Saturday, May 22, 2010

Tips on Getting Your Artwork Displayed Professionally

Tips on How to Get Your Artwork Displayed Ira Mency

This is what they don't want you to know. Sometimes I'll write articles for COMPANY UNNAMED you know, the "how to do this" or "how to do that" what I deem as "boring articles" . (Don't get me wrong, I've read a few how-to's myself and they've been helpful...but to write them all day really drives you nuts.) So I found out that you can suggest articles and take 1/3 pay rate when writing one of these suggested articles. I figured I'd suggest one that could help fellow artists, and tell a really easy way for the beginning artist to get their work displayed professionally.

Basically in a nutshell I was told I didn't know what I was talking about and they wanted me to add in all this other crap about approaching local galleries and applying to juried events. (All fine and good, but you don't have to do that to start out.) To make a long story short, the editor told me my article was too generic and rejected it as I refused to change. Never will I attach my name to something I don't believe in. They also said it was "too generic" and that I should not direct people to the Internet. Odd, isn't everything helpful on the "Internet" these days (against their guildelines) ? Obviously ridiculous if you consider the fact people are looking on the internet for the "how to?" in the first place so why direct them out of the house and to a gallery where they will get the door slammed in their face instead of searching on the internet from the couch with a good cup of coffee? Hmmmmmm. So maybe this is something THEY don't want you to know!

So thanks to their rejection I can put my article here, and will add in a few Q&A's for you. :) See, everything DOES happen for a reason!

First let me explain a lot of artists are scared at the thought of getting their artwork into a gallery, or museum, or art show. They often thing this is an extremely hard process and that their art isn't good enough. First read my POSITIVE THOUGHTS article and then get ready!

I'm going to tell you three things from personal experience:

a) There is a lot of time and work involved - not so much as finding these type openings, but mainly on finding a niche and match for your work.

b) Beginning artists should apply to as many events where their work will fit in as possible in order to build a professional resume (or CV)

c) It is important to follow the requirements on applications exactly.

Getting your Art Displayed Professionally
Items you will need:
Computer / Internet
Digital Camera
Blank CD's
Artists who wish to get their work displayed professionally may be surprised that obtaining exposure is relatively easy. Though the initial application process may require some time involvement, avenues exist to help emerging artists (or even seasoned ones) get their work displayed in galleries, art shows, museums and other events. If you are willing to take the time and put in a little effort, you can obtain these results also.
Step 1
Make a five to 10 item goal list. Start by listing and describing up to 10 of your finished art projects. Write down the sizes, dimensions, and medium. (Example: painting, sculpture, collage, etc.) Sort list by medium.
Q: Why do this?
A: The reason for this is simple: a lot of exibits will have a certain theme for instance you may see titles as "Mixed Media on the Boardwalk" or "Sculpture in the Alley". Otherwise you'll find a theme such as "Pretty Things" or "Tiny Works". Still, writing everything down is reinforcing in your mind the key items you are gonig to market. I also like to play around with my descriptions, because eventually when applying you want to "market your work" the best you can.
Step 2
Search the Internet for these opportunities. Keyword phrases to enter are "call for artists", "opportunities for artists" , "art shows", "artists needed" or "juried events." A free website to browse would be
Beginner artists should search for "non-juried events" that require little to no fees. You will be looking for upcoming exhibits at galleries or museums whose themes apply to the work you have completed.
Q: Why not jump right into Juried Events?
A: Juried events are certainly an option, and if you feel that you meet the criteria, go for it! I would tell you at first to steer clear of them until you have built up your resume. It's important to realize that these are often geared towards artists who have a long resume, and have "professionals" on the jury who will be looking for key elements in your work. Also there are usually higher fees involved. You can blow the whole event by one error in the application process - and this will be embarrassing and costly. So why not start simple, build some experience in the application process, and go from there?
Step 3
Print out the listings that are interesting to you (or write down the info in your journal), so that you may individually apply to them. Also print a "Prospectus" of the show if there is one, which will be an overall summary package. Prepare good notes and examine all criteria, ensuring you meet all the requirements before applying. Juried events may also require history of past participation, and have higher fees, making it slightly harder for the new artist to meet the specifications.
Step 4
Seach the Internet for tips to help you when applying to these shows. Esteemed artists like Harriete Estel Berman, make it a point to share knowledge, tips, and tricks with fellow artists for free. Doing a little research may save you some embarrassment later, and make your presentation seem more seasoned.
Personal Rant Note: The editor who rejected my article also wanted me to not use other artists as examples, but what sense does that make? Would you rather hear from a fellow artist on tips of the trade or some guy who writes 2000 articles a week on everything from sports to art, I mean does he really know what's truly going on inside?
Step 5
Take good quality digital pictures, against a neutral backdrop such as white, black or grey. Use macro functions on your camera to capture every detail of your piece, and angle your piece in a way that best represents it (In most cases only one photograph may be used per item.) Review the "resolution" or "size" requirements on the exhibit or show of which you are applying. Photographs are the key piece of your presentation.
Step 6
Prepare and send your presentation in accordance to guidelines specified (including any CD's with photographs, resume, application, and or/fees.) Include also a short cover letter expressing your interest and excitement in participation in this program, and thanking them for taking the time to review your work.
Step 7
Repeat the process until you obtain results. Sooner or later you will find the perfect fit for your artwork.

