When Your Art Goes on the Road

Once or twice a year, artist Christopher Pierce presents exhibitions of his own work in his studio. All the works are framed and hung to signify a professional, gallery atmosphere.
Once or twice a year, artist Christopher Pierce
presents exhibitions of his own work in his
studio. All the works are framed and hung to
signify a professional, gallery atmosphere.

Gaining exposure and recognition for one’s fine art oil paintings or watercolors starts with putting finished pieces in the public and critical eye. This can mean participating in local community shows or full-fledged exhibitions, entering competitions, and hanging pieces in galleries. It is an exciting prospect, but it can also be stressful to prepare works for shipment and display.

Framing is the first step when readying a painting or drawing for transport. Box frames are standard and provide adequate protection for pieces that will be handled often, such as during a show. Frames are usually built of hardwood or metal, and should have a rabbet on their inner edge where the work sits suspended. Beyond that, there are plenty of choices to consider, including size relationship between the picture and the frame, frame color, molding profile, and mat size and color. Spend a bit of time thinking about the impression you want to make with your work and know that how displaying your work like a professional makes a big difference in how it is perceived.

When packing a piece for shipping, bubble wrap and rubber foam padding are both good choices. Wrapping an oil painting in brown craft paper is a good idea as well; it won’t stick to the painting and provides a barrier against debris and dust. After the piece is wrapped, it’ll need to be taped so the shipping materials don’t shift during transport—but don’t adhere the tape to the work itself. Tape it to packing material and fold over one end of the piece of tape before securing it, creating a tag that allows the tape to be easily located and pulled off.  By creating a tag, no scissors or knife has to come near the work and possibly damage it when it is being unpacked (I learned this trick from a conservator friend).

What have your experiences been like when putting pieces on view in shows and galleries? Leave a comment and share your experiences and tips. To explore the possibilities of upcoming exhibitions, art competitions, and to just immerse yourself in the approaches that can give you a solid foundation for making savvy choices about your art from first strokes to final hanging, consider a digital subscription to The Artist's Magazine through Kindle, Nook, Zinio, or Google Play. Enjoy!

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Courtney Jordan

About Courtney Jordan

  Courtney is the editor of Artist Daily. For her, art is one of life’s essentials and a career mainstay. She’s pursued academic studies of the Old Masters of Spain and Italy as well as museum curatorial experience, writing and reporting on arts and culture as a magazine staffer, and acquiring and editing architecture and cultural history books. She hopes to recommit herself to more studio time, too, working in mixed media.   

7 thoughts on “When Your Art Goes on the Road

  1. I’ve had a variety of experiences, ranging from neutral to very good. I haven’t entered any exhibits where I couldn’t hand deliver the work, so packing work for shipping hasn’t been an issue for me so far, but could be in the future. Two out of three of my drawings accepted into a very large group exhibit were hung a bit too high, and because of that I don’t think they could be properly seen, but that was entirely out of my control. Last month I had 3 pieces in a university group show–no competition, no awards, just art for art’s sake–and it was really a very satisfying venue and event.
    While I hate the idea of framing work to go in a gallery in a similar or consistent manner (because I think each piece calls for its own unique framing treatment as an individual piece of art), I am reluctantly going to start framing my work in a more uniform manner…grrr.

  2. Hi Courtney,

    I have a question for people on the other side of the issue—gellery directors who receive the work. How do they feel about boxes? Recently I had two paintings accepted into an exhibit, at a distant enough location that they had to be shipped. One of the paintings was 40 x 40 inches, which my standard source of boxes did not cover. I ended up using a pair of telescoping boxes designed for shipping a flat screen TV, purchased from UHaul. They were sturdy enough, but had an immense image of a TV on the sides, not to mention all kinds of UHaul advertising. Because they “telescoped” they had to be taped together with strapping tape. I often feel like I am the only one who has to resort to packaging like that—-and would love to know if other people ship the same way. Does what the painting arrives in affect the gallery director’s handling of the work, or even potential future interaction with the gallery? Thanks.

  3. The framing of a piece of your artwork can make or take away from a piece of art. Example, I was in a crunch and had to get a newly finished floral painting matted and framed. I used what I had available at home. When I got to the show a good friend, told me the mat and frame did nothing for the colorful “Red Iris”. I knew it but I just needed someone to tell me! The local frame shop had to order the molding and time did not allow that. So we opted for a different mat,. and I returned the piece to the show with no comments from another friend. I realized I had to get a gold metal frame to really make the warmth of the painting pop with light. Although I did have to go to a larger city to get the frame, it was well worth it. I received Best Use of Color ($250) from the juror, noted artist Frank Webb. In the next show the painting won another color award, plus it sold. Since that time I have painted the same “Red Iris” three other times but a little different composition and sold all using the same type frame and matting.

  4. Most of my work is on gallery wrap canvas but when I’m required to frame I use nice but inexpensive frames. I have had so many frames damaged at shows and galleries that its not worth it it to buy an expensive frame.

  5. I appreciate this post and the comments. I have shown my collaborative Fiber and Photography series pieces in several local venues so that I can hand deliver them. They cannot be framed though they are hard backed and hang on wire. They have a raised plexi piece that may be easily scratched which adds another challenge to handling. Galleries and the museum they are in presently have always shown great care when hanging the pieces. Three of my pieces recently sold and I appreciate that the gallery/museum will handle the packing/shipping. I love creating these pieces but now I feel as though I need to change my artwork so that it may be easier to handle and especially ship – but that’s no way for an artist to create!

  6. I cringe when I see exhibit volunteers or untrained gallery staff pick up a painting by the top of the frame. I’ve even resorted to attaching a note to the hanging wire, specifying that the painting should be lifted by holding both sides of the frame or by the hanging wire. It is also discouraging when a show or gallery person takes my painting, framed with an expensive piece of acid-free board at the backing, and uses stick tape to attach a label on the back. To counter this, I’ve fastened a small piece of thin board in the top corner of the back of the frame, with a message on it asking that additional identification or entry papers be taped to that cardboard, not to the backing board. Hopefully this comment will help educate those who are generous with their time in helping promote my work and that of other artists!