A while ago a Twitter follower asked me for some advice on how to prepare for an upcoming art gallery night event.

Amy was a photographer and not represented by a gallery or a co-op gallery. However, she was clever enough to find a place to exhibit her new body of photographs. So, she had a venue and her body of work ready but didn’t know what to do next. She was filled with questions. The following article was written for the self-represented artist who is a person who is not represented by an art gallery.

So, I decided to write this blog post to help others who might have some of the same questions as Amy.

These were Amy’s questions…

Question: How do I promote my show?

Answer: It’s helpful to come up with a ‘catchy’ name for your show. Here are some examples of my past shows, “Inspired by Nature,” “Illusionary Realism,” “A Brush With Nature.”

Be sure to add your name to the show title! For instance: “A Brush with Nature – New Wildlife Paintings by Lori McNee.” And, don’t forget to add the date, time and location address of the event, plus your contact information.

Next, call your local newspaper and ask for them to do a press release  or an interview. Request it to be featured in the art section. Be sure and call 2 weeks in advance. Most papers are online nowadays, so make sure they post your information on their website.

Here are some more ideas…

  • Ask the paper to post about you in their ‘classified ad’ section (many newspapers will do this for free if you keep the ad to a minimum of letters)
  • You can also pay to take an ad in the ‘art’ or ‘community events’ section of your local newspaper and their website.
  • Be sure to call your local radio station 2 weeks in advance with the same information.
  • Put this information on your own website
  • Link to other websites
  • Print postcards with your show information on one side & an image on the other
  • Save money and print color copied fliers with the show info Use email for your show announcement
  • You can even take out expensive ads in major art magazines. This is very costly – if you do this, contact the magazine at least 2 months in advance
  • Post ‘tweets’ on your Twitter page a few times a day where you can brand yourself as an artist.

Question: How many pieces should I have for my show?

Answer: If you are representing yourself right now, it is helpful to understand the professional gallery show requirements in your area. Art galleries will usually ask for 8 – 10 works for an exhibition, sometimes more. I usually paint between 12-15 new paintings or photos per exhibition. It’s good to anchor your show with 2 – 3 major pieces (larger works) and round out the show with some smaller pieces. Keep in mind it’s a helpful marketing tactic to offer a range of sizes and prices.

Professionals strive to make paintings and other artwork as cohesive as possible. For example, a series of work looks great when hung together and it looks more professional.

All the photographs or paintings should be professionally framed and ready to hang. Be sure to have information tags with your name, size, medium, & price clearly printed and displayed alongside your work.

  • Price your artwork to sell.
  • When pricing your art – take in consideration the current quality, technique and experience of you and your art.
  • Visit galleries and websites to get an idea of what similar works to yours are selling for and be competitive.

Question: Do you have any suggestions for the ‘night of’ my show?

Answer: Dress for success! It’s always important to look your best. People will be admiring your work and will be impressed by you, so make sure you are courteous and friendly.

Have a guest book displayed requesting names, numbers and email contacts for future reference.

Don’t judge a book by its cover – many of my best collectors don’t look like they can afford art! Also, not all customers buy on art gallery opening night, so do not be overly aggressive with sales. Quite often potential collectors go home and think about it and come back later.

  • You may want to hire a friend to help assist you with sales so you don’t have to.
  • Offer to put a ‘hold’ or a first right of refusal (usually a ‘green’ dot).
  • Use a ‘red’ dot for sold.
  • Place these dots on your price tag.

Most importantly……..be willing to let your artwork go to a new home! Don’t let your art become too precious or you will have a difficult time selling it.

If you are attached to a really special piece, go ahead and hang that ONE work with the show and mark it as sold with a red dot! This gets the public’s attention. But don’t over-abuse this tactic…it can be frowned upon.

Consider keeping a piece of your best art for your own collection. You can refer back to it for years to come for inspiration. You can always sell it in the future.

A professional artist is usually represented by an art gallery. The gallery will most often promote and advertise for you. However, this doesn’t mean they will always pay 100% for the marketing costs. You will need to negotiate that deal. But, most reputable art galleries will do a lot of the work for you including hanging, advertising and sales.

Be sure and read about A 10 Step Approach to Develop a Series of Exhibition Paintings to help you prepare for a fabulous art opening.

How to Hang Your Artwork Like a Pro
Feeling Blue in the Studio?
Overwhelmed in the Studio? Check Your Work Habits!
Rework an Old Painting & Make it Sell!
10 Helpful Ways to Overcome Spring Fever in the Art Studio
Focus and Plan to Paint! 
The Color ‘Blue’: Use the Hidden Meaning for Art & Design
Top 10 Ways to Improve Your Art


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