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Dream on, Dream on, Dream Until Your Dreams Come True

My First Art Show Experience

“Works of art often last forever, or nearly so. But exhibitions themselves, especially gallery exhibitions, are like flowers; they bloom and then they die, then exist only as memories, or pressed in magazines and books.” ~ Jerry Saltz


There are various moments in an artist’s career that are memorable; one of those being part of an art exhibit. I cannot speak for other artists, but I can tell you that each show follows a similar emotional roller coaster for me. Putting work out for others to see is an act of vulnerability. Attending a show where your work is featured – that tends to bring out the imposter syndrome in an artist. In this month’s blog I want to pull back the curtain and share the memory of my first art show as well as provide tips on how to make the most out of a gallery experience.

Breaking My Art Show Virginity

I still remember my first show, a group exhibit, as if it was yesterday. It was a juried show, meaning all interested artists had to apply with the pieces they wanted to exhibit. A panel would make the decision as to who would get in. The waiting period, like any other anticipatory experience, was nerve wracking. During that time, thoughts of self-doubt crept in, while I wondered if my work was good enough to be accepted.

Upon getting that admittance email the feeling of exhilaration and pride swept over me. I remember that excitement of family and friends on my behalf – an amazing feeling of support. But …. it is amazing how those feeling changed upon the day of the show. Keep in mind, I was still finding my voice as an artist and my piece in that inaugural exhibit has no connection to my work today (and no I will not be sharing the piece). Heading down to the show I felt a sense of overwhelm. Questions of “How does my work compare to other artists?”, “What will people think of my work?” and “Will I sell anything?’ dominated my thoughts.

Even seeing my work up on the wall and in the event, handbook was met with mixed emotions – both a sense of pride but also a fear as to whether my work belonged. As people began to flood in, my nervousness only grew. There must have been 50 other artists in the show that night. The truth is as an artist we secretly compare our work to others in the event. I can honestly say that my work was middle ground – nothing mind blowing, but it showed a level of technical skill and imagination.

At times I milled around my work trying to hear what others might be saying, but rarely talking to all the people who were attending the event. A few hours in – with my nerves settling somewhat – a new emotion took over – pure excitement as my piece sold. Here I was in my first show and my painting was being purchased by a collector. Talk about a humbling experience. By the end of the night, after the myriad of feelings, I was exhausted, but glad I participated.

The More Things Change the More They Remain the Same

Since the initial show, I have been fortunate to have been part of a number of showings. Most I have had to apply as they were juried exhibitions, while others I have been lucky enough to have been invited to participate. While I still experience the same sequence of emotions – more or less – especially the nerves an hour before opening, I have also learned to really take in the experience and enjoy it for all that it offers. Through these experiences, I can share my takeaways for other creatives.

Attend if You Can

I know that this seems obvious, but it is amazing how many artists do not attend the exhibit. Every gallery is going to promote their event as a success. Social media can be misleading. The only way to know about the quality of the show is to attend. Not only is it good from a business and public relations perspective, allowing for networking, but if the show is a disaster you want to be present to help make informed decisions about future events with the gallery or organizer.

Be in the Moment

Whether it is your first show or your hundred and first show, each exhibit has something new to offer. Enjoy the time, be present and soak up the atmosphere and the experience. This is a time to make new memories, meet new people and further grow as an artist.

Be Personable and Stay Humble

Not everyone who attends an art show is an expert in the world of art. Some come for an evening out, others come to see what the event is all about. Some may be there to support friends and family, while others may be potential customers. Regardless be friendly and engaging but stay humble. I have met artists who turn people off with their arrogance and greater than all attitudes. The lesson here is don’t’ be a dick!

Make it a Night Out

The truth is any art show has the potential to be a giant house party. Gallery owners and artists alike love big crowds. Why not invite friends and family to your show? Hovering around your own work all night does not necessarily increase sales or make for a better evening. Instead, look at the event as a night out to enjoy with those in your life. Everything else that may happen from networking to sales is an added bonus.

Network and Learn

Use the opportunity to meet other artists and pick their brains. Most shows I have been fortunate to be a part of, I have met incredible artists who are also amazing people. Some have shared great tips as well as their stories. Others have provided leads for potential future opportunities. In many cases the networking has allowed me to expand my social media network while also allowing me to support fellow creatives in their journey.

Be Appreciative

No matter what happens view the evening as a success! Not every artist gets to say they have participated in a show. Be thankful that you got to participate as it adds to your credibility, and it makes for an amazing moment in your journey as an artist. Everything else is icing on the artistic cake.

I do not know if I will ever shake my pre-show nerves and to be honest, I do not know if I want to. Being nervous tells me two things 1) I am still passionate about what I create and 2) I want that passion to be well received – it means that I am still wanting to grow, and I have not developed an overinflated sense of artistic ego.

I hope that I have captured your interest with a behind the scenes recount of my art show experiences. If you have a memorable performance experience to share, please join the conversation. I look forward to sharing more of my art journey with you, with a focus on painting and rock and roll through Artist Confidential. If you have topics, you would like me to blog about, please feel free to contact me. I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas.

Thanks for reading. Stay creative! Rock your day with everything that you do!



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