Skip to content

18 tips for a successful art show

August 10, 2011

hello dear friends. last friday was my very first solo art show. it was such a lovely evening. there was sooooo much work that went into this show. hours of painting, stitching, preparing and promoting. we had a huge turn-out and i made a ton of connections. i sold a few things, but more importantly , i got my art in front of lots of different people.

there are a few things that i did right and a few that i completely missed. so i thought it would be a great opportunity to give you all a few tips to putting together a successful art show.

18 tips for a successful art show

i choose hope

tip # 1  positive state of mind. ultimately you want to sell your artwork, right? but if selling is the only goal of your show, you will be setting yourself up for disappointment. what if none of your pieces sell? you are headed for a huge crash. check your expectations for the show. make your goal meeting tons of people and getting your name out there. because let’s face it, sometimes you need to get your work in front of someone several times before they are ever ready to purchase. and you never know when a person might come back later to purchase that one painting that has been haunting them. or they might just tell all of their friends about your work which could result in sales for you.

tip # 2  promote your show by bringing a few pieces into the store or gallery a month or two before the show. i hung twelve mini paintings in the store a whole month before the show. and guess what? i sold three originals before the show had ever even begun. and there were a ton of people who came back on opening night just to see the rest of my work. that is success.

tip # 3  have cards printed up with your bio and contact information to hand out. i made up my cards and had them printed as photographs. they looked super professional and i had something tangible to give to people on the night of show. this gives them the opportunity to follow your presence online, check out your store and what not.

18 tips for a successful art show

bio sheet

tip # 4  promote your other services. i teach altered book classes. so i brought examples of my altered books and flyers for my class. i met tons of people who would love to take my classes. so people who maybe don’t want to buy a painting, might want to learn to paint themselves.

tip # 5  an email list is essential. i am just kicking myself right now because this is one of those things that just slipped through the cracks. you need to have a place for people to sign up to get on your email list. this way you can follow up with all of those people who were impressed with your show and your work. i was planning to do this but just completely forgot.

tip # 6  make sure that you have a wide range of prices. my prices started at $6 (cards) and went all the way up to $550. this way everyone can afford something. when you sell a lot of those lower priced items, it can really add up quickly.

18 tips for a successful art show

tip # 7  hire a photographer. or in my case, ask your amazing sister to take pictures for you. you won’t want to be worried about taking pictures the night of the show, but you will be so thankful to have them afterwards. make a list of pictures that you want for your photographer. i didn’t do this and i wish i had. i really wanted to get pictures of the cupcakes and one with laura the owner of the store. but i didn’t get them because i didn’t tell my sister what i wanted.

tip # 8  hang your paintings a few days before the show. i am so glad that we did this. i can’t imagine how hectic it would have been if we hung the pictures right before the show. you don’t want to be rushing around right before the show. this gives you plenty of time to remember any last minute tweaking. and make sure to have all of your little cards printed up for the day that you are going to hang your pictures. this way you can put up the cards with your paintings at the same time.

18 tips for a successful show

hanging the show

tip # 9  edit. you don’t want to hang every piece you have ever painted. you want to choose paintings that are cohesive and flow together. sometimes less is more.

tip # 10  get everything done a day or two before the show. this way, the day of the show you can just focus on relaxing. it really helps your attitude.

tip # 11  inventory. make a list of all the pieces in your show beforehand. make sure to include prices on this list. this way, there will be no confusion about which pieces have sold and which ones haven’t. make sure you and the gallery owner both have a copy.

tip # 12  plan to eat ahead of time. you don’t want to be starving and have no energy to greet your guests. i didn’t do the best on this one, but i did find a restaurant up the street that i could grab a quick bite before the show.

18 tips for a successful art show

art show

tip # 13  only work with people that you love. i think this is soooo key to having a fluidly running show. laura and i connected right away and i knew intuitively that we would be a good fit for each other. my work was perfect for her store. if you don’t feel right about something, then it won’t be a good partnership. this includes the cut that the store or gallery owner takes. if you don’t love it, don’t do it. i can’t imagine how stressful it would have been for me if i didn’t have an awesome connection with the store owner.

tip # 14  food and beverages. usually the gallery or store will provide these things, but they are so helpful to having a successful show. work this out with the gallery or store owner ahead of time.

tip # 15  promotion, promotion, promotion. i think you have to start at least a month ahead of time promoting your show. hand out flyers. send out emails. tell all of your friends and family. tell everyone on facebook. carry fliers in your purse so you can hand them out in line at the grocery store. just get the word out however possible.

