Tustin Art Walk 2016

Tustin Art Walk II

Events

Last year was my first run at the local Art Walk and this year I’m happy to say that I’m really excited to return. I’ll be bringing a whole new game to the Art Walk this year including new prints (with one in the pipe), a new booth set-up, and a year’s worth of experience on the road.

I had a pleasant experience last time and this show has been my biggest money maker. So I’m excited to return for that reason, but it’s also home and where I got my start. I’ll be interested to see if the scene is still dominated by an older crowd. The demographics have changed a little since last time and with any luck I won’t be the minority young person in the crowd this year. Then again, I might have been at an advantage there.

As usual the Tustin Art Walk will be held in Old Town Tustin at the cross streets of El Camino Real and Main Street. Just off the freeway where the 5 and the 55 meet.

The show will run from 12:00 PM to 5:30 PM and there will be booze including a new beer garden (we’ll see if there are any craft brews worth tasting), wine tasting, and music. Should be a nice day in Old Town and you can make a day of it by visiting some of the new restaurants that have been added like the El Camino Cafe (a personal favorite).

Not sure what the attendance looks like from the vendor’s side. Last time I checked there were a few gaps in the map, but I expect it to be busy nonetheless.

I will be near Freesoulcaffe near Main Street and Prospect Avenue.

See you there!

Tustin Art Walk Location, Old Town.

Advertisements
Rob's Hand Made Sign

Art Show Beginner

Business

Taking the business to the next level involves taking my prints to the people. So far I’ve had pretty good experiences, but I’m only three shows into my print career so I have a lot to learn. Nonetheless, here are my experiences at the Claremont Art Walk and the OC Weekly’s Artopia in Downtown Santa Ana.

Chronologically Claremont came first. It came to me by way of a friend-of-a-friend who has taken over the Art Walk. I’m not sure exactly when the whole thing started, but when I jumped onboard it was the first time that Rebecca had run an Art Walk. It was also the return of the walk from a brief hiatus. As I wrote about a month ago in my previous article the Art Walk had shakey beginnings. Now under the guidance of Janelle Rensch and Rebecca Ustrell it is on track for the first Saturday every month.

When I think about my night there it makes me think of a club house. A hangout for your friends where you can feel free to joke, share new experiences, and wonder about the future. Since the Art Walk is just getting back on it’s feet there wasn’t much fanfare to attract visitors. Although I did notice that between the time I lived near the area and now, a difference of four or five years, that the Packing House filled in it’s empty store fronts. That led to steady traffic throughout the night and since you have people waiting for their tables at the hipstery Whisper House restaurant, you have a chance to catch a few eyes from there. Passers by from other eateries like the amazingly delicious Eureka! Burger helped fill in some of that foot traffic as well.

Considering it was a free, juried* show the amount of cash earned that night was strictly profit. After three shows at this level my average sales seem to float around ten prints at a very, very reasonable price point. You can do the math on that, but until the show earns some more notoriety I would imagine that earnings for someone like me will stay kind of low. The other people participating that day didn’t seem to do as well (a guitarist, and high-end French gift basket vendor).

The Claremont Packing House was one of the first renovations to take place in the area and is one of the nicest places to visit. It’s had a hard time attracting business in the past, but when I visited for the show it was buzzing with activity which is good to see. Downtown Claremont is a little hidden from the world, which is how I believe the residents prefer it, but I’m seeing signs of growth. The venue itself is pleasant with reclaimed wood floors and dim lighting. It was suggested that I bring my own lighting and I’m glad I did. It was nice to be indoors too and while it looked like it might rain that day it luckily never did. During the summer months it can get really hot out there so I imagine that being inside will be helpful in future walks, but there is talk of expanding to the outside courtyard between the parking structure and the Packing House.

Overall the Claremont experience was nice and people were a lot friendlier than I have experienced in the one previous show that I’ve been a part of. Not that people were rude, just less engaging. Quite the opposite in Claremont. The Santa Ana art show on the following weekend would have some parallels.

When my wife sent me an ad from the OC Weekly hosting an art show the second week of May I was cynical about it. The annual Artopia, also held in LA and a few other cities I think, was a vote-for-your favorite kind of marketing scheme. If you’ve ever participated in a Pepsi school fundraiser where you have to get as many people you can to sign up on a website and vote for your school then you know what I’m talking about. It’s a way for the OC Weekly to build email lists and send you junk mail. Normally I wouldn’t go for this sort of thing, but I thought I might be able to piggyback off the OC Weekly’s promotion efforts and at the very least get my name out in the open.

