Trying to get past the ‘starving artist’ syndrome at Arts Alive

The crowds are very different at car shows and art events, but both offer lots of interesting people to meet.

I have to shift gears this week. For the past two weekends, I’ve been sitting at car shows in White Rock and Cloverdale with my old truck. This next weekend I will be selling art, books and poetry at Arts Alive in Downtown Langley. Two different crowds, different conversations, but both offer a great chance to meet new people.

At the car shows, we sit under our shade canopy with an old metal Coke cooler full of pop and munchies. We discuss tires and transmissions, engines and upholstery, polish and paint jobs. People stop by and tell stories about the vehicles they had or the cars they learned to drive in.

Oldies music blasts out of DJ booths and the occasional live band livens up the afternoon. It’s noisy and often smells like rubber or exhaust, but the day ends with plaques and trophies, and we all go home happy.

Art shows or craft fairs are considerably different. The music is softer with maybe even a bit ethnic fare blended in. You can talk quietly to prospective customers with a harp or flute in the background. We talk about colour and texture, rhymes and stanzas.

It is more like a country fair, and the bright colours of the tents and vendors displays create a festival atmosphere. Here as well, we meet new people. If the day ends with a few sales, that is a bonus.

Selling is an interesting topic. This year at one of the car shows, a man walked around my truck two or three times and asked how much I would sell it for. When I told him it was not for sale, he replied, “I will pay you any price you ask.” I told him I had had the truck for a long time and I didn’t want to part with it.

This weekend I am hoping for people to buy, but in the past, not a lot of money exchanges hands over my craft fair tables. I had lunch with a professional saleswoman one day. She has sold, cars, furniture and appliances all her life and I thought she may have some tips.

Smiling, she told me that creative people make the worst sales people.

“When someone says they like your work, you have been paid whether they pay money  for it or not. Creative people need validation of their work and, to them, praise is as good as gold. Hence the term, ‘starving artist.’”

She says I have to be more aggressive. When someone sits in a chair in her showroom, she considers it sold and begins discussing colour, which room they will put it in and do they want it delivered. It becomes their chair.

When someone tells me they like the cover of my poetry book, I’m supposed to put two in a bag and start writing up their invoice. I’m still thanking them for their comment on the nice cover as they walk away without a book.

I enjoy my varied lifestyle wherein one day I’m changing engine oil and the next day I’m writing a new chapter. If the summer goes by and I still have my truck and all my books and poetry, I won’t feel bad.

The conversations I will have shared  over the summer didn’t cost a dime, but the dividends will pay off for ever. At least that’s what McGregor says.

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