Brian Unleashed—I Just Can't Take It Anymore

Brian J. Sullivan

Ain't it great—computer technology and its promises to make life simpler? I don't know about you, but I rather liked receiving my art fair applications in the mail. I felt special. Now almost all art fair applications are online. Don't have a computer or a printer? Too bad! Don't check your emails every day? Too bad! "So what's the problem?," you may ask. How about the fair chairman squeezing what was once a three-page prospectus into a one-page web download? I, for one, have a hard time reading words compressed down to several millimeters in height and blurred together. To say nothing of the small spaces left for you to fill in your name, address, artist statement, slide description, and so forth. I wonder if these fair chairmen ever print out their own applications to see how it looks to the rest of us. And forget the notion that computers save you time/money! I spend plenty of time/money on printer ink, paper, and miscellaneous hardware just to be able to receive an application online! Cost of a postage stamp? Thirty-nine cents!

And one more thing—art fairs/organizations that have names or titles so long that even if all the words are abbreviated, you still can't fit them on your check! For example: The 39th Annual Chamber of Commerce Home Town Pride Arts, Eats, and Beats Craft and Heritage Festival of Champaign County. I usually just shorten it to 39th AC of CHTPAE & BC & HF of CC.

I realize that each year some booth fees, etc., are going to go up. I'm not happy about it, but that’s life. However, I draw the line when some fairs start charging for the privilege of early setup (a fair in Atlanta, for example, costs $60). So now, instead of artists arriving at different times throughout the day, everyone (except those willing to pay) will have to get up at 4:30 am the day of the fair, try to find the fair location, and set up in the dark along with 320 other artists, all within a short time period! Can you say Chinese fire drill? Not only that, but I am expected to work all day in the hot sun until closing time at 8:00 pm. Once I close down, walk to my car, get something to eat, and drive back to my hotel, it will be well over a 16 hour day. Only to do it all over again the next day!

Another thing that frosts my butt is the fair promoters—who already charge an exorbitant price for booth space etc.—then want to charge me for the privilege of parking my van! What did they expect—for me to arrive from halfway across the country carrying all my displays and art on my shoulders? Am I being unrealistic here? And while I'm at it, I refuse to return to hotels (usually downtown locations) which also charge for parking. I've even stayed at some that charged for changing your sheets!

OK, I know the big media blitz is on to get everyone to say how they love the new Zapplication Process. How many hours of frustration can one person take? Oh sure, once you've finally uploaded all your information onto the site, you just click away each application. It's the getting to that point that turns my hair grey. I know many fellow artists who refuse to apply to shows that use the Zapplication Process, either because they don't have a computer, are not "Photoshop" proficient, or simply don't have any digital images of their work. However, American capitalism is always at work and for a small fee of $70, some art fairs will upload your four slides to the system. Thanks a lot! I feel like I just lost a pint of blood!

Or what about the fair applications that don't follow standards established in the last century as to where the red dot goes on the slides? Get a clue! We artists send out hundreds of slides each year. Do you think we have the time and money to create new slides and labels for each fair chairman's whim? That’s why standards were established. Think about how confusing it would be if postage stamps were put anywhere on the envelope or we could drive on any side of the road we wanted! HINT: THE RED DOT GOES ON THE LOWER LEFT CORNER WHEN VIEWING THE SLIDE IN THE CORRECT POSTION! Period!

Even more criminal are the scores of art fairs across the country that advertise a great fair, print up nice four-color brochures, and actively solicit artists to submit their applications. The only problem (and they don't tell you this) is that all the spots are grandfathered in. So unless an artist dies or gives up his space, there are no spaces available. But I, along with 1,200 other artists, send in my jury fee of $35, only to get a rejection letter each year. Let me do the math for you: $35 times 1,200 equals $42,000. Sorry, but this is simply deceptive advertising, and in any other business would not be tolerated or better yet prosecuted.

In addition, all fairs require a SASE for the return of slides. However, many times they never return them. So now I have to spend more money duplicating slides—and that’s not counting the cost of lost postage and envelopes!

Alright, let's say I sell some of my work. I come home and box the pieces up, take them to any of the delivery services (DHL, Fed Ex, UPS, and USPS) purchase insurance, and send my goods on their way. However, along the way they mysteriously get damaged. Guess what? The insurance does not cover "art" work. All I can collect is the price of materials. Am I missing something here? If I was in the business of shipping computers, they would be covered. But I guess "art" is not a legitimate business, and I don't make legitimate products so therefore I can't get them insured. So save your $$$ and don't bother with taking out insurance; you won't be able to collect more than the materials used anyway!

And how many times has this happened to you? You get your slides ready, label them correctly, put them in a clear slide protector and put them in an envelope. Also included is the signed fair application and SASE, all in a #10 size envelope. If it's under so many ounces it’s the standard 39 cents postage, right? Wrong! Try going to the post office, standing in line for 20 minutes only to meet the same anal retentive, emotionally dead clerk. Never smiling, he rattles off a series of questions about am I a terrorist, am I mailing any hazardous materials, chemicals, bombs or any other illegal substances? After a five-minute inquisition, he finishes, and only after I have answered "no" to each of his moronic questions. "I'd like to mail this letter first class, please," I say. He throws it on the scale and asks me its zip code (I'm wondering to myself? What does it matter, postage is the same wherever it goes). "That will be 39 cents," he says. But wait, he fingers it suspiciously. "Feels a little fat to me," he says. "That’s an extra 15 cents." So now I iron all my SASEs I send or, better yet, I just put them in the drop box outside the post office and not worry about it.

Sometimes, after long and contentious debates, postage rates go up, their increases announced well in advance. Yet how come they never have the required stamps printed up until six months too late, necessitating the use of make-up stamps to be used until the "official" stamp comes out? (Did they not have to print the make-up stamp too?) And by the time the new stamp comes out the rates change again anyway.

I also can't understand how the big box stores can sell nice framed pictures with triple mats under glass for less than I can purchase just the frame in bulk from a wholesaler. What's wrong with this picture?

Is all glass cleaner the same? I used to think so until I spent several hours trying to clean all my glass pictures. I even used fresh paper towels, but I still could never get all the streaks out. Finally I had to take a cool down break and bought a name brand window cleaner. Voila! Clean on the first pass! Why does everything have to be so hard?

Equally frustrating is after having spent big bucks on art supplies and then receiving notice about a 50% store wide sale the next week! It's just not right I tell you!

Or what about buying a ruler that doesn't measure accurately! Or a straight edge that is not straight? Or a square that is not square? Don't laugh unless you check yours! It may not matter to you, but I am very precise in my work, and nothing is worse then having tools not up to the mark.

And finally, if a picture is worth a thousand words, why am I having such a hard time describing it?