I didn’t ask anyone to vote for me. I’ve tried my hand in a similar promotion years ago with the tee shirt company Threadless and met with awful results. Personally I don’t like being marketed to and I will walk all the way around something that smells a little bit like advertising, so I get it. People don’t want to go on Facebook and see that shit. No problem.

However, my wife is my biggest promoter and jumped on that wagon quicker that you can say “hold your horses”. That’s probably what got me through the door because she convinced a lot of friends to sign up to vote which got into the top ten out of thirty pre-approved artists. I’d love to know what the vote looked like because I’d be willing to bet that there weren’t that many votes and I probably defaulted in because I was one of the few that got votes.

In any case this was a pretty good operation. Plenty of communication, parking maps, wristbands, club lights, dj… the whole loft party package. Which gave it the feel of a mid-sized, exclusive event. The staff, led I think by Jenna Moothart of OC Weekly Marketing, was incredibly friendly and helpful. I really felt like they were there to cater to me and there were a lot of OC Weekly shirts to provide manpower. So even when there were some kinks, which I later found out was caused by unfamiliarity in a new venue, they were fast to respond, and really accommodating.

Although typically rented out as a wedding space the venue itself, The 1912, was nice. A contemporary upstairs take on the hipster packing house trend that is slowly taking over southern California, the wood floors and beams give it a warm feel with the old style warehouse windows letting in nice light during the day, and antique edison style lights with some small, moving, track lighting type dj lights and gobos (or patterns) for the night. It was really dark in my corner and my neighbor, by the end of the night, was living in shadow. So I was glad that I packed my lamps.

When I first set up next to the bathroom, the kitchen (or storage room of some sort), and a cocktail table there was pretty good lighting in that spot, but I was bumped for a photo-booth (maybe paid for by the event) and sent to the corner. It was a little odd, but it was better than being isolated in the alternative space, a room hidden around the corner that another artist briefly sat in until it she realized that no one would see her art. Also, I didn’t have to worry about someone hanging out by the cocktail table and spilling their drink on my prints or the terrible bathroom smell oozing into the space.

As details rolled in from Jenna I took note of certain things: one thing that I thought would have an effect on sales was the cover charge. Tickets were $30 online pre-sale with a discount code I could hand out lowering it to $20. At the door prices went up to $35. Toward the end of the event I talked to the staff who said that total tickets sold were about two hundred fifty tickets sold out of three hundred available. This is different than past Artopia events which the staff said had twenty artists (instead of ten) with around one thousand attendees. They wanted to go smaller, more intimate this year. Maybe to cut costs?

Who knows.

If you’re tracking the event’s numbers that means they’re getting between $5,000 and $9,000 before expenses which probably included bartending, dj, venue rental, staff wages, table rentals, etc, etc. All told they probably took a small loss on the event.

The only problem I had was trying to talk over the sound of the dj who always wants to get the party started by blasting beats. I liked the music he played, but having conversations with people who are interested in buying your art while there is a rock concert going on behind you is a pain in the ass. You only hear every other word and have to piece together their meaning through chunks of conversation that you repeat several times.

With somewhere between two hundred fifty and three hundred people attending I did a little better than my ten print average. Again it was a free show so one hundred percent of the profit goes to me and with a slightly heavier wallet I’m happy.

Between the Tustin Art Walk, the Claremont Art Walk, and the OC Artopia here’s what I’ve gathered about running a booth at art events:

As I mentioned, my average sales are around ten prints per show. This tells me that I need to offer a few more options to get people interested in what I’m doing. The price point seems good (you can visit my Etsy site if you want to see) and with a few lower price point options I think I’m catching a few people that might have walked away. One thing that I want to play with is raising prices. Claremont, for example, is a pretty wealthy community, so I can probably bump my better selling prints up a few dollars without scaring people away. Make a few more bucks.

I would guess that half of the people that stop by my booth are attracted to the display. The dark stained wood and slick orange lamps are all part of a package and I think eyes have been drawn to the light and overall aesthetic as much as the art it’s trying to sell. I’ve received a lot of compliments on the display and I like to joke with customers that it makes my crappy art look even better than it really is, but with the packing house architectural style being so popular right now I fit in really well among people with style. Which I think helps my art stand out even more.

