Hello from Oslo, Norway! It’s been an amazing week, and it’s bliss to strip down to summer clothes and bare feet after our Melbourne winter.
One of the challenges I set myself before I left was to try busking – set up somewhere, paint in public, and see if anyone wants to buy my paintings. The thought terrified me, but I really wanted to do it. One of the reasons is to see whether it could be possible that busking would pay my expenses while travelling – if so I could plan a much longer trip! And I thought it could be a good way to meet people, especially Norwegian people as then I can practise my Norwegian with them!
I’ve read that the best time to busk is Friday and Saturday nights after midnight (!!) in an area with a lot of drunk people. But sadly when I arrived in Oslo, my checked in bag didn’t arrive with me, so I didn’t have my paints with me to busk on Friday. While wandering around Oslo though, I collected some goodies: some discarded bits of brown wood, some beautiful round stones… which I thought would be good to paint on.
Saturday, my bag finally showed up (hooray!) and I had a happy afternoon in the park, painting my found objects.
Then after a nap I hit the town, searching for the right spot to busk. I’d marked some suggested spots on a map, but they were all dead – no people at all. I kept walking, and eventually found action around Oslo Central train station. Taking a deep breath, and telling myself I could go home at any time, I staked out a spot, and laid out my pieces. Before I’d even finished setting them down, I had three or four people gathered around, checking them out!
I super-hastily scrawled myself a sign, put some change in a plastic container in case anyone felt inspired to donate, and whipped out my Talking Book for written communication with my customers.
Two guys appointed themselves my protectors. They fended off a loony woman who insisted that my presence was forbidden, and someone who abused me when I refused her offer of a dollar for one of my pieces. They kept an eye on my money jar for me, told me how much to keep there and how much to hide in my bag, and assured me that it was perfectly legal for me to be there. As if to prove it, the transit police wandered past and smiled at me.
Here’s one of the guys who helped me out, Samson Ett:
He stayed for ages and turned into my Oslo Busking Companion, meeting me twice more for some pavement fun. I didn’t get a pic of the other guy. Instead I gamely handed him my phone and he snapped heaps of great pics. Like this one, of me communicating with one of my customers:
And of Benedicte, my first ever busking customer:
Here’s the painting she bought:
I sold seven paintings that night, and earnt enough to cover my living expenses in Oslo for three days. I thought that was good going! Over the next couple of sessions I sold another four – but sales were slower since I think the advice I’d received was right: late night drunk people do make fabulous customers. They were also very open and uninhibited. I had two young guys hang out with me for ages. I stamped their arms with ‘tattoos’ of my pieces and enjoyed their company muchly.
So is busking a viable way to pay my way around Europe? Maybe I just had a lucky Saturday night, but my intuition says it could work. I’d probably need to be more organised, make sure I do both Friday AND Saturday night, and paint a lot more pieces in advance so I have more available to sell. I doubt I’d totally cover all my expenses, but I’d probably make a serious dent in them.
Remember I said I wanted to find my muchness on this trip? Well, the whole thing put me on a high. I loved the connections I made, and the vibe of hanging out with cool people late at night in downtown Oslo. Muchness indeed.