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By Fine Art: By Belinda Del Pesco
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5 Alternatives to Art Exhibits During a Pandemic

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Alternative Plans during a Pandemic (for Artists)

We’re among thousands of artists who’s exhibit schedule went dark this Spring. Artistic exposure during a Pandemic has never been experienced by contemporary artists. What should makers do in this situation?

In the previous post, I mentioned scuppered plans to show watercolors and printmaking at several art festivals this month. Being bummed about it won’t help me. Especially when I compare this hiccup to bereaving families around the globe. Instead, let’s take a look at alternatives to art exhibits, so we can increase exposure and potentially generate income. We artists need a plan.

Rooster Comb, 16 x 12 watercolor on paper – available here.

Create an Online Art Sale

Host an online art sale. Use your mailing list (Here are some tips for creating and managing a mailing list on MailChimp.) to let your followers know that you’re having a virtual art exhibit to replace the in person exhibit that got scotched by the pandemic.

Launch an Etsy Shop. Announce your new shop to your mailing list with a discount code. Here is an article about opening a shop on Etsy, and here is an online course with tips and tricks specific to Etsy marketing.

Not interested in Etsy? Create a separate Page on your blog to list your art for sale. Insert a paypal button with the price next to the title, size and medium of each piece of art. Set an opening and a closing date for a discounted sale, just like you’d have in a scheduled show.

Cross post your art sale to all your social media accounts, and email everyone in your family and friends list too. Here are instructions to create a new page if you’re using WordPress.

Prong Setting 12 x 18 watercolor on paper (available here)

Art Studio Housekeeping

Use the time to get your art inventory sorted and accounted for.  Pull out every piece of art you’ve created, and make piles of art by subject (still life, figurative, landscape, etc.) Make sure each piece has your signature on the front. Sign it again on the back, along with the year you made it, the medium, measurements and the title. (If you don’t have titles, take this how to name your art course, and title them all.) 

Photograph, or scan, each piece of art (yes, all of them) at 300 dots per inch. Save each digital image file as title.8×10.300.jpg (That is: the title of the art, the dimensions of the art, and the resolution of the scan.) Then, reduce the size of the image file from 300dpi file to 72dpi using image software on your computer, and save the file again with all the same title details, except change the 300 to 72.

Keyhole to Spring, 20 x 18 monotype with pastel on paper (available here)

Organized Digital Studio

By titling and scanning your art, you’ll have a digital image of each piece you’ve created, ready for both print use (the 300dpi version), and web use (the 72 dpi version). Print postcards, greeting cards, phone cases, etc. with the 300dpi files. Use the 72 dpi files on your web site, blog, emails, newsletters, social media, invoices and show applications.

Keep all the image files in one art folder on your hard drive, and back it up to a cloud or an external hard drive. Sort and store all the original art in a safe, organized, dry place.

This sequence – title the art, then scan and save the file in two sizes, and then store the art – should be the first thing you do when you finish a painting.

You’ll be totally prepared to add image files to an application, an invoice, a newsletter or a blog post. You’ll know the dimensions of the art without pulling it out to re-measure. And you’ll have a record of everything you created, sorted chronologically, in one place on your hard drive.

Secret Island Anchorage, 12 x 18 watercolor on paper (available here)

Exhibit in an Online Show

Research online art exhibits. Look for opportunities to submit your work to shows domestically and abroad. There are online competitions, fundraising exhibits, magazine contests and social media auctions. You can participate in an online exhibit with nothing more than a good scan of your work (see the previous section on that), an entry fee and a completed application. 

Sage & Cider, 12 x 16 watercolor on paper (available here)

Print on Demand or POD

List your art on a Print on Demand site. Choose a site that fits your work, upload the image scans, fill out all the details and set the pricing. The company hosting the images takes a cut of your funds in exchange for printing and shipping your art as a print, a poster, a mousepad, a phone cover or a pillow. Read more about some of the options for Print on Demand here.

Cafe Coffee Date 15.5 x 10 Watercolor on paper (available here)

Serve Your Patrons on Patreon

Start a Patreon account. Patreon takes its name from the word patron - a person who gives financial or other support to a person, organization, or activity. Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo and Pontormo were supported by the patronage of Cosimo di Medici.

In this modern version, you create priced tiers of membership, and then post instruction, art or something your patrons want on a regular basis. In 2019, Patreon creators reached a watermark of earning one billion dollars on the platform. That’s a lotta cabbage, my friend.

Patreon Examples

  • Heather Rooney is creating real time photorealistic drawing videos for ten dollars per month.
  • Shayda Campbell is creating journaling, drawing and watercolor painting tutorials.
  • Melody Hoffman is teaching knitting on Patreon.
  • Louise DeMasi is creating watercolor and acrylic painting tutorial videos

Untethered Cultivar 6.75 x 8.75 Monotype Ghost Print with Colored Pencil (available here)

Bonus Actions for Artists During a Pandemic
  • Start a blog.
  • Start posting your work to social media with appropriate hashtags.
  • Update your Artist’s Statement.
  • Create a signature block for all your outbound emails that includes links to your webite, etsy shop and social media accounts.
  • Update your resume.
  • Build a new invoice template with a logo and a photo of you.
  • redesign your business cards.
  • Start a YouTube Channel
  • Take a new bio photo.
  • Begin work on a new series of art.
  • Take an online art workshop on the same week as a bevy of your friends. Afterwards, arrange a Zoom meeting with all of them to try your new skills, make some art and drink wine.

Caricaturist 13.5 x 9.25 watercolor on paper (available here)

Action over Panic

If these action items don’t meet the mark to generate immediate income, or viral, global exposure, we will still be ready for our next artist-life chapters. Being active, having a plan, ticking ToDo’s from a list of worthwhile endeavors aimed at improving an artist’s life is far better than sitting slumped in a dark corner mumbling into our beer. Capiche? Let’s get to work.

Thanks for stopping by and I’ll see you in the next post!


P.S. To verify that I’m usually talking to myself in these missives, I’m posting a Virtual Art Festival sale in my Etsy Shop. From Friday morning – May 1st at 12:00am PST to Sunday night May 3rd at midnight PST, everything – including framed work – is 20% off – with Free Domestic Shipping. Collect some art for yourself, tell your friends, and consider giving art as Mother’s Day gifts. Thank you for your amazing support.

Overture from the Sky 12 x 9 watercolor on paper (available here)

Art Quote

Writing and reading decrease our sense of isolation. They deepen and widen and expand our sense of life: they feed the soul. When writers make us shake our heads with the exactness of their prose and their truths, and even make us laugh about ourselves or life, our buoyancy is restored. We are given a shot at dancing with, or at least clapping along with, the absurdity of life, instead of being squashed by it over and over again. It’s like singing on a boat during a terrible storm at sea. You can’t stop the raging storm, but singing can change the hearts and spirits of the people who are together on that ship.

Anne Lamott

This sample pack of watercolor paper is a good way to test five different artist-grade watercolor papers (2 of each). If you try them, let me know in the comments which you liked best and why.


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