Overall sales are a lot lower than I’d like and that might be a combination of things. One thing that I’m ready to try is to get into a paid show like Patchwork (which incidentally is going on this Sunday in Santa Ana). The Patchwork Show has notoriety and big crowds. I figure I can probably triple my profits by signing up for a half-booth ($150) on these one-day craft fairs. That’s totally doable right now and at minimum I figure I can break even.

On the other side of that coin I need to get some more product up. Some people like to say “Develop a style”, but right now I’m not seeing people demand that. With a couple of different series running people are choosing from all of them. Since these are things that I like, there’s a good chance that people will have similar crossing interests. What I’m not seeing though is that “Oh I have to have this” reaction from people yet. The closest I get is a long, smiling stare at my Yosemite print which is probably more the name brand than anything. I’ll take the compliment, but I’d rather have the money.

I have a few other tweaks that I want to do to the display – add more signage, build out as more product gets developed, make it more visible from a distance, make it easier to transport, and so on. There are a couple of questions that I get asked frequently, like “What is screen printing” and “Are you the artist”. Some signage could be helpful with this, but at least for now it helps me refine my pitch. The bottom line here is that art shows like these already make up the bulk of my sales.

Right now I’d say that compared to online sales, shows make up three quarters of total sales. That’s something that I’d like to change and I’m hoping to grab more show goers and pull them over to my Etsy site. But I think that just comes down to offering more and better product online. I did see a microscopic bump online from the OC Weekly event, but no sales to speak of. Yet.

If you are considering any of these shows I’d say that they are good testing grounds for newbies like me or maybe just trying out new ideas. All the shows I participated in are minimal in cost and if you have a winning product you only stand to earn. I can’t say what it’s like from the other side of the booth – the customer side. I think that one problem is that it’s hard to find out about these events. Other than everyone being so pleasant and curious, even if they are not handing over their hard earned cash, you are with your people at these events. Everyone that shows up is into what you are doing and probably has similar backgrounds to you. That makes it fun, like hanging out in the neighborhood club house with all your friends. So at the very least you get plenty of instant feedback, because people always have opinions – not always a bad thing – and you get to meet cool people.

 

*I’ve only learned this year that “Juried” and “Unjuried” shows make a difference. Juried shows are selective of the people who participate and are generally better in service. Unjuried tends to be a free for all.

 

 

Copyright © 2016 Robert C. Olson

Claremont Art Walk

Claremont Artwalk

Events

Claremont is surprisingly hidden from the world. It doesn’t offer much near freeway exits and the charming downtown is a little tucked away. So I guess it’s no surprise that a lot of people miss this bad ass gem. However there are stirrings in the wind that tell me there are changes coming.

The Claremont Art Walk has been fighting for its life. Run by volunteers this monthly event has had a difficult time getting off the ground. Which is too bad since Claremont has a lot to offer, but part of the problem is a perceived highbrow, snooty, college town atmosphere where million dollar homes would make even my rich OC neighbors jealous of the Jone’s. It’s a very, very small place that has all the problems of small town politics. Add to the equation a rowdy next door neighbor with dirt under the finger nails, Pomona, which had it’s own downtown art scene that burgeoned for more than a decade, but is now fizzling out. Now Claremont is finding itself in a place that it is not really accustomed to bringing in a scruffier crowd.

When you cross under the freeway the tension between the two sides is palatable. Pomona’s grimy brick buildings and Mid Century blue collar homes paired against the pristine, manicured landscaping along side the adobe of Claremont and it’s no mystery. I never really heard anyone talk about the other side when you are facing one side of the freeway or the other. However, the energy was there. Yet now with the changes taking place we are seeing some groups shifting over to Claremont. And to Upland which is another nearby town of local flavor.

Claremont has always had an art scene, but one very different from the Pomona breed. It’s traditionally been the kind of wine drinking, flowing clothes wearing, slightly grayed type of artist that represents a class of well heeled bohemian that I’m accustomed to in places like Santa Fe, Sedona, or Laguna Beach. Now, there is a fresher look moving in. A younger, purple haired, with more slender physique fitting clothes artisan moving in.

It sounds like Pomona has chased out the artists. They have done their job and raised the rent for developers to point to buyers and say, “Look here! Artists are cool and you want to be cool so buy my property and move in.” I don’t know if gentrification is winning in Pomona, but it seems clear that the once tight knit community of artists there has broken up due to what Pomona doesn’t offer anymore.

