Why Exhibit Your Artwork, Part 2: Growth to Satisfaction

Blog-IMG_5178-webPainting progression, October 20, 2015

This is one in an occasional collection of posts intended to help you the artist make the most of your exhibiting career. Part 1, Ambition to Community, is here. You can check out more in the collection here.

And the unfinished painting above? It’s part of my ongoing research project, sharing work in progress to find out how that affects the work’s completion. Feel free to join in any time!

So why should you exhibit your artwork? Even though it can be scary or difficult? Because your artwork is worth it. The following are some reasons to exhibit, listed in alphabetical order, not in any order of perceived value. This alphabet begins with the letter G. For A to C, click here.

Growth: We learn by trying out ideas under new circumstances. When you take your art to the world, your understanding grows. Even the knowledge that your art will be seen in public will alter your experience of it. You may become more creative with this awareness, you may protect yourself, you may stretch your capacities or return to what you know works. Whatever happens, you will change.

Income through sales: You might consign artwork to a professional gallery. You might operate your own sales outlet or operate a booth at an art or craft fair or market. You might sell your art online, from your own website, or through an online service like Etsy or Fine Art America. Any of these options may have advantages and disadvantages, and you should know about your own and the seller’s needs and capabilities before you commit. But all sales opportunities have one thing in common: they are a chance to generate income from selling the product of your creativity, income that will not exist if you don’t offer the product for sale.

Income without selling: The payment of exhibition fees to artists when their work is exhibited in public spaces other than for sale or rent is an established practice in Canada and has been part of Canadian copyright law since 1988. In 2008, the CARFAC Fee Schedule was agreed to by the boards of directors of Canadian Artists’ Representation/Le Front des artistes canadiens (CARFAC), the Canadian Art Museum Directors’ Organization (CAMDO), the Canadian Museums Association (CMA), and the Artist-Run Centres and Collectives Conference for a term now extended to 2015. Because the current fee schedule was negotiated so broadly, no exhibiting institutions which have membership in the signing organizations should ask artists to exhibit without the payment of fees. For more information on the CARFAC fee schedule, you can contact CARFAC SASK at their offices in either Saskatoon or Regina, go online to www.carfac.sk.ca and click on Artists Fees.

Professionalism: While the artist’s most important role is the creation of art, you won’t be considered a professional artist if you don’t take your art to the world. Whether your interest is related to funding, taxation, the way others see you and your artwork, or developing ongoing opportunities, an exhibition record is one of the artist’s qualifications. It’s a key way that other artists know how you see yourself.

Satisfaction: There is absolutely nothing like seeing the results of your creativity, the invention of your hand and brain, in a place where people go. When your artwork is installed in an exhibition, properly spaced and lit, in a context where it hasn’t been before, you have the chance to see it as you never have. You made this. You gave it life. Let others see that life also.

And if this conversation strikes a chord for you and you’d like to talk more about any of these topics, please check out my Artist Mentoring services here.

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This blog is a series of posts from one artist’s studio. To receive updates, plus a free printable postcard of one of my most recent paintings, just put your email in the box on the right. Your email address will never be shared.

Does Sharing Help Art Flow?

Blog-September-SongLaureen Marchand, “September Song” (oil/board)
to be exhibited at the Assiniboia Gallery beginning Nov. 20, 2015

This was my research question: How does sharing work in progress affect the work’s completion?

So far I have a small sample of data. Firm conclusions cannot be drawn. But the data I have is exciting.

Last week I started posting images of the progression of a painting. It felt breathtakingly daring. And one day when the piece was close to completion and terminally uncertain at the same time, I wondered if instead of being daring, it was just nuts.

It might not have been nuts. Because I wonder if maybe, just maybe, sharing has made the process faster. Like I said, the data sample is still small. But I wonder if the expectation of sharing without censoring has broken a dam in my artistic flow.

I started a painting. I shared it as it developed. This is the first painting since August that got completed instead of being abandoned partway through. Is there a relationship between these facts? Still too early to tell. The research is ongoing.

I’ll be back with more.

Would sharing help you break a dam in your own artistic flow?

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This blog is a series of posts from one artist’s studio. To receive updates, plus a free printable postcard of one of my most recent paintings, just put your email in the box on the right. Your email address will never be shared.

