Thursday, July 9, 2015

Demystifying the Gallery World: Part 2

Demystifying the Gallery World Part 2: 
Photography, Documentation, Framing, & Shipping

-By Lauren Panepinto Julie Baroh

This May at Spectrum Fantastic Art Live Julie Baroh of Krab Jab Studios gallery gave a fantastic Bootcamp for artists all about getting into the gallery world. It was such a fantastic presentation that I asked her to take over my Muddy Colors column to post the info for everyone that couldn't be at Spectrum. And it turns out there's so MUCH great info that it's going to take two three installments. So read Part 1, enjoy this second part, and thank you to Julie Baroh, for both the bootcamp and these write-ups!

In Part 1 of this three-part article, I wrote about approaching galleries, developing a show, and working with a curator or gallerist. In this segment, I will be talking about the finer points of preparing your work for a show.

So let’s just say you have broken into the gallery world (yay!), found yourself a show, worked out your schedule for your workload and you’re ready to rock. It’s all creative juices from here on out, right?

Well, sort of.

You have a few more things to boggle your left side of the brain, namely things like Documentation of your work, Framing (or Display), and Shipping.

Photography (Visual Documentation)

Unless you work digitally, you will need to photograph your work. Most of us earn a big fat “F” in this category, simply because we don’t consider the quality of the photograph, especially in the advent of scanners and cell phones. We also do not consider lighting. At. All.

Sculptors need to consider photographing their work from many angles, catching details, and avoid busy backgrounds (patterned, pretty backgrounds are a bad idea. Consider a neutral gray or white). Sculptors may also consider shooting a video of their work in the round, as well as photograph the work with something to denote scale (example: if it’s a tiny piece, take a photo of it with a US quarter or a ruler).

Painters/2D artists actually have it worse than sculptors in that the reflection of ambient light can ruin the photograph, blowing out areas of the work with reflection or shadow. This can happen in a scanner, too, especially if there’s any texture or metallic surface to the piece. One solution is to scan the work then photograph the work and mask in the metallic (or textural) areas from the photograph. However, this only works if you are good at color correction (and your computer is set to a true color profile).

Dan Chudzinski's Lennon

Things to consider when photographing 2D art:

• Resolution. Make sure you are getting a good, raw, high resolution photograph with as little compression as possible.
• Temperature. Cool or warm light can greatly affect the color of a painting or the paper.
• Reflection. Direct lighting will undoubtedly reflect. Too much direct lighting, even if ambient, will blow out glazes in an oil painting. There are ways to mask out reflection in Photoshop but unless you’re good at it, just try to get the light as ambient as possible.
• Professional photography. Hiring a art photographer can sometimes be a good investment, especially if your work will be published at a later date.
• Avoid over-Photo shopping a bad photograph. A bad photo is a bad photo. Do a retake.
• Don’t photograph a piece under glass. If the piece is framed, attempt to take the glass out, if possible. Glass often leaves a tint.
• WIP (work in progress) studio photographs are a great form of documentation. Try to keep the lighting consistent, however.

Digital Art:

Digital artists have it much easier, of course. Find out what resolution and file type your curator or gallery needs, as well as what size. Make sure the version you send them is the same version you will be printing (or displaying); I’ve had more than one digital artist accidentally send me an earlier variation of a work.

Also, don’t splash your watermark all over your image – talk to the curator to find out the usage of the art first. They may be using it to print posters, for example, or for a newspaper article.

Label Documentation:

You will need to note what medium you used to create your work, including (for painters) panel vs canvas, or paper. For traditional paints, just noting type (“watercolor”) is fine (you don’t need to note the brand).

For sculpture, assemblage or collage, “mixed media” is acceptable if there are more than a handful of medium types to construct your work.

If there is a special technique to create the piece (“pyrography”, “chine colle”, “lost wax transfer”, “hand tinted etching”), note that.

For digital artists or printmakers, you’ll need to note if your piece is part of a limited edition, numbered print run and if so, how large a run and what number this piece is in the run. You’ll want to note the type of paper printed on (and if its archival). If you added a drawing to the print (or any hand embellishment), this is called a “Remarque” and should also be noted. Letters of Authenticity might be good to create for your print runs; these can be valuable for provenance purposes, especially if the print run was created just for the show.

Framing and Display of Your Work

Unless your gallery has its own framer that it prefers to use, you’ll have to consider how you’ll “finish off” your piece for display. We often think of this step as “someone else’s problem”, since most of us in the publication industry sell our work piecemeal or through conventions where “display” can mean simply clipping a matted illustration to a grid wall.

