Questions to the Artist

Brian J. Sullivan

Here are a few of the questions that I am asked at various art fairs throughout the country. I have placed them in order of the most asked to the least asked. In addition, I have added my unspoken thoughts and profound commentary (if the general public could only read my mind). All this, of course, would not be so funny if these weren't the actual questions I hear time and time again.

  1. "Did you really make all of these things?" (Let's see, you are at an art fair, you're in my booth, I'm wearing my name tag, my name is on the booth sign along with a photo of me on my artist statement. No really, I had nothing better to do today, so I decided to get up at 3:00 am, drive across four states, wander into this empty booth, and start talking to all the intelligent people such as yourselves who come by.)

  2. "Do you have larger/smaller/framed ones?" ("Why yes I do, what would you like?" I spend 15 minutes digging through all my storage bins for what they want in the back behind my tent. I bring the piece out and they say "I think I would like it with a gold frame." No problem, I go back and dig some more until I find one with a gold frame. I show it to them. "Oh, do you have a smaller one?" they ask. I go back and after several minutes emerge with a smaller one. "Do you have one without the frame?" "Why let me see, I'll check for you," I say with a smile on my face. I bring one out without a frame. "How about a less expensive piece? Do you have a less expensive piece?" they ask. "How about get the #$%! out of my booth and go down to your local Kmart and purchase your $5 piece of real art to hang in you trailer house. You just spent 45 minutes of my time, had me pull out a bunch of packed-up work and all the while I neglected other customers to help you. Now I have to spend more time packing everything back up again.")

  3. "I'll give you $10 for that piece." (What does this look like, an eBay auction? I clearly have all my pieces marked and none to my knowledge are anywhere near $10. Next time I leave your office after surgery, I'll ask you, no I'll tell you, "I'll give you $10 for your services.")

  4. "Can I pay on installments with my SSI checks?" ("I'll take anything that's good and clears the bank, lady." She had an overflowing shopping bag in one hand and a cigarette dangling from her mouth; she definitely had a compulsive spending habit. Her friend kept trying to give me subtle hints that maybe this lady was a bit crazy, but I could not escape her. I could tell she was not really into the art but just needed to buy stuff. Again, just another normal day on the art fair circuit.)

  5. "We really don't have any wall space to hang that piece." (This, after spending over half an hour looking at my work, talking to me and comparing pieces. And you finally decided that you don't have any wall space now? How long have you lived in your house? And you just now realized that you don't have any wall space? Why then are you out looking at 2D work if you don't have the space? You mean you can't move something off the walls and replace it with something you like better? Are you saying that the determining factor on whether you purchase "art" is if you have wall space rather than something silly like because you really like the piece of art? Next time I'm out looking for new cars I'll tell the salesman that since I don't have room is my garage to park the car, I can't buy it.)

  6. "I'll check you out on the web." (What? Is the web more realistic than seeing the actual work in person? Am I missing something? Maybe I should put a computer monitor inside an empty tent and say, "Here's my art, please enjoy!")

  7. "What other shows are you doing? I like to buy in Ann Arbor, Coconut Grove, Cherry Creek." (Hello, how many fingers am I holding up? Do you like my work? Are you holding money in your hand at this very minute? How is it going to change being in Ann Arbor? I am the same person, am in the same tent, and have the same work here as you will see me with at Ann Arbor. Am I missing something here? And by the way, I'll be charging more at those venues because of the added expense of doing those shows.)

  8. Please Don't Touch The Art (This is a sign that I hang next to all my very fragile pieces. What do probably one in five persons do? They reach out and touch the work, either on the sly or blatantly right in front of me. To cut down on the instances of this behavior I went to a gag shop and purchased several rubber fingers and some fake blood. I then leave the fingers on the ground under certain pieces. If people happen to notice the fingers, they usually freak and ask what happened? I say that was what happened to the last person who touched my piece.)

  9. "Oh, I can make that." (Yeah I am sure you can, just like I can paint like Picasso! My work is unique and valuable because of who I am and the reputation which I have built up over 25 years of exhibiting in museum and galleries. When you purchase my work its value will go up in time, I am the originator of it. Any work you make which copies my style is worthless. Art is more than just the physical reproduction of it. If it was not, then all the giclées and posters would be hanging in the museums and selling for as much as the originals. Sorry, but you think you can do what I do, but you can't, now hurry along so you won't miss your stamping class.)

  10. Someone stands and talks to me for approximately half an hour when all they really want is to grab a handful of my free postcards so they can frame them or plaster their kitchen walls with them. At each art fair there is one or two of these postcard collectors. They are not really into my art; in fact most never even look at the art but head directly towards the back wall where my postcards are located. They usually carry a shopping bag and go from one booth to the next collecting postcards. (Are you interested in my art? Have you even looked at my art? Do you understand or connect with the messages portrayed in my art? Postcards cost money and are meant as a form of advertising to likely patrons with my contact information on them. They are not for you to frame and decorate your Kmart house with. These are the same people who come to my artist receptions in galleries and museums and stand at the food table all night long.)

So there you have it. I'm sure you have plenty more to add to my list and I would love to hear from you. Please write and tell me about your experiences.