What I Learned at My First Art Show as an Artist

I recently attended my first art show – not in one of my usual roles as press and/or buyer – but as an actual artist whose work was on display. I submitted my photography to the 53rd Annual Newport Beach Art Exhibition almost on a whim: my brother, who’s an artist, sent the submission link to me thinking I’d like to go in order to meet artists and interview them for my art magazine, TreeHouse Arts, which is something I do fairly often. He said he would be submitting some of his own work and for some reason this time I thought, “Hmm, maybe I’ll do the same.”

When my work was accepted I was surprised, delighted, and a bit confused on what I needed to do. The committee sent plenty of pre-show emails that answered most of my questions about the process, but here are a few things I had to figure out on my own:

  1. Whatever amount you think you should price your work at, double it. Consider the cost of printing, framing, materials, and labor. That goes for selling your art in general: I get that it can be difficult to come up with a figure that seems fair, but don’t haggle your prices with buyers or give away insane discounts to your friends. Doing so devalues your own work and art as a whole. If you never seem to sell anything and constantly hear your work is too expensive, then lower your prices, but if not: slam a number on it and stick with it.
  2. If your work is being judged, don’t spend a lot of time worrying about that aspect of the show. Art is subjective and most of the time you’ll never agree with the judges decisions and you know what? It doesn’t matter. You’re there to meet fellow art lovers, get your name out there, and maybe sell a piece or two in the bargain – focus on that.
  3. Spend as much time as possible chatting up the other artists because most of them have been working the circuit for decades and have all of the info you’ll ever need about the scene. And they also know some really juicy art gossip, if you’re into that.
  4. Study the other works: snap pictures and scribble down notes. It’s amazing what you can learn about your own art just by studying someone else’s creations.
  5. Your frame matters: I would never have guessed what a good frame can do to a piece of art. Some of the most mundane pieces I’ve ever seen spring to life with the right frame surrounding them. I guess that’s the reason custom frame work is so expensive.
  6. Bring plenty of business cards and make sure they look super awesome. In the creative arts industry, even the business cards are mini Picassos.

Until next time, stay gold and keep fightin’ the good fight,


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