Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Here is a wonderful painting by Jan Asselijn 1610-1652* I included this painting for no other reason than that I have loved it for years and I nearly froze painting outside today. I was wearing a fleece pullover in July. Then it rained. Again. Its been raining for about two months. Somebodies going to pay for this!

I received this from one of the readers today, and I think that it will make a good subject for some posts.

I've got my first one man show coming up in exactly one month so I'm making the most of my studio time. Which brings me to a question you may consider for a blog post sometime. How about some bullet points on preparing for your first (or any) gallery show. I've done the usual preparation, I googled "preparing for your gallery show" and chatted with my artist friends who have had shows. I got some good tips about being there and conducting myself professionally, no hard selling, be available to answer questions and be prepared to discuss the work, etc...I should have close to 20 pieces by show time (I'm dropping off ten on Friday). Sizes vary from 6x8" all the way up to 30x40". I have three different frame types with 75% using one style. The other two styles are similar designs but different colors that I think look best with the particular piece. I have my bio available and typed out professionally, plenty of postcards provided by the gallery, they also did some local press and I'm sending a notice to my mailing list....have I missed anything?

I have done some one man shows and been in many other shows. Here are some of the things I can tell you.
In the sixties and early seventies I would go to shows and see red dots everywhere. I don't think it happens as much these days. Maybe in those days people wanted to be seen buying the art and perhaps prices were comparatively lower. Maybe today people want to be more considered in their purchases and they will come in later in the show to buy, rather than impulse buy so big a purchase. There are I suppose some artists who do sell out shows on opening night, but I have never been among them.

In fact, I have never had a particularly great opening night of a show, although on occasion I have sold a very large showpiece that put me well into the black. I have always sold something though. But every show I have ever done has done enough sales over its run to have been worth doing.
  • I am assuming you have read my post on art and price, if not here it is.
  • You must have a schedule of what must be done by when, in order to get the show delivered in time.Leave yourself sometime for weird screwups. I have had them, ice storms and all sorts of things can go wrong, so leave time to handle those.
  • I would (if you have the space) put the paintings in their frames, using two brads and array them around your studio where you can see all of them.
  • Then you can work the whole show at once. Take individual paintings and set them on the easel and tune them to their frames. If you feel confident doing it in the frame, OK, if not take them out and work on them and put them back in. Look at the painting and make it look good in the frame. I am assuming you are using attractive framing. Often a painting will looks better with a little glaze somewhere to bring up or take down a color, or an accent needs more power, the frame interacts with the piece and you should know and consider that. Sometimes you may get a painting onto the easel and figure out that the frame is killing it.
  • If you can, leave them where you can see them for at least a couple of days so that you will notice any ill considered passage in one of your pictures.
  • Check the condition of each frame and touch up with gold filler any that has a ding or rubbed corner.
  • Varnish everything, sometimes artists want to wait for six months first, if you have six months before the show fine. If not, varnish them all, with retouch varnish.
  • Write the name of the each piece on a card with a price and the title. Tape that to each stretcher. If you are really ambitious, write a descriptive paragraph about each one too. That will give the dealer or his assistant the ability to say a little more about your painting.
  • make a master list with the vital information from each card , price, size and title. Print out about three of those.
  • Photograph each painting. Color correct each image before it leaves your studio, while you can still have it to look at.
  • Find out what hanging method the gallery plans on using. Lay a rug on the floor or over a big table with a blanket over that, and one by one secure the paintings in their frames and put the wires and screw eyes on them, or whatever the gallery wants to be compatible with their hanging system. Set em all up again and check each painting, are they all signed? The signature isn't crooked is it? I have shown a painting without a signature more than once.
  • Bubble wrap them all one by one. 'That's best if you have valuable frames. The bubbles should face INWARD and you shouldn't be able to feel the frame through the bubble wrap. You can also stack them in your car or van with cardboard spacers and moving blankets but you are liable to take more damage that way. Even though you are planning to be careful. Remember when you unwrap a bubble wrapped painting, TAKE ALL OF THE TAPE OFF FIRST! If a piece of packing tape touches a frame it can pull off the gold . Removing it all first reduces the chance of that.
  • Load the car, put in your paintbox in case something gets scraped, load in your tool kit and fitting supplies, call the gallery and give them a heads up. Bring your wife, husband or a friend to hold doors and help carry paintings.
  • If the show is far away and you are shipping it, crate the big paintings,( I guess I need to do a post on crating a painting). You can send smaller pieces in cardboard boxes, but I have often crated them, several to a crate.
  • I like to use ADCOM for shipping crates particularly piles of them. They are reasonable, dependable and careful.
  • Don't count on getting paid by an insurer for damage, I don't buy insurance unless the painting is sold and I am shipping it to a client. It is easier to argue for the value of a painting if I have a client on the receiving end who has paid for it. Many insurers won't touch fine art. I have had them argue that the value of my work is totally subjective, despite my having sold truckloads of paintings and kept good records. Pack things well and you shouldn't have much damage.
  • You can buy those art boxes or use a special art moving company, but both will cost a fortune. The people who do that often have a third party payer like an institution paying the freight.
  • Deliver the show, but before you unload it, sit down with the dealer and make sure you are agreed on their commission, and who pays for the brie and wine . Do this before you unload the show. If the agreement is going to come apart on you, you still have leverage if you haven't yet brought the show in through the door. A dealer is going to take you more seriously if you stop and review your agreements at that time. Have a second party present when you do this if you can. Usually all of this is in a written contract you all agreed to a month ago, but its still good to check, and it also puts the dealer on notice that you are not expecting any surprise charges or expenses. I have had a dealer one hour before an opening tell me that I had to drop my prices because he thought they were too high. I wouldn't do it. I decided later he just had the pre show jitters and after we got that out of the way, things went smoothly.
There's the mechanical part of delivering a show. Tomorrow I will talk about publicity and advertising. I wonder what I forgot? If anything occurs to you, ask me in the comments.