Why Exhibit Your Artwork, Part 1: Ambition to Community

Curve-One-Stone-webLaureen Marchand, “One Stone” (oil/board)
to be exhibited at the Assiniboia Gallery beginning Nov. 20, 2015

This is one in an occasional collection of posts intended to help you the artist make the most of your exhibiting career. You can check out more in the collection here.

For most artists, the time spent in your studio is the best part of your day. Working with your materials, developing new ideas, practicing, learning, making something that didn’t exist before – that’s what you were put on earth to do. The act of creation is your home. Even in those times when you don’t like what you’re doing, or worse, when you can’t get into the studio to do it, you know where you belong.

For most artists, the day also comes when you start to feel it would be nice if someone other than you could see what you’re doing. All those ideas, that production, sometimes even that beauty – it’s worth putting out into the world.

But for most of us, that’s easier said than done. An active exhibition career doesn’t happen all by itself. It must be created and maintained. Most artists will need to spend time and energy approaching and re-approaching exhibition spaces throughout their working lives. That’s the part we find hard.

Looking for exhibitions is work. There are so many artists and so few places to show art. You put all that time into sending out submissions and they seem to disappear into outer space without even the courtesy of acknowledgement, or when they do finally come back, it’s with a big black NO stamped on them. You get rejected for reasons that don’t seem to match anything the gallery asked for or you provided.

And when your exhibition proposal does get accepted, there are risks. If you’re exhibiting in a commercial venue, the work might not sell, the dealer might be dishonest and cheat you and you might get nothing but criticism. If you’re exhibiting in an online space, someone might steal your images. If you’re exhibiting in a public gallery, they might ask you waive the exhibition fee you’re entitled in Canada by law to receive.

Terrible things can happen to an artist.

If this is how you feel, you aren’t alone. Many artists struggle with the need to make their work known. They don’t want to take time away from the studio. They want their work to be appreciated without having to “pitch” it. They get tired of the effort required to promote their work, and sometimes they get tired of rejection.

So why offer your art to the world at all? Because your art is good and it deserves to be seen. Because it should be appreciated and even loved. Because you made it and you know it’s worth sharing.

Artists choose to exhibit from a variety of very good motives. The following are some of them, listed in alphabetical order, not in any order of perceived value.

Ambition: Ambition doesn’t mean envy and selfishness, or climbing to the top on others’ backs. It means you have aspirations for your artwork. It means you have hopes or dreams. It means you have a desire that your art find its place in the world. For this to happen, you need to get your art out there. Give your art a chance by looking for and following through with the right places to show it.

Communication: Art is a form of communication. Communication happens between two or more people. Yes, self-expression is also important. But expression is clearer when it’s received by someone else. If you exhibit, you can find out what your artwork looks like to other people. What do they think? Do they understand your intentions? Does the work generate new ideas you haven’t thought of? If you create the art and keep it to yourself, you will never know.

Community: The community of artists is a rich one. It’s made up of people who understand one of your most important values without you having to tell them. Exhibiting your artwork is an effective way of connecting to and being part of that community. But community also means your non-art friends, your neighbours, those who make up your daily life. Exhibiting your art gives you the chance to be really yourself in your world.

For the rest of the alphabet, come back next week! Or sign up in the box on the right so you don’t miss a post.

And if you’d like to talk about other topics related to you the artist, please check out my Artist Mentoring services here.

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This blog is a series of posts from one artist’s studio. To receive updates, plus a free printable postcard of one of my most recent paintings, just put your email in the box on the right. Your email address will never be shared.

Questions and Uncertainties

Blog-IMG_5115-webPainting progression, October 12, 2015

I begin each painting with a drawing on the painting surface, an elaborate contour drawing that provides the initial structure. Then I apply a wash of colour to produce a warm underpainting. After that, I mix oil paint colours in response to my source photo, aiming to develop one area of the painting before moving to another, and beginning with an area that seems to be key in informing the rest of the piece. If the plan works, my initial colour choices stay as I make them.

This one has plans of its own. I’m not getting quite the value changes and contrast I was looking for. Some of the initial drawing needed to be changed. And even though almost all of the underpainting colour is gone, I still can’t quite tell what the piece will look like when that colour isn’t there to influence all the others.

With this post series on the development of a painting, I’m exploring the sharing of unfinished work with all its questions and uncertainties. Because art is not about appearing never to have them.

If you feel like it, I’d love to see what you’re working on.

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This blog is a series of posts from one artist’s life. To receive updates, just put your email in the box on the right. Your email address will never be shared.

