Well, my predictions for the Stroll pretty much came true. We had a lot of visitors. From my perspective, the numbers were up significantly from June. The weather was great, which helped bring people out in droves. As is normal (for me), I had no sales at all, but then, the Strolls are really an advertising venue, anyway. The surprise? The low levels of sales for those who normally make a lot of money. One potter said that this was his worst Stroll in eight years, with sales at about the level of a normal workday. The stained-glass artist had no sales at all, despite having beautiful work priced as low as $30. An abstract painter, who normally has a few thousand dollars in sales, had a grand total of $150. None of the few artists that I've spoken to had even an "okay" weekend. For most of them, sales were better in June than November, and that has never been the case, even during the worst of the Great Recession.
So what was up? (Shoulder shrug here). For whatever reason, people just are not yet willing to open their wallets for art. If artists are the economic "canary in a coal mine", the canaries are on life support.
I usually have some very interesting discussions with my visitors, and this weekend was no exception.
- One of them is a retired Marine officer who was in Nasariyah, Iraq, during the worst of the insurgency. He spoke of having one of his armored vehicles hit by an IED, killing six of his Marines, and the pain in his eyes and voice was still brutal.
- There was an elderly couple who must've both been retired university professors. Their conversation was deeply insightful, laced with references to classics, politics, philosophy, art history, and both had sharp questions and listened keenly to what I had to say. A most enjoyable discussion.
- I talked with several people who were planning to move to Asheville. After living here for ten years, I say, yes, this is a wonderful area, lots to see and do, a great artist community, beautiful scenery, great food, and friendly people. Please bring your own job, though, as there aren't enough to go around.
- After doing these Strolls for seven years, I now have some regulars who always stop by to see whose buttons I'm pushing. It's good to see familiar faces showing up every time.
- One of my paintings on display was Pleasantville. This one always seems to get a good response, and I had it positioned so that it was the first thing a visitor saw when entering the studio. One guy, though, made it clear that he thought this family was on the right track, and that every family ought to have their own arsenal. (Sorry, guy, I've been to Baghdad and seen what happens when every family has its own arsenal.)
After the June stroll, I wrote in this blog that I didn't want to show Warrior and Lament and other old paintings during the Stroll again. They've been in too many now and it was time for something new. I set myself a goal of having all new pieces, hopefully as good as Warrior (which I consider my best work). Well, that didn't quite happen. Yes, there were some new ones, most notably the series of portraits from Iraq, but not much that was worth showing. And in my discussions with visitors, most of whom were seeing my work for the first time, I wound up saying things that sometimes caught me by surprise, that made me think about the direction of my art from different perspectives. So I'm torn between ideas. On one side, I wanted to move away from paintings about war. They're inherently downers, and I want to do something a bit cheerier. This is the impetus behind the "model in the studio" series that I've been thinking about. On the other hand, there are still some things that can/should be said in paintings about war. Warrior, Lament, and You Don't Understand are three very powerful paintings about the effect of war on people, but there are more in that vein that can be done. When Lament was nearing completion, and I knew it was going to be a good work, I felt "This was the kind of painting I was meant to paint". That's not a feeling that you walk away from.
So. Where to go from here? Is it one or the other? Both, in moderation? I dunno. I think I just need to sling some more paint and let it work itself out.