Okay artists, is it show time? If you haven’t had your first solo show, it’s time to get into shape. Every artist at some point aspires to have their own solo exhibit. It’s that chance for you to shine and have a complete body of your work featured. But it is a responsibility in which even a small one person show can be a major investment in time and money. So it’s advised to correctly plan ahead before it becomes a reality.
I’ve had forty or more solo shows in my 28 years of selling fine art. The early years were group shows and my first solo shows eventually started coming multiple times a year as a published print artist. For those, a lot of responsibility fell back on the hosting gallery. Solo painting shows came with time and over the last 10 years I’ve done two to three solo shows per year, so allow me to offer this. Possibly the most important factor to remember is while the show might be for YOU, about YOU and because of YOU, YOU largely have a responsibly to everyone including yourself.
So, YOU need to be prepared. If procrastination is your middle name, own it and factor it in because people will be depending on you. If you are the type that runs late, now is not the time. A show is an investment in you and often others are not only depending on you, but yes, investing in you.
Next, just because you are asked to do a solo show, doesn’t mean you should or that you are ready. Understand your demand and the show’s intent. Feel out who you are as an artist through group shows first. Those shows will help you understand the details, time and money needed, and that the mental and financial investment will be compounded ten fold for a one person show. The creation of your art, the possible expenses of framing of your art, promotional efforts, delivery and even pick up, all have to be considered with much greater depth.
From the start, be thinking about what you want to say through your art. Write down themes and or bodies of work you would like to invest your creative soul into. It shouldn’t be, “Oh no, I have a show and I can’t figure out what to paint.” Shows are for artists who have or will invest themselves into a body of work. Work that means something to them and this is not about quantity, it’s about quality. My 25th Anniversary show featured little more than a dozen new paintings. Yes many were large, but I’ve known artists who think you can’t have a show with less than thirty or more works of art and to be frank, I think that’s loosing sight of your narrative and focusing too much on the quantitive.
Your collectors will always be more interested in you and your best, rather than a number. Also keep your eye on continuity. Being all over the place with what you are presenting is more confusing than inspiring. After you know what you want to paint, sculpt or create, give yourself a realistic timeline to do so. Don’t try to fool yourself by not factoring in the pressures of creating a body of work. This is not a sprint. So give it a realistic timeline and then act on your plan.
Next, understand the money needed for materials. I have found that I don’t even begin working on a show without everything needed to create it in house and I rarely misjudge those needs at this point. I never want to have inspired creative energy and be without the materials needed for that energy.
Now you are creating, where are you going to put all of this work? Do you have the space for a dozen or more paintings? Depending on size, they can be everywhere. It is amazing the space needed to store and/or dry art and that’s before framing comes into play. Plus what if you have to provide a painting for a client or produce a commission in the middle of producing the work for your show? If you have given yourself months to produce your show, are you just going to tell your client – sorry, I can’t do it?
Last, if your art needs framing, this expense can bring some artists to their knees. Listen, I understand quality framing can be expensive, but please do not be the artist who invests months of their creative life, only to frame it all poorly. Care about your whole presentation, because trust me, your prospective clients will. Also, if you use ready made frames, be ready for back orders and plan ahead. Start slow and build. Then be excited and enjoy! It’s your time to shine.