Pop-Up Art Gallery
One a Wednesday evening, a voice in my head told me to set up my own art gallery in my front garden and sell some paintings. By the end of the following weekend, I realised that the voices are sometimes right, I sold 6 and got 2 commissions. This blog post deals with my experiences regarding setting up a pop-up art gallery at 2 day’s notice.
I think the whole concept is a good one, and the implementation of the idea went quite well. I made sales and got commissions, and will do it again soon. Read on to find out more about what I did, and what I will do next time to make it more successful. I hope that you, dear reader will learn from my experience and that it will make your art more profitable.
I have started a Facebook Group called Pop-Up Art Galleries. Join it for help and advice on setting up your own pop-up art gallery and shop.
So, there I was on a Wednesday night lying in bed realising that man cannot live by selling slimming coffee and energy drinks alone. A voice (now to be known as THE VOICE) boomed “Russell! Thou art really stupid, thou hast lots of lovely paintings lying around that thou can sell. Thou dost also have a full Morso based framing system in the garage that is hardly used. Thou’st should have a front garden art sale over the weekend, verily the modern word is “Pop-Up” Art Gallery.”
So verily, I got up on the Thursday morning, designed and printed out 150 A5 leaflets and put them through local doors. I also posted an advert on a local FB buy, sell and swap page. All were invited to my pop-up art gallery.
Saturday night, with me soporific after fortification with a Prawn Biriyani, and a bottle of Cobra, THE VOICE again spoke to me and said. “Now’st geteth the easel out, get off thou’st backside and painteth in thou front drive. Thou’st paid enough for the Bob Ross and Gary Jenkins courses now putest them to good use. Also, weareth a hat to stop your bald spot getting sunburnt you idiot”.
So, I got up in the morning, set up my art gallery again, wore a hat, and started painting. I sold another 2 paintings and got another commission. The 2nd day was not as good as the first, but the whole idea worked. I just needed to refine the idea and develop it further.
Now on Sunday evening, fortified by barbecue chicken wings, rice and a Guinness I heard THE VOICE again. It saideth to me “Thou’st must write about your experiences and what thou will do better next time, and post in various FB groups. Thou must do this in the next few days or thou will pisseth me off big time, as will any group admin who refuseth to publisheth it.”
I briefly wrote up my experiences and placed them in a few Art and Artist related FB groups, and my page hasn’t stopped pinging since. Something like 2,000 likes in total and over 500 comments.
I was resting comfortably on my laurels when THE VOICE bellowed at the top of his decibel range “Now blog about it or else“. So here it is.
What I Dideth This First Time, And What I Will Doeth Next Time
What I Dideth This First Time
I had done a couple of craft fayres where I painted and tried to sell off the easel, but never sold much. I also had a lot of paintings that I had built up over time and were taking up a lot of space. Either I had to sell the paintings or throw them out. I could also make a garden shed out of them, or remove the canvas, and re-cover the frames.
I really was lying in bed on a Wednesday night when I heardeth THE VOICE, I picked up my iPad and checked the weather forecast. Saturday was sunny with some cloud, but some rain forecast for Sunday. I decided to go for it.
I drafted out a publicity flyer Impromptu Art Sale 8th 9th July, and printed off 150 of them. Flyers were folded in such a way that the red text that gave the time, place and date was on the outside. I then delivered them half and half either side of my house.
I posted on Tattenhoe Traders, which is a local buy, sell and swap Facebook group for those living in my area. It has a membership of about 6,000 local people. I also put a couple of home made posters up in local shops.
I live in a reasonably affluent area so assumed that there would be some spare money available for good art, but had no idea how much. My house is on a road that bisects my estate, and gets quite a lot of traffic for a residential area. There is a front garden, with a tiered hedge in front of it where I could put paintings on at 3 levels. I also have a garage and a large forecourt. The car was moved onto the road, and parked in such a position that people driving past would have to slow down adjacent to my art, as they passed my parked car. This gave them more opportunity to notice me.
Displaying My Art
I have a large number of cardboard edge protectors that are used to protect the edges of loads on pallets from damage by fixing bands. You can get these from most industrial packaging suppliers, and they are quite cheap. These are 3mm thick and 1metre long cardboard angles. They come in 35, 50, 75 an 100mm widths. The flats of the angles can be stapled to the back of wet artwork to protect the edges. The angles can also be used as leaning posts, and to place on the floor as a barrier between the art and the floor. They can also be stapled to the back of artwork to keep it off the floor, you need a good staple gun though that can fire long staples (10mm and longer) to fix them securely. You can see how they can be used in the picture to the right.
I displayed my artwork using these angles. Additional artwork was suspended from external lighting brackets that are on the outside of the house. I attached labels with the price on them, and grouped things by price. I sold the paintings I did on a couple of courses for about £30.00 with the option of a frame for an extra £10. (multiply by 1.2 for the US$ price), I know I sold low but I wanted to sell. I charged a higher price for commissions.
