It's been almost two weeks now since I participated in the RAW Artists Showcase in Toronto. It was a really exciting event and a lot of fun but what isn't noticed is the amount of work that goes into preparing for a showcase like that. There's the obvious, like actually painting new pieces to premiere at your show; however there's a lot of behind the scenes work that goes into making the night a success that are not visible.
I had just over month to get ready for my showcase, and it took me that long to feel like I had sufficient time to feel prepared! And it wasn't even a solo show!
If you are looking forward to displaying your artwork (and I don't just mean paintings!) at a show soon, then this post is for you! I'm going to take you through how I got prepared for a successful showcase. Plus you get a free printable to help you get set for your night!
SUCCESSFULLY PREPARE FOR YOUR ART SHOWCASE
1. Business cards plus business holder.
2. About the Artist/Summary of Services postcards. Let's people know what you're about quickly. Make sure to include all your contact info including how to find you on social media.
3. Printed portfolio of work. For me, I displayed my art work but I also wanted to show people what I could do with interior decorating.
4. Get Square Reader (or other credit card reader to take payments) and test it. Not many people carry cash these days and it's risky to take a check because they can bounce or be canceled once they already have your work.
5. Update website. Make sure everything is up to date so there are no discrepancies with pricing, contact info, and services offered.
6. Have an email sign up list. Always good to get people's email so you have a direct line to your audience when you want to let them know about your next show, event, or new completed pieces.
7. Price list. Some shows don't show prices by the hanging painting so it's important for an interested buyer to be able to look up the price. Plus it's a good tool for you to remember prices as well.
8. Price/Title Cards. I like to display title cards by my paintings so people have easy access to the painting's info. I imagine what I would like as a viewer...I would be embarrassed to ask an artist how much they charge, just to find out it's way over my budget! If I can see for myself, I can be much more comfortable to decide if I can afford it or not before I approach the artist.
9. Wire paintings (or prep whatever product you have for display). My work was being displayed on a fencing wall so I needed s clips (just like they sound, a little hanging hardware that looks like an s) and wire to hang my work from them.
10. Buy s clips (or other hardware to mount paintings to wall/fencing). See number 9.
11. Lights. The organization putting on the show was supplying 2 lights per display but they recommended each artist get two more lights. It's a good suggestion since there's nothing worse than a badly lit booth that is all about visual presentation.
12. Bags and tissue paper. For smaller purchases
13. Kraft Paper. I wrapped any larger pieces that I sold that wouldn't fit into bags. Added bonus, add a ticket with your logo to finish off the packaging.
14. Frame some smaller paintings. I have a bunch of small paintings (6 x 8 inches or so) that I don't usually display but I like to pick a handful to frame so people can see that small paintings look good too!
15. Bin for prints/smaller paintings. Any that I don't frame, go in a little basket for people to browse through. If I sold prints then a bin would be good for that as well.
16. All work completed and signed. It may seem obvious, but I like to add this to my to do list. Since I work with oil, I often have to wait several days for it to be dry enough that I can sign my work properly. I also like to paint the edges of the canvas to clean it up nicely.
17. Booth sign. Whether you have a company name or you just go by your name (after all you are the artist) it's really important that you display your title in some way. I hung a small banner that said "Directional Design Studio; artist: Kelsey Auger". Don't make people ask who you are. It should be very clear.
18. Display table. A small table to display your business cards, artist/summary cards, pens, portfolio, etc.
19. Other merchandise to sell with your logo (pens, mugs, bags, etc.). I put a mug (with my logo on it of course) with some pens (with my logo on it of course) for people to grab.
20. Separate bank account/savings account. Although, I haven't et opened my own business account, I have set up a separate savings account for any HST that I collect (since that's not really my money anyway).
21. HST number. If you're going to make more than $35,000 this year from your small business then you will need this. If that's not the plan, it's probably still good to have anyway, just in case.
22. Scissors, tape, tape measure, pencil/pen, string. All that stuff that always gets forgotten but is always needed.
23. IPad/iPhone to take Square Reader payments. And also a charger in case (fingers crossed) it's put to a lot of use!
24. An assistant. There is actually no way I would have been able to hang my paintings on my own (especially with those pesky s clips) so having my mom there to help me set up was incredibly important!
25. Camera. And lastly, make sure to take lots of pictures!
OTHER WAYS TO PREPARE
If you know the size of your display booth/wall then it's smart to have a plan on what paintings you will display, and how they will be set up. I used some grid paper and tried to fit my pieces together like a puzzle. Took a few tried, but I finally felt like I had a layout that utilized my space but looked pleasing to the eye.
You will probably find, as I did, that you can't fit as much as you anticipated. I had it in my head that most of paintings would fit not problem on my 10 foot wall! I mean come on, 10 feet sounds do big, not to mention it was the largest of the wall sizes available! Not the case. I was pretty much only able to fit 4 of my larger paintings and only a handful of small ones (in the small spaces around the larger ones). It means less for people to see, and fewer chances to sell, so make sure you choose the work that you think people will love, not necessarily the ones you love (yes, you will also notice that there is a difference sometimes).
Although it's important to prepare as much as you can ahead of time so that the evening goes as smoothly as possible, it's also equally important to go in with an open mind. Not everything is going to go according to how you spent a month planning it.
When things don't go as you imagined them or as you planned for them, that's ok. In fact, it's something you should actually plan for -
WHAT DIDN"T GO ACCORDING TO PLAN AT MY SHOWCASE
1. My layout. I had a great looking plan for how I wanted my display wall to look. It didn't look like that. First of all, it was two fencing walls put together so wasn't just a seamless surface. Also, because of the s clips, and where they could sit on the fencing, paintings ended up falling to low or sitting to hight so I had to some major revamping of the layout.
2. There wasn't a good spot for my display table. Typically you would want your table to sit somewhere up front so your audience can easily see all the goodies they can grab. Because of my location, there wasn't much room up front so my table had to go to the side and a bit behind my display. Not idea, but everyone still seemed to find it ok.
3. Lighting. Although the lighting was as good as it could have been, I have realized that my paintings will just never look as great in that kind of harsh lighting (the room was very dimmed and then spotlights on the work).
4. I didn't sell as much as I thought I would. Although, I did make some sales and left the night feeling pretty great, my goal was to sell one of my bigger paintings. This might not have happened because 1. It wasn't the right audience, 2. They were priced too high, or 3. They just didn't like my work that much. I took a lot of time considering pricing of my work and I think they are at the right price point (prices will be added to my website soon, if you were wondering). I also got some great responses from people checking out my work, and how much they loved it so I don't think it was number 3 either. Therefore, I conclude that the audience just wasn't in the mood to buy. I'm ok with that, because I got my name out there and starting some interest which means I could gain more buyers down the road.
5. No Wifi. This almost freaked me out! No one seemed to be able to give me the wifi password and therefore I didn't know how I would connect my Square Reader in order to take cards. Yikes! Problem solving though, I was able to connect my iPad to my phone. Phew! Crisis averted.
6. It took longer to set up than anticipated. I honestly thought it would take maybe an hour to get everything in place. What was I thinking! Set up for visual artists was supposed to start at 2pm (6 hours before show start). I arrived more like 3:30ish because hey, I don't need 6 hours to set up. HA! Give yourself TONS of time! I did get everything set up in time, but it was stocked full right up till the last minute.
Even though there were things that didn't quite go according to plan, it did go very well and it was an exciting and fun night! Thanks again to everyone who helped me out, supported me, and cheered me on (even from the sidelines) - it certainly means a lot!
Good luck with your art show!