tips for a successful art show


tip # 16  ongoing show. it’s always nice to have an extended show. for example, my artwork will be hanging in the store for an entire month after opening night. i think this is key to getting more sales. who knows when you might sell more artwork. you might have to ask to keep your artwork up.

tip # 17  end the show with a wholesale order. if your show is in a actual store, you might think about asking the owner if they want to place a wholesale order. this doesn’t really work with galleries because most galleries only work on consignment. but if your work resounds with customers then the store owner might just be up for carrying your work on a longterm basis.

tips for a successful art show

chatting it up

tip # 18  have fun. be yourself. talk yourself up. in the end, people are more likely to buy artwork from an artist they like. so don’t be afraid to put yourself out there and enjoy yourself.

one final note: i don’t consider having an art show the end all of being an artist. they are a lot of work!!! and many times you don’t see very much fruit from all of the work that goes into the show.  i think artists today must shift from the “gallery” mindset as the only way to make a living as an artist. because art shows are not my sole source of income as an artist, i am not crushed if not a lot of pieces sell. i sold three pieces before the show, one on opening night and tons of cards.

what i do love about art shows is the fact that it forces you as an artist to create a ton of new pieces. it helps you step out of your box and really evaluate your style. to me that is more successful than selling a ton of paintings.

38 Comments leave one →
  1. August 10, 2011 1:23 pm

    Awesome Wendy!! Thank you so much!!! This was so helpful. . And I loveeed the pictures.

  2. karin permalink
    August 10, 2011 1:24 pm

    Thanks for putting everything into perspective and of course all the good tips from someone who has been there and done it. Am sure you will get loads of call backs for your classes or work.

    Brave Girl


  3. August 11, 2011 12:40 am

    Hi Wendy
    You just provided us with a boat load of information. Thank You for taking the time to evlauate your first show, the patience to make a check list, and most importantly for sharing what you learned. Everything you have said makes sense, I will keep this blog in “my favorties” when the time comes for my first show I will use it as my checklist. Thanks, again!

  4. August 11, 2011 9:33 pm

    You’re gorgeous and amazing. This is going into my bookmark folder right now!

  5. August 12, 2011 8:35 am

    What a wonderful post. I love that you are describing this from the perspective of your first show (first of many). Your work is so refreshing and bright against the rough brick wall!

  6. August 12, 2011 6:47 pm

    Thank You Wendy!!! This post was just what I needed. One question.. How many pieces did you have in your show? Just curious.

    • August 12, 2011 7:08 pm

      hi sunshine! let’s see… i had approximately had 38 pieces but 9 of them were totally only 5 x 5 canvases. so i guess that is a lot, even though it didn’t seem like that many. i hope that helps.

    • August 12, 2011 7:16 pm

      sorry i totally counted wrong, it was more like 32 with prints and watercolor originals. i was off by a few. and that is not including the door.

  7. August 12, 2011 7:20 pm

    Thank You Wendy 🙂 Cheers to you and your first art show!!

  8. August 18, 2011 9:19 am

    Thanks for the list Wendy. I agree with you on the meaning of success! This list is going to evernote.

  9. Kristin Anderson permalink
    September 10, 2011 10:11 am

    We were visiting from Texas when we stumbled upon your art at this store. It is some of the most inspiring and fabulous work I have ever seen! I can’t wait to buy it up! (need to save some $$ first!) I just signed on to be notified when your ETSY store goes online. Can’t wait to send it to all of my friends – I know they will go ga-ga for your gorgeous work. Thanks!!

  10. October 11, 2011 9:05 pm

    Great list thanks for this.

  11. October 11, 2011 9:46 pm

    Found you through a post on my Kelly Rae Roberts Flying Lessons Facebook group. Your work is so fabulous. I too was injured 5 years ago. Art has been a Godsend, and am currently trying to take it to the next level, but the victim mentality (not to mention the pain) has hindered me. You are an inspiration, and I cant wait to read more about your journey. Im so thankful I have found you ❤

    • October 12, 2011 6:57 pm

      keep painting kelley! i totally know where you are at because i was there too a little while ago. blessings dear!!!

  12. October 12, 2011 6:05 am

    Great tips. Thank you so much for sharing them. I was noticing how well your work looks against that brick wall. It just seems such a natural for the colors and style of your paintings.

  13. October 12, 2011 11:05 am

    I also found you through the Flying Lessons Facebook group & had also seen something of yours last week on Pintrest…Thanks for the great tips!

  14. September 24, 2013 1:23 pm

    great advice!!! thank you for that!

