5 Tips for Organizing Your First Illustration Exhibit

I spent yesterday morning setting up and installing my artwork this week’s solo show opening at the Pompano Beach Cultural Center. I was graciously assisted by the curator herself, Juliana, and another staff member, Justin, who installed the frames like a wizard! Here are some tips I would like to share with you from this experience.

Tips for successfully and rapidly installing artwork for an exhibition:

  • Plan ahead of time: As soon as I got the email with the generous offer for a solo show at the center I immediately started to organize in my mind how I would plan this out in order for everything to go smoothly. It’s important to be professional and understand that an invitation like this should never be taken lightly, and that means that you will be a part of a team (in the place where the exhibit will take place) and there are schedules and people’s jobs that need to be taken into consideration.

  • Draw a layout of the artwork in the place where they will be displayed: This might seem like a no-brainer but you’d be amazed how many artists don’t even ask for a floor plan and photos of the place, or even a visit, of the area where they will be hanging their stuff. I wasn’t in Pompano at the moment I received the invitation so first thing I did was ask them to email me a jpg of the floor plan and some photos of the walls. So ask away, they will be more than happy to supply that information to you.

  • Create a theme or a story: If you have a collection of pieces that go well together, go a step further by telling a story in the way that they are displayed. In my case for example, I was small clusters of botanical pieces, in groups of three, some in black and white other in color. The natural thing that came to mind was to display them just in the manner that the process to make them takes place. So I started off with the black and white illustrations and then the full color illustrations. And then I thought, well, why not go back a little more and show how those black and white illustrations come to life? So I started the sequence of the pieces with some hand-drawn, micron pen, ink studies. I then decided to create some arabesque embellishments in Adobe Illustrator and had those printed and cut out as vinyl decals (stickers) that could be stuck on the wall. Each mini-series (the ink studies, the black and white illustrations, the full color pieces) was carefully and thoughtfully embellished with stickers that were placed underneath and on the sides of the frames. It brought a fresh and cohesive look to the entire exhibit.

  • Don’t be afraid of incorporating new media: The fun thing about exhibits today is that there are endless possibilities of adding video, visuals, 3d mapping, and all sorts of new and different technologies. You don’t have to go super fancy or spend money really! I was lucky that they offered me a TV screen for this show! It will give me chance of displaying my process, in video, by showing some of the time lapses and speed paintings I currently share on my social media channels, such as Instagram and YouTube. All I need is a USB flash drive to hook up to the tv and I’m good to go! The TV will be hung right next to the place where the exhibit will start.

  • Framing and Transporting: An overlooked part of this whole process is how to properly frame and transport your work (safely!) to the gallery. You have several options, among them hiring somebody to professionally frame your prints, or you can learn to do it yourself but you need to find the right supplies. I talk a little bit about it in my latest vlog. I suggest buying a roll of kraft paper to wrap each piece individually so it doesn’t get dirty or scratched. And use those frame cardboard corners for protection! Remember, my illustrations are prints and they are framed, so this might change depending on the type of medium you are working with.

This is just a short summary of the things I took into consideration when preparing everything for this week’s show. If you have any additional tips I would love to hear about them!