Art fairs are excellent places to start selling your art. Here's why:
1) Cost of entry is low. Yes lets get this out of the way. The entry fee is low compared to any form of rented space and the outlay on preparing your stand is also low. Nobody expects persian carpets and other decor. However this does not mean that you can get away with a nasty market stand either. More on this in part two.
2) People like to meet the artist. This is just human nature and it is great for you the artist. Believe it or not there is a certain curiosity about artists. This can range from "Who is this master?" to "How do artists make a living?" Whatever the angle meeting and chatting to an artist is usually an interesting experience as we are following an unusual calling.
3)The benefit for the artist is that he can get immediate feedback from visitors, make connections and gain confidence in speaking about art. It is important to be able to articulate your ideas about art without launching into a thesis or getting tongue tied.
4) You may meet a gatekeeper. This is anybody who can get you further access to marketing events or exposure that will benefit your art marketing. This could be a gallery event, newspaper article, corporate commission, art lesson candidates and so on. It is probably unlikely that a big time collector will buy out your stand, but all things are connected. You are starting something that could lead to great things.
5) You start to develop a brand. I assume that you are calling yourself an artist and that you are not apologising for your art. As such it is essential that you develop yourself as a brand. Your name is now associated with art and you can build on this brick by brick. I would strongly suggest that you trade under your own name and not some other name even if it may sound catchy at first. This will save you much hassle later when your business takes off.
6) You will learn about collectors. Yes how people react to art is a lesson in life. Some will not get your art. Others will swoon over it. Most will be interested and appreciative. You will learn how to cope and deal with each of these and more. This will help to build your fortitude for the challenges that lie ahead. No one said it would be easy, but there are also blissful moments that will have you smiling for days. I recall my first market where one moment I had someone laughing at a price I had set for a painting and the next person purchasing two paintings. That is the way it goes. No point in getting upset and no point in compromising either.
7) You will learn to negotiate. Compromise is not negotiation. You will need to negotiate sometimes to make a sale. Prepare for this and accept it as essential. Collectors love to buy art and they love to negotiate. It does not mean they will not respect you, but negotiation is part of the fun. Accept it and prepare your strategy. Oh yes did I metion you will learn about being a saleperson? This is good. You will need this quality throughout your art career whether or not you have a gallery representing you. You are your business so best get educated in the art of the sale too.
8) You may sell a painting or two. Yes you may but it could be at a later date. If you are present and show an interest in people visiting your stand then you have an above average chance of making a sale. You may also be able to follow up with a potential buyer later on.
9) You develop stamina. After a day at a market you will be exhausted. This will give you strength and humility. You will prepare better next time. You will also appreciate getting back to your studio and BE motivated to up your game.
10) You start to gather an all important contact list. More of this in part 2.
Choose an event and prepare for it. Not all market events are equal and it pays to pick and choose the best, however it will give you momentum and that is when things start to happen.
Part Two above: