Getting ready for a solo show can be quite nerve-wracking and exciting at the same time. I always liked group shows better because it was less pressure. For group shows, you usually show 1 or a few pieces. For a solo show, the focus is entirely on your best work.
When I was first approached by the gallery owner for a solo show, I could tell the gallery owner had confidence in me and my work, but, I wasn't sure if I had confidence in myself. I doubted myself for several reasons, some real, some fabricated. I knew this was a great opportunity to challenge myself and get my work out into the world on a larger scale. I decided to handle it like this: Have the best work completed on time and promote the work all in a timely, professional matter.
It all began about 1 1/2 years before the show was scheduled. I met the gallery owner through a friend from my studio that introduced us. The gallery owner came to my studio to check out my Barbie oils. I didn’t think much of it, and 1 1/2 years later the gallery owner called me and wanted to schedule an appointment to meet with me at her gallery. I met with her in July and we talked about her gallery and the Barbie oils. She said she wanted to have a solo show with the Barbie’s in November before Thanksgiving and have the show up until after the New Year. I had 10-12 oils available to show and she said she wanted 19 oils for the show! I was doing the math in my head and was slowly panicking. I was thinking, can I produce 8-9 more Barbie oils? I was given a great opportunity and I didn't want to blow it. Most people do not realize how hard a realistic painting is…….. realistic oil paintings leave little room for mistakes and are time- consuming to paint. You can’t rush a realistic oil painting. I kept all of this to myself because nobody wants to hear how hard something is. Art is a business and the gallery owner wanted a large body of work. The oils are very laborious and I knew to accomplish this, I had to have a strategy. I had about 4 months to complete the 8-9 additional oils. I wrote out and charted out how long it would take and had a painting plan. My plan of action was to work on 3-4 oils at a time. I would paint the hair on one Barbie, let it dry and then move on to another Barbie, work on her and then go back and forth between the oils. I worked 7 days a week, about 10 hour days. This schedule I set for myself was quite exhausting and it left no room for social activities and normal life. When everyone was going to the beach on a sunny, beautiful day, I was working on a Barbie painting. No fun in the sun for me ……. I couldn’t rest until I knew I was on track.
I was moving along quite nicely and even with all the planning and the painting going smooth, sometimes a monkey wrench is thrown it. In early October, the gallery owner called and said she wanted a holiday Barbie to feature on her holiday card she sends to her clients and potential art buyers. So, not only was I jamming and freaking about the additional 8-9 oils I had to paint, I now had to create and paint a special holiday Barbie for her card. This added to my stress, but, I tried to convince myself that I can do this. For this particular painting, I decided on a 1965 Barbie in a red dress with a fur coat and I titled her “Winter Elegance.” After I finished “Winter Elegance,” I had her professionally photographed and sent the Jpeg onto the gallery owner for her holiday card. I could now move on to the other oils for the show.
Judy Ragagli, "Winter Elegance," Oil on Canvas, 40" x 30." This is the oil painting for the Gallery's Holiday Card.
I knew that the paintings were top priority, but, marketing and promoting the show was also very important. I truly believe that it is up to the artist to market their work, especially if you have a show coming up. You cannot always rely on a gallery owner to do the marketing. Gallery owners get busy with the day-to-day business of running the gallery. When I got home at night, I wrote and distributed press releases to online magazines with event calendars, newspapers, and magazines. I decided to send a press release with all the details of the show; who, what, where when and also an 8’” x 10’” of one of my Barbie oils. My strategy for sending out press releases are as follows; for magazines, they need at least 3 month lead time, for newspapers about 5 weeks, and dailies about 2 weeks. This process worked and I secured coverage for the Barbie show in newspapers, dailies, and monthly magazines. I was excited about this. Also, if a potential client/art buyer sees one of your oils in publication, it ups the ante and also gives them a thrill. Also, make sure to get extra copies of the publications that you can use for press down the road.
Finally, going along at a nice clip, I completed the 19th oil 2 weeks before the delivery date of November 21st. I did it! All the Barbie oils were complete and I could finally breathe again. I had the most recent Barbie oils professionally photographed before the scheduled delivery date. The day before the delivery, I wrapped each Barbie oil in clear plastic and labeled each one. All my girls were ready to be delivered, shown, and hopefully sold. The morning of the Big Delivery to the gallery, I rented a van from Avis or Enterprise and a friend from my studio helped me load the Barbie’s. We took photographs of us by the van and made the journey to the gallery located in Malibu. We arrived on time (10 minutes before the scheduled time). I was so nervous unloading the van, that I tripped over one of the paintings and stepped on the back of it. I did not damage the painting, but, I needed to calm down.
Also, when you have an appointment with a gallery owner, it is very important to always be prepared and show up on time. You always want the gallery owner to know you take your business seriously and respect yourself as a business owner too. Art is a business!
All went well with the delivery and I returned the van. As I made our way back to my studio, it felt like I was in a twilight zone. I was relieved, anxious and happy all at once. I felt a great sense of relief. Looking back, I should have been more proud of myself. I accomplished something that I thought was impossible.
On the same day, during my drive home, I received some great news. The gallery owner called and said she sold an oil. -Five hours after the delivery. I was thrilled! Before the opening night, a few more Barbie’s sold. It is always nice to have oils sold before the opening night.
The big night of the opening went very well and many of the Barbie’s sold. The show was a success and the gallery owner asked me back to do another show for the following year.
One last thing, a note about alcohol and drinking: Try not to drink on opening night, I once was drinking some wine and I spilled wine all over my arm when I was talking to a buyer. He was an actor from the U.K. and I was nervous. I embarrassed myself. (This didn’t happen at my first solo show, thank God), but, in Palm Springs at a future show.
Cheers and all the best to you and your shows! (See below for more photos of the show).