Staying in the Present

Blog-IMG_5099-webPainting progression, October 10, 2015

Usually I’m all about product. Even though I know that process is how you get product, product is what I want.

But my production’s been slow lately. And I wonder if my focus has been too much on outcome. Maybe I should pay more attention to the journey than its possible end.

With this series on the development of a painting I’m trying to remain in the ever-changing present, rather than reach into an impossibly settled future.

How do you pay attention to where you are?

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This blog is a series of posts from one artist’s life. To receive updates, just put your email in the box on the right. Your email address will never be shared.

More or Less Successful?

Blog-IMG_5066-webPainting progression, October 6, 2015

What do you do when you’re unsure about the quality of your own artwork? Do you reach out, try to learn, ask for help? Or do you hole up and wait for the uncertainty to pass? Do you go public or do you hide?

I tend to hide. I like to show the good paintings and pretend the weaker ones never happened. Of course they happened. They happen to all of us. I just prefer not to admit it in public.

The only problem with that is that maybe I’m not the best judge. You get too close to your own vision, especially when things aren’t flowing easily and you’re working really hard to start them again. So right now I’m wondering if the turtle tendency helps or prolongs. To maybe find out, I’ve decided to test it.

For the next while, every couple of days on these pages I’m going to post that day’s work. Started, in-progress, more or less successful, finished or not, I’m just going to show. I want to find out if that takes off any pressure to make good.

What do you do when you’re unsure about quality? For now, this is me.

Who are you?

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This blog is a series of posts from one artist’s life. To receive updates, just put your email in the box on the right. Your email address will never be shared.

Learning to Connect

Shaw-street-performance-webThe Shaw Street Collective at Val Marie School

It’s Saturday evening and I’m sitting on a hard plastic chair in an echo-y school gym at the end of a hot, un-air conditioned day. I’m here to listen to a classical music quartet as part of a summer-long artist residency program in the tiny village of Val Marie, Saskatchewan, gateway to Grasslands National Park. The concert will start in half an hour. And I have doubts. My doubts aren’t about the quartet. I’ve heard them play during rehearsals, and I know how good they are. My doubts are about the audience. Not the quality of the audience. The size. Will there even be one?

Shaw-street-rehearsal-webThe Shaw Street Collective in rehearsal at Prairie Wind & Silver Sage

The quartet is the Shaw Street Collective. The artist residency program is sponsored by Prairie Wind & Silver Sage, Val Marie’s provincially recognized ecomuseum, in partnership with Grasslands National Park and funded by the Saskatchewan Arts Board and SaskCulture/Saskatchewan Lotteries, and I’m its coordinator. As residency coordinator I work hard to create connection between artist and community. This is the last event of a rich and challenging season and I want it to be good. The artists are wonderful, but this community is small. Its official population is 137. I’ve recently been visiting my sister, in Peterborough, Ontario. Around 80,000 people live in Peterborough. My sister warned me about hosting classical music. In her community, the concert association disbanded for lack of a classical music market. Why would my tiny town have one? Is there any connection to be made? Though I know that value doesn’t only lie in numbers, I ache for the possibility that there will be no numbers at all.

Shaw-street-performance-3-webShaw Street Collective in performance at the Val Marie school

I needn’t have worried. Before the music begins we’re putting out extra chairs. There are almost 50 people in attendance. If you go with straight percentages, think of the size of crowd that would be in Toronto or Vancouver. Children, focused and attentive. Their parents and grandparents, holding the kids on laps. Artists, farmers, seasonal researchers, people who’ve driven long distances for the pleasure. Rapt, attentive. Here.

Trombone, trumpet, percussion and cello. Searching and ethereal, how sweet a sound they make. Schubert, medieval chant, Arvo Part, multi-media improvisation, Chick Corea, music composed and arranged by Collective members themselves. It reaches out over us, like the wind in these hills or the birds in these skies. Outside this school gym, the moon rises.

Maybe the difference in audience can be found in connection. During their two week residency in Val Marie, the members of the Shaw Street Collective led a sound walk, an improv session, and a music symposium at the Val Marie school. They toured the park and talked to people and they played and sang in church. They met with local photographers to look for images shown during the concert that would support the music they played. They even worked the bar at Val Marie’s annual September Rodeo. They loved the place they had come to and they looked for ways to connect to it.

The Collective knows how to connect, and by the time the concert is over, they’ve taught us what they know. You can hear it in our applause, confident, strong, prolonged. We’ve become not just 50 separate people, but an audience joined in our love of what we’ve experienced.

