Blog / 2008 / The Fine Art of Presenting Your Work

May 22, 2008

Art should explain itself. It should be its own reason, its own promoter. Only, it doesn’t and isn’t, not in today’s information-overload world. There is too much art out there for simply excellent work to get noticed. An artist’s oeuvre requires a promotional machine behind it in order to attract an audience.

Sometimes I resent how much energy promotion steals from studio time, but, on my better days, I integrate the marketing aspect of what I do with the rest of it. Since I believe that art isn’t art until it is seen—until someone engages with it—getting an audience is technically part of the creative process!

So far as I can tell, this is what it means to present your work properly:

  1. Document your work.
  2. And do it in a way that flatters your art. A lot of work these days looks better in reproduction than in person. While you don’t want that to be the case with your art, you do want to be able to compete in reproduction.

  3. Have all the accoutrements of a professional artist.
  4. This means business cards and postcards to hand out, as well as a website to show off your portfolio. Without these promotional bits and pieces, no one will believe that you take your work seriously.

  5. Learn to love writing artist statements.
  6. And I say statements, plural! The idea that your entire body has to fit into one elegant and inviting paragraph is nonsense. You should know what your art as a whole is about and be able to sum it up in a sentence or two, but statements are about more than that.

  7. Forget grant-writing.
  8. When I was starting out, I was on the fence about granting bodies. I liked the idea of being recognized for my work in a financial but strictly non-commercial way, but I also had a need to do my thing without feeling beholden to anyone. That said, I did end up applying for a grant in 2005, and, when I was rejected, I realized I was misdirecting my energy.

    What an artist needs is attention, not grant money. Recognition in the press will lead to all sorts of good things, including awards, so press releases are the place to focus writing efforts. Besides being the only way to get reviewed, announcements are an ideal way to practice writing about your work in an engaging and succint manner. Show journalists and critics how easy and/or vital it would be to write about your series. Make them want to tell the story of your work.

If you want more personalized help figuring out how to present your art, you can hire me as an art guide!
Gwenn Seemel photographed while doing a TV interview
photo by David
UPDATE

August 29, 2016

Since posting this article, I have won a few grants, and I have plenty to say about how to make that happen for you. For more about what it means to be a professional artist versus a hobbyist, check out this video.

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