I’m excited to have a solo show, Painting Water, opening this Friday, January 6th from 5-7pm at the Casa Grande Art Museum in Casa Grande, AZ. It’ll be up through January 28th and the space is open Wednesday-Saturday from 1-4pm.

I often have students ask me how to get into shows. My first impulse is to say: paint for 30 years, build up your resume, submit your work to hundreds of calls to artists for various shows, expect a steady stream of rejections, and lo and behold, the occasional acceptance. That’s pretty harsh and discouraging. But also true.

So my advice is to start by applying to local shows. But only after you have a body of work you’re happy with. And only after you’ve had the artwork professionally photographed. There are lots of good books on getting into shows as well as some good online resources. And good resources to find out about shows in the first place—state arts commissions are a good place to start for these lists.

What happens when you do get accepted into a show, especially a solo show, is less obvious. It’s a lot of hard work from start to finish. Here’s a little information on what goes into making a show happen.

A. After the application and the wait and then the acceptance, there’s a period of focused painting in order to create new work for the show. If you’re lucky you’ll actually have the time to do this. If you’re really smart you’ll ask for the floor plan of the space so you have an idea of how many paintings you’ll need before you totally panic. See D, below.

B. Each painting needs to be professionally photographed after it’s finished. I paint the title, my name and the date + copyright sign on the back of the painting and signature on the front before the painting is photographed.

C. Document the work—I have a system for documenting my work—so each new painting has a record. Besides the photograph, the size & medium are important to note. Where you’ve shown it and when. Who’s purchased it, when, and their physical and email address. When you’re just starting out it’s easy to overlook this step. But before you know it, you’ll have sold a painting and will have no record of the painting much less the collector. Or you’ll enter a show and not remember whether you’ve shown this particular painting in the same venue before. Etc.

D. Now that you’ve got the work and you’ve got a show ask for a space plan—the theory is to figure out how many and which paintings to put in the show. I, however, tend to ignore the dimensions of the walls etc, bring everything I’ve got, shuffle it all around until I like the way it looks and then hang it up. Any extra paintings get taken back to my studio. Other (more sane) artists actually design their show before they pack the work up and arrive on the scene. When they arrive they place the work in the appointed spot and hang it up.

E. Some venues have employees or volunteers who do the actual installation. Other times, it’s up to you. Check beforehand to find out if you need a ladder, hammer, level, nails etc.

F. Labels. Some places make the labels for you but often this is something you do yourself. Labels usually include your name, title, size, medium & date but this can vary. Check on signs with the show title and your name—do they supply these or do you?

G. You’ll need an artist statement specific to this exhibit—write it, print it out and frame it—to be on display somewhere in the space.

H. Going back to d. Around about this time you’ll need to prepare and disseminate publicity materials. Some places will do all or some of this for you, others will leave it all up to you. You might want a physical postcard announcement. Then there’s Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Linked in, etc. etc. Local media—newspapers, radio.

I. Do you need to rent a trailer or van to transport your work? Or is it going to be shipped somewhere? In either case, plan ahead.

J. Wrap your work securely. I use heavy duty plastic for my acrylic paintings, taped securely. I put sheets of cardboard between the paintings. And paintings need to be packed face to face, back to back, alternating. Have a safe drive!

K. The show’s installed, the publicity is out. Now what? Food is what. Some venues provide food and drinks, others expect you to do this. Find out early enough so you can make the arrangements yourself if need be—ask friends to bring something, make the food yourself or have it catered. In general, snacking items are expected at openings.

L. Last but not least, show up early to the opening, dressed nicely. Make sure all the artwork is level and double check labels. It wouldn’t be pretty is you had a label with a $3000 painting accidentally marked as $300 with a buyer expecting to get the $300 price!

M Enjoy. Hope for a good crowd and lots of sales. But don’t be too shocked if neither of these happen. Sometimes all the good artwork, PR & food just won’t compete with the Superbowl or some other event…

N. In either case, it’s time to jump right back to the beginning and start all over again. And again. And again. Actually, you should be constantly looking for opportunities. Best time to do this is all the time. Otherwise, you’ll finish with this show and have nothing planned in the future. And that’s a recipe for post-show letdown and depression. Believe me, I know