So you’re an artist and you want to start getting serious about getting your artwork out into the world, but you don’t know how. For a first-timer, the whole procedure can seem like a hurdle in the journey to getting exhibited. Well, fear not artist extraordinaire! I will guide you through the entire process, step by step until you’re standing in an art gallery looking at your own artwork hanging proudly on the wall. In four easy steps, you will be on your way to your first exhibit.
1. Making your artwork: It may seem obvious, but before you can showcase artwork, you’ve got to actually make artwork! That means you’ve got to start practising and taking art classes. This is the time to experiment and find your own voice. Learn to love your mistakes and quirks; they’re what makes you unique. This is also a great time to look around at other artists and art scenes and see what kind of community inspires you. Find other artists to learn from and let them influence and motivate you.
Develop your style and refine your unique point of view. Create a body of work that is based on the subjects and styles that delight you. Once you’ve got a selection of artwork, select your favourite pieces to exhibit publically. Now you are ready to move on to the next step.
2. Making your online storefront and marketing it:
Self-marketing is its own universe of possibilities! If you feel overwhelmed, make a checklist of social media accounts you want to create. Don’t overdo it! Making an online presence is like building a storefront for your artwork.
You can either repurpose your personal Instagram profile, or create a new Instagram profile and then invite your friends to follow it. Keep in mind that your Instagram profile is probably the first thing a gallery will look at when they are curious about you. Fill it with your beautiful artwork! Make sure your contact information is easily available.
Create a website or Facebook page to list your paintings. Your first audience will be your friends and family, unless you are lucky enough to have a following for some other reason. If you choose to sell your artwork on your own website or Facebook page, make sure that you don’t list your artwork for a different price somewhere else. That will create all kinds of problems you probably don’t want to deal with.
Once you’ve got a storefront to showcase your artwork, you can start advertising it. Find online communities to connect with; join a Reddit group and/or join Facebook groups and interact with the communities. Local groups can help you get information, answer questions, and point you in the direction of good opportunities. Keep an eye out for competitions and contests and apply for them. Now that you’ve got an online storefront, you’re ready to make contact with a gallery.
3. Making contact with a gallery: Now that you’ve got artwork and it’s showcased online, you’re ready to start reaching out to galleries. For most galleries, this is best done over email. Send them a polished, professional and brief pitch in your email. Attach your artwork and lead them directly to your online presence. Get involved with a non-profit gallery, and go to the events. Non-profit galleries are a great way to start building a resume of galleries you’ve exhibited at. Look for festivals, art fairs and local events to get involved with. Be your best self! Find out what a specific gallery is looking for and tailor your pitch to them. In many ways, applying for a gallery isn’t that different from applying for a regular job. Be professional, courteous and polite. Make sure you come across as an artist; you don’t want to be confused for a collector. Use any constructive criticism or feedback you receive to better understand what a particular gallery is looking for. Be persistent and have patience with the process!
4. Exhibiting your artwork: If you’ve followed all the steps so far and succeeded, then congratulations! Keep with your positive momentum and continue to look for opportunities. If you’re still looking for a gallery to exhibit you, keep trying. If you continue to refine your artwork and remain patient you’ll succeed eventually.
Our gallery, Art@Bentall, is a platform for emerging artists located in the downtown Vancouver area. To apply for the gallery as an artist, click here. Our mandate at the Vancouver Visual Art Foundation is to make art accessible to everyone! We encourage you to take advantage of our membership and join our growing community.