To Show or Not to Show: Should You Show Your Art?

Showing your artwork is a very personal thing. I have mentioned many times before that this is the equivalent to a part of your own soul that is put into visual form on a canvas. When you work on a painting or drawing for hours on end or just have feelings that need to get out, you are bound to feel some connection with your artwork. So this inquiry involves two things… 1. Should you show your art in professional type shows, exhibitions, and venues? And 2. Should you allow anyone to see your art at any time? Even though these both involve showing artwork in some way, they are really very different questions.

First, if you have been painting a while it is hard to believe that you haven’t showed anyone your artwork at some point. Certainly, you would have been proud of a painting and decided to show it to close friends and family or hang it in your house. This is on a very small scale but it is still showing your work in some way. With the way of the world being to communicate via internet on social media of all types, people will usually start showing their work on one of those forums. Some people choose Deviant Art, some like Instagram, and others still prefer Facebook. There are other places to post your work but these are usually going to be the big ones to feature these. Facebook offers a lot of Groups that people can join that are titled everything under the sun. So, some artists choose to join “The Best Artwork from the Best Artists” and others will post under “The Bester Best Art from the Bester Best Artists”! Obviously I was joking about the names of the groups, but I have seen all kinds of names for this stuff.

When posting for the first time it can be a scary and exciting thing. You want to see what people will say about your work and maybe how many likes you get. People who post on social media will generally get all kinds of reactions about their work. Since others are also posting to see if they can get likes as well, it is often the case that your post may get ‘lost’ and you get very few likes….or you could be the person that posted at such a time that your art shows up on everybody’s timeline. You have no way of knowing how that will play out. You could also get a wide range of reactions, which can sometimes depend on the type of work that you do. That being said, I have legitimately seen artwork that was amazing (I mean really awesome) that got one or two likes…but then I have seen stuff that I would consider to be crap that gets hundreds of likes. You could reasonably get all the support in the world, or none at all…it depends on the people who are on at the time and their level of care with you in particular. There are sometimes just going to be people that hate you no matter what your work looks like. There are others that can’t be bothered with you.

You are probably wondering what the reasoning for this is. It’s pretty simple to explain. The reason boils down to EGO. Art in general, is a selfish undertaking. The people who are artists and who call themselves artists are usually the type of person that has placed all of their validity as a human being in their art. They will be super critical of their work…sure….but they are actually more critical of yours. It seems like a stupid thing really because in my opinion we get further as artists and as people when we can truly be supportive and even go as far as to help promote each other.

I used to reach out more to other established artists but had to pull back because I figured out that people were okay with getting your help and support, but not as much when it came to the return. I had one to many conversations with jealous artists that had some sort of odd fear that you being good at your craft made their work “less” in some way. No! They won’t say that to you. They will tell you things like “you aren’t trained, you didn’t go to school for art” or “you obviously don’t know anything about (insert something that they perceive as a weakness here)”. These personal attacks that are unrelenting happen because they feel threatened by you and your work. I won’t lie, some of these assholes have amazing work. Amazing work that I would stand next to in awe and give them their props if it weren’t for their shitty attitudes. We should all be friends, but we aren’t.

There were a few people I encountered over the years that I simply had to block. Some of the more self-serving people may start arguments with you and then when you say anything you are wrong…even an apology. So after many years of assessing this behavior from others, I just try to be constructive for other people, never try to break them down, and never ask for validation in any way. I never make the mistake of committing some sort of faux pas anymore and certainly NEVER apologize for anything. First, because I didn’t do anything to anyone else…I know this because I still treat other people like they are human and worthy. Second, because I am generally NOT sorry…at least not anymore.

The funny part is that I have an artist that lives in the same area as I do, and she has totally different art. I liked that she was putting all of it out there, and I liked all of her social media pages and supported her from the beginning. However, I noticed that she couldn’t be bothered to share my events or pages…she wasn’t even going to give me a like on the pages OR on any individual post. She just REFUSES to be supportive of me. I kind of thought it would be a fellowship of sorts when I started sharing my work, but it never was. Since then I realized that her personality made all of her work unbearable to look at for me. Like her nasty soul showed through the paintings. I unliked all of her pages and I don’t share anything for her, because she set the precedent of how we would interact. She is an “appearance” artist. She wants to appear to be more important than she is, and it is a delusion that her friends and family and other artists that don’t know any better feed into daily.

From time to time I notice that she will try to release something that is very similar to something I did not too long before that. Like I did a calendar and she did one and charged more…then I started doing video ads and of course she started doing it. I figured it does not really bother my business if she isn’t original, and I don’t have any hang ups about where I am with my work…so I don’t even bother to get mad about it. She is entitled to remain sub-standard….and that is really okay. Just a bit of advice about it, don’t argue over trivial details like that. If you know you did something first there isn’t a reason to even point it out to that person openly. They usually know exactly what they did, it’s best not to give them any reason to feel entitled to their crappy actions.

Moving on about the perils and wonders of sharing your work online…let’s talk about exhibitions and art shows. Some people will only show their art in museums. It seems a bit uppity, but if they feel like that does their work justice then that is what they should do. There are ways to get your work in museums and galleries, but that is a different post. Other artists attend the art shows and craft fairs which aren’t decided per talent so much as timing and them fronting the money to participate and have a table. These are great too…I don’t participate in these so much because I really don’t want to be outside. Not only do I not want to be outside, but I have an odd hang up about easels outside and the possibility of damage to my canvases. I know how dumb it sounds…but I have the same issue with people who take pianos outside and make music videos with them. I don’t think that they should be out there, it just doesn’t feel right to me….so I don’t do it, it doesn’t mean that you can’t, just not for ME.

There is a different way that people sometimes don’t realize is a good way to get some exposure. You could enter open calls or “Calls for Art”. The contests and grant opportunities as well as possible fellowships are definitely worth looking into. I personally enjoy going through these to see if there are any that I really want to get involved with. I have taken part in quite a few and I have gotten to experience some really cool events as a result. I may not prefer any single one of these opportunities…but I think that there is merit to all of them and even in a combination of them. As an artist you need to be able to identify whether you want to show your art. You have to be able to say whether you want to keep it limited to online showing and sharing…or do you want to go the craft fair route. It is okay to say museum only and nothing outside. This is up to you and your comfort level.

I recommend writing up your goals and making a plan that outlines your desired level of involvement. This isn’t meant to be a permanent plan that you have to strictly adhere to, but a guide and framework to help ensure that you know where to begin next. This is just another one of those special art business features that people don’t give you much info or guidance on, I am hoping this post is helpful for you because I certainly didn’t have this information available for me when I started. I ended up adjusting and changing my plan as circumstances in my life changed and as my business grew. I still try to show my art as much as possible, I’m just a lot more selective about where and when I do it at this point.

Let me know some of your ideas for sharing in the comments! Do you plan to keep your art under wraps or share as much as possible?

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