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Show Your Work

5 Ways I Prepare for Art Shows

Q: What are the steps you take to prepare for an upcoming exhibit?

A: I spend as much time as I’m given to prepare new work for each show and since I paint in oils, that isn't always much. So, an organized timeline is key. I start promoting about a month ahead, update my digital platforms about two weeks ahead, and aim to give myself a week of mental prep.

1. Deciding on Direction

I’m working on becoming more versatile and experimenting with different painting techniques. So before I start on new pieces for an exhibit, I need to consider how to tie my work in with the theme, how to continue testing the boundaries of my skill set and stand out at a group show. It’s important that the work I contribute differs from show to show. I want the experience to remain new and exciting for consistent supporters. I usually decide on a series theme in relation to the exhibit theme and start pulling references. After selecting my favorite references, I sketch and photoshop them to determine what I want the overall composition to look like. After deciding on a direction, I start teasing the upcoming event by sharing snippets of the process and progress of the new work on Instagram posts and stories.

2. Building Your Guestlist

I try to stay conscious of not over-promoting my events. Aside from the fact that I’m extremely meticulous about the overall look and feel of my web presence, I’ve found that teasers help rally much more interest and response.

The tricky thing here is considering the delicate balance between having too many and not enough guests.

Every show is different. Sometimes viewers are long-winded with questions about the work. Other times I may only speak to a handful of people. This balance is important to consider because having a support system enhances performance and boosts confidence, but if I have too many guests, I may find myself entertaining them instead of focusing on new supporters or potential buyers.

3. Digital Makeover

At my very first showing, I quickly learned how important it is to have an online presence that’s just as strong as your physical presence.

When people were meeting me in person, they immediately wanted to meet me online as well.

So it’s really important for not only the creative work to be as buttoned up and complete as possible before the show, but my website, Instagram, etc.

Because I use my personal Instagram for business, I try to make sure the content of my page showcases a good portion of work before a show. It’s important to me that if viewers come looking for an artist, they find one. I’ll archive any images that might distract from the work or so my page is concise and to the point. Even if you aren’t selling your art yet, I recommend switching your account to a business profile to gain access to analytics that can assist in future creative decision making. Every post and promotion should consider the audience and it’s important to know what initiates a response.

4. Decide On Objectives

A big part of feeling ready for a show is being sure of what I want to accomplish. Is my focus to have a better understanding of how the gallery works? To grow a following? Or perhaps start a dialogue with potential buyers? It’s important to have direction to avoid feeling distracted or unprepared on the big day. It’s likely I’ll be approached with many heavy-hitter questions by people who want you to explain the work. Having goals for the event helps you drive that conversation. Otherwise, each conversation can feel like more like a moving target than a clear objective.

5. Mental Preparation

Putting in the emotional and spiritual work to understand my flaws contributes greatly to how I mentally prepare for these shows.

I am an absolute perfectionist when it comes to anything my name is on. Unchecked, I become extremely doubtful, self deprecating and shy. Not only do I worry about how the work will be received, I worry about how the things I say will be interpreted, what impression my non-verbal cues will give off or if trying to exude confidence overshadows my sincerity.

To arrive my best day of, I basically clear my schedule for a week before of anything that could cause me stress and dedicate time to mood and confidence boosters. What’s proven most effective for me has been meditation, exercise, a clean/calm home, minimal social plans and more sleep than I need. I have to remember that while the work is the focus, I’m also part of the product. Both it and I need to be in tip-top shape!

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