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

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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Best of the web | April 2011 | Don’t miss these

Nothing is Original - Austin Kleon

HOW TO STEAL LIKE AN ARTIST (AND 9 OTHER THINGS NOBODY TOLD ME)

How to steal like an artist {and 9 other things nobody told me}

This amazing post by Austin Kleon is based on a talk he did in New York. It is a list of 10 things he wished he was told in college. Brilliantly sage advice for artists everywhere. An absolute must read for all creative folks.

The Importance of Being an Artist in Today’s Modern World

Sometimes. with the economy the way it is, it’s difficult to see where the future of art is heading. Artist Lori McNee shares some thoughts.

Artomat Art Vending Machines

A lovely idea. Art-o-mat machines are retired cigarette vending machines that have been converted to vend art. There are over 90 active machines in various locations across America. You can submit art to be sold. Just wish there were some in the UK.

Where the feeling of overwhelm comes from (and how to destroy it)

We have been talking about overwhelm on Artonomy this month. Peter Shallard offers psychological advice to entrepreneurs and offers another and interesting angle on the best way to deal with it..

A Brief Guide To Life

Continuing the theme {I have gone a little existential this month – I think it’s due to the long Easter break!} Leo Babauta over at Zen Habits has a wise and simple manifesto for a simplified and more stress free life.

Heres To The Crazy Ones…

The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently…

 

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Not Waving But Drowning : 9 Great tips To Fight Overwhelm And Stop You Going BONKERS

Do you sometimes feel like you are drowning in a humungous wave of information overload?

I write a lot first thing in a morning and a bad morning used to look like this…

Start writing a post. Search for an image for the post. Check email. Check to do list. Realise I haven’t done any of it. Write another to do list Feed the cats to stop them mewing at me so I can concentrate. Update twitter. A bit more writing. Feed the kids so they stop shouting at me. Check Facebook. Check email. Delete junk emails. Reply to emails. Write a bit more. Break up a fight between the kids. Check email. And all this before 7am.

I’m already stressed and the day hasn’t even started! Phew.

With so much multi-tasking and things which we feel we really need to keep on top of it’s no wonder that we can start to feel as though we are drowning in information and communication overload.

However, I have developed some strategies which have helped me keep (a tiny bit) more sane in the face of this onslaught.

Important things I have learnt.

 

I have learnt that…

Multi-tasking just doesn’t work.

It can impact on your creative thought processes and turn your brain into a big wobbly jelly mush. Concentrate on one thing at a time and you will achieve more.

The internet MAY be changing the way we think.

There is a school of thought that the fact that we are constantly plugged into The Matrix MAY be actually rewiring our brains to make us less able to focus. Read more here. It may be wise to just be aware of this and give your brain a little time off for R&R now and again.

So… My brain saving strategies.

 

Have a “Disconnect Day” once a week.

I think this is the most important thing you can do. I try and “step away from the computer” every Sunday. Although I’m not always successful {I fully admit I am an addict}, I find that consciously distancing myself from the web leaves me fresher and more able to enjoy it when I go back.

Don’t check email first thing and set specific times to check.

The random gratification we get from email {ooh, has anyone sent me anything exciting since I last checked 3 minutes ago} actually means that it is mentally addictive.

This is due to what psychologists call ‘operant conditioning’ Read more. Because email is random and we don’t know if any mail will appear when we hit the “get mail” button, we behave like lab rats, frantically clicking in the hope that some juicy morsel in the shape of a video of a kitten in a duck hat doing a dance will be delivered onto our plate.

Speaking as a recovering addict, do one big thing and try and close your email programme. Set yourself specific times to check. I check around 10.30, 1.00 and 4.00. Try and stick to them. This will save you a TON of time and stress. However, as any addict knows it’s extremely easy to fall of the wagon…

Don’t try to read everything

There is so much information flying at us that if we try and process all of it our brains will melt into a pool of quivering jelly. Well maybe that’s a slight over exaggeration but seriously the skill of SELECTION is becoming more and more crucial in the modern world. Ruthlessly weed out those things that are a time waste {marketing emails being the main culprits} and send them straight into the trash folder. Being ruthless gives you more time to spend on the really important things.

Don’t do too many types of social media.

It’s easy to spread yourself too thinly and then beat yourself up about the fact that you havent updated something for a week. Concentrate on maybe a maximum of 3 channels of communication and enjoy them. If you arent enjoying them, STOP.

Mindmap your way to sanity.

As a massive list {and lists of lists} maker I know that keeping your lists organised can actually become a huge task in itself worthy of it’s own list. {warning – this way lies insanity} I have been trying a new method which Cynthia Morris expounded on her blog.

Basically, instead of getting lost in the tiny minutia of the list, look at the bigger picture and mindmap your projects. This method gives you a much greater overview of your commitments and stops you going round in ever decreasing circles until you disappear up your own backside {speaking from experience here}

And some indispensable tools.


Tweetdeck

Update Twitter, Facebook and various other social media sites from one place. Most importantly, see all your Twitter feeds in one interface and be able to schedule tweets into the future. You can spend 20 minutes in the morning preparing Tweets and then leave Tweedeck to sort it all out.

Tadalist & Netvibes

I KNOW I said I was trying to step away from the lists, but these two tools are pretty handy. They enable you to store to-do lists online.

http://tadalist.com/ is a simple list maker.

http://www.netvibes.com allows you to create a wide variety of lists as well as handling various other things including RSS feeds. V handy.

{Just don’t use tadalist to organise your netvibes lists as I was doing at one point!}

Evernote

Evernote is my SAVOUR on the Internet. It’s a tagable and sortable repository of all the bits and bobs you find on the Internet and need to keep a note of. You can clip information directly from a web page and file it in categories and tags. You can even search scanned text! No more piles of printouts cluttering your desk and brain. File it all in Evernote

And finally THE MOST IMPORTANT THING…

 

Take the pressure off yourself…

The main thing that taking a disconnect day every week has taught me is that  THE WORLD WILL NOT END IF YOU WALK AWAY FROM THE INTERNET for a little while.

It’s a relief to discover that when you don’t keep up, when you don’t Tweet or Facebook or email NOTHING BAD HAPPENS. The world will not implode if you take a day off.

It’s actually YOU putting the pressure on yourself.

Relax and give ourself a break. That way, you are much stronger to shrug off overwhelm and enjoy yourself online.

Please share your tips for survival in the comments…

And if you are wondering where the title of this post comes from, here is a video of the wonderful poem of the same name by Stevie Smith.

Photo credit by Akuppa

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