“It must be nice to just sit and paint all day. What a soft life!”
A friend of mine had said this to me, and half of the remark is true; being able to paint for a living is great, but there is much more to an artist’s life than paint and brushes. For example, preparing for an art exhibition is no easy task and includes several steps that require different hats.
Preparing Your Artwork for an Exhibition
After you secure an exhibition opportunity, you must amass a body of work appropriate for the venue. Recently I participated in two spring exhibitions in two cities. After I confirmed the dates, a discussion with the galleries ensued to work out the themes and appropriate imagery within my portfolio. Several months of thinking, priming, sketching, painting, observing, and photographing transpired. Here’s an overview on how to prepare your own art portfolio for an exhibition:
Write the size and title on the back of your paintings and drawings for easy reference.
Once the body of artwork is complete and photos are taken, create an inventory list. My inventory list includes a digital image of the painting, title, size, medium, price of unframed piece, cost of frame, if applicable, and gallery of exhibition. You may want to include more information, such as date of completion, customer contact information, and so on.
Send a document with painting images and corresponding details to your gallery for their files. Your gallery will also want an updated C.V., artist’s statement and biography.
Decide if your paintings require framing. Framing can be very expensive. If you require framing I recommend developing a relationship with a local framer who will offer you significant discounts, or research wholesalers that sell directly to artists. Choose your molding style and then order frames using the dimensions you measured earlier. Order custom made frames (or purchase lengths of molding to build your own frames if you own the right equipment). Several weeks are required for filling the framing order so consider this in your schedule. When the frames arrive at your studio, assign the paintings to the appropriate frames and install with suitable hardware.
Prepare each painting for transportation even if it’s just going across town. Wrap your paintings with cardboard corners and plastic wrap to protect them from scratches and dents. If the destination is in a different city, you may have to crate and ship the paintings; be aware that this can be time consuming and expensive.
Once the paintings arrive at your gallery safe and sound, you can trust the owner and staff to install the show. But you aren’t done yet! You should promote the art exhibition independently of your gallery. Emails, social media, phone calls and snail mail are all valuable to encourage clients, friends and family to visit the exhibition. It’s really lovely to be surrounded by these supporters for your opening!
On the day of the opening wear something that makes you feel comfortable and confident. Most galleries will expect you to socialize with clients; it can be easy as they’re interested in you and your work! This is your time to listen, offer information about specific paintings and enjoy the event. All of your hard work has paid off and now it’s the gallery’s job to make things happen.
I enjoy going to my exhibition openings and meeting with patrons; it’s the icing on the cake after a very long period of hard work and preparation.
Yes, we are blessed to paint every day but it’s far from a soft, cushy job. Although there are challenges and many details that take us from our easel, I wouldn’t have it any other way!
Edited by Cherie Haas, online editor of ArtistsNetwork.com
• Mixed Media Painting Workshop: Explore Mediums, Techniques, and the Personal Artistic Journey (book or download)
• Expressive Portraits: Watercolor and Mixed Media Techniques (paperback)
• Wet Glazing Watercolor Portrait (DVD)
• Watercolor Artist, August 2011: Create the illusion of depth in your paintings with these simple tips and helpful illustrations of linear and aerial perspective. (article)
• See her work at www.jeanpederson.com