Behind the Scenes: Upcoming Austin Art Show

Various works in progress, Stephanie Khattak.

The first week of a new year and it’s a busy one! I have been working through most of the holiday break preparing for my first show of 2022, ImprintATX at Contracommon in Austin. I’ll drive down later this week to install my pieces, but wanted to share some behind the scenes info on what an artist does before an art show opens, because a lot of it was new even to me, and maybe sharing can help other artists. This is my biggest show so far – a small group exhibition where I will be showing multiple pieces.

Contracommon let me know I had been selected for the show about a month ago. Most of the work was already produced, but I knew I wanted to make one piece that was unique to Austin, since I had not shown there before. So, I set to work finding a great vintage photo, enlarging it and going through my printmaking process.

I started preparing relatively early, because I have all of my work professionally scanned and the digital file optimized and color-matched for future use as soon as it makes sense to do so. Usually before a show when the original will be sold; when someone commissions a “studio print” or I need good-quality imagery for my portfolio or other marketing piece. I even do this for traditional commissions, since as the artist, I own the copyright and I never know when I might want to use it or how. My general policy is that I don’t sell my own multiples from a commission of someone else’s personal photo. But it is good to have the professional scan on file for my portfolio, if the client ever wants to order prints for themselves, etc. If I am not yet using the work professionally, I still take a stack in to the vendor every few months because it can be expensive, and the cost is easier to absorb in smaller chunks over time.

After I finished my new piece, I sat down and planned my inventory for the show, which will be a combination of unique monotype prints and a selection of hand embellished “studio print” multiples. I really like this model because I can offer art at a variety of price points. On the business side of things, I needed to make sure to have a price and product mix that is likely to sell, and also will predict enough return on my costs of participation, i.e. the prints and scans; frames; travel to Austin, etc.

After settling on the images, sizes and prices, which will range from around $650 for a large, matted and framed original to $50 for a hand-embellished 5×7 “studio print,” I was ready to take my stack to the vendor and get scans of things I didn’t have yet, and order the studio prints that I wanted to offer.

Given the holiday season and disrupted schedules that go along with it – mine and everyone else’s and this year, that little virus that keeps menacing the world – I dropped off my pieces a week before Christmas, understanding that the idea of ASAP wouldn’t apply. I will pick them up today, two weeks later. And that is fine because I budgeted that time in, including time to hand-embellish the “studio prints” with metallic, iridescent and interference materials over the next couple of days.

While my vendor was doing their thing, I purchased frames and mats for my largest pieces so that they will look their best on the gallery walls. I’m so excited to have been chosen for this show, but I also want my pieces to SELL, and I know the gallery does, too. They’re giving me the opportunity, space, doing the bulk of promoting and organizing the show. A professional display helps us both. It not only looks good in the space, but makes it easy for potential collectors to envision the art on their own walls and know that they have purchased something special that will last.

I have also been working on product information sheets, updating my own marketing materials, media page and website, and making a QR code placard in lieu of business cards for a low-touch and waste-free way to share my info. My main goal for this event, like all of the artists’, is to sell then and there. But I have also been in situations where someone sees my art and their preferred piece is sold and they’re inquiring about similar pieces or studio print options, or they want to order a special commission, so it’s important to provide easy ways for people to contact me directly.

Later this week, I will make sure my framed originals look good, sign and package up all of my “studio prints,” load up the car, drive down to Austin super-quick and hang my pieces. After about an hour of hammers, nails, hellos and goodbye, I’ll be headed back home.

The show will be up from Jan. 15-Feb. 15. I won’t be able to attend the opening reception or visit Austin again until I take the show down at the end of February. Hopefully with fewer pieces to transport home. But if you can go, please do. So many interesting Texas artists and contemporary printmakers will be showcasing their work and offering unique art for sale. If you have any questions about the show in general, please contact the gallery. Otherwise, contact me through email or my form here.

Every art gallery show is different, and artists are more hands-on or less so, depending on the gallery and opportunity. But a lot of the tasks I have for this show will likely transfer to the next one, so it’s important to invest the time and attention into preparing at each step.

I’ll share installation pics and other information next week!

As you can probably tell from this long post, this has been dominating my days lately. So, I’ll be back creating new art, working on podcasts and other things mid-month.

Don’t ever let anyone tell you artists don’t work, especially if you’re an artist! (: