How to get your artwork ready for the show

How to get your artwork ready for the show

Summer in Chicago is rife with street festivals - art, food and music. Eager to shred off their cabin fever, people flock to these festivals. I love walking through bright white canopies of tents, eating out of food trucks and looking for some stand-out artist and their work.

However, participating in these fairs can be intimidating. It's a triathlon of art making, curation and physical endurance not to mention the financial cost to it.  And if all that isn't enough, without any filter of a gallery, you have the fear of rejection if you don't sell any work. Sometimes you just get bad weather and no one shows up.

So when one of my artist friends asked me to participate in our neighborhood festival, my first response was no. After word got, out and two more artist friends joined the chorus. Finally, in a moment of weakness I gave my consent.


Important facts:

- The organizers didn't charge us anything for the show. Generally this costs between USD 300 to 600.

- My space was going to be 10x10' and I had to bring my own tent.

- Lastly I had one month to prepare.

What was my goal?

Some of our celebrated paintings were first condemned by general public when they were shown. e.g. Matisse's 'Lady with the hat' received the most horrible reception in Paris. I wanted to see how people react to my paintings without the filter of a gallery or group show.

Disclaimer: Not comparing myself with Matisse here.

Some of my other goals were to

  • document this whole process to create a template for any future use.
  • create my future work on a scale that is marketable as well as logistically movable.
  • get my websites ready, printing for framing vendors finalized and pricing determined.

During my visits to art fairs, I noticed that 99% people are there just to have fun and enjoy the outdoor experience. There are serious admirers of art but not many art collectors. Also, generally folks don't buy anything that is priced above USD 200. You can get lucky and get leads or a commission. 

With that in mind I decided early-on that I would bring a few original pieces and also make high quality prints for framing. This would help me bring my work to people at an affordable price point. 

Keeping that in mind, I started carefully going through my body of work over the past three years and selected the pieces which represent me and my current style.

I selected 3 medium sized pieces (36x48'') and many other smaller pieces (11x14)'' and (16x20)'' pieces for the show. I had to eliminate larger pieces because I wanted to make sure because they wouldn't fit into my small car.

After selection, I started photographing the works on a naturally lit wall space.


Important note,

Below you will find three different sections on Printing, Matte-board and Framing vendors,  but I must caution you in the beginning that before you order anything, determine measurements for all three.

  • the print size,
  • the cut matte-board size,
  • the uncut matte-board size 
  • the frame size
  • the plastic wrap cover size (for matte-board)

All things have to fit into each other so I opened these websites on different brower windows and then simultaneously placed the orders at the same time.

This way you are sure that all the components get delivered for assembly about the same time and then everything fits together with minimal adjustments.

 Where to print?

After comparing various printing sites for reviews, cost and delivery times I zeroed on on two printing services,  Costco and Canvaspop. I have used Costco before and their print quality and colors are amazing. You just upload your pics online and they deliver it to your home in a weeks time.

You have to have either Costco membership or need to know someone who has it. I feel like it is totally worth it to pay USD75 for annual membership if you are going to print bunch of prints. 

Canvaspop was the unanimous choice of most online reviewers and I decided to try it. I wasn't disappointed.

I found the following article very helpful in comparing various services.

Mattes, Support boards and Plastic covers

Everyone knows that framing and matting are the two most expensive components of this process. Even in stores like Michael's, I find the up to 70% discounts are very deceptive because they end up becoming unaffordable if you are doing it in bulk.

So after visiting a few local stores, websites and an impromptu visit to IKEA,  I settled on the following economic choices.

Matte- Boards

I bought multicolored pre-cut  matte-boards. It gave me multiple color combinations to frame my paintings.

My go-to choice for buying mattes is Amazon Golden State art. They generally run out of 11x14 size so keep an eye on it. When they are available, buy them.

For frames; the multi-color mat-boards set on Amazon Mat Board Center, Pack of 20, 8x10 Mixed Colors White Core Picture Mats.

I also bought an adequate number of support boards. If you are selling  your prints without frame, these boards give your print and precut matte a solid base.


Lastly, you will need transparent plastic bags. They are a 1/8 of an inch larger then the mat and fit perfectly well. This way you are selling a finished product that looks very impressive.

You can also insert your marketing material inside these bags for your buyers.


Golden State Art, Pack of 50, Acid-Free 16 3/8x 20 1/8 inches Crystal Clear Sleeves Storage Bags for 16x20 Photo Framing Mats Mattes Plastic covers for Mat-boards. Supporting white mat-boards uncut.



I also bought these frames from Ikea to frame some of my pieces for those who want to buy ready to hang artwork and don't mind paying a little extra.

For Square frames, I used Amazon's unsimple.


How to put it all together?

Watch my video on how to put it all together.

In a week’s time, all the required components  arrived and then I started my assembly work.





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