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Open House Studios

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Having an exhibition is the traditional way of showing your work to the general public and daunting as it may seem, the time will come when you feel that you are ready to put your work in front of an audience. This you can do in a solo exhibition or else in a group show where there is safety in numbers and you will not feel so exposed. A lack of exhibition spaces can be a problem, so the best option for that first venture might be through an Open Studio event.
Opening your house or studio to the general public is often the easiest and most convenient way of showing your work. You will find that they are mostly organised by local councils or arts organisations that have the staff and recourses to pay for advertising and promotion. Simply by paying a fee you will be able to participate in the event and no one will judge your work accept for the many visitors who come to your door.
I have been exhibition my work in this way for a number of years and I keep on doing it because it gives me the opportunity to present a small scale selection of the work I have done over the year to friends and casual visitors alike.
However, the decision as to what to show can prove difficult. Apart from your friends and relatives, the audience that will come to your show is going to be local and as such may like more decorative or brightly coloured work rather than the high seriousness that might appeal to your more arty friends. Contemporary art practise is not to everyone’s taste and if it is sales you are interested in, then a safer option might have to be considered.
Local audiences might be interested in local scenes but do not underestimate them as they can be discerning. There can be no excuse for a reduction in quality. It is best to exhibit pictures in a range of sizes and subject matter using a variety of different media, and with well-chosen prices. Distressing, as it may seem, it is possible that your potential buyer is thinking of how that picture will look on their living room wall and whether or not it will go with the curtains. So colour, size and framing as well as subject matter are all important considerations to take into account.
Advertising is crucial. This is done usually through booklet containing information about studios in the locality. Distributed by the organisers it will features a tiny cropped picture of the artwork, along with the opening times of the venue and of course the address. They will also advertise through a website and although the organisers will also supply general invitation cards, it is often better if you make your own personal cards. This should include the Open Studio logo; map, address and times of opening which, together with an attractive picture can be distributed around your neighbourhood. It is also important to send individual press releases to the local press together with a photograph. Some local papers will be weekly, others monthly, and local property magazines like to have articles that include paintings to use for their interior design features.
By far the hardest duty is to turn your studio or living room into a venue for showing work and that means tidying up. Many hours later, the available wall space has been hung with your latest creations, the advertising balloons or notices placed on the street outside and the price list has been typed. With your homemade cards on display you are ready to receive your first visitor. Do not underestimate the importance of these cards, as it gives the visitor the opportunity for the price of a few pounds, to make a dignified exit while congratulating you on how much they enjoyed the show.
Over the course of a weekend or two, the world comes to your door and admires your work. As an artist what more could you want.
Jim will be taking part in the Richmond upon Thames ARThouse open studios event on Saturday 4th and Sunday 5th July 2015. Contact him on jimcowan@oca.ac.uk or see website here for more details. OCA students are most welcome.

Posted by author: James Cowan
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3 thoughts on “Open House Studios

  • Remember when looking at art do so with a critical eye and not an assumption that all art is of good quality, often artists starting out with no formal training take part and the work can be variable. Visiting with a question in mind, such as ‘what benefits are there to a gallery over a domestic situation for showing work’ can help frame your visit. But as Jim says an Open Studio event can be a good a place as any to start showing your work to the world.

    • I’ve been showing at the Oxford Artweeks – same concept as Open House Studios – for 5 years now. There is a difference between the general public and artists when they ask about work, but the value (from a student perspective (mine)) about talking about the work is equally as beneficial as showing it.

  • Our London ‘village’ does an open studios ‘walk’ where you can visit a succession of studios in a 1 or 2 mile circuit. It makes for an interesting outing including jewellers, sculptors, painters, printmakers, glass melters etc in many media. The quality is variable but it is interesting as a student to ‘prove’ ie test the quality of your own output against that offered.

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