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Getting Your First Art Show

Flow Arte Exhibition at Archibald et Alistair Montreal

Snow fell for the most part of the day. That soft, fluffy thing. The kind I love. It wasn’t cold. Just a perfect, memorable day. I wasn’t necessarily nervous until about 4:30 when I realized that I was doing my first art show IRL.

Flow Arte exhibition

You may have felt the same at one point: something that seems momentous is happening, maybe a speaking engagement, a feature in a magazine or blog. Maybe your graduation or your wedding or an exhibition, for example.

All those things bring the spotlight towards you and it seems for a brief moment, you’ve achieved something grand.

I may have a strange philosophy which I’m reluctant to share, but I’ll do it anyway because it’s helpful to me and maybe it will be helpful for someone else.

Low expectations always.

This doesn’t mean to shatter dreams or self-deprecate or undervalue things. What I mean is that if you put too much weight on something, it will probably never meet those high expectations. If you have low expectations, the result will always surprise you and even if it doesn’t go well, you won’t feel crushed.

This philosophy has helped me manage levels of disappointment. Of course, when I’ve secretly wanted something very badly and it doesn’t happen, I am indeed crushed and it takes me a while to get over it. Usually it’s something I’ve left to chance and superstition, but when an event is set and I walk into it with curiosity and low expectations I am 97% of the time happily surprised.

There was an art show.

FlowArte Exhibition

Have you ever come across someone who is doing what you want to do and wonder, hey, how did they get there? It happens to me often. And up until last year, I thought it was truly a case of “build it and they will come”. But in reality, every event, from tiny to grand, has so many steps. Not least, saying YES.

I live in a neighbourhood in Montreal that is not well known. In fact when people arrived they were joking that it was the first time they rode the Green line to the very end.

Archibald & Alistair is a lovely café near my house. The first time I went there I got so excited I texted my husband: we have a café!! And a million emojis. We used to live on the Plateau, so I was missing my weekly coffee crawl.

I  went a few times, followed them on Instagram and Facebook and genuinely interacted with them. At one point I went and offered them some greeting cards on consignment and they said yes. Part of their mission is to promote local artists. They exhibit a different artist each month.

After my 100 day project, I focused more and more on watercolour and at the end of 2017 they asked if I’d like to exhibit my work. A first art show!

Getting your first art show, despite your introvert self.

Two weeks before the exhibition I was about to balk. I didn’t know how to frame things, how they would look, if my work was good enough (always the question…) what would people say?

But little by little, overcoming my fear and my procrastination, I purchased frames, cleaned them, did last minute touch-ups to some paintings. Made a list, wrote a bio, made the little cards that go with each painting. And I promoted the show. This was by far the hardest. And yes, we all know that it shouldn’t feel awkward or yucky but it does.

FlowArte Portraits

I showed three portraits. Which I haven’t shared on social media. These portraits are very personal. This one for example, is one of my dearest friends. A woman with a personality unlike any other, so intelligent and cultured, so authentic and yet mysterious. She’s not on social media. She’s out there living her life. Touching other’s lives with her unique way of teaching. Nobody can ever forget her.

Camille Claudel Portrait by FlowArte

And this, a portrait of Camille Claudel.

My very first attempt at a portrait was in 2014, precisely Camille. The horror! I still have it. It’s a reminder to keep practicing, keep experimenting, keep going towards the aesthetic you want to achieve. (The photos aren’t quite clear because it was getting dark)

Camille’s story fascinates me. The movie with Isabelle Adjani is one of my favourites.

I’m also showing a series of mono prints that I made using glass and watercolor. After failing to get prints I liked on the Gelli plate, I looked for ways to do printing with watercolor. Five of the best results are on display. Two sold!

Mono Prints FlowArte

So, low expectations?

It was a lovely, casual, friendly evening. I was able to relax and talk a little about my work. I happily took compliments and enjoyed the moment.

Sometimes small events are the best for dipping your toes, especially if you’re an introvert. Simply take the opportunities that feel right for you.  I usually feel I have to take every opportunity that comes my way and there have been times when the stress of it has not been worth it.

If I’d been in a frenzy treating this as a live or die situation, like opportunities sometimes feel, it might have been a very different experience. If I’d expected sales, amazing contacts, partnerships and all that business stuff, I would not have savoured it. Instead, I enjoyed hearing about upcoming marriages, babies, travel plans. Gather recommendations for our upcoming trip to France, discuss a favourite topic of mine: handbags!

So if you’re an artist, small business owner, freelancer, be on the low-expectation spectrum, take the opportunities that feel good and enjoy the moment. It’s cliché, I know, but it’s also a great place to be.

Five Things Friday

Green Shake Recipe

Little by little you climb the mountain. Or something like that. As much as it feels like the weeks are like a sneeze and you can’t see them go by, making this Five Things Friday recap will definitely give me some perspective. Especially when it feels (so often now) that I work so much and see so little results. It was comforting, as misery really does love company, to listen to a well known illustrator admit to not having had inquiries during the month of January. She is someone who has gained a lot of popularity on Social Networks.

Is January just slow?

Or am I climbing the wrong mountain?

  1. I confirmed the opening date for my exhibition! It is the first time I will show my work in person. I’m really nervous. All the self-doubt monsters are chanting loudly. It is never easy despite knowing that I’ve made progress that I can allow my work to hang on a wall. It was a wonderful surprise to be asked by this small café in my neighbourhood.