I sat down and waited, and I didn’t have to wait long.
Cars drove past, many slowed down to have a look and I waved, they often waved back. Some of them stopped and I went to talk to them, others stopped and got out and had a look. People walked past and stopped and looked and I talked to them. Some said they would come back later and did. Other people who had received my leaflet came along and had a good browse.
I asked people if anything interested them and got them talking, if they liked a particular painting I quoted the price and then gave a price for a frame as well, and put the painting in a ready made frame.
I made some sales and got a commission as well. When I sold a painting I then had to attach or move the hanging D rings, and attach fixings to the frames, and this took time. As well as selling a few paintings, and getting a commission, I also got sunburn.
The following day (Sunday), on the advice of THE VOICE I wore a hat. I did the same as on the Saturday, except I set up my easel and started to paint the previous day’s commission, and there is a picture of it below. The new owner arrived and thought it very nice. The day went much the same as before but with fewer sales, and another commission.
Remember what happened. On Wednesday night I had an AHA or Eureka moment and had an idea. Four days later I closed the weekend having had a successful art sale event in my own front garden. Despite the short notice, it went very well. I got people interested in me, I sold some of my art, and I got some commissions. Although very happy with the overall project I realised that I could make significant improvements in all areas that would help me sell more paintings, and also help other artists sell more. But, all in all it was a very successful weekend.
What I Will Doeth Next Time
Although very happy with the results of my front garden, pop up art gallery, I realised I could make improvements. Hopefully these improvements would result in additional visitors to my next art sale, and increased profitability.
The Art Work Itself.
This is written from the point of view of a painter, those of different disciplines can of course adapt to suit their own discipline.
Use a limited number of standard thin canvas sizes and get a few frames made up to fit them. Frames should be simple and low priced, and at least 2 colours – black and white will suit most paintings. You can get very nice frame strips for about £1.00 per metre length, and a framer will be happy to put them together for you at a low cost. I am lucky that I have a framing outfit and could do mine on the spot. Have box canvases as well, as these don’t need frames. Make sure that your artworks have all D rings on the back, and that frames have clips on them. Display some paintings with frames on them, and some without. Change the frames around at times.
Have a number of different styles of your art. I can do landscapes, seascapes, cityscapes, flowers, birds, and a couple of Ladies in Red. Maybe think of a different theme for each show. Have some of your normal artwork on display but then a half around a particular theme. Mid-summer onwards might be the time to think about painting Christmas card type artwork that can be reproduced on a Print-on Demand site.
You would normally charge a higher price when selling most products, and expect to be negotiated downwards. The consensus though appears to be different for art. With art, the consensus appears to be that you should start low, and over time raise your prices. The rational being that you need to get a name, and want to get your art into people’s hands. You build up a following, and with that following comes the chance to raise prices.
I would suggest that you should under price your art on your first events and raise pricing over the following events. Put a realistic physical price tag on the art, and have a substantial discount for a sale made at the event. So put on a label that shows a crossed out
£60.00, with a £30.00 by the side if it, then add extra for a frame. If you have a deep box canvas then I would add 10 – 15% to the price you charge for a similar sized framed canvas Remember you want to sell your art. It is better to sell at 50% off than not sell at all. Then at the next event raise the floor price by giving a 40% discount. At a following event give a 30% discount. You will eventually find a ceiling price for your art, and you might be surprised at how high it is.
If you are selling in a more affluent area then you should try a higher (but not too much higher) price.
Someone comes to look, ask them if there is anything that catches their eye. They will probably say yes and so lift that piece of artwork and let them hold it. If it doesn’t have a frame, take one and put it on the painting so they can see it framed. Put different coloured frames on it. If they don’t want to buy anything there, ask them what they like and say that you can paint individual commissions, take a few notes about what they say.
I had one person who liked a painting, but wanted it on a bigger, and differently proportioned canvas. I quoted a price for that larger canvas and they said yes. Others might like something, but want it in a different colour. Ask questions to get information that you can use to your advantage. If you discover that you have a small number of paintings that get the most comment, do more variations of that painting for your next show. Maybe write a poster about the story behind a particular series of paintings to get interest.
Wherever possible take a few notes and ask the visitor if you can have their FB name and/or their email address. Ask them to friend or follow you immediately on Facebook. Give them a couple of cards, or even better a couple of leaflets as you can put more information on a leaflet. Give a couple so they can give one away. Make sure details of your shop are prominently displayed. Get their email address ask if you can contact them in the future. Set up a free mail-chimp account and use that to set up an email contact list that you can use.
Follow up, follow up, follow up. Always follow up, even if it is just an email, no more than a couple of days later. Something like 80% of exhibition leads are never followed up – what a waste of effort.
Displaying Your Artwork.
I displayed my paintings in an untidy, irregular fashion, and every so often one fell over. I can forgive myself though as I only had 2 days to arrange everything. When you do a pop-up, you need to be able to set everything up quickly, and break it down quickly.
