How To Get an Exhibition in the Big City When You’re a Nobody

Getting your artwork in front of the right eyes isn’t an easy task.

There’s a crazy concentration of artists, buyers, sellers, collectors, and galleries in big cities like New York and London. They’re practically bursting at the seams with creativity. The opportunity as an artist is incredible but these major cities also attract the best of the best. In other words, your competition is tough. Really tough.

We talked to six successful artists, curators, and collectors to get their top tips for getting your foot in the door with galleries in major cities.

If you don’t buy a ticket you’ll never win the lotto

A few months ago, I chatted with an artist named Cande Argiluar (amazing guy, doing amazing cross-cultural work). He was busy preparing for his first exhibition in New York. His story was almost a depressing one — for the few weeks before getting the good news from New York, he was thinking of giving up on exhibiting altogether.

But he got the call. And now he’s so busy painting, creating, and exhibiting, that he couldn’t even find the time to give me a quick quote for this article!

Point is, getting into a gallery is tough. But if you get scared and don’t jump into the fray, you’ll never make it.

Artist Cande Argiluar standing by his piece “Ha Ha Ha”

Every day a man begged God to win the lottery. But he stayed poor until he died. Soon he accused God, “I begged every single day to win the lottery, but you never helped me!” and God replied somewhat exasperated, “You never bought a ticket.”

How to start talking to gallery owners and curators

I’ve spoken to artists and curators, and they all say the same thing. Developing a personal relationship with gallery owners or curators is the best way to get your work on the wall.

UK artist and curator Simon Tarrant has curated exhibitions at the Tower of London, held successful pop-up exhibitions, and has been reviewed by the BBC and the New York Post Here’s his advice.

“It’s about researching if your work fits with the profile of the gallery, however from personal experience I have had most success when creating my own pop-up exhibitions in unusual places.”

But what about getting your work into bigger exhibitions?

“All galleries are hard to get in to and invariably it comes down to cultivating relationships with curators and jumping on as many competition and group exhibition opportunities as possible. Curator Space is an excellent platform to find out about new exhibition opportunities.”

Simon Tarrant pictured with Debbie Moore in front of his artwork “Pineapples”

And if you don’t actually live in the big city? There are plenty of ways you can still create a personal connection with gallery owners, and in some cases, bypass that need entirely. Simon’s first big win was through applying for a group show.

“I got into my first big gallery, the Royal Academy of Art by applying for the Summer Exhibition. With a rotating committee each year it’s a bit of a lottery, but nothing ventured nothing gained. More often than not it [applying to galleries] is as part of a group show or charity fundraising exhibition. For example I will be participating as part of Art for Youth UK, which takes place at the Mall Galleries from 11–13 December.”

Participating in charity events can be a way to put your career on the fast track. It shows that your art has a market (people will buy it), puts your name out there, and according to an artist we interviewed, can generate lots of commissions. Click here to get all the details.

Here’s some parting advice from Simon.

“It’s all about personal contact and recommendation — pursuing each and every opportunity — and demonstrating a track record of exhibitions and a decent mailing list. Also a genuine commitment to marketing, social media and developing a sales strategy.”

Know what type of portfolio to use when

Getting your portfolio right can be a tough task. That’s why we’ve created an entire post dedicated to it. In a nutshell, just one version of your portfolio isn’t going to cut it.

If you’re applying by sending in a physical portfolio (a technique many artists use), you might actually be wasting your time.

“It’s a challenging process, especially as so many galleries use relatively unqualified interns to assess portfolios.” Simon Tarrant

In some cases, curators are looking to receive a specific submission centered around a theme.

“When I put out a call for submissions, I ask for artists to submit up to three pieces. What I prefer to see from artists is a cohesive grouping because I like to give each artist their own section of wall space. When I get submissions that do not relate well to one another either in technique, subject, or point of view it’s difficult for me to understand what the artist is trying to say. I like to hang pieces that are immediately recognizable for that individual artist.”
— Joseph Abbati, Curator for Scott Weiber’s California State Senate Office

Joseph Abbati pictured next to one of his “Linemen” series

Here are some must-haves for your portfolio toolbox:

  1. An offline folder with hi-res photos of your art on your phone or tablet
  2. An online gallery/dedicated portfolio on an app like D Emptyspace
  3. An up-to-date website with hi-res images of your work and more detailed descriptions
  4. Small printed samples of your work that you can carry around with you (some artist laminate these and put them on a little ring binder)
  5. Bigger prints to show art galleries (either in person or via mail)

The key to a good portfolio is to “Keep it simple,” as pro fashion and portrait photographer Andrew McMeekin says.

“Don’t go on about yourself and about how you were a photographer when you were four and your grandma bought you your first camera. No one is vaguely interested in that story. If you check some statistics on websites, you’ve only got about 3 lines before someone gets bored and switches the page. So make sure your vision and portfolio is very easy to navigate.”
— Andrew McMeekin, Photographer

Andrew McMeekin pictured on the Salt Flats of Bolivia

Start Collaborating with Other Artists

Collaboration is a no-brainer. When you work with another artist, or even with a group of artists, you instantly get a group of people with different strengths and resources working towards a singular goal.

It’s a powerful thing.

Street artist Mohammed Ali regularly collaborates with painters, musicians, and other creatives for his live painting shows. He’s got some interesting criteria when choosing to work with someone or not.

“The artists I collaborate with have to not only be good artists, but also good people. If you’re a basic asshole with a big ego, I can’t work with you. I can’t connect with you. I want someone who’s gonna share positivity. Just be respectful and nice.” — Mohammed Ali

When looking to collaborate with people, make sure you find artists who compliment your personality type, and who are just as passionate as you are.

Street artist Mohammed Ali (Aerosol)

Blend creative passion with business-sense

Burnout is real. If you overwhelm yourself with an endless list of tasks and a plan that you never stick to, you might start resenting your work. The solution to this? Build a strategy that supports you in your pursuits.

Prolific painter Ricky Joyce (who’s aiming to get into the big New York galleries soon) gives some parting sage advice, “To continuously set up exhibits and show your face takes a lot of time and money. It’s important to make sure exhibits are worthwhile for you financially and time-wise. Always make sure they are a good fit for your art practice.

Download D Emptyspace for iOS:

Android version coming soon!

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How to take Professional Photos of your Artwork

How to take Professional Photos of your Artwork

Back in the days before social media, it could take months before anyone would see your artwork. You’d have to wait for a big exhibition or get in front of an art dealer if you wanted to share your creativity with the world.

But now, you can turn your works digital, create online galleries, and build a digital portfolio that anyone can explore.

High-quality photos of your artwork can be used for competition entries, portfolio records, self-documentation, worldwide reputation management, and more.

Here’s how you can take professional photographs that accurately represent your artworks.

“It’s like the artwork comes off of life support, it’s taking a life on its own right when the viewer when the viewer sees it, that’s when I believe that that’s when the work actually turns to life.” — Cande Aguilar @barriopop

Choose the right camera

Choose between a DSLR or modern smartphone

You have two main two camera options; Your smartphone camera, or a professional DSLR camera.

In recent years, the gap in quality has reduced dramatically between the two. As long as your smartphone model is under 3 years old and has a camera above 12-megapixels, it should take high-quality pictures suitable for online sharing. This is a great option if you want to record your work quickly with minimal investment.

A DSLR is the best choice if you need to capture every detail in perfect clarity and have hands-on control over exposure and contrast. Use a tripod and adjust the ISO down to 100 to capture crisp details without introducing noise and grain. The ideal range for your f-stop setting (the focal length) is between f-8 and f-11 (depending on your lighting setup).

Whether you’re using a point-and-shoot smartphone or a DSLR in a studio, one of the best ways to make your photos look more professional is a tripod. Your hand naturally shakes slightly when you take a photo, giving your images a slight blur. A tripod will allow you to frame your shot perfectly and capture razor sharp details.

How to light your artwork for photos

Professional studio setup

To get the perfect studio-style shot, point two diffused lights at your artwork from a 45-degree angle. They should be white and far enough away to avoid any hotspots of light spilling onto your work.

Diffusing the lights with white paper, white photography umbrellas, or cloth will reduce light intensity and create a smooth level of ambient light. This setup is designed to get the most accurate representation of your artwork.

To highlight the texture of your piece

Place one of your lights slightly closer at a sharper 30-degree angle and make it brighter than the opposing light. This technique casts a deeper shadow on your piece, making the textured areas pop.

How to use natural light most effectively

If you don’t have studio lights, you can generate the above setup by using natural light. Position your artwork on a wall near a window or doorway and make sure there are no sharp shadows falling over it.

Try to shoot on an overcast day as the light will be more ambient and neutral in color. If you shoot on a sunny day, make sure the sunlight is not directly hitting your work (you can diffuse sunlight coming in through a window by using white paper or cloth).

You angle will make or break the photograph

A tripod is absolutely essential if you want to get the perfect angle. Make sure your artwork is aligned flat and the perspective is not warped.

Hang your artwork flat against the wall, and set your tripod up directly in front of it at the appropriate height. Check that your piece fills as much of the frame as possible and that all angles are straight, not tilted (see the diagram below).

Avoid shooting your art on the floor increases your chance of shadows, poor lighting, and distorted perspective. Always hang it up on the wall and use a tripod to get the perfect angle.

Do a light photo edit to stay true to reality

On your desktop computer, you can download, organize and edit photos from your DSLR or smartphone using software like Adobe Photoshop or Lightroom. Or you can use the image editing software GIMP for free.

If you’re shooting from your smartphone, use the native editor for basic edits or download the lite app versions of Photoshop or Lightroom for more control.

Typically edits include; brightness and contrast adjustment to pop out extra details, tweaking the exposure and color correction, and cropping the photograph to remove the excess background.

Sharing your photographed artwork online

If you want to share just one piece of art, upload and post your photos to Instagram. It’s a great platform to build a stronger social media presence and generate anticipation among your followers with work in progress WIP snapshots.

To share a series or body of work, you can use the D Emptyspace app to create a virtual gallery. The app helps you set up a professional portfolio and online exhibition that you can easily share with others.

Download the app on iOS:

Android version coming soon!

Follow D Emptyspace for more company updates and art-curated content!

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7 Self-Improvement and Productivity Tips From Incredible Artists

7 Self-Improvement and Productivity Tips From Incredible Artists

Photo by Pedro Sandrini from Pexels

Have you noticed how everyone seems obsessed these days with being better today than yesterday? It’s true! It’s such a hot topic that I’m writing this article because “self-improvement” and “productivity tips” are two of the most clapped-for tags on Medium. (Jokes, real reasons include a love of famous quotes and badass artists).

Rather than looking to the usual sources for life hacks — you know, famous CEOs, world leaders, cult leaders — It’s time to look to a profession that often gets a tough rap (yet requires more grit and determination than most): Artists.

Artists put in endless hours on “got to pay the rent” commissions, day jobs, night jobs, teaching gigs, community service, families, and occasionally even sleep. And they still find time to work on pieces they’re passionate about.

They draw on trains commutes, paint in the midnight hours, squeeze in sketches between lunch breaks and use every spare second to create. It’s obvious that artists have some made productivity skills… or at least coping skills. So here are 7 things we can learn from successful artists both in modern and classical times, about getting stuff done.

1. “I dream of painting and then I paint my dream” — Vincent Van Gogh

Starry Night by Vincent Van Gogh

We all get caught up in dreams. Whether it’s the raunchy one you had last night or a life-long desire to buy a twin-engine jet and start your own superhero club — a good dream can be the spark you need to transform your life.

While you may feel instantly encouraged by Van Gogh’s whimsical quote, remember this. For your dreams to come real, you need to pick up the proverbial paintbrush and translate them into reality.

Without doing something to make your dreams happen, they’ll stay outside your reach, teasing you from afar.

2.“Inspiration exists, but it has to find you working.” — Pablo Picasso

Weeping Woman by Pablo Picasso

Pop quiz time: How many artworks do you think Pablo Picasso created?

