Get Your Art Out of the Studio

Waiting to be discovered?
Holding out for the perfect gallery?
Refusing to “sell out” (whatever that means)?

Snap out of it! Your art is begging you to get it out of the studio and show it to the world.

Mark Scheffer, from the Vapor series. Photograph. ©The Artist
Mark Scheffer, from the Vapor series. Photograph. ©The Artist

I’m writing today’s post from the coffee shop at Barnes & Noble. Across from where I’m sitting are 9 competent paintings next to the open fridge filled with FIJI Water and Jones Soda bottles. The works are mostly hung on long, dark, horizontal lines (hanging mechanisms) that are distracting. The paintings are of various sizes and are hung haphazardly. On each frame is a yellow Post-It note with a number. A single sheet of paper with a red border announces the artist’s name and work and is thumbtacked to the wall. It is far from an ideal exhibit, but at least the paintings aren’t sitting in a corner of the artist’s studio!

Your work isn’t doing you any good stuck in your studio. While you’re waiting for the ideal opportunity, your art is aging. As it ages, so do you. Your ideas get stale because you’re not sharing your art and getting feedback. You’re not growing.

Here are five suggestions to get your art out of the studio right now.

1. Ask a friend with a great house to host an art show and sale for you and two other friends. Home art sales are becoming increasingly popular for all kinds of artists.

2. Hang your art in a restaurant, bookstore or library. Don’t put your work in harm’s way or in a terrible location, but don’t be too picky either. As long as the work is safe, accessible and in a reasonably well-lighted area, you’re in business.

3. Ask your doctor, dentist, or hairdresser if they’d like to display your work for two months.
“Train” their staff about your art, leave a price list, and put out plenty of business cards. Don’t be surprised if they become attached to the work.

If you make functional art (jewelry, pottery, etc.), ask your service professional if they’d like to throw a party for their staff and friends–right there in the office.


4. Arrange to show your art in a bank, building lobby, or a vacant storefront. Request a date for an opening reception.

5. Invite people over. Yes, I know this goes against my desire that you get your art out of the studio. But if you can’t get it out, at least you can open your door to potential buyers.

FINAL WORD: Your art needs to be shared. Get it out of the studio and in front of people rather than waiting for the perfect situation.


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13 thoughts on “Get Your Art Out of the Studio”

  1. Couldn’t agree more! In this department too many artists seem to shoot themselves in the foot.

    A friend who manages a local tennis club with a large, fancy lobby space put up track lighting for the walls and asked me to recruit artists to have shows in the space. I asked all sorts of professional artists, art students at my school MICA, and even my daughter’s babysitter. The amazing thing was even though lot’s of artists agreed to do shows, the majority just dropped the ball. I just had to scratch my head. So often I hear artists complain how few opportunities there are to show their work, yet most of those who agreed to show just were too busy or too distracted. On the other hand, everyone who followed through was very glad they did the show at the tennis club.

  2. I appreciate your helpful suggestions. I want to play devil’s advocate with you on today’s suggestion.
    I have owned an art gallery, and have been a professional artist for over 20 years.

    I too tried most of your suggestions, here is what I experienced.
    The Dr’s offices I managed to get art work in, NEVER intended to buy it, promote it or respected what I offered. They only wanted to put something on the walls.
    If the walls were empty, that was ok too. The respect for art was not there or the point at all.

    My personal dentist collected art by one artist. I sold him several prints, framed them (gorgeously) at a reduced rate in exchange for the exposure. At the time I was promoting my framing services/gallery. He never promoted my services, or did I get any business. This went on for years until I decided it wasn’t fair. He wasn’t discounting my dental services at all.

    I have art work in friends homes that I GAVE them as gifts. Nothing has ever come my way from this either.

    When you offer to put your art work in a public place, insurance becomes the main issue.
    Restaurants, etc do not want this liability. Odors are the second, sun light damage is third.

    By the way, I frame pictures with archival methods and products AND in a unique way. I learned from a person who studied in France. Thus, my mats are all fabric wrapped.

    So, when I exhibit, it is first class.

    I don’t know if this is helpful input for you, but it is my story. I exhibit in juried shows primarily where I know the work is properly handled and care for and online.

  3. Debbie: I can appreciate the expense that you go through with the archival framing methods. Wouldn’t it make some sense, to put the art out there, in a method suitable for the exhibition areas? Understanding odor, light, and public disrespect, in my opinion, it is still better to have yourself on view, than in your own safe and sound private collection.

    Because I show at an outdoor event, much of my work gets damaged by packing, unpacking, and peoples hands as they touch while holding beverages and carmel corn. I sell these pieces as display pieces, at a reduced price (because I am selling prints, not originals.) When people want a perfect piece, I then custom print them.

    I never bring my originals to an outdoor venue, because I understand the damage problems. Because of my willingness to expose my work to the public, I have become successful in selling prints, which is an area I was not involved in, until I decided I wanted my artwork to be more visible.

  4. These are great tips. So many artists create in a complete vacuume and never put themselves out there. It’s definitely a risk, but you’ll never accomplish anything without taking that risk! Another good way to get exposure and feedback is to participate in group critiques, which are often hosted by galleries or schools. It’s not really a commercial venue, but who knows where that king of networking could lead, plus you get critical feedback on your work!

