10 Things I Learned from My First Art Show

Tuesday, 27 December 2011


Sorry for the long absence from the blog! I've been busy participating in my first group art show, Thank You for Playing, which is currently on display at the Living Arts Centre in Mississauga. The show is a love letter to the 8-bit video games we grew up with in the 80s, and it features a neat mix of painting, video, textile, and installation work. I highly recommend you check it out when the gallery reopens after winter break on January 3 :)

Although I've taken art classes intermittently throughout school, I don't consider myself a practicing artist and I never had the opportunity to show work in a formal gallery space.  But when my best friend approached me with the idea for Thank You for Playing, the media studies grad in me couldn't resist taking this enormous encyclopedia of visual iconography and pop culture and running with it.

The experience was both rewarding and gruelling at times, and I learned a number of important things that should help the next time around:

1. Fight the urge to procrastinate.  Even if deadlines seem really far away, it's best to get the troubleshooting part of your creative process out of the way early on, so you can give yourself better chances of coming out with a polished (and finished!) project.

2. Group management is a full-time job.  Between chasing people for artist statements, process images, and finished work, it can feel like you're a full-time personal assistant with no time to devote to your own pieces. Make it easier on yourself by choosing reliable artists to work with - ones that will respect not only your group timelines, but also your personal time.

3. Consider the size, scale, and quantity of work.  If your group is not collaborating in a mutual space or sharing progress shots regularly, you may be surprised to find a largely empty gallery when everyone shows up with their pieces on installation week.  Encourage everyone to see the gallery space before starting to create so you can collectively gauge how many and how large your artworks should be to fill the space.

4. Ask for help. Especially for installation projects.  Large-scale or highly detailed artwork can usually be parcelled out to heroic friends and family in the early building stages. Find a balance between 'no artist is an island' and 'too many cooks ruin the soup' and try to be clear in communicating your concept.

5. Eat a healthy diet. Between jobs, trips to the art store, friends/family, and life in general, it's simply too easy to pull into a drive-thru window looking for a quick, treat-based fix when meal time rolls around.  Do yourself a favour and try to organize as many healthy meals and snacks as you can to properly fuel the fire for all of those late night art sessions :)

6. The simplest solutions are often the best ones.  A small design flaw in my Pixel Painter installation piece (see video screen shot below) resulted in some 3 x 3 x 3 cubes getting stuck in a cubby space that was 3 x 3 x 4.  Luckily, a little spray paint and some sticky tack transformed a regular foam brush handle into a handy box retriever that could be replicated and replaced when needed.

7. An excellent curator can cure (almost) all ills. Speaking of which, I can't speak highly enough about our talented curator Cole Swanson. He came up with the solution above and he also problem solved our initial lack of work by making helpful suggestions to frame and enlarge our giclee pieces and he used colour to build different environments to properly fill the space as well.

8. Start your social media campaign early.  Twitter, Facebook, and listservs are all great ways of building an audience for your show before it even opens.  Plus, many mainstream media outlets now have social media accounts too, so it's a smart way to connect with art writers and chase producers too.

9. When conducting broadcast interviews, be genuine but brief.  I was lucky enough to be interviewed by Space Channel for their program innerSPACE, and I distinctly recall a couple of times when I got lost in my own answer and needed to backtrack out of the sentence in the most cohesive manner possible...keep it short and sweet and the editor looking for a good sound bite will thank you too.

10. Appreciate the independent/local media that come out and do awesome coverage like this fun feature from The Oddcast Show:





The show is on until January 22 and the Living Arts Centre Gallery is open from Tuesday - Saturday (10 am - 4 pm) and Sunday (1 pm - 4 pm). 

Happy Holidays! 

2 notes:

Madd Sketch said...

Very awesome!

lai-mai said...

Thanks Aaron! And thanks for coming out to support the opening too :D

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