Life As An Itinerant Artist

Stories and anecdotes from fifteen years on the art show circuit. 

New Year’s Checklist

Hi everyone — here it is the middle of January already and I haven’t posted to the blog for nearly three weeks! December and January are the slowest show months for me, and it’s a time to recharge, refuel, and reexamine my goals for the upcoming year. This doesn’t mean that there isn’t a lot to do. To the contrary, it seems like there are many things that need attention:

  1. Make prints of new and old work. I go through the print boxes and the print inventory database looking for those images that were popular and make sure that I have enough of each size. Canvas gallery wraps need to be printed, dried, coated and stretched, which is a process that takes about five days start to finish, so that requires some advance planning.
  2. Year-end accounting — gathering all the expenses and receipts for the taxman. This includes counting all of the inventory items, both salable, and raw materials like canvas, paper, ink, framing supplies, and the like. I also am charged with collecting sales tax for all of the states where I have a retail presence (ie do shows), and so those forms need to be filled out and the checks mailed. I use TurboTax to file my income tax — while it’s a pain, it’s mainly a process of getting all the information together, which I find to be the hardest part. Filling out the forms is easy… right!
  3. Ordering depleted inventory items before the long road trips start. After going through all of the stock items, I check my mats and frames, glass and make sure that I have my best images in stock and ready to go for the Florida and Southwest shows.
  4. Show applications need to be tracked and sent in. Now that artists have ZAPP and Juried Art Services, this process is somewhat easier, but there are still a lot of shows that require slides, a check and a paper application to be sent in. Each application has it’s own set of requirements, and it’s tough to keep track of them all. I use a simple Excel spreadsheet and Apple’s iCal to manage this. Early on, I built a show tracker database, but found it too cumbersome to keep updated. I’ll come back to that one of these days, as part of my show tracker app. One of the nice features in iCal is the ability to show multiple calendars at once. I set up four calendars for art shows — one for deadlines, one for apps that are pending, one for acceptances, and one for rejections 🙁 
  5. The new year is often the best time to examine pricing strategy and change prices to reflect rising costs in materials. I’m hoping that I don’t need to do this for 2009. While mat and paper costs are higher, gas prices have come down significantly since 2008. I’m taking a wait and see attitude towards this as price changes mean I have to change all the booth labels, too. And that’s extra work!
  6. Damage control. Existing framed and matted inventory needs to be checked for damage. Matted prints get fingerprints on the clearbags just sitting around in the bins, so I usually need to take the time to rebag them before shows start again in earnest. That means that I also have to put pricetags on the bags again. Sheets of pre-printed labels help with this.
  7. Database Update. I also check to see that my print inventory database is up to date with prints that have been sold or replaced. I use FileMaker Pro for this, and it allows me to pull customized reports  of all kinds. Again, part of the overall strategy is to roll this function into a full-fledged application. Some day. FileMaker is a great database application — they have just launched version 10, with lots of new user-friendly features. You can get a free 30-day demo, here.
  8. When do I get to actually make art, you might ask? Well, I’ve been asking myself the same question. I’m looking forward to shooting more of my southwest landscapes when I get to Arizona in March, but it’s looking as if I may not have much time in the schedule before that. We’ve had lots of snow here in Michigan this year, and I’d like to get out and do some winter work around the lake near our home in Rochester. 
  9. Update the web site and show schedule. By January 1, the schedule is already getting fleshed out with invitations to participate and acceptances to the early shows in the warmer states. Currently I’m scheduled for three shows in Florida in February and three in Arizona in March. I’ve been reinvited to Ann Arbor State Street, Art & Apples, the spring Birmingham Shain Park show,  and Fourth St. in Louisville, some of my favorite venues. I also need to get the home page updated — I have a fresh design in mind for the home page, but haven’t had the time to work it out yet.

I know there’s more, but those are the top priorities. One thing that I’ve found that really helps me keep all of this in perspective is a little Mac app called OmniFocus. Prior to OF, I was using a combination of Microsoft’s Entourage task list and calendar, which had problems syncing to my iPhone, and lots of paper lists. OmniFocus was inspired by David Allen, a productivity guru, and originator of the “Getting Things Done” metaphor. Read more about David’s work, and start getting your New Year’s checklist done and done!

January 15, 2009

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  1. I’m a newbie to the outdoor art scene. Can you write a blog entry sometime telling us how you select which shows you apply for and how you find them.


  2. That’s a great idea, Kat! I know this subject has been covered quite a lot, but I’m always game for a challenge. A couple of resources you might find helpful in the meantime are: (subscription site)
    Sunshine Artist magazine (subscription)
    Depending on the area you’re from, there are local and regional resources that can be helpful as well. And don’t forget friends, local galleries and word-of-mouth as ways to get the down-low on shows in your neighborhood.
    Look for a full post in the near future!

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