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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Readers’ Showcase | Alan Lew | The Art of Intricacy

Alan Jordan Lew was born in Houston, TX 1977.

Alan Lew's intricate collage based art

I started as a classical music composer at 14 then when I turned 17, mixed media collage work came into my life. Reccurring nightmares plagued me at the time about fear of the future, and the consequence of human burden. I was in my last year of high school yet depression seemed to get a hold of me more. The only way at the time to deal with the pressure of school & music was to open myself visually.

Credit Control

I am a local visual artist, and have been part of 8 group shows. I still love composing music. From modern classical to riot electro-rock. I either do art or music most parts of the day, and long into the night.

Inwex Transmissions

Method

At first I usually have no idea what the image will look like. It’s a process that becomes easier as long as you start somewhere!

I methodically cut small pieces of paper to reconstruct the image onto another natural pattern. It was a hypnotizing experience. For hours I would make patterns and cut the patterns up on another prepared collage. Then sometimes cut that up again. Turning out almost as a “self recycled collage”

Trying to learn the value of space vs. detail comes along the way when color is balanced with shape. My only tools are a pair of regular sized scissors, as many glue sticks as it takes, and applied with my finger.

I’m not used to working with tools such as tweezers. If dealing with 3-dimensional work I must use pliers to break off parts from circuit boards and certain metals.

Moon Shine River

You can see more of Alan’s gorgeous & highly detailed work online

 

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The Secret of Staying Creative | 11 great ways to beat creative art block

I get blocked sometimes. I’m sure most people in a creative industry do. Sometimes I’m simply not inspired and no matter how much chocolate or caffeine I consume it just isn’t happening. So I ask myself – how can I stay creative? How can I be in the moment all the time or at least avoid this suspension in creative energy? Looking back I need to think about what inspires me instead of what I am feeling when I am simply not feeling anything. What makes it work and makes me tick? What do other artists use for inspiration? The best way to do this is to simply throw out thoughts and ideas and see where this takes me.

     

  1. I will often peruse catalogues and online galleries to see what others are creating. While I am not interested in doing something just like them, I might be hoping this artist’s work will inspire something in me that I forgot about and I will soon be creating.
  2.  

  3. I am learning to take risks. Why just the other day I painted and it was messy and I didn’t know where it was taking me. I am so afraid of ruining a piece that often I will not let it reach the full potential that it has. And…what is the worst that could happen? Will the painting fail? Will people not like it? What’s so bad about this? Just paint it over again and make it better.
  4.  

  5. Work with others. I love to meet up with artists and talk art. Anything about art. I want to hear about their work and what drives them to paint or create what they do. As artists we can get so stuck in our studios – away from other people that we forget about all the life that is happening out there in this great big world. So my advice…open the door and walk through. Make a coffee date with a friend and take notes.
  6.  

  7. Write down what inspires you. Sometimes I will be traveling, on a plane or in a car and something pops into my head so I write it down. Be clear when you write these ideas down because what is perfectly clear right now may be nothing but a hazy thought in a week or two.
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  9. Use colors you normally wouldn’t use and paint something that you don’t plan to show anyone. This one is fun because it truly is just for fun. Don’t think about selling it or publishing it. Simply enjoy the process and see what you learn.
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  11. Try a medium you have never used. What about gel medium?
  12.  

  13. Use a substrate you have never tried before then see how much abuse it can take. My advice: wood. It takes a lot of abuse and always forgives me.
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  15. Go out and pick weeds. Many of my best ideas are discovered while pulling weeds. Doing something mindless frees up brain space to create.
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  17. Visit a gallery. Nothing gets my creative energy flowing more than going to galleries. Strike up a conversation with the artist or the gallery owner. Ask about your favorite pieces and what inspired the artist. Do not talk about your work—you are in a gallery that is spending money to showcase the work of other artists. Allow that time to learn about someone else.
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  19. Don’t try to be another artist. Just be yourself. You’re much better that way.
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  21. Be patient and realize some days are good for art and others are good for other things.

 

© 2011 Jan Weiss

Artist Bio – Jan Weiss

Jan Weiss, a northern California native is a freelance writer and artist specializing in home decor. With a strong background in art publishing and art trends, Jan shares this knowledge with the trade as well as individual artists.

Weiss has just completed her first eBook for artists, titled: The Coexistence of Art and Money; interested buyers can find this book as well as her art through several on-line galleries such as Artist Rising, Image Kind and Etsy.  Jan’s style is a mixed of collage, digital creations and abstract landscapes that will appeal to the hospitality buyer. She lives with her husband, cat and dog in the Bay Area and enjoys organic gardening, cooking, reading and making stuff.

