It's 2013. I'm a big shuffling artist in a part time job which allows me the luxury of being able to paint a lot and drink a lot. My agoraphobia is pretty bad and I stick to the safe haunts I can navigate without too much undue sweat and panic. I have some involvement with Outside In,
through which I see an artist request from Creative Future for what was to become the fair shown above. I swither: it's in London. The height of summer. Is my art good enough? Can you panic to death? the usual stuff. I had a gut feeling to go for it, and after a lovely chat with a super supportive member of the Creative Future team (I've forgotten her name but she was possibly Australian or was moving to Australia. Great person) I decided to apply. I was accepted and suddenly I had to plan a mental solo road trip. All the folk around me helped me with extra cash and I somehow secured a weeks accommodation near Kings Cross for £140 all in. I even got a goddamn Oyster card. It never once crossed my mind about how I presented it all once there; I simply loaded an offshore holdall with: my paintings, a screwdriver, a bag of screws, iPod and speakers, some Bukowski, Burroughs 'Junky', Kesey's 'One flew over the cuckoos nest', pants, pile of heavy metal T-shirts, a flannel shirt and an emergency sweat towel in case of panic. Caught the sleeper and arrived at peak morning rush hour in Euston haha. Utter chaos. I wedge myself onto the tube to Brixton, firmly ensconced within the folds of a very bemused German family who endure my sweat soaked terror for a good few stops. Sorry. Hope you had a great holiday. Brixton is thankfully really chill and I actually manage to take stock and breath a little. I sit on a wall across from the venue for an hour, dreading the interior of a new place full of new people.
It's really fucking hectic inside; I meet some lovely folk from Creative Future (Dominique De-Light and Simon Powell and the brilliant aforementioned possible Aussie) and get to go pick my booth. People are fucking stressed out; there is a weird scramble by some artists to identify the optimal booths, the hoard of volunteers are a mix of really nice and really rude which is baffling and the general atmosphere is not helping my growing anxiety. I select the booth farthest from anything and closest to an emergency exit. Easy. I am now dripping sweat and committed so nothing else for it but to hang my work. I made little handwritten cards for each painting and blutacked them up.
There were some real professional stall hangers there; folk who did this regularly and had fancy shelves, little folding chairs, business cards, BUSINESS PLANS, a slickness I didn't expect. I had imagined everyone would be a chaotic ball of chaos much like myself, suddenly my ghetto set up seemed lessened, amateur even. And at that exact moment of doubt, as my brain ticked over, the-lovely-woman-whose-name-I-have-forgotten appeared and from nowhere gave me some much needed guidance and pep like she could read my face. I was in the right place after all. I started chatting to some of the folk around me, many of whom remain friends to this day:
A surreal mix of ultra creative people unfolded with the morning, hugely varied art, and a buzz I'd never felt before. Then I started to notice some of the prices people were asking, hells bells. I based my costs on Outsider Artists I admired then, who seemed to be fair and not caught up in a fantasy world. Glenn Brady, Jesse Reno, Steve Judges, Mikey Welsh. Affordable, realistic, human. I had a chat with one of the volunteers who shared a story about an art school sculpture debacle, where she was forced to value her art at 'the going rate' , meaning a £4000 tag which embarrassed her. Don't ever let anyone tell you what to do with your art, and certainly not price it. It isn't theirs, and it's none of their business. Someone once tried to explain "pricing within the art sector" to me; what in sweet fuck is an art sector?
DON'T LET YOUR ANCIENT TIGER FROLIC IN RUINS
Opening night, I have a hefty red wine before my terror ride on the tube, thankfully Brixton is a world apart from Euston. I sit outside Block 336 again, in a bland panic about entering this alien environment. When I do manage to drag myself inside I get myself in such a state I end up accidentally standing in the wrong stall, chatting wildly, sweating profusely, and thank jeebus the artist didn't get mad; instead furnishing me with one of his booklets which doubled as a fan and sent me off with an encouraging pep talk. Cheers Terrance, you rock.
I approach my stall to find a red sticker. My first ever art sale. Ever. Holy hellballs, what a moment. And folk, coming right over, chatting about art and seeming interested and open to my views and buying these ragged slices of my life. A powerful emotion swells as I recall this night, life changing. I sold seventeen paintings over the week, also traded one and gifted one. If any of you read this, thank you, it still means so much and I'll never forgot the conversations had. So many tales to tell, which I feel will pepper this blog as the years pass. I don't know how to summarise this so look at this photo:
Here I am, with the booklet Terrance Wilde gave me, fanning myself