Venice Beach: A Love/Hate Relationship

Here is the first post in a new series of posts I call, "Venice Beach: A Love/Hate Relationship", chronicling my experiences and feelings about selling my artwork on the boardwalk.

My Venice table setup display on May 2nd, 2014.

My Venice table setup display on May 2nd, 2014.

I make a living right now selling mini-sized prints of my original paintings in Venice Beach. A few years ago I figured out how to make prints through experimentation and have since evolved from there. This arrangement has proven to be very good for me and has allowed me to connect with people through my art in a way that I never could have imagined.

There are so many reasons why I'm grateful and I love selling in Venice. First, it frees me up to not have to have a regular day job. This allows me to control my schedule so i can live in an unstructured way--to follow my inspirations when they come and work on a project or idea for days in a row if i see fit. NOTHING beats being your own boss.

However, selling in Venice is not always easy. It’s dirty and even smelly in some places. Spots on the boardwalk are on a first come first serve basis, so you could end up right next to people trying to peddle things they found in the dumpster. The sun beats down and the glare, you can’t escape. The noise, the distant incessant drumming of daily drum circles. The trash... the grey, dirty, bird poop stained concrete. There’s an addict zoning out, sitting right behind me. There’s a filthy trash can that people dig through for plastic bottles right next to my table that reminds me exactly where I am.

The dreaded ugly trashcan.

The dreaded ugly trashcan.

The picturesque boardwalk view

And let's not forget the wind. Oh, the wind! Breaker of picture frames. Batterer of canvases. Absolute display destroyer. Your face is pelted with sand. Some days you scrounge and strain for sales. And then the guy with the guitar who sounds totally off is set up near you and just drones on and on... and on. People keep asking, “why are YOU here?” or, “why aren’t you in a real gallery or store?” and, “you didn't really make ALL of this did you? I don’t believe you”. (And this isn’t even getting into the worst part.. the fighting over spots and competitive social dynamics between vendors, which I will to have save for another juicy Venice: Love/Hate post...)

So let’s face it, I could be looked at as a total societal outcast for doing what I do. Some days I can’t escape the fear of being seen as a “street artist”, and sometimes I don’t feel successful because of where I am. I feel a little bit of dread each time I tell someone that I sell on the boardwalk--that suddenly it might negate my professionalism as an artist.

But every now and then, there’ll be a day when it feels simply amazing to be out there. I’ll be listening to a live musician a few spots away that sounds really awesome. I sip an iced coffee and some people walk up and buy some prints and I don’t even have to try to sell them. Others are next to me selling their craft and I feel so inspired being surrounded by creative eccentrics who have given up caring what society thinks of them long ago. I look around and smile and feel eternally grateful to be exactly where I am.

The famous & inspiring Douglas LaMarche, a Venice Beach legend!

The famous & inspiring Douglas LaMarche, a Venice Beach legend!

Hugo Gocha, a fellow boardwalk artist painting one of his popular designs

Hugo Gocha, a fellow boardwalk artist painting one of his popular designs

Adorable Ms. Peanut, neighboring abstract artist Lisa's Chihuahua/Italian Greyhound mix

Adorable Ms. Peanut, neighboring abstract artist Lisa's Chihuahua/Italian Greyhound mix

Everything suddenly starts to look beautiful. A homeless man asks for money with a cardboard sign, but still manages to make others laugh with a joke and a smile. Dogs happily sniff away as their owners stroll down the walk hand in hand. Sunlight glitters everywhere while the guests on the restaurant patio enjoy the music and are generous with tips. Free spirited, hippie hoola-hoopers rhythmically spin their hoops round their hips to the music. I become overwhelmed by an amazing feeling of joy and peace and gratitude.

The next minute there’s an encounter with someone who’s so inspired by my art they immediately like my facebook page and always want to see what I create next. Then I realize that I brave the boardwalk madness for these encounters, and it reminds me why I’m doing what I do.

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 I hope you enjoyed this confession about what it's like for me selling in Venice Beach. I plan to expand more on my experiences there and am looking forward to sharing with you!

If you'd like to see more boardwalk photos, you can go to this album on facebook.

Peace & love,
Carissa