Stephanie Pui-Mun Law's Daphnis

Many galleries have a load limit on their walls; this is important to know, especially if your wall piece is heavy or bulky. You’ll likely have a limitation of “hang space” on the wall that you’ll need to know as well. If it’s not in your agreement, definitely ask about these.

For free-standing sculptures, you’ll want to know that gallery’s display surfaces and if pieces can be anchored. Height of displays should be considered as well. Will the pieces be incased in glass/acrylic, or open? Are they in high traffic areas?  Does your piece have special needs, such as access to electricity? Is it interactive? Fragile? Does it need special lighting?

Matting and Mounting:

For 2D art, first consideration is quality of your matting. We all recommend using archival materials for matting and mounting, as well as any glue/tape. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen artists tape their work with a non-archival masking tape to the mat board, or use old cardboard to back a piece. No. No. No. Oh, wait… No. No exceptions.

If you plan on taping your work to the mat to avoid slippage, use an archival tape that is easy to remove or cut off the piece, and only tape to the margins (not into the image). If you use glue, a water based archival glue like rice paste is preferred. These are easy to remove for conservation or reframe purposes. Don’t use drafting tape. No. No. No.

Use a neutral colored mat. Grays, creams, and some blacks are acceptable.


Talk to your gallerist or curator about your framing options; many artists choose to ship art unframed and have the curator pick out economical frames for them. Often the gallerist knows or works with good framers, or knows of good online framing options.

If you choose to frame yourself, consider both quality as well as hardware. Cheapest is not always best, especially if you plan on slapping a high price on the work.

When framing:

• Don’t use glass if you plan on shipping. There are inexpensive acrylics out there you can use, available at frame shops or online frame stores. -If you use museum glass, don’t touch it with your bare hands. Oil ruins it. Wipe with microfiber.
• If you use plexi glass or another acrylic, clean it with a microfiber or with a cleaner approved for plastics. Not all glass cleaners work on plastics.
• Don’t use chipped or scuffed frames.
• Choose a frame style that compliments your piece. Avoid bright colors; stick with neutrals (woods, black frames or simple gold/silver).
• Sawtooth hangers tend to hang poorly and will pull away from the frame if not installed correctly (or the frame is too heavy). Tiny, built-in triangle hangers are also unreliable (these are found on cheap pre-made frames). I recommend installing D-ring hardware with the correct length screws (too small and they will pop off) along with picture wire. If you have a heavy panel, or a long horizontal panel, you could just install hardware (D-rings) and hang directly off those vs  a long, unwieldly amount of wire.
• If you do chip your frame, Sharpie pens work on tiny chips for black frames, and there are wood stain pens available for various wood tones. You can touch up metals with metallic paint, just make sure to match as best as you can.

Shipping Your Work

When shipping your work, consider the fact that the only people involved with the shipping process who really care about your package contents are you and the gallery. No amount of “Fragile” stickers will make your packing decisions sound or keep your pieces from getting bounced around.
Often, the artist is responsible for the cost of shipping. We naturally want to make things as economical as possible, but there are some key things to consider when you ship work with a carrier that you shouldn’t bypass.


Insure your package! Insure it for the value of the work you are shipping, or at least for your commission rate value. Things do break, things do get lost.

Delivery Time:

If you choose the cheapest shipping rate (which is Ground) with a carrier, make sure the package will actually arrive on time. All carriers have an “estimated delivery time” – this is not a guaranteed delivery date, as sometimes shipments are delayed due to weather, for example. Also consider that some carriers don’t deliver on Saturdays, and they don’t count Sundays as a business day.

If you are shipping overseas, consider the possibility of customs delay. You’ll want to give your package plenty of time to get through customs.


You’ll want the gallery to sign for your package. You don’t want your package just left on a door step. Make sure to check this option.

Return Package Option:

If your piece doesn’t sell and needs to be returned, consider printing out a return shipping label (which doesn’t cost you anything unless it’s used) with your carrier and send it along with your package. Otherwise, you may want to set up an account with your carrier (which can be done online and is easy) and give your account number to the gallery, along with your return shipment preferences. Most galleries will not pay for return shipment.

Yoann Lossel Les Fleurs du Mal


You will want to pack your work in such a way that it won’t shift in transit, that the box won’t collapse or compress if something is stacked on it, and equally, it’s not overpacked (bulging).