You can find Jan at
www.theartplanet.com
www.etsy.co

Photocredit : Watercolour Girl image by Lorra Elena

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Readers’ Showcase | Tara Leaver | Texture, Words & Energy

Artist Tara Leaver works in mixed media, layering papers, textures, paint and words to create rich and colourful canvasses. Over to Tara:

Deep

I am largely self taught, since completing a foundation course in Fine Art in London in 2000. I have been painting and drawing since childhood, always experimenting with different techniques and materials alongside my day jobs. Moving to Brighton from London in 2008 marked a turning point for me creatively, and has led to me producing enough work to start putting it ‘out there’. I continue to study the work of other artists and sometimes like to take classes in all kinds of disciplines from silk screen printing to pottery to life drawing, all of which help to inform my work as it develops.

Don't Fight It

I am fascinated by the textural effects that layering materials and paint can produce, and often use papers, stamps, pens, pencils, pastels, charcoal and paint glazes. I love the idea of hidden or partly obscured elements, drawing you in as you step closer to see the details. I also use a lot of text in my paintings; words and their different uses and meanings continually intrigue me and I like to include them as another layer to each piece.

Let Me Not Fear To Go Within

Since qualifying as a Reiki master I am increasingly interested in incorporating healing into my work, something which is evolving the more I work with energy.

More Beautiful

You can find out more about Tara’s gorgeous work here.

website: TaraLeaver
shop: Aquamarine Art
blog: Aquamarine

 

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The Secret of Weaving Art Marketing Magic: How not to break the spell…

I have of late, due to my upcoming nuptials to Mr Artonomy, by necessity acquired more than a passing interest in wedding paraphernalia {which is all a bit weird for a girl more used to wearing Doc Martin boots than any kind of fairy princess palaver}.

The other day I found myself behind the beautifully liveried van of a wedding cake maker. As I am in the market for a wedding cake I took more notice than usual, noting that the company was local and thinking in my mind that I would check them out. The van was beautifully designed, adorned with photos of towering cakes and decals of fluttering birds, butterfly’s and confetti. I drifted in to a reverie, imagining one of their beautiful cakes at my wedding and possibly a cloud of tiny Disney style bluebirds chirruping in harmony above it…

And then I pulled alongside the van at the lights…

Driving the van was a scraggly man in a dirty white bakers coat that looked like it had never seen the inside of a washing machine. Dangling from his craggy lips was a fag with an impressively long layer of ash on the end and as I stared in my shock at the mismatch, he gave me an aggressive look and burned off as the lights changed leaving my rather pathetic Disney bluebirds day dream to evaporate in a sulphurous cloud of exhaust smoke…

I think I may bake my own cupcakes or something.

And herein lies the danger… a mismatch between your creative work and what your marketing says about you can mean the difference between sales and never selling anything at all.

What goes on in a customers head?

 

When someone thinks about buying one of your paintings, they are physically considering say a canvas 50x50cm with a landscape painting in blues and greens in oils, but in their heads there is a whole other conversation going on.

It may go something like this…

This landscape takes me back to being 8 again and running in the fields outside my Grannies house in Ireland. It makes me feel free and young”

or

When I look into the depths of this painting I see another world where I can escape the stress and sadness that encompasses my life at present”

or even

If I place this painting just over the fireplace, opposite the door, when Mr and Mrs Armitage, the dentist couple over the road with social pretensions who always makes me feel uncomfortable and small, visit my house for our bi-monthly cheese and wine evening, they can’t fail to notice it and will understand that far from being a dull businessman with a wife who is having an affair with the milkman I am in fact a man of exquisite culture and taste…”

They are buying a dream, fantasy or escape. Something magical…

 

Potential buyers of your work will weave their own magical story around your work in their mind. It becomes personal to them and their life.

You can never know what this story is but the important thing is DO NOT BREAK THIS SPELL with a marketing mismatch.

Suddenly coming up against a marketing mismatch will jolt them back to reality and make them feel less inclined to buy the work and even make them feel a bit daft for thinking about it and they will sidle off embarrassed, never to return…

OK. I believe you. Give me some examples.

 

  • You sell expensive and beautiful handmade jewellery for brides but your website is poorly built and contains spelling mistakes and badly photographed images of the pieces on sale.
  • You create exquisite hand made stationery and invitations but hand out a flyer advertising your services which is poorly photocopied on thin quality paper.
  • Your paintings are highly priced but anyone making an enquiry is given the contact email sexysimon@redhotlovemachine.com

Hmmmm. All these will succeed in breaking the spell…

So, take 5 minutes today to consider the marketing of your work, your website, and any marketing materials that you have. Are all your ducks in a row? Does it all communicate the message you want people to pick up about your work? If not, what can you do to improve it? Often some small improvements will bring everything into line.

Let me know how you get on, or about any glaring marketing mismatches you have seen {they don’t have to be art related}, in the comments.

 

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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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