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  • Kelly Edwards

Roy's Art Fair: The Lowdown

It's now been 3 weeks since I joined 92 other fabulous artists in displaying our work at the mighty Roy's Art Fair, at the Truman Brewery in Shoreditch.

Following the fair, I decided to give myself a well-earned break from painting in order to recharge, update the website and work on streamlining the many ideas I took away from the show in order to prep for my next collection.

Before we move into the new, I want to share my experience over the 4 days at Roy's!

You may have seen before that I was a late entry to the show, with 2 months to prepare I certainly had my work cut out! My first recommendation if you're thinking of exhibiting is....


Due to my tardiness in getting my application in, it meant that I had so much less time to prepare, time that I would have had plenty of had I just gotten on with it in the first place. Having said that, it has reconfirmed something I already knew, I do work well under pressure! My motivation for this collection was simply 'bright colour' and 'texture'. I wanted to pursue the avenue of work I felt most comfortable in for my first show.

As the pieces were created I felt a huge urge to make a shift in my approach and style, becoming more free with my painting, instead of reclining myself in the comfort of my block work and colours.

Between discovering Liquitex's new neon fluid acrylics and gathering a hearty collection of new tools, I decided to throw caution to the wind and try something new. And guess what!? It worked.

Aptly named, 'Anomaly' became a transition piece. Fusing black (not usually my go to colour) with my new neon range, I created a piece with a new level of depth. Instead of relying on texture and peaks to create movement in my work, I began layering colour then using tools to pick designs on the canvas, revealing already dried layers underneath, as well as using my new palette tools to mix colours straight from tool to canvas.

(Side Note: One of my favourite parts of the fair was listening to how different viewers interpreted my pieces, also showing me the different images they were able to see in my work).

In the last 24 hours prior to the show, the race was on!! Cue, desperately trying get my varnishing to dry, swerving various last minute disasters, labelling and learning how to hang the damn things! I managed to get to bed at 1am which I didn't think was too bad considering.

In the morning I used a trusty black cab to heave my work across London to the Truman. The place was bouncing with energy when I arrived, it was such a cool experience watching everyone unveiling their work, trying to negotiate the hanging. I was very thankful to have wired all the paintings the night before so it was a quick job of getting them up onto the hanging system.

I was really happy with my display, however, should I enter again I now know to plan the sizing of my work better and to work out what colours/styles work best together. I received a fantastic piece of advice from the inspiring Luke Langthorne from @poetry_and_craft to perhaps 'tighten the palette' for the next show. Such wise words from this glorious gem!

When exhibiting at your first show there's the temptation to show absolutely everything you have in your locker, but that can have the adverse effect too.

My next recommendation for the show is...stay close to the venue! You don't realise until you're there just how tiring it is. You do not want to travel a long distance before and after the show after you've been on your feet all day engaging with your audience. Although this is an extra expense on top of your entry fee, I do think it was worth it. I wouldn't have had the same buzz and energy adding a 2 hour round trip onto each day.

I've mentioned this on my events page, as well as Instagram, but I will wax lyrical on this again. The best, best, BEST, thing about Roy's was meeting all the other fantastic artists.

Being able to stand alongside such wonderful people, full of knowledge, inspiration and sense of humour completely made the show for me. I went into the show with the intention of being a sponge, soaking up as much wisdom as people were willing to share with me.

When you first submit your application, there's a part of you that naturally winces at the cost of entry, drowning yourself in questions of 'what if I don't sell?', 'is this a colossal waste of money?' and so on. I can honestly say, having come out the other side of it, the money was worth it for the knowledge you acquire throughout the weekend. Whether it's learning how other artists are transporting their work, what art fairs are worth exhibiting at, is a gallery really worth it, can you actually make money selling on Instagram... Your conversations had with other artists between visitors to your stand are invaluable!

The biggest beast you have to tackle with your first show is imposter syndrome! From the initial nerves of wondering if your art will stand up to the work of your fellow artists. Then standing on your lemon at your stand waiting for people to take an interest! Worse still, standing at your stand seeing people queuing up at the payment stand with what seems to be everyone else's work......EXCEPT YOURS!

All I can say is, yes, you will go through the motions and at times you will wonder what you are doing there but trust me, you WILL have your time to shine! At times you will feel like there's no-one stopping for you, then an hour later it'll look like you're holding a conference and you're wondering if a mic needs to be wheeled in!

Nobody can determine who will walk through the door and it's impossible to know what is going to catch an individuals eye. We all have different preferences and tastes! I saw artists whose work I thought would fly off the shelves walk away with all their work tucked under their arms. I also saw exhibitors whose work I thought was in a completely niche category walk off with a stack of pink sale tickets! It really does depend on who arrives through the door on a given day. If you don't sell anything over the weekend there's no need to be disheartened, a lot of people are afraid to commit to a high priced or sizeable canvas on the spot, this is where the after-sale comes in!!! It's allll about the after-sale!!! As long as you've given your best effort to make an impression and engage with your potential customers over the weekend, you will reap the benefits to follow.

Note: I also really think it helps to have smaller items and a selection of prints that people are able to carry away with them.

I heard a lot of talk about the 'ideal customer/viewer' throughout the weekend which gave me a lot of food for thought about target audience. I also heard different opinions on who the ideal viewer is not!

I really had to think about my feelings on this subject and my hunch remains the same. I saw every visitor at my stand as a world of potential waiting to be unlocked.

The fact is...not all visitors are potential customers. Here comes the light bulb moment!

Does that really matter!?

Whether you're speaking to an art student, fashion start up entrepreneur, interior designer, gallerist, browser, fellow artist...every single person has the potential to create benefit for your brand. This could be as simple as a follow on a social media platform or a shout out to tackle the Instagram algorithm, it could be unexpected photography of your work, potential artistic future collaboration, the possibilities are endless so the onus is on you to MAKE EVERY CONVERSATION COUNT!

In conclusion, I can say that Roy's Art Fair will go down as a life experience that I'll never forget. Roy's is so well organised, a high-vibration event, full of life and character, with some unforgettable artists. I enjoyed my time exhibiting at this show immensely and will definitely be applying again in the future, with much less hesitation this time!

Tips from the top!

1) You cannot be too prepared.

2) Take snacks! (You'll find yourself wanting to be cemented to your stand).

3) Engage with everyone.

4) Consider lighting. (Will your work look good in a darker space or under bright lights).

5) Stay locally.

6) Be prepared for the all important question...'What inspires you?'

7) Learn how to fill in the sales docket so you don't appear to have 10 hands when you make a sale!

8) Get to know your fellow artists

9) Don't forget your red sale dots!


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