Bunny Gunner, an art studio that held turf on Pomona’s 2nd Street down the road from the Glass House, has now moved to greener pastures of Bonita in the Claremont Village. A few others have joined in the fray like Mirrored Society which is celebrating its three month anniversary above a fairy land trinket store (*yawn*) separated by oaky white railing. Not the traditional dark stain we see in hipstery places, but give it time.

So when a friend of mine contacted me and asked me if I could do an art show in Claremont I said sure. Fuck it. Not knowing about the shifting climate in the region of my former stomping ground, it sounded like a good time because I like Claremont anyway, but now, looking from the outside in, it looks like Claremont offers an opportunity for artists that seem to be graduating because the well ran dry.

In my base of operations, Tustin, we have a similar thing going. Probably not as highly priced, but it’s people are older, the streets are clean, and we are bordered by a rough around the edges city. Sandwiched between more expensive property and grittier Santa Ana, Tustin is a relative oasis in the property wars we are struggling to live through. Tustin is primed to take overflow from places like Orange whose rents have been escalating astronomically and pushing out businesses. Claremont is not the cheapest place to rent, but like Tustin it does offers a pocket in a sea of struggling businesses where people can gain a foothold.

I like Claremont. If I can play a role in opening its bounty to the world around its borders and maybe learn something in the process, I’ll pitch in. It begins by drawing me back in with the Art Walk, May 7. For artists like me this is opportunity knocking. A new hole in the market that I can slip into.

I don’t know if the Art Walk is good or bad. Worth it or not. But in my mind change is always good. And besides, there’s really good food and even better drinks. After your hearty meal think about how you are breaking ground on a new shift in cultural boundaries. Participating in the flux of people trying to make it work. The artist’s struggle.

And maybe, if you didn’t eat and drink too much, come by and see me the first Saturday of May, 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM in the Packing House on First Street. Technically I’m still filling out the paperwork for this show, but something tells me I’ll be there rain or shine. And with some new art to boot.

Side Hustle

Competing Against Nothing

Random Thoughts

Living in California you almost have to have a side hustle. It’s expensive here and pay hasn’t exactly kept pace with living costs. Check this out: if I want to buy a house near where I live in Orange County you have to come up with, on average, $600,000. With 20 percent down for typical loans that’s $120,000, more than the average income in the state by about double. It’s a small chunk of what it costs to live in paradise, but it just goes to show that if you’re going to make it here you have to earn some extra scratch.

One of the things I like about living here is that a lot of people have that side gig and it’s not just to make money. We’re dreamers striving for happiness – hedonistic to the core. Not too long ago a couple – friends of ours – went off the grid. She went freelance locking in video work with a pretty stable company and he reconnected with a former job to negotiate a work-from-home deal. This is the perfect example of turning that dream of making your side-gig into a full time job coming true and I’m really excited for them.*

The funny thing about all this is that the very things we are pursuing may be eroding the ground our dreams stand on.

Almost a decade ago now I remember getting really excited over stories of how people were creating these great, collaborative, social projects to help people and make the world a better place. Things like Wikipedia have been an incredible free resource built on people’s good will. And when people couldn’t find it for free they would steal it through sites like Pirate Bay.

Now, I’m more hesitant. How do people make a living doing this kind of stuff? And how do we side-hustlers compete against the growing pool of free resources?

An interesting take on this whole free/sharing economy comes from Dan Pink, speaking at RSA, who points out that people are seeking fulfillment in their off hours and participating in projects and hobbies that create a sense of purpose rather than a steady income. Drive, it would seem, supersedes financial reward which explains why we are seeing seemingly contradictory behavior of giving away work for free.

The video is worth watching:

In an interview article from Vice Paul Mason talks about how social and technological trends are undercutting capitalism. Economic value has become detached from actual production costs and refocused on social impact. We are more concerned with reducing environmental pollution and achieving work-life balance than profits (at least, outwardly). Additionally companies are turning to more automation. Amazon’s pursuit of flying delivery drones and Google’s self driving cars will cut deeply into the delivery industry which employs a lot of people. It’s as if, Mason points out, we are living in a world where the goal is zero.

There are still Googles and Facebooks in the world that are making more money than the governments of some mid-size countries. And as far as my circle of friends demonstrates no one has given up employment altogether. Most are still working full time on top of their hobbies and side-jobs. So I don’t see the “End of Capitalism” as Mason describes it. At least not in my lifetime. But I do see that there are trends that will affect my side hustling people.