  15. Kathryn Davis permalink
    February 11, 2014 8:03 am

    My daughter is having a portfolio review and needs to hand things out to the people at the show any ideas?

  16. Karen permalink
    June 5, 2015 2:35 pm

    This was all extremely helpful. Thank you! I too am a mom who paints from home, I understand the crazy! 🙂 I am debating doing my first art festival. Application due this week! This was very helpful advice. I really love your art too. Love it! Beautiful style and inspiring writing. Thanks again.

  17. July 8, 2015 3:19 pm

    Dear Wendy, thank you for posting all these ideas. Numbering worked for me. I have to do a show on July 22 – 24, Paradise, Montana, at the Montana Baroque Music Festival for my deceased mom. I am excited about being unconventional and making it fun and interesting and stimulating for the viewers to experience. I don’t have to sell anything. I just have to get her name out there so that art people, buyers, collectors, gallery owners, will say, “I want some of her art in my business.”
    I may put a separate enclave with MY art in it. Art people talk about who influenced someone and I can talk about how she influenced me. The viewers can compare and contrast hers and mine. Hers will be serious. Mine will be playful and joyous. I love the idea if I have both of us there using the Robert Frost line “You come, too.” You do whatever art form you are drawn the most to.

  18. Theresa Catalano permalink
    February 2, 2017 9:25 pm

    So glad to have found your page Wendy! I am about to show my paintings at a festival (first time) You have supplied me with some good suggestions & I thank you. I took Art in High School, many, many years ago & being the procrastinator, that I am just always said to self, “maybe someday I’ll paint”! Last June I have became acutely I’ll and almost lost my life. Following my discharge from the hospital, I was homebound & just had an insatiable urge to paint. The best, best therapy in the world! It was as if God spoke to me……And so I start and to date have completed about 50 very decent paintings. I have sold a few, but gallery & shows are what I really am aiming for. Thanks again Wendy! Best of luck to your future endeavors.

  19. February 22, 2017 7:08 pm

    Thanks for the tips! I’m showing my work on Saturday, firtst time I have a stand all by myself, and I’m excited, and nervous!
    Love your positive and creative attitude!
    I’m going to follow your page.

    Keep up the good work!

    Margarita from

  20. February 25, 2017 8:45 pm

    Great guidelines for a successful art show. I am about to plan a show at a community gallery and have found your hints very, very helpful. Thank you so much!

  21. March 9, 2017 4:09 pm

    Thank you for taking the time to share this with us, Wendy. I’m in my first Art Show this weekend in Santa Barbara and you gave me some great ideas. And I love your work! Thanks!

  22. July 14, 2017 4:39 pm

    I love your work! I just started my own blog and photography page. I love mixed media as well! I just love art period! Your work is beautiful and inspiring!

  23. October 8, 2017 1:17 pm
    I am considering doing a charity art show. I have a question. When you said you sold cards for $5 did you mean prints of your work made into cards? And how big are the cards. Thank you

    • October 13, 2017 9:42 am

      This post is from years ago, so it’s hard for me to remember. I did 4 x 6 prints mounted on 5 x 7 cards. I think? Good luck!

  24. October 10, 2017 3:12 pm

    Loved reading about your art journey. I am having my first One Woman Show tomorrow in Santa Barbara. 35 oil paintings 24×18 and smaller. Kind of nervous but will just try to relax and enjoy myself. I liked your tips and will now do the email list, like you suggested.
    I am lucky to have a sponsor because it can become expensive with the hors d’oeuvres and wine and renting the space. Sent out about 100 invitation and I think about 60 will attend.
    At least I don’t have to pay the gallery 50% of the sales (if I sell any).
    I have to use easels instead of hanging them on the walls, which is a pain, but they show up nicely on individual easels.
    My tip: write a bio and a statement and print them up on cards which will be on a table when they first walk in.
    Wish me luck. I’ll write you a post Show note.
    Birgitta Baker Website.

  25. Justin permalink
    January 12, 2018 12:21 am

    Thank you for your tips. I have my first show tomorrow and was really worried. But you answered some of my questions and concerns so much appreciated!

  26. Vedam permalink
    January 22, 2018 4:22 am

    Hey..nice article.:)

  27. April 10, 2018 6:13 am

    Great info.


  1. Components of a Successful Art Show Opening - Arts Spark
  2. Layout Planning | Ryan Hollinger
  3. Considering Audience | Ryan Hollinger
  4. Displaying your own art work in a gallery | The London Economic

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s