  • Rejection, or not hearing back, is a normal part of the process. There may have been an overwhelming array of applications, so don't take it personal. Ever artist had to start somewhere.
  • Continue to update your CV or art resume after each exhibit, so that soon you will be able to meet stricter juried requirements. If you need more items to list, consider searching for donations or charity work, as this also looks good on a resume.

  • Be sure to thoroughly review all guidelines before applying and ensure your art meets the criteria. (if not you have just wasted your time.) Here is a great article posted recently (dated January 19, 2010) from Harriete Este Berman's Blog that should shed some light on the situation. READ IT HERE.
  • When sending original artwork to an exhibit or gallery, be sure it's fully insured and packed well. In some cases, there will be no fee to display your work other than paying shipping to and fro in most cases. If it's a gallery make sure obtain something in writing about the commissions they will take if your piece sells.
Good luck!
Ira Mency

Another Article I Wrote on Getting Your Artwork Displayed:
Toying with Art Exhibit, Courtesty of Cameron Art MuseumToying with Art Exhibit, Courtesty of Cameron Art Museum

Getting your work displayed is relatively E A S Y if you know where to look and how to look. THINK POSITIVE - I was told once, that "ALL BIG DREAMS START SMALL."


In my opinion, if you want to work on getting a professional resume together, as a new artist , you should apply to everything and anything that's free and reputable.

Juried exhibitions are much more resume' worthy, but most are hard to get into when just starting out, and require fees. Who can afford when starting out to pay $100 to have their work reviewed?

So start out small, but with big hopes.

1) Do a Google search for these 4 keyword phrases:

a) Artist Submissions

b) Call for Artists

c) Accepting Art Submissions

d) Artist Submission Guidelines

Believe it or not, you'll find a lot of sites including museums, galleries, or exhibits that will explain how to get your art exhibited for free.

Some require you to submit an official CV (resume), or CD with some images. They will respond if interested. Others require an email with a few images.

Don't get discouraged, you have to start somewhere. CV's can be simple and to the point. Photographs however should be wonderful, not grainy, and showing all detail. I would have to say that photographs are the most important part of your presentation. You can have a great resume, but crappy photographs that will get you nowhere fast.

I've also looked on Craigslist, for the same type keywords, only in cities other than my own. Big Art cities include Chicago, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Wilmington NC, Asheville, NC. Don't limit yourself to searching your local area.

Make sure if you are dealing with a new gallery that it's reputable. Do research online to find out more about it.

Many exhibits require you to ship and pay for your own items including insuring them , to get them to and from the exhibit. That's a small price to pay for the wonderful addition to your resume.

If you are past the point of just starting out, and need juried exhibition tips, be sure check out the wonderful tips and resources on the "ASK HARRIETE" blog of esteemed artist Harriete Estel Berman.

Good luck,

Ira Mency


42 things said...

great post Ira, You always amaze me :)

Harriete Estel Berman said...

Here are four resources for information.

ASK Harriete
Professional Guidelines


Exhibition Contract


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