Take for example Miya Tokumitsu who recently wrote “Do What You Love: And Other Lies About Success and Happiness”. Pretty dismal I know, but her claim is that companies have caught on to Dan Pink’s idea: that people will work to create meaningful projects without pay; then encourage the behavior on behalf of the company’s profits.

Home-based business, soloprenuers, freelancers, crafters, and makers are a kind of return to pre-Industrial Revolution cottage industries where households used skills and trades to make income through various channels. People have taken up the call for homemade, handmade, bespoke, and other interests in part out of fascination for a bygone era of industry, but also to fill the gaps left in our economy.

As a side hustler I am forced to compete with free things all the time. If this trend deepens it could spell disaster for a part of our economy that serves to bring the amenities of life within reach. Then again it’s in my job description to convince you to support me and come up with new creative things that make you “ooh” and “awww” and hand over the cash. Isn’t it?

*Side note: my friend’s freelance gig crumbled, but forced her to pick up the slack and dig into solo-hustle mode.

Photo Credit Todd Quakenbush

 

copyright © 2015 Robert C. Olson

Giving Thanks

Feature

I have no idea what I’m doing, but I feel like I’m in control. 

A few month’s ago I was explaining to my hair lady that my 30’s have been some of the best times that I lived through so far. She said she’d heard that before then asked why that was. What it came down to is that basically I have more stability, creativity, good friends, sense of purpose and understanding than any time in my life so far. 

To put things into perspective my wife and I came out of the recession with a touch of financial PTSD. Even now with a couple of month’s wages saved up I feel a slight anxiousness that maybe it’s not enough. And my wife… forever hates green bell peppers because it was a staple food item in poverty. 

We’re a bit tainted from that experience. However we are coming out of it and this year really feels different mostly because I’ve taken steps to start a side hustle – illustration and printing. 

A lot of things had to come together to make this work. Steady job, room for inspiration, extra cash, reduced debt, and much more. So now that the proverbial stars are aligning it makes me feel like I don’t have to worry as much. That the decisions I’m making are benefiting me in a forward momentum kind of way not because circumstances have forced my hand and I have to get by. 

It feels great. It feels great to be alive and I’m excited about… everything! I don’t remember the last time I felt this way. But I’m going to enjoy it as long as I can and this Thanksgiving I’m thankful for all the positive changes and people that have helped me to reach this point.

I hope you are as lucky as I am to share in that sense of empowerment this holiday. Now I’m going to go celebrate by supporting America’s favorite tradition of gluttony. Happy turkey day!

Yosemite by Robert Olson

Yosemite Handmade Art Print

Products

Yosemite by Robert Olson

My mind was blown when we came up on Tunnel View and saw the valley for the first time. Pictures didn’t do it justice and nothing that I could ever create would come close to seeing it in person, but for those of us who have been there it beckons.

When we parked to take in the view I remember thinking, “I wonder what would it would have been like before crowds of people taking selfies where here?”

Then it occurred to me that if I can imagine it, I can draw it.

Yosemite Handmade Art Print now available on Etsy for 14.99 USD

from Etsy http://ift.tt/1lbVJYT

Tustin Art Walk

Events

Time to take my show on the road and let the people of the world see how weird I truly am. The Old Town Tustin Art Walk may not be ready for me, but I am ready to see if I can hock my wares to the unbeknownst.

Come see me awkwardly negotiate the wine-infused people of Tustin as I try to pitch the greatness of hand-pulled screen prints of wild illustrations to otherwise normal people. Plus, I could probably use a friend to watch my crap as I try to take a quick pee break.

I’ll be somewhere near El Camino Real and Main Street in Tustin between 10:00 AM and 4 PM, come rain or shine. Major credit cards accepted.

For more info check out the city’s website

Going to the Fundraiser

Events


Photo from Downtown Pomona

You may have seen my post earlier about a fundraiser in Pomona seeking entrants. Well by now you kids should have received notification about whether your art has been accepted. I will be joining your degenerate faces and classing the place down with my own ridiculous print. But it’s for a good cause: to raise money for foster kids with nonprofit Seeds of Peace.

20131126-174100.jpg

Show Details

Show time is from 3 PM to 7 PM on September 6, 2014 – mark your calendars.

The show will be at DBA 256 256 S Main St, Pomona, CA 91766.

 

 

Copyright 2014 © Robert Olson