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How to Enter Your First Exhibit

George with Likin’ Maine and Over There.
George with Likin’ Maine and Over There.

Our blogger, George, entered his first exhibit at The Art League today, submitting two photos for ’Scapes. Here’s his experience:

When last we checked in, I had just finished taking Basic Drawing and Stained Glass at The Art League School. Since then, I’ve been inspired to return to photography, a medium I have a good deal more experience with.

Artists can, and do, enter work in any medium they can fit in the door — ceramics, handmade books, glass, anything and everything 2-D — with a few rules. All work must be original, it must weigh less than 60 pounds, and there’s this rule announced in the November 1975 issue of Tidings:

Tidings-1975I opted for photography because I have more experience with it than with drawing or stained glass — although many students in our classes do get into shows, and there’s also an annual Student/Faculty Show to showcase their work. My main inspiration was a July trip to Maine, where it was easy to stumble onto beautiful scenes. The weather even cooperated. “’Scapes” seemed like the perfect opportunity to finally enter my first exhibit here, and hopefully write a useful guide for other first-timers. So here’s how I did it, step by step:

1. Choices, choices. Members are limited to entering two pieces per show, of which the juror can accept one or neither. That means narrowing down your choices to the top two will be your first step.

On my trip, there were no shortage of great views. My friends were constantly pointing out potential “scapes,” and of course my own photographic senses were on alert, so I had hundreds and hundreds of photos to sort through when I got home. The theme made it a little easier to narrow down, but I still had a range of ways to interpret it, from the more abstract impressions of landscape to the traditional panoramas. Eventually I settled on the two you see above: “Likin’ Maine” and “Over There.” They were the sharpest images that made the strongest impact on me.

2. Printing. This step is more specific to photography, so I won’t go into too much detail except to say that I struggled both with how to edit my photos — the best crop, etc. — and where to have them printed. I certainly have a lot to learn in both areas. Ultimately, I settled on keeping them very similar to the original image, and I was lucky to have a friend offer to print them for me. The Gallery also has recommendations for good printers, and encourages photographers to print their images themselves — something I might try after saving up for a printer.

3. Matting and framing. This is typically the trickiest part for first-timers, who already know what they’re doing artwise, but need guidance on meeting framing guidelines. My main piece of advice: Don’t wait until the last minute, because it’s a little more complicated than I anticipated.

The same friend who printed my photos generously gave me a couple of mats as well, cut to the dimensions of my photos on the inside and to fit a 16″ x 20″ frame on the outside. I ordered two frames to match and purchased two pieces of 16″ x 20″ acid-free foamcore backing from a local framing store. For the frames, I went as basic as possible — something jurors have repeatedly recommended. Plain black framing and a white mat for me.

I hinge-mounted my print and mat to the foamcore following the instructions in this video (skipping the glue step at the end). Then all I had to do was sign the mat, put it in the frame, and attach the hardware. (Frames are required have a wire secured to the frame with D-rings or screws. Gallery-wrapped canvas with no staples visible is also acceptable.)

The entry label goes on the upper left corner of the back after you get your number. The number sticker goes right around the corner on the left side of the frame (if you're looking at the back).
The entry label goes on the upper left corner of the back after you get your number. The number sticker goes right around the corner on the left side of the frame (if you’re looking at the back).

By the way, the Gallery recommends several custom framers in the area (listed on this page) for that professional touch or unusual sizing or presentation situations.

4. Receiving. The big day. Receiving is always on a Monday from 6:30–8:30 pm and the next Tuesday morning from 10:00 am–12:00 noon; the dates are posted on our website and sent out in Tidings every month. I had asked my buddy Rose, the gallery director, for some guidance on pricing since it was (hopefully) my first show. I brought in my pieces Tuesday morning on my way to my desk upstairs, and I had my entry labels, photographic process forms, and $5-per-piece entry fee ready to go.

Both forms are available to download here; be sure to leave the “entry number” blank until the pieces are assigned numbers and then attach it. There’s always a table set up outside with labels if you forgot yours and masking tape to attach them. Inside the gallery, there’s a table with four lines; you just need to pick a line and hand your entry labels and entry fee to one of the volunteers.

I found the spot labeled “photography” to leave my pieces, putting squares of cardboard between pieces. (There are also areas for “canvas,” “works under glass,” and 3-D work. If you have two pieces, be sure to put them together, even if they’re in two different categories.) From there it was all up to the juror. Fingers crossed! Check our blog post tomorrow on “’Scapes” and “Shapes” — or come into the Gallery — to see if one of my photos made it in.

— George



Out in the world on their own.
Godspeed, little photos.

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