10 Takeaways from the Artist Project Toronto

This past weekend I participated in the Artist Project Toronto for my very first time and would certainly call it a success. Thank you so much to everyone who came to the event, introduced themselves, asked me questions about my art, took a card, or even purchased my work! A big thank you as well to the OAC who helped to partially sponsor my participation in this event in the first place. It was a really rewarding experience overall, but I do want to highlight 10 takeaways for artists who might consider having a booth of their own one day.  


1. Style over skill.

When you first arrive at an event like the Artist Project, the variety and calibre of art on display can be totally overwhelming. It being a juried exhibition, everything there is going to be high quality. While there were a few artists whose technique and skill level specifically impressed me such as Martin Murphy, Brian Harvey, and Penrose Press to name a few, for the most part, the booths with a cohesive and unique style were the most enticing and aesthetically pleasing. When you are walking through what feels like a sea of amazing art of all mediums and subject matter, a moment of coherence and unity in a body of work is like a little island for your mind to rest. For future shows with more prep time, I would most definitely hone in on a steady theme, subject matter or colour palette and treat my booth more like a curated exhibit.


2. Don’t forget about the audience you have.

It is so easy to get caught up striving for growth as an emerging artist, where a new audience feels like the best audience, and selling your art to strangers feels like more of an achievement. Opportunities like the Artist Project are an amazing way to meet new buyers and expand your outreach, but one of the most pleasant surprises I had at this show was the turn out from people who have been supporting me for years. It was so nice to finally meet in person people who have been following and engaging with me online since I first made my art account. The people who have invested their time and energy into you are more likely to invest in your artwork!! So, when you’re posting to make followers aware that you’re participating in events like this, remember you’re not just updating your friends about your life, you’re informing potential customers.


3. Titles are the best.

I have come to accept that my favourite people will always be the ones who read all the titles. So often art that is displayed out in the real world will not include the title, so at shows like the Artist Project, that is the time to check them out. I owe multiple of my painting sales to the titles I chose for my work and how they connected to the buyers. Titles start a conversation about the meaning of the piece, they can bring in elements of irony or playfulness to your work, and words resonate with people in a different way than images. The day I name a piece “Untitled”, or “Woman in Blue” please shoot me.


4. Most people will decide they want your work, then check the price.

I’m happy with where I set my pricing for my first show and being able to pay off my expenses with my earnings plus a little bit more feels like a win for me this year. I think my pricing is fair for where I’m at in my career, but the profit margin could certainly be better, so I aim to increase pricing by next year. One of the things about this show that makes me feel confident that is the right choice for me is that each of my buyers seemed to form an attachment to the work that motivated their decision to buy. For the audience this year, it seemed more about deciding what they really wanted with all the choices available in one place rather than what they could afford, so artists are probably better off putting their efforts into making the best work they can even if that means extra working hours and therefore a bigger price tag.


5. I need to bring a rug next time.

The artists who had a rug in their booth were really planning with all their braincells. It created such a nice separation from the rest of the show, was nice and cozy and welcoming, and most importantly it wasn’t concrete! The things I would have done for a little extra cushion during those long days standing in my booth. Here I will also mention the importance of comfy shoes and snacks if you want to survive the weekend.


6. Plastic-wrap your paintings to go.

This one’s pretty self-explanatory. This is what I saw most of the artists doing around me to offer some protection for the work that sold, and it just looked so much easier and faster.


7. Everyone is a teenage girl.

I’m often told that my artwork is quite angsty teen girl-like. I lot of my work is about messy emotions, absent mindedness, and melodrama. It’s what I so heavily relate to and love to capture but I do sometimes worry about it relating to the ideal audience. (The girlies might get it but are those girlies buying original artwork?) Speaking to people at the Artist Project reminded me just how much everyone is a teenage girl and anyone who has ever made you feel crazy for your emotional reactions like they couldn’t possibly understand it is SO full of it. I had people of all ages and genders speaking to me about their own connections with the emotions and nostalgic moods represented by my art. Sensitivity and insecurity and imperfection and naivety are so teen girl but firstly they are oh so human.


8. Ideas are meant to be expanded.

Showing my work at the Artist Project really did make me fall back in love with some of my older pieces and ideas and provided a lot of inspiration for how they could be further developed or adjusted. I have this bad habit of thinking that when I have an idea, I get one chance to execute it. I think it, make one thing like that and then it's “been done”. But a lot of the feedback was about if I’ve done more versions or fleshed out certain concepts more and it’s really inspired me to take some of those old ideas and give them a new, longer, and fuller life without feeling like I’m being redundant.


9. There is enough room for everyone.

I met some of the nicest people I have in a long time at this event. So many artists were so down to earth, supportive, and encouraging. There were lots of red dots to go around and I am happy to say I felt no hint envy or competition even in that room. Everyone was so unique thanks to the curators at the Artist Project that if it was someone else, they were never taking away from you. It’s an amazing event to connect with exactly who you are meant to connect with, with enough foot traffic for everyone to have a successful show.

10. Start getting ready sooner than you think.

Because I procrastinated quite a bit, I did end up working unpaid for about a month and a half straight leading up to this show. With the sales I made after expenses covered, that would have made for quite a hard financial month had that been my only income to cover my Toronto expenses. I’m really lucky that the timing worked out for me to do something like that this time, but for the future, starting as early as possible to create even one original painting each month to be put aside for this event would be much more sustainable. There were a lot of other things that went into planning such as getting print versions ready on my site, pricing, booth layout, varnishing, hanging, etc. so I would recommend setting a schedule for yourself where you can be finished creating all the work at least two weeks before the show date.
Those are my main takeaways immediately after participating, though I’m excited to see what opportunities may come from this event long term. I do plan on participating again next year and would recommend you apply too!



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Holly Archer

Great post. Love to read the takeaway from other artists. Hope to see you there next year.

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