sounds and take the stress down a notch!
This one is not formatted in my typical 2:3 aspect ratio, but in the more standard 4:5 (think 8x 10’s rather than 8x12s).
There’s a lot to do to prepare for an art festival as it turns out – the literal pop-up shop (or gallery as I like to think of it as).
I started my research for this event with the tent and resulted in this: here’s the new canopy set up in the backyard. Sadly we lost our other canopy in the wind storm because I set it up to see how the colour of the canopy might effect the lighting in my work. Who knew that the wind would mangle the thing and deposit it in our neighbour’s back yard. Or knock the dead tree (from the famous ice storm (see the stump/spike there?)
Lovely, isn’t it? But what am I going to hang the images on?
So money is a thing, and we can do this the expensive way or the resourceful way. I looked into every possible idea, or so it seemed. Pro panels ($$) grids, mesh, snow fencing, hardware cloth, easels, wood doors, screen doors, you name it, I went down the rabbit hole.
There’s a sign company in our area that ships in these huge signs in large crates and then they offer the broken down crates for free firewood.
Free is a powerful word.
So we loaded up the car, hammered down the staples, cut them up and assembled frames from them. Bring on the power tools! Mitre saw, you are alarming noisy and dangerous but I love you.
Nailing them was a challenge. But eventually we used a table to clamp the pieces to. My partners idea. I secretly had my doubts at the time.
Our work in progress / in other words – what didn’t we think about that is going to mess us up. Let’s test it before we go any further.
Checked the height, sussed the assembly and how the cloth would work. We used a old drop cloth for our fabric rehearsal (I bought nice new canvas ones for the show) and we will have chicken wire behind to attach hang the images on. Still working on the chicken wire.
The thing that I think is the coolest and I wish I had thought of it because it is just so satisfying, are tracks for the panels to slide into that my partner built (easy in, easy out). Keeps everything flush, provides stability as we will peg them into the ground.
A sneak peak of one of the metal prints still in its cellophane.
The metal prints look great! Got the other prints today and canvases should be here by Friday. Then matting and then there is all the small niggly stuff. So. Much. Stuff.
If you are in the area stop on by. There are over 90 other exhibitors and different activities happening!