The concept of touring for an artist is a fairly new one as far as I can tell. Over the last 15 years I’ve been on the road, I have met very few artists that have hit the road and done shows around the country to promote and sell their art other than comic guys and gals. It seemed very natural to me being as musicians and authors tour, so why not artists. Before I had hit the road to do my first nationwide tour, I had been painting live in San Diego and Los Angeles for almost a decade so traveling from one club to the next, dealing with different locations, set ups, managers, and customers was already in my blood. Seemed logical to take it to the next level by touring the states, and then the world, and boy did it pay off. To this date I can’t think of a better way to promote and sell my artwork than by hitting the road and selling directly to the public. The fact that I can personally converse with fans and customers means the world to me, and judging by the emails and social media posts I get, it means a lot to them too. Nowadays, when it starts to get into spring and the festivals start to release their line ups, I get tons of emails from people making sure I’ll be there because they really like the art as a part of the festival. The thing about most festivals, if you’ve gone to one, is that the vendor area looks like a Chinese sweatshop owner met with a rep from Goodwill and came up with booth after booth of garbage and, of course, t-shirts. There's very little in the way of original items. Most of the festivals I contacted when I first started touring loved the idea of bringing art displays and live art to the mix, so if there is a festival near you, hit them up and see about setting up and selling. Like I said, when I first started touring, there were few artists that I met that were doing anything as far as touring or live art.
I hit the road for my first U.S. Tour right after I married. My wife and daughter accompanied me on a 27,000 mile road trip across the states, helping me to figure out this touring thing along the way. Figuring out logistics and budgeting for food, gas, etc. was new, as well as how much to bring as far as prints and original art, how much can I work on the road, keeping up with social media updates, and of course making sure my 3 year old and my wife were happy. It turned out to be one of the greatest times of my life, aside from pushing my art into a whole new direction as far as selling and promoting, it gave me an endless source of inspiration. It really opened up my eyes to how important it is to make sure you take your art seriously if you are out there selling it. Makes you realize that being an artist and being responsible for inspiring people, making them think, pulling them out of a bad mood, changing their emotions, helping them to create a comfort in their home, and leading the way for the next generation holds an incredible weight, and should be thought about seriously in between the bouts of craziness that are necessary to create. I’d have to write another book (which is in the works!) about how much I saw on tour and how it affected my artwork, but I think this blog entry from the last part of my first tour pretty much sums it up...
ENTRY FROM MY FIRST TOUR BLOG DATED 9/27/11
“The sights I've seen as well have been a blur, but have been amazing, including just driving through northern Nevada's amazing expanse of nothing blasting music and screaming something out the window like a madman about America as I drove. Gallup, New Mexico's route 666, the meteor crater, gas stations with mud smeared windows like something out of 'The Hills Have Eyes', gas spewing out of my tank when I took off the cap (unexplainable by a mechanic as well), Dinosaurs, millions of acres of corn, too many toll booths, my daughter machine gunning cops with a bubble gun, hundreds of thousands of people having fun, the milky way, Motel 6, swamps, my wife and the counterfeit bill experience in Ely, Nevada, slot machines smeared with lipstick eating my money, overpriced pizza, basement nightclubs, my paintings disappearing and being replaced with a fair price (probably the strangest thing!), wind storms, thousands of bikers in one town, Gwen dancing to Pretty Lights, sitting with Gwen having father/daughter time watching DJ Shadow's AMAZING set, Woody Creek Tavern--thanks for the tour Tim!, Amish people and their buggies, my wife by my side the whole way, Amazing cider at Lincoln Rock, talking it up with Vincent on the banks of the Columbia River while drinking a river of whiskey, testing my Volvo's limits halfway up a mountain and off road while pulling a trailer, the civilization we carved through the red rock of Colorado, the neon drunks of San Diego, and many, many more sights and sounds too numerous to mention. I thirst for more, though. I want to be on the road more. This was just a crumb of the time I think screaming across the country will satisfy me. Too many people to meet. Too much art to create. Too many miles to rack up. The epic nature of this journey, and the lessons it will hopefully teach generations of artists to come, will not be fed to fruition in just one run. No, the trip must soak through the years. There's nothing in this life, of importance, that can be shoved down our throats in just one lusty, calculated, drunken, well read bar fight. It's the wounds that sit on our skin that teach the lesson. We change the bandages, we pick the scabs out of curiosity, we wash, we clean, we are nurturing the wound, and treating it as a mother. Sometimes it scars and we become the open book of our time lapping up the knowledge of bar stools and gas stations. I know in order to get to this point in my life I've cherished the defeats more than the successes. The defeats, at least, will wrap their arms around you and poke and prod and remind you of your fuck up, allowing you to remember and soak the lesson in, unlike the successes, that just sit on a shelf like a trophy, only to be brought out when it's time to brag or defend yourself. I'm hoping this trip is an inspiration to all artists to step outside the coffeehouse set and realize that those walls are just ONE place to hang. That it's more about the business knowledge than it is the knowledge of perspective--the talent will come through repetition, the business is learned. That you need to see past your own handicap of wanting to do shows for exposure only, and thinking that you have to pay to play. You are the performance. You are the reason that people show up in a gallery or at a nightclub. They are not here to see the promoter so stop watching him reap all the money. I never saw anyone walk up to a gallery owner and congratulate him on having art on his walls, but I've sure as hell watched people's jaws slam against the floor when looking at the art on those walls. Grow some confidence--the whole reclusive artist thing, trying to be as mysterious and profound will not work on the masses, just the snobs that try the same tactics to get through life. The clients are out there. The people that genuinely want to buy your art can be found by searching them out yourself. It takes work, sure, but you are making the sale yourself, and making the connection yourself which will translate into a more personal relationship with the client, and they will appreciate the artwork that much more. Just some advice through my years of being in this crapshoot, and my months on the road.”