If you are packaging multiple pieces of 2D art, you’ll want to make sure your frames are not rubbing against each other and that hardware on the back of one frame isn’t connecting with the front of another frame. Wrap your frame corners (or protect them) as they tend to get banged up the worst in transit. And of course, avoid shipping glass.

If you do ship glass, FedEx recommends cross taping the glass (tape an X from corner to corner using a glass safe masking tape, or applying a film across the glass); this keeps the glass from shattering into the artwork should it break. Otherwise, a hardboard or stiff cover across the glass front is recommended (avoid directly on glass; it should rest on the frame front), then wrap in bubble wrap or paper. Then pray to the Shipping Gods.

Oil and acrylic paintings should not have anything touching the surface, although this may be really difficult to accomplish. You can wrap the painting in plastic wrap, but regardless, don’t ship a wet or tacky painting, and certainly don’t ship an oil painting exposed to packing peanuts. Do not wrap your painting in bubble wrap – it WILL leave bubble marks if put directly on a painted surface.

Unframed art should be packed stiffly, between foamcore or heavy, stiff cardboard, with clean tissue or paper separating each piece of art. If you can bend it, it will be bent in shipping, so make it stiff as possible. “Do Not Bend” signs on the package are recommended.

Most galleries don’t accept packing peanuts, so ask before you use them. We prefer bubble wrap or packing paper for 2D work.

3D work is far trickier to pack; you will most likely need to pack your work in a box floating in a box, with packing material cushioning the two (like packing peanuts or foam). Cut foam inserts and molds are commonly used to cushion and support a sculpture. For big, heavy pieces, you’ll have to consider a crate. Places like Uline sells crates for sculpture if you don’t know how to build one. Always make sure the UP side of the crate or box is marked clearly, and your box is sealed firmly.

When in doubt, have your carrier pack your work for you; places like FedEx Centers have these options. You should also ask your gallery or curator if they have any suggestions; often they have preference of carrier or packaging specifications.

Alrighty then, you’ve packed up your artwork, you’re shipping it off, you’ve gotten your documentation requirements fulfilled, you’ve wiped your brow and you’re good to go…right?

I wish I could say The End, but alas, the most mentally stressful part (after creating your art) has been saved for last. That is The Artist Statement, Marketing, and Pricing your art. This will be Part 3 and the Last Installment of this Series!


About Krab Jab Studio:

Fully established by 2010, Krab Jab Studio is the workplace of artists Julie Baroh and Mark Tedin and writer Chris Pramas. With a monthly rotation of guest artists in our gallery, Krab Jab has developed a steady following in the funky, industrial artist's haven known as Seattle's “Georgetown” neighborhood.

Facilitated by Julie Baroh, Krab Jab Studio hosts art shows featuring art by local artists as well as original art by publication and game illustrators worldwide. 

The name "Krab Jab" is a combination of initials of founders Julie Baroh and Kyle Abernethy. We found it to sound funny, and it stuck, even after Kyle left in 2011. Previous Krab Jab artists have included sculptor Gabe Marquez and painters Michael Hoppe, Milo Duke and Sandra Everingham.

twitter: @krabjabstudio
Instagram: krabjabstudio
Current show: “I’ll Read You A Story: Children’s Book Art” features illustrations by leading children’s book artists in the picture book genre, including Scott Gustafson, Cory Godbey, Jerry Pinkney, Jon J Muth, Marc Brown, Ruth Sanderson and many more. Runs July 11 – September 5.

About Julie Baroh:

Seattle native Julie Baroh has lived a life as eclectic as her surroundings. Training as a sculptor and printmaker at the prestigious Cornish College of the Arts, she stumbled into illustration in the game industry quite by accident, working on games such as Magic: the Gathering and Legends of the Five Rings in their early inception. After a 6 year stint as a freelance illustrator, Julie worked in the software industry (“to exercise my left brain”) for several years before returning to her first love, art. Although she considers herself first and foremost an artist, her mad organizational skills and background in curation was a natural fit for the up and coming Krab Jab Studio gallery, which she currently runs with an iron fist, releasing shows at a fevered pace.

Julie has several books and publications under her belt (as an illustrator), speaks at conventions on the subject of gallery preparation for artists, and writes for her popular blog on She currently lives in Seattle with her two Boxers and exhausted husband.


...Thank you Julie! Stay tuned for part 3!

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the Articles! They are really great.

    I am curious if you will touch on dealing with galleries as an international artist? For example, I am from Canada and if I am interested in working with a US gallery, what might I encounter with shipping through customs, and how would I get paid for pieces sold?