Art Shows Art Students League

Tornado Discount? Hell, yeah!

I wish all Art Fairs were like the Art Students League of Denver Summer Art Market
The crowds are always there, and they are rarely there for the hot dogs. They are there for art. It’s a great little fair. I’m never bored there, partly because of the strong crowds, partly because it’s such a social occasion. Also there’s the weather in Colorado in June, which can be …dramatic.

This year people were buying smaller (at least in booth #57), but they were still buying. Sales weren’t as strong as ’08, but they were solid, and as it was my first real chance to make money at my new profession, that’s huge.

I might actually have approached last year’s total, but the whole thing ended in chaos. Around 2-ish, the clouds came in, and tornado sirens started wailing. From experience, I keep a tarp and trash bags, tubs, etc, for quick wet-proofing, and I had a friend there who could help pull framed pieces off the walls when the wind kicked up. I happened to be finishing up a sale as the eerie sirens started, but with my eye on the rapidly thickening sky, I figured it wouldn’t take more than 5 minutes to pack and zip up, get in the building and hope for the best.

Then another woman wanted to buy 2 small pieces. These were, to coin a phrase, some cool customers! A steady crowd was streaming into the building, but not Monotype collectors- they’re not easily intimidated! Putting the whole ‘squish or be squished’ manifesto to its first test, I completed the sale as quickly as I could. I couldn’t find the tax chart, so I simply rounded it off and called it good, got the nice lady a bag to protect the prints from raindrops and the odd flying trailer home and thanked her as she and her friend exited the tent.

“Okay, Nicole, let’s zip it up and get inside.”

Only, as Nicole zipped up the front flap, the lady and her friend popped back in the back flap. Her friend wanted to buy a small framed piece. I’d already packed it into a tub, so I dug it out. “Is there a tornado discount?” She asked. Like I said, cool customers! Hey, if I die, at least I’ll have art! “Shit, yeah, there’s a tornado discount”, I’m thinking as I knock 20% off the price, again round off the tax, bag the art and even, out of habit remember to ask for her phone number on the check.

The sirens are on their 3rd go-round, weird suspicious tendrils are trailing off the thick dark clouds, which are beginning to swirl. Someone has taken a cell phone photo of a funnel cloud. By three thirty, the sirens, after 4 warnings, are finally silent, and there’s even brightness in the west. We throw the tent back open, and a steady stream of people wanders by, but the crowds never really return. At about 4:30 there’s another thundershower, and we pack it up for good. 4 tornado warnings and a thundershower and not a piece of art damaged. Plus 4 sales while the sirens are sounding. A good omen for this Squishtoid, I guess. As for the Summer Art Market, drama is nothing new there. One year it took place during the Hayman fire in the foothills. That Sunday, the sky turned orange, the sun was a big red ball behind all the smoke, and pieces of ash rained on the artwork. Strange days, indeed.


“Some are mathemeticians,
some are carpenter’s wives;
I don’t know how it all got started;
I don’t know what they do with their lives…”

-“Tangled Up in Blue”, Dylan

The first thing that strikes you is: How did I ever find time for a day job? To explain- owing to economic and political realities, I recently retired.

I always envisioned a life with a lot of free time. The question of how to pay for the “free time” ? Ah, there’s the rub. So this is a blog about not getting a job.

I’m an artist, and the weekends have been a time split between traditional leisure/social activities, such as sports, art shows and music, and more professionally oriented ones, such as making and selling art. Then back to my job, often at 4 am Monday morning. Now I schedule my own time, a great advantage which I really appreciate. It’s rare for working people to retire these days, and most seem to have their next job lined up before the retirement party even begins. My next job has been lined up since I graduated with a BFA: unfortunately, it pays even less than the classic retirement job, wal mart greeter.

I’m going to be a Squishtoid. I won’t bore you with a long drawn out definition of what a Squishtoid is, especially since I just made it up and haven’t really defined it yet, but I can give you the manifesto: squish or be squished. As background- I’m a monoprint artist. I paint ink on a plexiglass sheet and run it through a press at 2000 pounds psi pressure. What I painted comes out the other side, backward and totally squished. Kind of like life itself.

Then I sell them at shows, most of them street fair type shows. My first show was June 13-14, a chance to keep wal-mart at arm’s length and keep scheduling my own time. I’ll tell you how it went in my next post. For now, suffice it to say:

Days without job: 76.

Feel free to comment. Let me know if you are in a similar situation. Or contemplating it. For artists, I hope to share some of the things to look for as I stumble into my new career. For art lovers, I hope to share some of the process and thinking that goes into a monotype. For people who hate single subject blogs, I’ll slip in a little “weekend squish” about books, music, cooking, entertainment and living the good life on the cheap.

I hope you enjoy, and I hope it happens to you sometime.