“Every artist ought to be an exhibitionist” Egbert Oudendag
Well, it’s over – our very first exhibition! It actually felt quite sad packing up and coming home at the end of a long – but very enjoyable week.
We had never tried to organise our own exhibition before – the natural step seemed to be to put together my paintings with Dave’s photography – and we knew from the start that we wanted to organise an event ourselves – to be able to put our own ‘mark’ on something and showcase our work. But it all still felt a bit daunting!
We are hugely grateful to the Holiday Inn hotel at Armação de Pêra for supporting us in this venture, and special thanks must go to Vicki Good at the hotel for all her encouragement and enthusiasm for this project.
So we had a venue – and an idea. And a title ‘Inspired by Light’. And a large sheet of paper and a pen to start planning! It was actually quite hard to find much help on the internet on how to set up and run your own art exhibition – so I thought it might be useful to share some hints and tips on here – for anyone else thinking of running a similar event. And I am sure there are lots of things we missed – so please do share your experiences with us too.
I can’t over-emphasise the need to plan well! With a background in education I soon sharpened my pencils and started drawing a timeline and plotting what needed to be done by when … much to Dave’s horror! We already have a business plan and good ‘branding’ in place – and love Vistaprint for its business cards and banners, so some things came together quite easily.
One of the best things we put together was a professional Press Pack – as a result we had some amazing support from our local English speaking newspapers out here in the Algarve (thank you Algarve Resident and the Portugal News!) and also great coverage from online newspapers and magazines too (thanks Lagos 365; Algarve Inspirations and the Algarve Daily News) – not to mention YouTube, Facebook and Twitter – thank you to everyone that shared and tweeted for us!
We also handed out lots of leaflets during the event – it can actually be fun to meet new people and start chatting to them (not for the faint-hearted though – some people can be quite rude if you offer them a leaflet!) and local businesses and restaurants were very amenable to displaying our posters and flyers for us.
Displaying our work
This was a fun challenge! We had a lovely room in the hotel – but unsurprisingly we couldn’t hang anything on the walls – a common problem if you are not using a purpose-built studio space. After much scratching of heads and being determined to overcome this we wandered round our local DIY store (we love Izi-Build now!) and discovered ‘cavalettes’ – wooden A-frames designed to be used one either end of a piece of wood as a support … a bit of ingenuity and chatting them up and we soon had 18 of these on order – a snip at only 3 Euros each! Adding a nice piece of white mounted board to each side, and a simple hook system – and we were in business! They looked amazingly good stood on tables, presenting the paintings and photos at a perfect height, and were extremely secure too. (and re-usable!)
We had recently been to an exhibition of one of my favourite artists, John Hammond, in a ‘posh’ gallery – and I was really unimpressed as half the paintings were stuck on the wall so high up you could hardly see them! We were determined not to end up with a similar system, so we were very pleased with our display:
I enjoy finding out about a painting when I am at an exhibition – and often find the catalogue is quite bare – so I decided to add little information cards to each painting – just a few lines to explain why I painted the piece, or what inspired me. You can see an example of this below:
We also decided that the catalogue would only be available after the exhibition – so that we could send it to people that had visited – or were unable to make the dates – but would give the people who actually attended the exhibition the first view of the work. You can now download the catalogue here:
Designing the room
We wanted the exhibition to have a relaxed – but professional – feel. Nothing too stuffy or unwelcoming! So we had music playing, comfy chairs to sit on, a bowl of sweets (essential!) and a children’s colouring area (where I could be found if it was quiet!)
We also had a free prize draw for a framed photograph – and our congratulations go to Nicholas from Lagos who won! We were surprised at the number of people who had to be encouraged to enter the draw – we heard so many people say ‘oh, I never win anything!’
Our strapline was ‘Affordable Art for All to Enjoy’ and we were determined to have a range of products on sale that were affordable – so we had greetings cards for 1 Euro, A4 photo prints for 15 Euros; A3 photo prints for 25 Euros; limited edition A4 prints for 20 Euros, framed photographic prints for 50 Euros; and my paintings ranged from 70 -90 Euros.
We sold lots! So we think we got the pricing right!
Visitors and Comments
We had visitors from all over the world! Canada; Norway; Finland; Latvia; the US; as well as Portugal and the UK.
One of our favourite things was our Comments Book – so many people wrote such lovely things in the book, and we will make sure this comes with us to future events too. Here are some of our treasured comments:
“Great presentation, unique style with fabulous colours and use of light. Both medias reflect the Algarve with style and a fresh approach” CS (Algarve)
“Here’s to mackerel and chickens – my faves they are, plus that yummy door!” GM (Canada)
“Very relaxing, professional presentation of work that you clearly enjoy!!” S family (Stockport)
“Wonderful exhibition. We loved it. Thank you. Good luck for the future” K&C
“Super job. We look forward to seeing the paintings on our wall…” D,J&J
“Thank you for your friendly attention” K&T (Finland)
“Beautiful work. Great visit. Thanks” P&J (Canada)
“Inspiring and wonderful work – your talent should be seen worldwide. Many thanks” J (London)
The comments were really special, everyone who visited stopped and chatted and were very complimentary – there’s a lovely quote that says:
“It’s not our art, but our heart that’s on display” Gary Holland
So it was especially nice that everyone was so positive!
Other things we learnt as we went along!
1 Have a good system ready to record sales! We had a receipt book and all the usual things – but had to jig around with our ‘what we have sold’ record a few times … we wanted to keep a record of prints that sold and took a few goes to get that working well!
2 Be prepared to go home and start printing more pictures! We sold so many on the first day that we had to make more that evening ready for the next day!
3 Expect to have quiet times (good for catching up with things!) and then madly busy times – and you can’t plan these! And every day had a different pattern to it as well!
4 Being there to actually meet people and talk to them about our work was invaluable – and really enjoyable. Much nicer than the detachment you must feel if you leave your work in a gallery for someone else to sell for you.
5 Don’t put the bowl of sweets too near to your chair – we kept eating them!!
We are not sure what we are going to do next! We had such a great time doing this, and it went ever better than we could have hoped for – so we definitely want to do more events like this. We are hoping to be back in the hotel again for a week in September; and we are currently thinking up some new ideas – so watch this space!
And if you are interested in any of our work and would like to see more – please check out our website A3 Art – which we are about to re-vamp!
And our thanks go to everyone that helped make this possible – and special thanks to everyone that took the time to come and visit us, left lovely comments, and also bought our work. We hope that they will bring you much pleasure and enjoyment.