Are You Ready to Exhibit Your Art?

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Exactly how does an emerging artist know when it is time to find a public venue to display his or her art? I suspect that the answer for many new artists is "Not yet!" Had I not stumbled upon my first opportunity to exhibit, I wonder how long it would have taken before I mustered the courage to seek it out. 

Because my first exhibit opportunity fell into my lap, I was forced to make a quick decision: do it now or do it "someday." In the end, I chose now -- the uncomfortable, scary option. I did not to wait until I felt ready, and this blog series will explain why you shouldn't either.  

You see, although I have sold a handful of paintings in non-juried art shows over the past few years, I can't say that I've produced more than a couple dozen paintings over the past decade. Preparing a body of work for this exhibit would require a huge increase in productivity. Plus, I made the switch from watercolor to oil this year, so I had to ask myself, "Would my oil paintings be any good? Would I be able to finish enough paintings in time?"

My confident side told me not to worry. After all, I have a track record of showing and selling my art in public, right? My insecure side reminded me that I had only sold a handful of paintings, and that could hardly be called a track record. It was unnerving knowing I would be starting at zero in terms of a body of work, not to mention painting in an unfamiliar medium.  So why on earth would I consider committing to a big exhibit at this time?

For me, it came down to having answers to these tough questions:

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  • Am I serious about being a full-time artist? (starting now, not next week or next year)
  • Am I willing to make art a priority? (setting aside important tasks or skipping them altogether) 
  • Am I willing to fail? (accepting the risk I might disappoint someone, including myself)
  • Am I willing to succeed? (willing to give it my utmost effort -- no self-sabotage) 

For me, asking myself if I was ready was the wrong question. It was really about saying yes to those four questions. As soon as I did, it became much easier to take the risk and step into the unknown. I admit that it helped having a friend and fellow artist as a co-exhibitor (it was also her first time exhibiting). Between the two of us, we were able to fill the large space and meet all of the exhibit deadlines. Are there things I'd do differently? Sure. Am I satisfied with the result? Yes. My friend and I learned much along the way, and hopefully our experience will encourage you to seek your first exhibit, too, even if you don't feel ready.