He was 91 years old when he died, so if we generously assume he created 150 artworks per year (even at age zero), he’s have made 13,650 of them. Or let’s go crazy, one artwork ever single day (365 a year) would equal 33,215 works of art.

But no, instead he created 50,000 works of art over his lifetime. 1,885 paintings; 1,228 sculptures; 2,880 ceramics, roughly 12,000 drawings, many thousands of prints, and numerous tapestries and rugs.

What we learn from Picasso is this: If you’re not doing the work consistently, you won’t get the result you want. So, do the work. Even if you don’t feel like it, and the reward will come.

3. “I think that little by little I’ll be able to solve my problems and survive.” — Frida Kahlo

Self Portrait 1 by Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo lived an exceptionally difficult life. She suffered from Polio, was in a car crash that required her to have 30 different surgeries, had her leg amputated for gangrene, suffered a life-threatening miscarriage and more. Her days passed in clouds of physical pain and depression. But she always kept fighting.

From Kahlo, we learn that it is never, ever time to give up. That if you try, little by little, you can survive. And little by little, things WILL get better. On your quest to self-improvement, keep this in mind like a guiding star. Sometimes it will feel pointless, but often it’s not.

4. “You can’t just turn on creativity like a faucet. You have to be in the right mood.” “What mood is that?” “Last-minute panic.” — Bill Watterson

Calvin and Hobbs comic by Bill Watterson

Bill Watterson is the mastermind behind the famous Calvin and Hobbs comic series. In this quote, we learn something very astute about productivity.

Nothing makes you more productive than last-minute panic. I hear it’s extra effective if it’s self-inflicted.

If you need a burst of energy, find ways to put yourself under unavoidable pressure. You’ll be surprised at how much you can achieve.

5. “The thing about being an unstoppable force is that you can really only enjoy the experience of being one when you have something to bash yourself against” — Allie Brosh

Snapshot from Menance Post (click here for full post)

Allie Brosh is the artist behind Hyperbole and Half, a personal fusion of comic and blog that’s maintained a cult following despite years of inactivity. She talks about depression and her childhood often and reveals her innermost struggles.

This quote highlights something intrinsic I think all humans feel. There’s no satisfaction in being super clever or strong if you never get to use your power. When setting goals and moving upward on your self-improvement scale, give yourself barriers to smash. Remembering that satisfaction will help you keep going when you start to stagnate and get lazy.

6. “Go and play. Run around. Build something. Break something. Climb a tree. Get dirty. Get in some trouble. Have some fun.” — Brom

An illustration from Lost Gods a Novel by Brom

When a gothic author and fantasy illustrator who thrives on painting in his basement tells you to play, there’s a lesson to be learned.

Being productive and improving yourself doesn’t have to be boring. You don’t need to wake up at 7:05 and follow your strict daily routine. At least you don’t need to do that EVERY morning. Give yourself time to play. Playing is how we learn, it’s how we refresh. It’s an important part of mental health. If you don’t play, you’ll just work all the time.

You only have one life, and it’s a magical thing. Don’t forget that on your journey to become “The Most Productive Person” in the room.

7. “Become good at cheating and you never need to become good at anything else.” — Banksy

Artwork by Banksy

Banksy is the world’s most famous graffiti artist. The mystery surrounding his identity has captured the imagination of millions. His artwork continues to make powerful statements about the world.

It’s difficult to choose a quote from Banksy — he has so many good ones. But how can you beat the lesson of cheating? All through school, society tells us that cheating isn’t how you become successful. But in the real world, things aren’t so clear cut.

Taking shortcuts, finding the fastest way to get something done, we call it “cheating” but in reality, it’s just being smart. Not everything needs to be hard all the time.

What will you create today?

Which artist inspired you the most? Let us know in the comments or by highlighting a quote. Productivity is an elusive thing, but so’s creativity. At the end of it all, the trick is to just have fun with it.

Need a better way to showcase your artwork? D Emptyspace is a free virtual gallery space where you can curate the exhibition of your dreams.

Make your portfolio stand out.

Download D Emptyspace for iOS:

Android version coming soon!

Follow D Emptyspace for more company updates and art-curated content!

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