Our two receptions have been more elaborate than such events need to be. The main goal is to display artwork and, in a very casual and low-key way, to offer the pieces for sale. We wanted to make the occasion a fun party, too, so hired a piano player and offered beverages, appetizers, and small desserts each time. It's fun, but fairly expensive--and was a ton of work the first time before we acquired a catering daughter-in-law. In the future, I would like to try a reception with very simple food--maybe just cookies and punch, or cider with cheese and crackers.
I sent out postcard invitations to a wide list of people. The guest book information from the first reception was an invaluable source for the second. In order to encourage everyone to sign the guest book, I offer a prize drawing using the guest book signatures. Each entry is numbered, so late in the party, I simply put little numbered squares of cardboard (made in advance)--one for each actual guest book entry--into a bowl and draw the winners. A large poster board sign outside the front door read: "Please sign our guest book for a chance to win a prize." It listed prizes (this year, first prize was a $100 gift certificate toward any painting, second was a custom tote bag printed with an image of the same painting as on the postcard invitations). It gave the time of the drawing (4:15) and that you do not have to be present to win, which is an incentive to provide contact information in the guest book. This works very well; I am quite certain that every guest to both receptions not only signed the guest book, but provided an address and email and/or phone information.
Some of you might be interested in other details of the planning and set-up, but this post is long enough already. If you would like a description of my price and painting care information sheet and/or list of planning tasks essential to preparation for this kind of event, I will include that in a future post. Let me know. For now, I include photos of some recycled art bookmarks, an idea from Linda Blondheim, that guests enjoyed and purchased by the bunch. The process: After finishing the last couple paintings, I cleaned the palettes (always hate to waste paint) by stroking various leftover colors mixed with some white gesso in a sort of marbled pattern on the back of unneeded studies and a painting reject. Then, I cut them neatly into bookmark-sized strips, which creates interesting abstracts from the original paintings. These sold for $2 each, or 3 for $5. One photo shows the "fronts" and one the "backs" of the bookmarks.
Question of the day: In your area, do you see fewer people going to formal art galleries to purchase art? What are some other ways you see artists and craftspeople marketing their work?