How To Prepare for your First Art Show

When I received my acceptance letter for my first art show, the feeling of excitement quickly changed to dread as reality set in: this would be my first public appearance as an artist, and I had no idea what to expect. For the first time, I was leaving the comfortable space of my studio at home, and revealing my creative side to my community, neighbors and co-workers.
Faced with a task that felt daunting, I did what any German would do: prepare a Work List. I hope the info helps make your preparation a little smoother, and gives you an idea of what to expect for your first art show.

Photos from my first Art Show
Photos from my first Art Show Symposium de Peinture “Ma Ville en Couleurs”

Prepare Your Marketing

Prepare your Website and/or Facebook Page

  • Setup small website or at least a Facebook page
  • Announce date of event prominently on your homepage

Electronic Newsletter

  • If you have one, inform your followers you will be participating in an art show, and invite them to attend

Social Media Announcements

  • Send out initial announcement once your participation has been confirmed
  • Increase the frequency of reminders leading up to event (for example, you can make it a countdown: 1 month until show, 1 week until show, 3 days, tomorrow, today). Alternate between your own messages and the sharing of the official flyer or poster for the event, to provide more variety to your announcements

Business Cards

  • Design and order in time (calculate 2 weeks for printing, 1 week for shipping)
  • Note: faster processing time usually comes with a price tag

Post Cards or Giveaways

  • Plan ahead and consider printing and shipping time

Prepare Your Art


  • Prepare for hanging with D-rings and wire, in order to easily attach your canvases to hooks, which are most commonly used at events


  • Prepare for hanging with wire
  • Plan for one or two spares, in case of any mishaps (I learned the hard way, as a fellow artist accidentally knocked one of my glass frames over, while setting up her own booth)
  • Also note that some events require that works on paper be framed

Art Portfolio

  • If you have studies, sketches, prints or other work on paper, consider an art portfolio to showcase more work


  • Set your prices in advance; do some research as you don’t want to price yourself out
  • Prepare price tags with descriptions for all displayed works

Prepare for Business

Legal Prerequisites

  • Inform yourself about legal procedures in order to be allowed to sell your work, depending on your country, state or province

Facilitate Transactions

  • Get a receipt block and have change handy
  • If you want to allow card payments, consider using payment services like Square
  • Consider whether you are willing to accept checks or cash only from clients

Prepare Packaging

  • Prepare necessary packaging material; chances are your customer wants to leave with his painting right after your art show

Last but not Least…Prepare Yourself

Live Painting

  • Art Symposiums generally require you to paint in front of an audience
  • Make sure you have all necessary art supplies on hand, and consider packing them into something which is easily portable, such as a large tool box on wheels
  • Pack newspaper for protecting the floor below your easel, if you tend to splash or drip during your painting sessions
  • Prepare your canvasses and paper with gesso in advance, to avoid having to wait half an hour for the paint to dry
  • Have an idea of what you will paint during the event, by sketching in advance

Speak about your Art

  • Art enthusiasts want to connect with the artists
  • Be ready to speak about your art, process, inspiration, techniques, etc.

At the booth

  • Lastly, consider to make your stay as pleasant as possible, as you will be spending most of your time there
  • Check if they provide chairs, water and snacks and bring some with you if necessary

Download Your Free Checklist

Download the free Checklist: How To Prepare For Your First Art Show

Here you can download a concise version of this checklist for free
(No Opt-In required)

Format: PDF
File Size: 168 KB

How did you prepare for your first art show? Do you have something to add to the list?

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Last update December 22, 2020

Martin Lukas Ostachowski

Geometric abstraction artist based in Tiohtià:ke/Moniang (Montreal), QC, Canada. I explore the blockchain through the subject of clouds in physical and digital mediums. » About Me


  1. Hung Thai [Up Up and a Bear] on July 29th, 2016 at 4:49 PM

    These are great tips even though I probably will never host such an event haha :)

  2. Mei on July 29th, 2016 at 7:10 PM

    These are some great tips! I’ve never done this before and I don’t think I’ll ever do, since I’m too scared to even attempt such a thing. Plus, I’m just an amateur learning my way around.

    The whole event seems to have been somewhat stressful too. How did you manage it?

  3. Jenniffer | Life is Messy and Brilliant on August 8th, 2016 at 11:16 AM

    Interesting and informative! I loved reading this blog post.

  4. Sarah on August 11th, 2016 at 10:10 AM

    Great tips!

  5. Jon on August 11th, 2016 at 12:08 PM

    I lived in Paris for two years and art shows were common there. Most I heard of by word of mouth through friends.

  6. Topmost Tree on August 11th, 2016 at 12:17 PM

    Great Tips…it is good to prepare and plan ahead

  7. Ruxandra on August 11th, 2016 at 1:34 PM

    This is an amazing list! Had a photography exhibition once and felt everything was chaotic ?

  8. Mercy on August 11th, 2016 at 2:32 PM

    Congratulations on your show.These are great tips and though I am not an artist, I could use the same framework for an upcoming pop-up show I have for my online store as well. The steps to prepare are similar and necessary to have a successful showing. Thanks and all the best in future.

  9. travelerettenyc on August 11th, 2016 at 5:14 PM

    Congratulations on your first art show. I’ve never had an art show, but this looks like a helpful list. I’m sure doing self-promotion is any artist’s least favorite part of the job, but it can’t be helped!

  10. lex on August 11th, 2016 at 6:22 PM

    True to the art. Great showing of an art show. Keep posting.

  11. Kylie cre8tone on August 12th, 2016 at 3:19 AM

    Lovely art show.. Congratulations on the first art show.. Its gonna be great with all the preparation

  12. Борка Шаула on August 12th, 2016 at 11:36 AM

    You gave us really great tips. I think I’m a bit German since I make TO DO lists all the time.

  13. annalisanuttall on August 12th, 2016 at 1:49 PM

    Great tips and been there and brought the t-shirt, it isn’t easy to do a art show. xx

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