*Updated June 2022
If you are anything like me, you probably apply to hundreds of opportunities each month, crossing your fingers, hoping to get selected for that dream exhibition in New York or to appear on the glossy pages of your favorite art magazine. But what if there was one thing preventing your artwork from being chosen for that dream exhibition or publication?
Over the past six years I have worked with curators, galleries, and artists and learned a few very simple things that will increase your success rate.
As an editor, I see hundreds of art submissions each week that I would publish in a heartbeat, but there is always something that stops me… I decided to compile a list of ways to avoid the most common mistakes that deter curators, publishers, and bloggers from featuring your work.
So, if you are having trouble getting your work noticed, fear not! Use these tips and watch those acceptance letters multiply.
1. Use great photography. No, it doesn’t have to be expensive.
This is the easiest one to fix! We spend so much time, energy and resources making our work that it’s a disservice to have less than perfect images of it. Nothing is more frustrating to a publisher or curator than seeing an incredible work of art captured with poor photography. They may love your piece, but can’t publish or exhibit it because of this issue.
Good news! Here are a few easy solutions:
Get a professional’s help. Hire or ask if you can trade a product you make or a service you offer with a photographer friend to get the best images of your work. Reach out to any alumni groups if you went to college to see if your colleagues are offering a good price first.
Invest in a camera. You can take high-quality photos yourself and we know many artists that do this until they are ready to invest in the services of a professional photographer. If you are unfamiliar with photography, there may be a learning curve. If you are eager to DIY, there are plenty of videos and resources to get you started for free online.
Use your smartphone. Several artists that Create! Magazine previously published use their phones to take amazing photos of their work. If you decide to do this, make sure you set your setting on HDR and use daylight or a daylight lamp to get the best result.
Always crop your photo when finished. Aim to have a plain background and where any distractions have been removed. If your work requires installation views and detail shots, make sure they are clean and organized. Adjust the lighting to reflect the image as close to reality as possible.
2. Include your basic contact information.
I can’t tell you how many times an artist simply sent an image with no description, contact information or link to their site! There were more times than I can count that I desperately wanted to feature the piece but had no way of reaching the person. Don’t let this be you! Always use a polite greeting, write a brief introduction and give the person you are writing to a way to reach you if they need more details. Make it simple and easy for the writer or curator to get in touch or see all information that they might need to make a decision right away in order to increase your chances of success.
3. Follow the Rules.
Read over the instructions for submitting with a keen eye. When filling out hundreds of applications the temptation to be lazy and recycle the same submission package is sometimes too great to resist. Don’t give in! If the organization asks for the images to be labeled a certain way, do it! Make it super easy for the gallery to feature your work. We are all busy, and can appreciate when someone respects our time. A lot of systems being used by companies today require a specific labeling method or file format. So, if they ask for a jpeg, use a jpeg.
4. Be part of the community.
Especially when it comes to local organizations and events, being a familiar face is always a good idea. I even found that simple things like commenting on Instagram, reaching out to someone you admire for coffee (when it’s appropriate) or showing up to art openings increases opportunities for YOU to be involved in the future. The best practice is to do this with people and organizations you genuinely enjoy, instead of trying to get something out of it. By nourishing these relationships online or in person, you are inevitably planting the seeds to be considered for future opportunities.
5. Celebrate your achievements (not in a way that you think).
This is going to sound obvious, but be proud of what you have done up to this point. This means having a place online where curators and patrons can see what you’re all about. Have a clean website. There are tons of affordable and beautiful options including Squarespace, Wix, Weebly, and more are available on the market today. If you can’t afford a website at this moment, simply have a Tumblr page or its equivalent that includes the following vital content:
- Your portfolio
- Your written bio
- Your artist statement
- Your exhibitions, awards and press features
- Contact info
I hope these simple tips will help you get more yeses and propel your art career forward! If you found this article helpful or know someone who may benefit from it, please feel free to share. We greatly appreciate it!
If you have a topic or question you would like us to cover, feel free to send suggestions to email@example.com. We've also written a comprehensive business book for emerging artists with 30+ chapters full of content like this.