Painting How To: Exhibiting Your Paintings

Being an artist implies that you exhibit your artwork, certainly if you wish to sell it.  But even if you’re not interested in selling your work, it’s that mystical exchange between an artwork and its beholder which defines the magical event.  I believe in facilitating such exchanges. I LIVE for them.  Without them, making artwork would be meaningless.

This exchange is essential for recognition and appreciation. Artists, of course, SEE their own work. They experiment, study, evaluate, and improve upon it to incorporate everything they’ve learned. But for some artists, this reflective intrapersonal activity has its limitations. The recognition most artists seek and need to encourage them in their efforts comes from interpersonal actions. That’s not to say artists shouldn’t have standards of their own… objectives they wish to achieve.  But most of us recognize success is measured not so much by our own standards, but rather by those of others.

watercolor barns, watercolor painting of barns

Click Picture to Purchase: "Waller's Barns, Palouse, WA"

Some artists paint merely for their own pleasure. There’s nothing wrong with that! They may not want to expose their own work to others… nor market it.  Nonetheless, all artists seek some sort of approval. And most would like to pick up a bit of change for their efforts.  To accomplish either one of these objectives, you simply have to put your artwork out in front of people.

When you put it out there for others to see, you’ll get comments about it.  I appreciate the feedback I get from people who talk to me about my paintings.  Nice talk is encouraging, but critical comments also help to improve your work.  Make note of what others say about your work. Write down their comments and refer to these comments from time to time.

I’m convinced one’s artwork develops over time from interpersonal relationships, initially from families and friends, but eventually your peers and jurors. This can only happen when people see your work. You have to put your work out there where people… all different kinds… can see it!

The opportunities for people to see your work are limitless. This first occurs when you hang paintings about the walls of your home or studio. For some artists, this may not only be a place to begin exhibiting, but where their work remains!

painting of waterfront, Tilghman Island Painting, Painting of Island

Click Picture to Purchase: "Working View of Waterfront, Tilghman Island"

The next step is to get out and paint with other artists and study with instructors, so you can show your painting to these groups and receive their comments. Many opportunities exist for this to happen. Check out various types of public/private art instruction offerings.  Join a local artist group which sponsors workshops and artist demonstrations. Multi-media groups attract all kinds of artists, but there are other artist groups which specialize in watercolor painting. Each has something different to offer.

I belong to a number of such organizations. Where I live, there is the multi-media Torrance Artists Guild (TAG), but also the South Bay Watercolor Society (SBWS). TAG has monthly meetings, SBWS meets every other month. Both sponsor exhibits.

There are also other local or out-of-town regional and national artist associations. These provide numerous opportunities for you to exhibit your work and recognize your artistic skills.

painting of a Villa, watercolor villa in Italy

Click Picture to Purchase: "Villa Francesconi, Valle Buia, IT"

For member-only shows and those that are “open” to anyone, the costs are generally covered by the artist’s “entry” fee.  For solo exhibits, the amount depends of course on your agreement with the gallery.  In the case of solo exhibits, a contract between the exhibiting artist and venue spells out the terms.  Such would also be the case for a membership or “open” exhibit sponsored by an artist association, but held at a venue that is not owned by the association.  Few artist associations have their own gallery.  It makes good sense to join those that do!

Plein-air events are opportunities to exhibit your work before a group of assembled artists and the public.  When I’m conducting a plein-air workshop, I often arrange for an exhibit of work by all the participating artists. It usually takes place where the workshop is conducted, perhaps the following week, so as to allow participants time to mat and frame their work.  For relative beginners, this makes sense. It takes time to prepare for such plein-air exhibits… time to mat your painting, put it in a frame… and do all this without spending too much money. I often use the incentive associated with such exhibits to help students learn something about how to exhibit their work.

Douglas Stenhouse also wrote a book about watercolor painting.

“I decided to write about how I paint, not only to share my observations with others, but also, frankly, to do some self- examination. I wish I had done this earlier in my life! But then, how was I to know I’d benefit from doing so, certainly at a time when I had no aspirations of becoming a professional artist.” 

To learn more about Doug’s Watercolor Painting Book, click here. To purchase a signed copy, use the link below.


Douglas Simms Stenhouse, watercolor artist, transparent water color art, watercolor painter, painting with water colors