You have an absolute right to verbally defend yourself against customers' unwelcome comments. But when you're trying to persuade people to pay hard-earned money for your art, suppress the urge to scream childish insults. Instead, try to answer courteously, and with dignity. If someone says, "You've really got a gift," and you happen to be an atheist, don't yell, "I've worked for years to perfect my art--don't give credit to some fairy-tale deity!" A much more civil answer might be, "Thank you--there's some hard work involved, too, but I really appreciate your compliment." Are you in a debating society, or do you want to sell your art and make a living? Remember, your customer is king, or queen.
Dress nicely. Yes, you may be a nature boy or nature girl who loves t-shirts, cutoffs, and flipflops--but your customers might not love the look as much as you do. They might find it hard to think about buying your art when your clothes are dirty, smelly, or perceived as low-class. Centuries of psychological conditioning have produced a world full of people who value clean, stylish garments, and who often look down on tank tops and pajama bottoms. Whatever you wear, always wear neat, freshly-laundered clothes, to look (and smell) good for your customers.
If you have specific dietary requirements, or if the food-vendors near your show don't have what you need, pack a lunch, just like Mom used to do. Suggestions: Fruit, veggies, cheese, nuts, chips, snacks, sandwiches, tofu, yogurt, salad, rice, bottles of Perrier, or a hundred other goodies. But whatever you bring, if it's perishable, or homemade, or not prepackaged, you must bring lots of blue ice--frozen gel encased in plastic--or even real ice (which can be messy) to keep food fresh.
Be prepared to create new art for customers who commission you. Fully charge your laptop, tablet, Cintique, etc., the night before. Also bring attractive signs announcing that you do commissions; and bring plenty of the tools and supplies you need to create art. It's a good idea to get paid up-front, so that you don't create commissioned pieces and then no one shows up to buy them. Make sure that you and your customer agree on when your art will be due--say, at the conclusion of the show, at a certain time--then deliver everything without failure, especially if you've already been paid. Deadlines may not be fun, but making art is fun; so smile, work hard, take on only what you can handle, and meet your deadlines.
Try to safely elevate your art above table-level, so that customers can see your masterpieces even from several yards away. Carefully use racks, storage cubes, stands, tripods, bookends, wire-frame display equipment, etc. Step-by-step, hang your work up, stand it up, raise it up--this applies to many types of art including music CDs, acting-demo DVDs, dance DVDs, novels, poetry books, nonfiction, fashions, tapestries, textiles, dolls, sheet music, etc. Make your table alluring and exciting, so that people will want to come over, browse, and buy.
Bring tools and supplies to maintain your table area. Useful items might include scotch-tape, masking tape, duct tape, foam tape, safety-pins, straight pins, thumbtacks, map-tacks, scissors, staplers and staples, permanent markers, metallic markers, fine-point markers, highlighters, pens, pencils, erasers, paper clips, glue, white-out, posterboard, notepads, post-its, calculators, trash bags, flashlights, batteries, wire, hangers, dusters, etc. Remember to use everything safely and sensibly.
You might want to put-together and then break-down your table display equipment once or twice, prior to the date your art show or convention begins. You'll get some valuable practice, and you'll see what looks great and what seems disjointed. Also, you can decide exactly how your art should be displayed. This kind of rehearsal is particularly important if you share a table with pals, because you need to arrange everyone's pieces fairly, and so keep your pals forever--not lose them after the show because of screaming arguments about unequal treatment.
If a table at an art show or convention seems too darned expensive, don't forget that some shows let you share the cost of a table with a pal--and Everybody's Art Show lets you share with up to two Artist-pals for one low price. Ask your buddies if they're ready to share a table with you and share their art with the world, and potentially make some money.
Bring plenty of business cards to an art show or convention, because after browsing your work, some customers need time to consider your prices, etc., and they'll ask for a card so they can contact you later. You'll be incredibly embarrassed if you're forced to stutter, "Oh, well, I don't have any more right now. Got a paper napkin I can write on? Or, I'll just write on your hand!"
Instead, bring 100 or more business cards and courteously hand them to anyone who asks--even kids, who might later become some of your best customers. Your magnificent card can display information on both the front and back. For example, the front of the card at left features beautiful art, and the Artist's fields of expertise. The back features contact data--email, website, plus Tumblr, Twitter, and Instagram accounts. You can also display things like Facebook and DeviantArt accounts, and a business phone number, if you're comfortable giving it out. So, whether your card is vertical or horizontal, color or black-and-white, glossy or matte, your card is you, so make it a great one.
When it comes to pricing art, or anything else, we've all been taught to charge the absolute maximum price that the market will bear, down to the last penny. But while some of your customers may be rich, others may actually need money more than you do--a sentimental viewpoint, perhaps, but doubtless still true. Therefore, charge what you think is fair, but maybe not every last dime that can be squeezed from your customers. Value your art, always; but consider the economic situation of some of your fellow human beings, as well.
We all adore our dogs and cats and other animal buddies, especially heroic service dogs. However, as an Artist, make certain that no animal dander and fluff gets onto any of your art pieces. Keep your art sanitary, sweet-smelling, and free of strange and unwelcome debris from our beloved animals.
How should you greet your customers? Here are the two extremes of behavior: (1) Totally ignore customers as they walk up, and continue staring downwards and texting on your phone or fiddling with your iPod, never making eye-contact or uttering one word; or (2) leap to your feet, lean as close as humanly possible to the customer's face and yell in an extremely loud voice about what an earth-shattering bargain she's getting, never answering any questions directly but always yelling nonstop about what she should buy and when she should buy it. Perhaps the best tack is simply to briefly greet customers with ordinary cheerful courtesy, ask how they're doing, and either offer assistance, or stand back and let them tell you what they want, when they're ready.
Remember what the great English playwright William Shakespeare (1564-1616) tried to show in all of his dramas: No action without thought, but no thought without action, either. In other words, don't go off half-cocked like the fiery yet ultimately doomed aristocrat Henry "Hotspur" Percy in Henry IV, Part 1 and Part 2 (both circa 1597). But don't endlessly dither and procrastinate, either, like poor Prince Hamlet in Hamlet (circa 1599). Ponder, assess, consider; and then get something done--create your magnificent art and sell it.
Have confidence and pride in your artwork, whether it's paintings or musical compositions or any other type of art. Never disparage it. Here's a poem for you, about boldly presenting your art to humanity:
Artist, you've worked hard to create your art--now proudly show it to the world.
If batters can hit homers, with bases loaded--show your art in its glory unfurled.
Kids, make your parents proud; parents, make your kids proud; exhibit your beautiful art.
Believe that the universe loves your art, and that buyers with their money will gladly part.
Did you create art to gather dust in a drawer, or to illuminate our world, cold and gray?