Friday Tips For Artists: How Will You Know When You’re Ready to Show Publicly?

By this I don’t necessarily mean showing in a gallery, but just in public venues.��If you’re an emerging artist,�you’ll likely deal with galleries�later in your career.� But the truth is,�before most of those galleries will even look at your work, they’ll want to know whether you’ve exhibited publicly.� So, how will you know when you’re ready?

If you’ve done your homework, if you’ve paid a good portion of your never-ending dues, and if you’re more or less pleased with your work, then you will know.� You’ll also know it if you trust your inner voice, and your critics.� Friends, by the way, tend to make lousy critics.� So do lovers, people who owe you money, and family.� For criticism, rely on people who owe you no form of loyalty.� Rely on people with a good eye and appropriate sophistication and a feel for what you’re trying to achieve.� This means that if your work is avant-garde, then a devotee of Maxfield Parrish would likely be a poor choice of critic.� Whoever your critics are, consult them, and the harsher aspects of your inner voice, before you commit to exhibiting publicly.� After you’ve consulted all of these sources, then I suspect you will be ready.��

You may still be in art school when this occurs, or you may be several years out.� However the timing works, you can be sure of one thing: there is no way that you’ll be as well prepared for your first show as you will be for your fifth.� But diving in and undertaking that first show is how you’ll learn to prepare for the later, and more important, ones.

Example: In my case, how did I know when I was ready to begin approaching agents and publishers?� Because after having written for seventeen years, I had become confident in my work, and my critics felt the same.�� Once I had achieved that confidence, I went after the New York agents, since I knew publication would be impossible without one; four offered me representation.� I selected the one that I was most comfortable with.��Unfortunately he didn’t work out, but landing him did confirm to me that I was on the right path, and that my work had power.

What if I had approached him three years earlier?� I’m quite certain that he, and all the others, would have turned me down.� Why?� Because my work wasn’t mature enough yet.� Similarly, I advise that you don’t push too hard for public exhibition until you know you are ready, however you arrive at that conclusion.

Painting and sculpting are a little like writing books: you never really finish one, you just reach a stopping point and realize you’ve done your best.� You reach a point where the work cannot grow any further, and often resists any attempts to make it do so.� At this time your instincts should be telling you that if you persist, you may disrupt the initial spontaneity of the work and create an imbalance.� You can polish it, you can refine it, but further raw creation may well be a mistake.� Or it might also be, like my early books, that the piece simply isn’t worth reworking; that you learned from it all you could, and it’s time to move on.��

Whatever the case, you must know when to stop, when to let a work go, and how to determine when it is finished.� Your instincts should tell you this, even more than your critics.

All that aside, let’s assume that you’re ready.� How do you begin the actual, step-by-step process of putting your career together, gaining a following, and achieving the goals you’ve set for yourself?� Well that’s a tough, complex question to which there is no single answer.� I can, however, provide you with some methods and approaches that will help you find answers in this strange, unpredictable, lovable business.� I’m not claiming that my methods are the only ones.� I am claiming though that I’ve utilized them to great success, for both my gallery and artists.�

I’ll�touch on�those methods in greater depth in future Friday Tips.

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