November 29, 2013

The Post Exhibition Blues

Many artists work extremely hard and go full speed for months (sometimes years) in preparation for an exhibition.

The Build Up

There is a vast amount of time, money and emotion that goes into the preparation of an event or exhibition. So understandably, after that exhibition comes to an end, there’s that great sigh of relief.

What Came Next

Artists enjoy the down time and the new “lack of stress”… because exhibitions are very demanding and take a lot out of you. But eventually all of that wears off and we find ourselves looking for the next challenge or project.

In my case I went back to a few reference photos that I had wanted to work on. I was excited, prepped all of my materials and went right to it…  but those pieces didn’t quite turn out how I wanted them to. I wasn’t pleased with them at all.

So then I went back to what was very familiar and even those pieces didn’t’ turn out as expected. Now some 4-5 pieces in I find myself trying to figure out what’s wrong… why am I going backwards… I want to put all of these “wanna be art pieces” in the trash…I wasn’t quite sure what was happening at the easel… paintings don’t paint themselves after all.

The Post Exhibition Blues

So on top of that, when you are working with materials that are costly and scarce, you don’t take lightly to what may feel like wasting materials… dollar signs start floating out the window. I’ve got wasted materials, nothing to show for it and some massive frustration, and some fear of failure mixed  in there too. To sum it up I have the “post-exhbition blues“.


Working Through the Post Exhibition Blues

I read an interesting article within the “Professional Artist Magazine“, written by Matthew Daub entitled “How to Turn the Page” which talks about how an artist can work their way through the post-exhibition blues by focusing on three things:


“Being lost and adrift can be positive because it means we must find our way once again. It is a break in whatever course we may have been taking…

Thoughts such as, “I should be doing this or that, are counterproductive. I have learned to give myself permission not to work if that’s where I happen to be psychologically…

 Make  no mistake – the creative process can be greuling, show or no show. We are not on a factory assembly line with artworks slipping off the end of the conveyor. Even a factory needs to shut down for repairs once in a while…

It’s difficult not to have specific expectations of yourself every time you approach the easel so I find I need to relax a bit more and truly enjoy the process. When I find that I’m not enjoying the process I would like to remind myself to stop, take a break and try again some other time.

I tend to feel uncomfortable with leaving a piece alone if I can’t see where it’s going but such is the struggle of an artist. As they say this isn’t a production line right! Can you too relate to this concept in other areas of your life?


 “A time of stepping back can be more than beneficial; it can be our creative salvation… When you find yourself in the doldrums, some time off may be the cure, and you can come back refreshed and excited…

For our work to be meaningful, it must emanate from the centre of our being, from a pristine and driven inner motivation, not some routine obligation.”

Pretty good point here! Maybe take some more time to think things through and write about what my next project or series will be so that whatever I decide has been thought through and has a lot of vision and planing behind it…. versus I need to put out something new asap. And of course even that has to be done without the overwhelming expectations right… that’s difficult but I see it’s something to work towards.


“We have to be certain that our assessment proceeds from an internal search for meaning and not the external desire for recognition.”

Assessment with the aim to understand the meaning…versus recognition. What do you think of this suggestion? Perhaps it’s an encouragement to focus more on understanding the process versus focusing so much on the acceptance of the output especially by others…

Post exhibition blues, have you ever gone through something similar after completing a large project?

I’ll take one day at a time and let life simply take it’s course.



  • Daggi Wallace November 29, 2013

    Nessa, your feelings are shared by most artists, which is why the term “post exhibition blues” was coined in the first place! It takes such an enormous amount of faith and belief in oneself to put on an exhibition, there isn’t much left inside of us after it’s done. The well is dry and needs to be replenished. This can be especially hard if sales were not what we were hoping for (I have no idea how it went for you, so forgive me if I’m off track).

    Crippling self-doubt sets in, a touch of embarrassment even because we now have to face our family and friends who accepted our massive amounts of time and money spent on putting on the exhibit and we may not have much to show for it. This can bring anyone to their knees and doubt our direction. What helps me is to trust the process and take a look at past good work.

    There is enough of it there to remind us that the good ones were not flukes and will happen again. Relax, get quiet, turn inward to figure out the next right step to take and forge ahead. And remember, that you’re not alone! Every exhibiting artist has been there!

  • Gabrielle November 30, 2013

    It’s funny, I’ve been thinking a lot about all of this lately and so I really responded to what you said in this post, but more in an emotional response; a resonance, than in being able to articulate my thoughts well.

    Maybe what Matthew Daub is saying about assessment points to how addictive recognition can be. After the high from all of that external attention and recognition during a show (or the trauma if there wasn’t a good response), we have to get back in touch with the inner drive that makes us do what we do, the inner vision that keeps us from second-guessing ourselves and our work.

  • Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.