How to have a show

11

Dear Artist,

Francesjoy Bradbury wrote, “I am searching for an affordable venue for showing and dispersing my art. I’m wondering how one does that  — I mostly gift my work.” Completing the art cycle almost always involves some kind of sharing at the end — it’s just nice to take something that started out in your imagination, blossomed in private and then offer it to the world. Bruce Springsteen says he’s never lost the drive to communicate through his art — not once — in his entire life, which is why he’s still writing songs and making records at 71. Whether it’s to complete the creative act or for reasons of ego force or commerce, showing can create real connection and bring creative closure. So how do you do it?

Orbiting Grief 2 Assemblage painting by Francesjoy Bradbury

Orbiting Grief 2
Assemblage painting
by Francesjoy Bradbury

Pre-global pandemic, if you had a million dollars, you could rent out the Walter Kerr Theatre on 48th Street in Midtown Manhattan and put on your own one-person show. And if you were a national treasure, you could then sell out your nights there and single-handedly break box office records, like Bruce did in 2018. If you’re like the rest of us and just want to throw your spaghetti at the wall and see if it sticks, there are ways to do that, too. Here are some suggestions, online and off, for putting on a show:

Find your local arts council and follow their calls for entry. You can enter juried shows, usually for a small fee, or become a member and participate in member shows. This is a terrific way to get some exhibition experience while also making new art friends.

Start a small art group yourself, or form or join a collective where you share the costs of renting exhibition space, managing a temporary (or permanent) gallery and split advertising.

Moneycounting Man on Mall photograph by Francejoy Bradbury

Moneycounting Man on Mall
photograph
by Francejoy Bradbury

Sites like CallForEntry and the New York Foundation for the Arts list exhibition opportunities weekly for amateur and professional artists and also post jobs, public art calls and gallery opportunities.

When safe to do so, mount a show in your living room, garage, potting shed or back garden. Gather a couple of other artists to make it more fun. Print flyers and invite everyone you know. Show only your best and original work; price it by size and stick to it.

Sincerely,

Sara

PS: “Talk about a dream, try to make it real.” (Bruce Springsteen)

Red Ball photograph by Francejoy Bradbury

Red Ball
photograph
by Francejoy Bradbury

Esoterica: Not everyone wants to live online — I know I don’t, though my work spends a fair amount of time there. As far as I can gather, the simplest way to show your work online at the moment is to download the image-driven app Instagram on your phone and create a free profile. You can take photos while in the app, edit and post them there and have yourself a show. The catch is that if you want to attract an audience, your work has to translate well on the small screen, and not all excellent work can pull that off — the work that seems to do the best grabs the eye and cuts through with quality, design-strength and like much successful art through the ages, greases the wheel with a little showmanship. Nevertheless, the internet is an affordable venue at which to throw your spaghetti, and it just may stick well enough for you to distribute it, too.

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“Every artist ought to be an exhibitionist.” (Egbert Oudendag)


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11 Comments

  1. Thank you Sara for this interesting article presented with humor. Blessings to you for the new year and a GIANT thank you for all you do to help and inspire us artists! Ruth S.

  2. I have a question for you and other artists. While recently using google to see what was coming up under my name I discovered that many artists advertising on Pinterest were taking pictures of my images off my website and linking them to their art site . I suppose this is one way to get my clients and others who like my work to check them out. But the images are often terrible and Also it doesn’t seem like a fair way to sell one’s art on the website. Is there a way to stop these links and images from being used to sell another artist’s work online?

    • Technically yes, but it takes a lot of work. Even if you “lock” your images (make them impossible to copy from your site), people can always take a screen shot.
      You can add a digital watermark, but that interferes with the image itself.
      One idea: Contact the person posting your work, establish a conversation, ask them to link to your own site, or perhaps even supply them with higher quality images. FWIW, once I started adding hashtags to my Instagram feed of my watercolors, my followers increase every day.
      Also, most people looking at a tiny image on a screen already understand that the real thing is going to look a lot different (and better).
      I firmly believe the old adage, “There’s no such thing as bad publicity.” May I also recommend the books about selling your art online by Brainard Carey, available on amazon.com. Wishing a Happier 2021 to all…

    • Check how copyrighting works. You don’t have to register your work for it to be copyrighted. You can send them a note letting them know your work is copyrighted. If they want to display your art they must ask for permission from you and if not, they will have to pay for breaking the copyright.

