Don’t Forget the Art

Stories abound about the seasoned paratrooper who, after thousands of successful jumps, one day steps out of the plane only to realize too late that he has forgotten his parachute*. By contrast, it’s hard to image a novice jumper ever making the same mistake. Due maybe more to nerves than know-how, it’s safe to assume that she would check her gear meticulously, ensuring it is connected properly, free of knots, and so forth.


Like the seasoned paratrooper, however, I recently showed up at a festival in downtown Baltimore only to realize that I had forgotten to bring my art. Read that sentence again. I am an artist, one who is interested in sharing my work with others and, if the planets align perfectly, perhaps even selling a few pieces. I have hawked my wares at hundreds of shows in the last two years. And, yet, I forgot to pack my art when going to an event where people might be interested in buying it!!!

Thankfully, I had plenty of supplies with me, so was able to fashion some new pieces on the spot. It wasn’t perfect, but got me through the day. But, it got me thinking: How can you prevent yourself from showing up at your next event unprepared?  With that thought in mind, here are a few tips.

1. Make a list.
What do you need to pack? In what order? What back-up plans do you need to have for rain, heat, lack or electricity, etc. Like the Boy Scouts, you want to be prepared for every situation. And, you can significantly reduce your stress and the possibility for error if you write this list down and consult it as you prepare for an event.

2. Check it twice.
The great irony of this situation is that I actually keep a laminated copy of my packing list in the Art Van Gogh at all times. This morning, I just didn’t consult it. I’ve done this a million times, I figured. What could possibly go wrong? Lots, it turns out! Become disciplined about going through your checklist each and every time you head out to an event and when you come back in after an event.

3. Try to “buy” some time
We always try to pack up the Art Van Gogh and, whenever possible, actually set up for an event the day before the show actually starts. Obviously, this isn’t always possible, but it has the dual effect of alerting you to forgotten items before the show opens and greatly reduces the hustle and stress of opening day.

4. Conduct a post-mortem.
During the course of a show, lots of ideas come up— from customers, co-workers, event organizers, other artists, and even from the depths of your own mind. Capture these ideas – good, bad, and otherwise – in an email to yourself, an organization app like Evernote, or on a plain old piece of scratch paper. Review them right after the show, when the iron is hot and the ideas are fresh, and make any necessary adjustments – particularly in regards to your packing list, preparation timeline, staffing plan, and so forth – before you begin preparations for your next event.

Have a secret to staying on top of the little thing or a funny packing story of your own? Share it below.

* I recently read this story about the paratrooper who INTENTIONALLY jumped out of a plane without a chute.  Needless to say, the success of his jump does not even slightly change the way I feel about the importance of a chute on such an endeavor!