* image from: The age of Rembrandt and Vermeer by J.M. Nash Phaidon Press 1972


Rae O'Shea said...

What gold filler do you use on dings on frames? said...

Something that I have had to do with a gallery is discuss the order in which the work is hung. Gallerists have the weirdest sense about hanging art, that is "what goes where". Some gallerists have been open to suggestions. Some have not. I have left my work and then come back for the opening cringing at the way it's hung. What do you do then?

Deb said...

What? The signature is supposed to be straight?

"ochawfud" What I might say upon learning that I've been painting the signature wrong all this time.

Deb said...

Oh, and an addendum to yesterday's post about panels. (maybe i should post it there instead? Oh well, I'm here now..)
I have used a 3M spray adhesive to affix canvas to hardboard panels.
It's called Super 77. I have not had any issues so far with the canvas or linen coming loose. BUT, if I decide I want to remove the canvas, I can pull it right off, apparently unharmed. Though I probably wouldn't care if it was harmed, because if I'm taking it off it's because I want to use the panel for something better, and am probably going to toss that one anyway. I get it at our local hardware supplier.
tip: spray this stuff outside, and not near your dog. Although it was rather funny when he stuck briefly to the carpet.

Todd Bonita said...

Thanks for this post Stape, nice bullet points for reference. If I think of anything not covered here, I'll ask..this seems pretty thorough. A thousand thank you's my good man.

Deb said...

Good luck with your show, Todd!
You all should check out Todd's work.
I am fortunate enough to have scooped up a couple of small ones and they are great.
editor's note. Todd did not pay me to say this.

"guelpt" the common reaction one has when "reply all" was hit by mistake.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I know what you are thinking, and I have to disapoint you, I dont know of a secret sauce that fixes badly damaged frames. However there are wax based gold repair pastes for the framing trade. And there are all the treasure gold, rub and buff sort of products. They won't do much for a panel on a frame, but they can fix an abraded corner or minor rub on the ebge of a frame. Major scuffs and such,....releaf.

Stapleton Kearns said...

If you have a good relationship with the gallery you might suggest helping them arrange the paintings. But I wouldn't push it. It is their gallery. Displaying the merchandise is their bailiwick not yours. Cringe, elegantly.

Stapleton Kearns said...

Deb: The signature should be straight and parallel to the lip of the frame. There are a few artists who sign on a diagonal, if you do that, make sure it looks deliberate by using an acute angle.

Stapleton Kearns said...

ochawfud= how old choreford is pronounced in Boston.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I like anything that comes in a spray can. I may try that stuff.
I was going to shellac our cat once to prevent shedding. My wife wouldn't allow it.

Stapleton Kearns said...

I hope the show goes well for you.