  1. I bought a box of Prismacolors a year ago and I hadn’t used it. See previous post about my clean-up. I decided to give them a go. Be a beginner again. I know nothing about colour pencils and it felt like I was wrangling them into submission. I had a hard time blending and shading. Portraits are becoming a thing for me. I love doing Sktchy portraits in the evening. I love I can sketch real people instead of models from magazines which I started to do waaaay back in 2014 I also prefer Sktchy instead of creating from my imagination because I usually end up drawing the same face over and over.

Sktchy portraits3. A weekend at the cabin. What luxury. No internet, just silence, light and painting. Lots of watercoloring, lots of experimenting in joyful flow. My first incursion into recipe illustration.

Green Shake Recipe

  1. I created a set of four printable Valentine’s cards. Though I know Valentine’s is a double sworded holiday as most holidays are. For some, they are painful reminders to what is missing whether it’s Mother’s day, Father’s day and all the rest. I was inspired particularly this year because of my tenth wedding anniversary. I feel it’s a milestone and as I painted these hearts in different colors I thought about the little things that show love day in day out as opposed as the grand gestures that movies, media and society keep showing us. A simple printed colorful card to acknowledge what we truly value is enough. And it applies to friends, family, significant other, co-workers etc. Blue valentine card

  2. Week three of MBSR showed me how truly one single sitting can leave me feeling refreshed. I tried the meditation stool which is definitely my preferred way of sitting in a  “dignified” position as my instructor says. I haven’t practiced as much as I should, I italicize because obviously that is a thought that comes like a Pacman to eat at my experiences.


Printable Valentine’s Watercolor Cards

Printable Watercolor Valentine's Cards

What are those small rituals you share with your partner? What are the things you want to say in a more permanent way than with an emoji? Do you often remember how you met? Do you anticipate what he or she will do or say? Do you imagine them as little kids and feel warm and fuzzy? Do you say thank you to your mother in law for creating this perfect creature?

Are you in the beginning stages? Are you building a home? Are you ten, twenty or thirty years into your life together? What do you share the most? Are there stories about him or her you do not yet know? (I often ask my husband: “Tell me something you haven’t told me…”) Do you melt with their little idiosyncrasies? Do you each buy your own toothpaste because one or the other won’t put the cap back on?

Do you keep quiet when they take a nap hoping to let them sleep as long as they want? And do they get up in the freezing morning to walk your beloved dog? Do they cook for you? Do they bring you a smoothie in the middle of the day? Do they let you choose the Netflix movie on Friday night?

Are you opposites? Are you alike? Can you be silent for a while and be OK? Can you talk about everything?

Maybe your days are full and there is no time to go and look for a pretty card, maybe you want to add a personal touch, you want to say things in your own hand writing.

Here is a Valentine’s day card which you can print on the paper of your choice. It’s easy and convenient to print, cut, fold and personalize.

Printable Valentine's Watercolor cards

Watercolor Valentine's Card

You can customize it by adding a bit of thread, adding inspired and romantic words as collage, giving it a more rustic look using crafts scissors to mimic torn paper like so:

FlowArte Watercolor Valentines Card

You can purchase it here as an instant download.


Psst: My newsletter subscribers will get it free! Join and I will send it out this weekend!

Five Things Friday

Color palettes

I spent six days almost completely at home, except for a few hours on Tuesday when I went to my MBSR session. That’s a record even for me and my solitary tendencies. Though my husband works from home often and we’re in our respective offices, not leaving the house for so long seems unhealthy, but is it really?

Or is it one of those things that most people find difficult and strange and so they advocate for “leaving the house” even if the entire city is a block of ice and walking is hazardous. I’m not exaggerating. The temperature went up, it rained quite a bit and then the temperature plummeted and so cars, windows and houses woke up in a shell of ice.

icy window

So here we go.

  1. I did my Body Scan meditation in the subway. I never thought I’d be able but I did it. I felt every inch of my body, I saw my thoughts as bubbles. Ten minutes is all it took. It is quite a feat to manage not reading, not looking at the phone,
  2. I opened my commissions page. For the moment, I’m offering personalized scarves, but soon I will offer other items. I’d love some suggestions!
    FlowArte Scarves and Leggings
  3. I spent a good part of Thursday building color palettes. Sometimes I get the feeling I’m trapped in the same combinations or influenced by other artists a bit too much so I turned off the internet, grabbed a stack of magazines and created a few mood boards. Up until now I’ve relied heavily on Pinterest, but as we all know, it can be quite unproductive and directionless as it’s the algorithm that suggests similar pins, you are not really choosing and observing.
    Color palettes
  4. I watched M2M documentary about Fashion in the 90’s. The documentation team did an amazing job. It’s so good in every level: it allows us to see creativity from every angle, from trendsetters to followers. For example how at one point all the luxury brands had to turn to the street for inspiration. Even Valentino! I’m not a fashion consumer, but I love the creative and historical aspect of it.
  5. I cleaned my office/studio. This might seem like procrastination but I was at a point where I couldn’t function. I felt overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff that kept piling up. I don’t allow myself to use the common spaces of the place I live in. I tend to claim a space/room for myself and I jam it with everything I consider mine. So at this point I was drowning. I did it the Marie Kondo way and I battled quite a bit with shame in the process when I saw right there in front of me, how much money I had spent in art supplies that were going bad because I wasn’t using them. How I bought another mechanical pencil when I had eight already. But also, I recognized how much work I’ve put into my development as an artist. Piles of old sketches showed me that I have come a long way.
    Cleaning the studio

This weekend we’re going back to the cabin. I will bring fewer things this time. I’ll attempt to keep up with meditation and I will try to write a little bit.