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Show It, Don’t Blow It: 7 Tips to Keep the Art Exhibition Blues at Bay

by Helen Aldous

As artists, showing our work can often be a trigger for creative block. In this guest post, artist and blogger at DialogVisual, Cherry Jeffs, offers 7 tips for ensuring that your next exhibition doesn’t cause a dry spell in your art-making!

A few years ago I began showing my art after a long hiatus. Exhibiting my work previously had resulted in long bouts of creative block and I was determined not to let this happen again!

Since lack of self-confidence is frequently at the root of artist’s block, here I share some straightforward strategies I used to boost my morale and make the whole process less stressful and more enjoyable.

If you are new to showing or returning to it after a long break, these 7 tips are a great way to ease yourself painlessly onto the gallery circuit.

1. Control the Show

In his book, Fearless Creating (Tarcher/Putnam, 1995) creativity guru, Eric Maisel warns against ‘impulsive showing’ whereby the artist shows,
‘…without preparing the work or preparing herself, without considering who the right audience might be or what she wants from the experience of showing…’
Maisel advises consciously planning for showing: Deciding to whom we want to show our work, why we want to show it and whether there is anything else the work needs before we do so.
To ease yourself (back) into showing, choose a situation that allows you to determine what work to show, and when and how you you show it. Organising your own show means you can carefully control the whole process.

Pick the most sympathetic environment possible – i.e. somewhere where you feel comfortable and that’s easily accessible so your pals can come and support you!

2. Like a Scout – Be Prepared!

Preparing for your show well in advance, reduces last minute panics! Complete your work well before the start of the exhibition so you have plenty of time to plan how you are going to hang it. Spend some time in the gallery beforehand picturing how to place the work.

Arrive early on the day of the hanging to make the most of the time available.

Hanging the exhibition

3. Spread The Word

If the venue doesn’t provide invitations, get your own printed and distribute them as many widely as possible. This will help make sure you get a great turn out – another morale booster!

Send out some press releases to local media as well. There’s nothing like a live interview to make you feel important ;)

Local Press

4. Feel Good!

Opening night is your night so do everything possible to optimize your morale so that you will shine.

Have your hair cut/styled the day before the exhibition if it helps you feel more confident and wear the kind of clothes that you can forget about as soon as you put them on!

I don’t suggest you wear your track suit with egg stains on but jettison that trendy-but-uncomfortable outfit in favour of something you’ve worn before and you know makes you feel good.

5. Stay Straight

Don’t drink anything alcoholic on the night! It’s tempting to get stuck into the free drinks at the private view but I’ve seen even very experienced artists getting more than a little tipsy with pre-exhibition nerves and its not a pretty sight!

Keeping a clear head whilst all around you lose theirs will give you an advantage when it comes to haggling over the price of your work (yes, it happens) and keep you sweet-talking those prospective buyers all the way to the bank to withdraw some cash ;)

The Private View

6. Separate the Work from the Show

This is the most important tip of all to avoid creative block after a show: You have to mentally separate the making of the work from the exhibiting and selling of it.

Think of it as creating two boxes. In one, put your experience of the process of creating the work; Then mentally seal that box.

Leave the second box ‘empty’ to be filled by the exhibition experience. Whatever this box ends up being filled with, don’t allow its contents to spill over into the first box!

Making the work is making the work, exhibiting it is something else. You’ve enjoyed the experience of making the work so don’t let anything or anyone detract from that.

7. Keep Your Creative Juices Cooking

Spending time in the studio on new work while the exhibition is running keeps you grounded and in the flow; it stops the feeling that your whole artistic life hangs by the one thread that is The Show.

Also consider booking yourself onto an artist’s retreat to reward and replenish yourself after the exhibition comes down.

You could even organise another show shortly after the first one! This provides a second opportunity for selling anything that remains unsold and a chance to correct any glitches that occurred the first time round :)

Following these strategies helps to give you a feel-good experience about showing your work and stave off a confidence crisis that can lead to Artist’s Block.

Do leave a comment if you’ve got any tips of your own that you’d like to share.

If it’s too late and the Blight of Block has already Bitten you, you might want to sign up for my Blast Your Blocks e-course starting 16th June!

 

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

WildC May 31, 2011 at 8:39 pm

Thanks, Charles – I’ll bear your ideas in mind for my follow-up post for how to behave at the actual exhibition. I was just focussing on what goes on beforehand for this one :)

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nadine May 25, 2011 at 1:38 pm

Great post as usual :) Thanks. I have a show coming up and this is a great reminder of what I should do.

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Helen Aldous May 24, 2011 at 9:18 pm

Great Tips. Thanks Charles.

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Charles Kaufman May 24, 2011 at 7:09 pm

Move around, circulate around the gallery. Don’t spend too much time talking with one person. Don’t be a wall flower. Always nice to have the gallery owner or someone take you around and introduce you to people.

Have someone taking photos of you interacting with others at the art gallery. Post them on your website or blog.

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