I had a number of people visiting the exhibition on a daily basis, plus about 80 people came to the opening, with another 25-30 attending my artist's talk.
Many people asked me about the process of exhibiting my work, as an artist who is currently unrepresented by a commercial gallery. I do hope that one day I am represented by a gallery/ies. In the meantime I just get on with my painting, exhibiting, writing and so on. Persistence is my middle name!
So, as an unrepresented artist, who wants to exhibit every 12 - 24 months, I have to find spaces that are available and suit my work. Graydon Gallery, in New Farm, Brisbane is a rental space and a really beautiful one too. I have held my last three exhibitions there and each one has been successful in many ways including sales, numbers of visitors and providing me with an opportunity to really reflect upon my work. The latter is possible because the artist has to look after the exhibition each day. Another delightful outcome is that I can chat to people.
But, what does it take to mount one's own exhibition...apart from actually creating the artwork?
- Forward planning. Most rental spaces are booked well in advance.
- Organising design and printing of invitations.
- Then.... putting invitations into envelopes, printing address labels and posting. My children help me with this. Email invitations also go out. I also drop of bundles of invitations to coffee shops etc.
- Marketing and promotion. This entails writing press releases aimed at the general media as well as the art media. Plus, providing images. Plus, follow up. Some media require longer lead times than others, so it is important to have a running sheet to follow.
- Photographic documentation of artwork for internet promotion and also for hardcopy reproduction. I photograph all my own work now, but in the past I used to get a professional photographer, and many artists still do. However, I now have a good camera and I am happy with the quality of my photos.
- Maintaining website, BLOG and other internet based promotional opportunities. I also use LinkedIn, Facebook, Tumbler, Twitter, Goodreads, Bloggers.com, Google+. Fortunately many of these can be linked to each other!
- Arranging framing of paintings, especially works on paper.
- Stretched frames [ I use linen] need to have hanging apparatus, so a few days before the exhibition I am on the floor with screw driver, screws, D Rings, hanging wire.
- Packaging and wrapping paintings for transport to the gallery. Bubble wrap everywhere!
- I have a very old Volvo station wagon and it is my freighting vehicle as well as family car! The night before the show is hung, I pack my car with the paintings. Any that need to go on the roof are put there just before I leave ie: normally only one or two.
- Once at the gallery, and the car is unpacked, the fun stuff starts. It is also the most time consuming and sometimes frustrating part of the exhibition process ie: placing the paintings so they look good, speak to each other, flow and breath. Not all the paintings will necessarily be hung. Over hanging can make an exhibition turn into a bazaar.
- Once placed in position, the paintings are then hung. Most exhibitions see me scrambling up and down ladders, levelling, straightening etc. I've devised ingenious ways to hang large paintings on my own.
- Once hung, each painting is numbered and/or labelled...Oh yes, I design and print, labels and price lists too! Plus, artist's statements, CV and othe didactic material.
- So, the exhibition is now hung and labelled. The gallery is open to the public for a day or so before the opening night. The artist sits and waits for people to turn up...and they do!
- Now to focus on the opening night. This is when the artist turns into providor and function manager! I normally order the alcohol and hire glasses a few weeks prior to the opening.
- On the afternoon of the opening, my Mum arrives to look after the exhibition. After giving Mum instructions, I race home to put my glad rags and make-up on. Plus I collect the cold alcohol and the hire glasses, and I buy ice for the eskies. Thank goodness for my old Volvo! Oh, forgot to tell you that stuff like eskies, white table cloths, jugs for water, bowls for chips, plastic lined big bins have already been taken to the gallery at an earlier time.
- By this time I often feel quite frazzled! But, adrenalin keeps me going, especially as I run back and forth from the car, carrying trays of hire glasses, bags of ice, cartons of 'grog' in order to get the bar set up before people arrive!
- The bar is then organised. By this time one or more of my children have normally turned up from Uni [or wherever] to help. The last few openings friends have been my bar maids! Thank goodness for friends. I've also hired a bar man a few times too.
- 5.30 - 6 pm and people start to arrive! The fun, the talking, the sipping bubbly, buying! continues till around 8 pm. After this, its time to clean up and go our for dinner!
- The day after the opening...bins emptied, glasses returned, and time for a coffee.
- Over the period of an exhibition an artist needs to maintain a presence on social media sites... without annoying people. It's important to keep the exhibition 'out there' to maintain momentum.
- On the Saturday after the opening of Quiver I held an artist's talk. This involved reminding people [ever so gently], bringing out the bubbly again, eskies and ice, and setting up afternoon tea. My country living days means I have an urn, which is a great thing to have when providing bulk cups of tea and coffee. One of my children was my tea lady! And, after it is all finished...cleaning up.
- So... the exhibition continues until the last day. I am there each day, ready to chat, discuss. The fact that my paintings 'go' 3D when viewed with 3D glasses caused lots of excitement, wonder and conversation at Quiver. I don't paint 3D on purpose and am not interested in doing it, but I am interested in the fact that it happens...after all, as regular readers know, I am very interested in perspective, dimensions and distance. Someone pointed the 3Dness out to me at my exhibition Frisson two years ago.
- Pulling down a show is much easier than hanging one. But, all the paintings have to be wrapped, those that have sold are often collected, but sometimes I deliver. The gallery space is left clean...floors washed, fridge cleaned out, etc etc
- Financial controller ie: issuing invoices, receipts etc.
- Then once at home the car is unpacked and I stay in a complete mess for about a week while I recover.
By necessity, an artist is often much more than a creator of artwork. They are also business managers, event managers, function managers, marketing co-ordinators, social media experts, designers, office administrators, CFOs, freighters, packaging and handling experts, providors, curators, a maintainance crew of one [eg: I am really good at changing light bulbs], public speakers, general 'dog's body' and more. But, I love what I do, which is to paint, and to get it 'out there' I am willing to put the hard yards in.
Quiver was a very successful show and I feel confident for the future!
The painting below 'Knowing Stillness' was one of the paintings in Quiver that attracted a lot of attention and admiration. I had about 6 people express an interest in buying this painting. Each going away to think, send husbands back and so on. It actually sold to one of these people the day after the exhibition finished. Now that was a great phone call to receive on Monday morning.
Knowing Stillness Oil on linen 85 x 150 cmCheers,