We’re everything I could have wanted.

How do you connect in your artist’s life?

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This blog is a series of posts from one artist’s life. To receive updates, just put your email in the box on the right. Your email address will never be shared.

A Question of Faith

Gresik-Escalator-web“Escalator” by Joanna Gresik (acrylic, conte, paint marker and graphite/canvas)

This summer I spoke with a young artist. Fresh from a Master’s degree completed in June, she’s just beginning her artistic career. She was finding these weeks a huge transition. When you’re in school, you have structure. Feedback. Community. The expectation of production and growth. When you’re working as an independent artist on your own, sometimes it feels you have little of that.

And when you’re working as an independent artist on your own, you also sometimes wonder about money. Is anyone going to like these things you make?  More to the point, is anyone going to pay for them? How are you going to support yourself while you find out?

What a young artist may not know is that these questions never go away permanently. Even though you might build your artistic career, might create community, might figure out how to get feedback and keep producing and grow, might even sometimes make a living, you still wonder.

The thing is, I knew this young artist’s paintings would sell. They’re lovely to look at, interesting, distinctive, thoughtful and well-painted. I was completely sure that if she put herself in the way of her audience and kept on making her work, she’d be able to take that first big step.

By now, I hope she feels some of that same faith. She certainly has the right to. Because even with her doubts, she did one of the most important things any artist can do. She offered her art to the world. Between the 30th of August and the 20th of September, she participated in three big art fairs. And the results are in. She’s sold most of her inventory – nine paintings in one weekend alone.

I just knew it.

Here’s the question. Do I have that same faith in myself? Am I willing to let the questions and the doubts exist and go on offering? Is faith the answer to all those wonderings? Even if faith sometimes feels like all I have?

Or if I have faith, do I have everything I need?

How can you create faith in your own artistic life?

(This post is for Joanna and Alison. I wish you faith.)

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This blog is a series of posts from one artist’s life. To receive updates, just put your email in the box on the right. Your email address will never be shared.

10 Biggest Mistakes in Your Exhibiting Career

10-Biggest-Mistakes As an artist, you have a demanding job description. From your brain and heart and skill you create art, art that would never have existed without your imagination and commitment. You are as close to that art as anyone can be to anything.

But your job isn’t over. Now you must step back from your creation and take active steps to send it out into the world. If you don’t, no one but you will ever know what you have made. No one will see its beauty, learn from its grace or its generous awkwardness, give it the attention it deserves.

For many artists, this work of exhibiting is the hardest thing they do.

But can you make it easier? The answer is yes.

Can you make it even more difficult than it already is? Yes to that, too.

I’ve been a working artist for a long time. My exhibiting career spans 30 years and more than two dozen solo and two-person exhibitions as well as over 40 group shows. I’ve been a curator, a gallery owner, a teacher and a writer about art. I’ve experienced all the ways that I and other artists make our exhibiting careers difficult. And I’ve learned.

What I’d really love is if you could use my mistakes to skip some of yours. So I made a gift for you.

10 Biggest Mistakes Artists Make in Their Exhibiting Careers is a free PDF. It tells you how to make your exhibiting career easier. No sign-up, no commitment. Just click, download, and use.

And if you decide you’d like some help in figuring out what you can and should do instead, I’d love to talk with you. Just go to www.laureenmarchand.com/artist-mentoring and send me a message. I’m here.

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This blog is a series of posts from one artist’s life. To receive updates, just put your email in the box on the right. Your email address will never be shared.

Whim Finding with Lori-Ann Claerhout

Blog-Lori-ClaerhoutWith Lori Claerhout at www.loriclaerhout.com

You meet the most interesting people sometimes. Some of them are interesting partly because they’re so interested. Lori Claerhout is one of these.

Lori Claerhout is a writer, editor, planner and participator. We met in a group of like-minded creative types. Among other things, Lori is interested in whims. What does the word mean to others? Where do whims happen and how to we embrace—or battle—them? And being a curious, thoughtful and people-centred human she decided to ask other humans about them. In this video, she asks me.

Lori is interested in all sorts of things. She’s interested in Buddhism, love, not-dieting, curbing the shoulds, joy, and lots and lots of other stuff. If you’d like to meet her too, she’s at www.loriclaerhout.com. I recommend it.

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This blog is a series of posts from one artist’s life. To receive updates, just put your email in the box on the right. Your email address will never be shared.