First Art Exhibition ‘How To’ – My Learnings Shared

Later today I am opening my first art exhibition so here is the post I would have liked to have read before I started out. Here’s what I have learned so far and what I wish I had known.

1. Create in standard proportions

Do this right from the start. This will make it easier when framing,  reproducing and packaging your artwork and prints. Otherwise you’ll have to lose some of your image, have white space or have to use more expensive customised fittings.

When creating something  that you may wish to reproduce on canvas have enough space around the main subject (s) to wrap around a canvas frame, this means that you needn’t lose any of the work and will avoid time spent stretching or mirroring the image to make it cover the frame.

2. Learn how to scan, stitch scans together and colour match/adjust.

Find someone to teach you, this will save time, money and give you more control.

3. Be open to opportunities

In July 2015 I hobbled painfully on my recovering leg on a journey I had planned since the previous December. Whilst skating in the Christmas Show at Ice Sheffield Anwen, owner of Cafe and Gift Shop Airy Fairy, had seen my art on a cosmetic bag and suggested I visit her shop to discuss options for displaying my work.

Major knee injury just days after first speaking to Anwen had delayed my visit to her shop; but on meeting Anwen we discussed my work and she offered a five week exhibition in the cafe.

As my art is bright and sunny so I felt that it suited the month of April, so we scheduled the exhibition. I had seized the opportunity that arose through the chance encounter. I knew I would learn a great deal through the preparation process and would be able to show my art to a wider audience.

4. Measure and photograph the exhibition space

Don’t be shy about getting a measure of the exhibition space. Measure the space, take photographs.

Decide roughly how you will exhibit in the space and then curate from your art. I had lots of doubts, “do I have too many pieces” or “too few”. A scale drawing of the space would have enabled me to visualise the exhibition better, sooner and saved me time on the long run. Ask for a floor plan, your venue may have one.

Visit the venue to see how other artists have worked in the space and consider what works and what you might like to do.

5. Edit your collection

Deciding what to include is difficult, I thought about what would be popular, what would people like, what would suit the customer base. What I should have thought from the start was – which artworks do I like best, which show my skill/ability and are my greatest accomplishments. Those are the pieces to include. I came to under stand that we cannot control other people’s interpretations or how they will respond, not everyone will like everything as art is very individual.

6. Ask for supplier recommendations

I wanted to do as much as the process myself, so that I cold maximise the learning and my understanding of what goes into producing canvases and prints. I learned a about paper stock, print colours, calibration, image resolution, file format, scanning, canvas quality, canvas frames, hanging fittings, fishing wire, labelling, packaging, copyrighting and my nemesis… pricing.

7. Research and Read

I referred to Lisa Congdon’s Art Inc, Kelly Rae-Roberts Flying Lessons and Lila Rogers Make Art That Sells throughout the process. If anything I wish that I could have had a knowing artist buddy by my side who had been through a similar process.

8. Log all component costs into a spreadsheet as you go

Log all the artwork components and packaging elements so that you have your cost prices per artwork calculated well enough in advance.  Pricing is challenging, so the baseline cost price is important.

9. Have someone to bounce off

A friend that can give a second opinion and to help you set up the show will calm your doubts and make it more fun.

10. Enjoy the process – stay creative

An exhibition is very personal and is you showing the fruits of your creativity and hard work. I found that when I wasn’t enjoying the preparation process it was because I wasn’t being creative enough. I learned to stop and think of a more creative approach which enabled me to be the artist, to be innovative unique and original. I also liked it when things were more personal and quirky. Our printer decided not to print anything in black ink just days before the event, but I have to say that I am pleased with the results and glad that it challenged me to find other ways and colours to express in.

11. Accept that there will be admin tasks

Spreadsheets, contracts, insurance documents, inventories, price lists, advertising, press releases, invitations, briefing notes. It’s all part of the process, it can be fun when you find a creative approach and know that this is to celebrate your work and give the art the chance to breathe and be seen beyond your home or studio.

12. Don’t over complicate, don’t stress

This is art, it’s not definitive. Focus on showing the best you can, what happens from there is out of your control.

13. Appreciate your followers  

Their belief and support is infinitely valuable, remember that when feeling doubtful or confused.

14. Keep going and believe in yourself. 

If it is, like me, your first exhibition this is totally new and so it will be challenging but keep going and believe in yourself, who knows where it will lead. There will be set backs, just now I’m waiting to pack the artworks into the car but I can get through the hall as there is a man working on our broken boiler. Hopefully the boiler breaking is the only setback today. Lastly, celebrate how far you have come and be open-minded about the future.

My art exhibition runs for the next five weeks until 2nd May at Airy Fairy, London Road, Sheffield. The exhibition comes after a journey into art, see the blog posts about the 52 Art Challenges that I completed on the way.

 

Spread your wings and fly!

 

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