  5. Hi! Jila Hakimi and I(Marilee Stockman) are alumnae of your Salon workshops. We are currently showing our work in an exhibit at the Corner Gallery in the Huntington Beach Main Library in Huntington Beach, CA. We will be there until Sept 30. My focus is my horse sculptures and portraits. Jila has glass art work and paintings. Oh yes her husband, Touraj, has a few pieces of his work in the exhibit also. We are know as the ‘dynamic trio’.

  6. I would also tiptoe into this scenario. A thorough understanding of what the expectations for both the artist and the venue are makes for a successful experience. I have found that the venue that is seeking artists is happy to have the *free* artwork from the artist. The artist is responsible to install and market the work. Unless the venue is providing additional marketing effort, helping to sell the work on your behalf, and otherwise representing the artwork in their course of business, this is free artwork for their walls. Exposure does not always pay the bills. Rarely, if ever, have I walked into a restaurant, hair salon, professional office and said I love this artwork, I must have it. I am there to eat, have my hair cut, or do business. Will the restaurant provide an honorarium to the artist for the month that their artwork is on display in the form of gift certificate to their restaurant? Is the venue taking a commission from artwork sold? What are they doing to earn their commission? I don’t think our artwork should be sitting on the shelves in our own homes, nor do I think alternative ways to market are not worthy, but an understanding of the expectation and what can be gained should be explored prior to jumping in with both feet.

    I have a similar rant about art auctions for benefits.

  7. A friend and I used a vacant storefront one weekend this summer during our community’s local festival. It was amazing how many people came to our exhibit, and truly appreciated the opportunity to experience our temporary venue. And the landlord was pleased as well, as more people were exposed to the possibilities of his building.
    I’ve also exhibited in coffee shops and have had positive experiences there as well. Folks can view the art without feeling like they’re under pressure to purchase. As for business offices, I must agree with Debbie. They don’t have ‘customers’ who are relaxed and have time to look like the other spaces.
    You never know until you try! Excellent post, Alyson.

  8. Restaurants, coffee shops, libraries, hair salons etc. are places to START in the long process of getting your work out there in front of the public. It is a perfectly good place to begin. After time, an artist ought to move on to commercial galleries (where the focus is on turning visitors into collectors), or at least to non-profit art spaces where the work can be presented in a professional setting. And gradually you try to raise the bar with the sort of places you’re exhibiting. Of course not everything you try will work out, but its always better than keeping your art a complete secret.

  9. Debbie: Thank you for your input. As I said, you don’t want to exhibit in poor conditions. I honestly don’t know the arrangements that you made, but I do think it’s important to talk about the situation up front so that everyone agrees on what must happen. I still err on exhibiting over holding out for prime space.

    Jackie: You know, I never thought of that. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    Christy: I couldn’t have said it better myself. I will just add that my sister-in-law has sold 180 paintings in 3 years–mostly by exhibiting at restaurants! It’s all in how you play the game.

    Patricia: There will always be exceptions. And as long as it doesn’t hurt you or anyone else, I still believe it’s better to have your work in those offices than in the corner of your studio.

    Philip: I used to think this, too–until I ran into artists who just wanted to sell directly to people and not mess with the art world hierarchy. In my eyes, I’m with you on your assessment, but I know this isn’t every artist’s goal.

  10. Alyson,
    I think the price an artist has to pay for showing their work under optimum conditions (i.e. clean smooth walls, good spot lighting, a large attractive space, and a significant number of viewers who are actively interested in visual art) is the engage with “the art world hierarchy.” Many people in the commercial gallery world are decent folks, also true with people running nonprofit art spaces. ( I just had a show this year at Maryland Institute College of Art and had came down with pneumonia just when it was time to deliver and install the work. The Exhibitions Dept. staff swept in and did everything for me perfectly. They couldn’t have been nicer ).

    Of course every artist has to test the waters for herself/himself and see where it works best for them. Honestly, I confess I’ve sometimes seen better art exhibited at some run down coffee shops than at some of the toniest Chelsea art galleries. A difference is the “high end” spaces can sell work at far higher prices.

    None of us are in this for the money, but surviving economically so you can continue being an active artist has to be a key goal for each of us. In many ways the career side of art making requires as much inventiveness and creativity as the art making itself.

  11. One of my favourite things about having people over to my place is that they get to see my pieces on the wall. Whilst my focus for generating finances initially is in my functional work, I take huge pride in the large canvas paintings I’ve done. They don’t often get the same exposure as my other work, so visitors are always welcome.

    I like perusing the net for ideas other artists have used. My favourite by far is public art installments either for promotional reasons or as an integral part of the artwork. An example would be the Little People Tiny Art Street Project done in London.

    I’ve personally begun making a ‘zine, which I leave around the city at my favourite haunts, including a lot of tea/coffee shops and art spaces.

  12. Pingback: Snow paintings finished « Cath Sheard

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Get a transcript of episode 182 of The Art Biz (Rethinking Mailing Lists for Artists) followed by a 3-page worksheet to evaluate the overall health and usage of the 3 types of artist lists.

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