I have mentioned the cardboard edge protectors and a staple gun, and very useful they were in allowing me to set up an impromptu display. Use a good staple gun with staples of at least 10mm length to staple the protectors firmly to the back of the picture. Next time I will staple the edge protectors on vertically. I can then stick them into the hedge as if they were poles.
You could also use a wooden expanding trellis from B&Q or Homebase or similar DIY store. The trellis comes folded up, and can be pulled apart very easily. Put in some hooks and hang your artwork from that. You can lean the trellis against walls, trees, hedges, even your car. It is easy to carry about, expand and contract, and looks good.
Put price labels on each picture that shows the normal price, and the show price. If you have time draw up a little brochure on your exhibition and hand those to people. Give them things to leave with, that they can reference later.
I am lucky in that I have a suitable front garden in a relatively affluent area. I also have a road that is quite busy in front of it. All in all, a suitable location for my art gallery. If you aren’t as lucky as me then ask a friend who does have a suitable location. Ask if you can borrow their front garden and the space in front of it. Offer to paint them a commission free of charge as a thank you. Maybe offer say 10% of your profits – someone will say yes.
You can only run so many pop-up art galleries from a residential location before people get bored of it. So even if you have a nice location like I have, still ask a friend if you can run one from their house occasionally.
Printed Publicity For Your Pop-Up Art Gallery
I got up on Thursday morning, designed and printed 150 leaflets and put them through doors around my house. If I had thought about it earlier, I would have printed out 500 and delivered them. I could have had a few thousand printed commercially, with a space where the time and place would go (which would be much cheaper). I could then print in, or stick, the required information when I needed them, and put those through doors. Next time I will put less pictures on the flyer, and more social media information. I will also say a few more words about my paintings and services.
I could have had a few thousand printed and then distributed by a leaflet delivering company. Leaflet drops cost about £30.00 per thousand houses when combined with other leaflets. The cost rises to £100.00 per thousand houses for an individual leaflet drop. This might sound costly, but it only needs to get you 2 extra customers and you have paid for the service.
I think I will design my own leaflets/flyers and have some printed with Vistaprint, or suchlike. There will be a blank space where I can print in the location and time – they will need to be printed on laser compatible paper so that they don’t melt inside the printer. If I can’t put them through the printer then I will have to print labels and stick them on. If I can’t bribe the neighbour’s children to deliver leaflets, then I will have to do it my myself. Put flyers through doors no more than 1 week beforehand. I would say ideally no more than 3 or 4 days beforehand, or they will be forgotten about.
I am also thinking of making advertising signs that I can tie to lamp posts a few days beforehand.
You must publicise what you are doing, and the best way is by an old fashioned local leaflet drop. Yes it might take 2 hours an evening for 3 – 5 days, but it will pull in the visitors.
Print on Demand Sites
There are some good Print-on-Demand sites out there – Pixels, Society6 and Zazzle. Take out a subscription. Then upload pictures of your art on them, and mention this in your publicity materials. I know that Pixels gives you a widget that puts their service on your shop page. Saatchiart by the way specialises in selling original works.
I could have done a lot more with regards to social media though. All I did was post in a local buy and sell FB group.
I will make use of Twitter next time, and more use of Facebook. Social media contacts build up over time and you have to spend time cultivating contacts on your social media. You need to follow and occasionally like the post of your contacts. The more people you physically meet the more you can ask people to follow you.
Always ask people to share your advertising posts on social media occasionally, and also share theirs once in a while. Don’t be annoying on social media. People get bored with those who have one track minds when it comes to posting, or who post too often. Use social media as an advertising medium, but not as a substitute for old fashioned leafleting.
I think that most things I have described here are legal in most countries. It is your front garden and you can do with it what you want. You can use the pavement providing you don’t cause an obstruction. Tying signs to a lamp post might not be a good idea as that might be considered fly-posting. It is unlikely though that anything will be done about them if they are only up for a couple of days and look nice. Remember that it is easier to request forgiveness, than ask for permission.
- Plan out how you are going to run a pop-up type of art gallery and make it simple.
- Your art should be ready for immediate sale, with hanging fixings in place.
- You must display your art in a tidy way
- Keep to a small range of different sizes
- Have frames available for display and sale
- Display paintings of different styles and subjects.
- Maybe do a different theme for each show
- Publicise no more than 1 week (3 to 4 days preferred) beforehand
- Use flyers/leaflets and if possible temporary posters and signs.
- Hand things out for visitors to take away.
- Take notes about your visitors
- FOLLOW UP, FOLLOW UP, FOLLOW UP
- Remember that THE VOICE sometimes gives good advice.
Please please contact me Russell Collins with any questions, observations or comments that you have.
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As well as this site, I also sell high quality artist materials on my Farbi Flora site, and no I don’t usually hear voices. Cursor and click to the right for more about me Russell Collins . I have also started a Facebook Group called Pop-Up Art Galleries