When approached to be the featured artist, it’s easy to be flattered and say yes without fully understanding what’s required in making it a success for you, as the artist, and the gallery, as the agent. Most of us aren’t painting for business reasons, and most galleries are; each needs the other. We provide the work and they the venue. By being as prepared as possible, the experience can be one of mutual fulfillment.
Plan as far in the future as possible—don’t set an unrealistic time frame. Each of us works at our own pace and it’s wise to honor our individual process. Depending on the number and size of paintings needed, this can require a considerable amount of time. Set paintings aside and don’t compromise. Our most recent works are always our favorites. They’re the ones we’re the most attached to, and it’s easy to over commit them to a variety of events. If you discipline yourself to set them aside, you’ll undoubtedly have your best works when it’s time to deliver the show. Think ahead and note upcoming exhibits you may want to enter. That way you can have a painting set aside without borrowing from your feature. Don’t convince yourself that it won’t sell, so it’ll be OK to go ahead and use it. Testing this fate has put many a painter in an awkward position, damaging their reputation.
If possible, paint with a theme in mind. It’s never advisable to show everything you’re capable of doing—it might impress your painting friends, but the public will be confused. A little consistency will go a long way in being remembered. All of us associate themes to artists and galleries have an easier time marketing someone who has a style and theme. The intention is not to be held back, or limited in scope. Hopefully, all of us will continue to grow and expand as artists, but who doesn’t associate a certain theme, or style, to any famous artist? Honor what’s up for you—what motivates you to paint. If clouds are your muse one year, and buildings the next, go for it. Everything doesn’t have to be exactly the same, but a reoccurring theme will unite the exhibit, making it far more memorable.
Make an effort to attend the opening or reception. Even if this is the most painful aspect of the exhibit, it also may be the most beneficial. You’ll hear the feedback of others, gain perspective on your work and be available to personally interact with those interested in who you are and your working process.
I’ll continue this discussion in my next post.