  3. Brenda Catlett on

    I organize an annual art and wine walk in my neighborhood., We have several neighbors who paint, sketch or do some other kinds of art. It’s not juried, anyone can participate. We’ve has kids participate as well. All of the work is displayed outside on porches or in front yards. It’s fun and a great way to get neighbors out of the house and talking to each other, to build community and enjoy our art. We had to go on hiatus in 2020 due to COVID but we hope to hold this event again this spring. It has been a fun, low cost and easy to plan event.

  4. I’d love to hear from Francejoy Bradbury – as the family of my grandfather (Augustus Bradbury) settled in Canada. He was an established artist and came to N.Z. where the Bradburys here (I’m one of them) settled and raised families. So from a N.Z. Bradbury ‘hello’…..

  5. I’m thinking Francejoy Bradbury’s artwork is quite remarkable, am surprised she hasn’t had exhibitions and sales yet. Wow! These works certainly don’t fit a tea cup and cookies club, but I’d encourage her to enter juried exhibitions that feature competent and exceptional artwork. The beauty of internet (has to be some beauty in it aside from the ugly side of politicians and other) is we can get what we create seen. That is important. There are also lots of ways to check out galleries and organizations. It is a window of opportunity for artists, one I am thankful for. You gave her excellent advice, Sara, Happy New Year!!!

  6. Great suggestions Sara and I agree with others, Francejoy Bradbury’s work is remarkable. I am pleased to get a chance to see it in your article which is also a great way to get one’s work before an audience. Someone I didn’t know tagged me on Twitter this morning while paired one of my paintings with her poem. It was a great fit and put my work in front of an audience that may not have seen it otherwise. Besides consistent pricing by size and material, and your other ideas, I would like to add that it is never to early to start keeping good inventory records. I used to do this manually then in a program on my laptop until I had an external hard drive fail. After that, I started using an online program called Artwork Archive when it was still in beta. Now it is well established and has more options. This is an extremely affordable recorded keeping method that has all the inventory, sales, invoicing and such in the back end and high resolution website-like presentation on the front end, including the ability to inquire or purchase if you have it set up this way. If I was starting over, I would use this as a primary link and have a very simple website as a landing page. I have popped a link in as the website link on my comment so people can see how it looks and then find their way to the price list if the wish. Many of the other artists I show in my small gallery also use this platform and it makes it easy for them to send a consignment list, keep track of dates for shows and so on. From my end, I can find everything I need to then upload selected work to the gallery’s online platform on Artsy. I know this is not the interesting or sexy part of getting work shown but it does make the paperwork behind the shows (either in person or online) much easier to manage.

    Great post as always Sara and best wishes for 2021!

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No Featured Workshop
http://painterskeys.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/HOPE-wpcf_300x229.jpgHOPE
Oil on Canvas
48" x 60"

Featured Artist

Sometimes we see what no one looks for–images that have waited for us to find them. If we are lucky, these images will wait while we try to capture them with paint on canvas. They will probably change as we reach for them. I believe that if we clearly and honestly record what we see, we will be surprised, enriched, and sometimes stunned by what we’ve found.

There is almost always a narrative in my paintings as I believe that a story may be introduced in a scene. The viewer must fill in the before and after with unique eyes and experience, but enough can be presented to set a challenging stage if the work is successful. 

Along with being a visual story teller, I’ve been called a colorist, surrealist, patternist, and sometimes a texturist. I’m an Atlanta artist–an oil painter for over twenty-five years–with a studio in Brookhaven. I love working with oils because each painting session results in a new revelation of what they might do. There is a mystical quality to each painting and each day for me.

Finally, and always, there is a spiritual quest in my paintings. Driving that are the essential questions of why we are here, what we can or should or might do here, how we got here, and where we might be going. Just as I believe that there is a spirit in all things, I try to instill a bit of that spirit into each brushstroke. 
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