I became a festival artist right after art school. I knew nothing about business or marketing, fresh with my art degrees. In those days art students weren't taught anything but studio art and art history. The festival circuit seemed to be the best idea. The first few years weren't bad. That was before the over saturation of reproductions. Festival goers actually bought original art. What a novel idea!
The work was physically very hard. I had to load my vehicle with lots of paintings, tents, signage, stands, weights, and other equipment. Then came a long drive with a paper map. I usually left the studio on Friday to arrive for a predawn set up on Saturday. Most of us slept in our cars in the artist parking lot, unless we traveled by RV. I often washed up in handicapped bathrooms in stores, because they were private with a sink. There were few artist amenities in those days. I was on my own for food, having to leave my tent unmanned for quick potty breaks.
It was probably the loneliest time in my life for 20 years. 20 shows a year from Friday - Sunday on the road. There were always weather issues of course. Florida is either flooding, windy or brutally hot. One show was laughingly referred to as Bake by the Lake. More than once I had a river of water flowing through my tent. Sales were up and down constantly, and show fees climbed regularly.
The last two or three years were truly agony. I was totally burned out. I can go along, seemingly forever doing these hard things and then I am over it. I used to fight that feeling, pushing myself to continue, but I am learning now to know when it is time to go.
Eventually, I moved into the gallery scene for a few years, but in 2009, most of mine failed. Abstract became the new rage for galleries and I left most of mine. Artists have to do a lot to make a living. It is not the career for the lazy or the faint of heart.