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My First Art Fair

Updated: Dec 8, 2023

Moving into my studio in Wimbledon was an instinctive move. I just got a very strong feeling that I wanted to do it and it was the right thing. The move instantly paid off in a sense of legitimising my work. ‘I am an artist. I have a studio. I exhibit my work bi-annual exhibition. I am the bizniz!’ The sense of community is also very beneficial to my overall functioning. Being part of a small group of people milling about the place feels nice. It made me realise how de-socialised I had become working from my home studio.

The twice a year art fair was also an incentive behind taking this particular space. Four days of open-studio format, free to enter art fair featuring 180 artists. I had never done a fair before and was confident that my work would sell. Leading up to the fair, I worked like a dog. Seven days a week for close to two months and frequent 12 hour days. I had no idea what the art fair would be like in terms of buyers but I wanted to do everything that I could do to give myself the best opportunity.

A month before the show, I got sick (badly) and decided to push myself to keep working. As a result I recovered very slowly and it took about a month to clear fully. The whole preparation was a protracted hard-man contest with myself. I definitely went a bit potzo in the industrial haze and in the week leading up to the fair I started behaving strangely, forgetting things (I managed to lose two of my hats), flipping out unnecessarily and constantly finding myself is hairy situations. I was drained by the effort and was really struggling. I really felt like the human outer-skin had been stripped away leaving a the monstrous part of me. I attracted negativity and chaos. It was a bit like a cartoon actually. One morning, I was grumbling to myself in the rain on the way to the studio and got splashed by a bus. Later on that trip my Boris bike got a puncture. Twice, I found myself breaking up bar fights (getting punched a few times in the process) and on one commute home, I narrowly avoided a fight with a motorist. I had lost my characteristic sense of equilibrium and serenity.

This is the state I was in entering the four day fair. After two months’ intense preparation, the first two days of the fair did not meet my efforts with equal amounts of sales. I sold prints, frames and sculptures and given what I had put in, at the time it felt like a disappointment. I knew that I was setting myself up for a fall with my high expectations and in the lead up to the show, but I told myself that this is what boxers do… In the build-up to a fight they each convince themselves they are going to smash the other bloke’s head off yet invariably one leaves disappointed. Having promised himself the world he leaves with a defeat.


During the disappointing first two days, I had a lot of conversations with myself trying to work through my grumpiness. On the Friday, something shifted and I found a way of accepting whatever it was that was or was not coming my way. I started to relax a lot with the interactions and found myself sitting in my armchair drawing all day.


On the Saturday of the Fair I started to sell the big ticket items. Importantly for me I also got a lot of interest in the enormous and ambitious painting ‘All Hands on Deck’, which describes the effort of my work and how it can take up all parts of me. It feels special to be able to create something that people are in awe of and you can sense that they are taken aback by it. To be able to affect people in that way is quite rare. In particular there was one man who visited on the first day and returned on the last to look at the painting again. He really studied it and we shared a back and forth as he and I pieced together what the painting meant. He visited after sundown, so I had the candles going and the room was quite cosy and mysterious. It really warmed me to witness him be able to interact with the piece and read it so perspicaciously. I particularly enjoyed him picking up on the wooden fire torches held by the sailors:‘They are trying to find the way’. He was very aware of the allegorical nature of the painting and at one moment said ‘there is a lot of hope and desperation’. Since then I have renamed the painting ‘Hope and Desperation’ as I think it is so spot on. I was incredibly encouraged that people’s imaginations were sparked by my work and a recurring refrain of visitors was their sense of there being a story behind the paintings and a general sense of intrigue.

The final two days I sat in my armchair with a sketchpad and a tin of Guinness drawing away happily. I had really found myself. Anyone who wanted to talk to me, I was happy to talk to eye-to-eye without the oleaginous bum-licking of the salesman. The whole experience changed as the room turned into my room where I work and draw showing something of the raw material that underpins my work: I am fundamentally someone who loves to create images. I am grateful that I have such an avidity with drawing and working continues to fascinate me. Exploring the depths of my imagination and the potential of my technical abilities is an endless pool which matches the effort put it. My work is a lifetime pursuit that allows me to explore the limits of my potential. Being at the coalface with that mysterious unknown entity of what to make next is a rich and meaningful experience to me.


Ultimately, the fair was a success. I sold more than a handful of paintings as well as numerous sculptures and prints. People getting something meaningful from my work is the magical essence on which the future of my work depends and my experience at the fair feeds my faith as I navigate the dark fogs of an artist’s life and career. I now have two solo shows and art fair under my belt and each one has strongly signalled for me to continue to do what I do. ‘Keep going!’ the spirits cry out! Now that I have three landmarks, looking back, it is clear to see the evolution of my work and each one constitutes a big step forwards on my journey. My view is that I am now ready to embark on working with galleries and in 2024 I will start that process. God knows what the lie of the land is but I have a good enough track record to feel like it’s time to step into that world.

A week on from the fair, I am recovering and regaining a sense of perspective. In my recent self-reflection I have regained sight of the importance of rest and taking time away from the coalface. A sense of perspective and a feeling of whole-ness is essential and without moments to come up for air, these things wither on the vine. Despite the difficulties of the 2 month slog preceding the fair, I did also show me that I am capable of working like a hog when I need to (will apply with caution).

If you like my work, on 10th December, I will be hosting an Xmas Online Sale. If you join the mailing list, you get a site-wide discount of 10%. See a preview of a handful of works that will be on sale: https://www.studiosamsmith.com/xmas-online-sale


:)

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The True Artist

Making things takes time and effort. More than you’d expect, probably. I am often shocked by how long things take and I think it’s partly down to the confusing phenomenon of looking at things being in

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