There’s a very famous song from Stephen Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George titled “Putting it Together” where the artist George Seurat sings about how he paints and sells a work. You can check it out at     

Why mention it?   ‘Cause Henderson Productions has been spending the last couple of months and, definitely the last week, putting everything together for our upcoming show at Dockside in Colonial Beach, VA.   We thought you might appreciate how it all gets put together.

Focus on Travel Flyer
Our final themed flyer for the show.

Of course, it starts with an invitation to put a show together.   In this case we knew about six months in advance since the organizer runs south to avoid winter.   The first thing we do is come up with a theme and analyze what we have that suits the theme as well as make choices for new works to create and prepare.    Literally that can take us months.    In this case, we chose “Focus on Travel” to both emphasize our brand and capitalize on two trips we had scheduled between the time we knew about the dates and the actual show.  Since we are both photographers and fine artists, we included both in the plans.

Keeping it all tracked and promoted

Then off we go to Hawaii and Tanzania and create gorgeous images and memories.   For lots of reasons (we’ll fill you in on that process another time), it takes us almost a month to narrow down the images to share  on social media, include in our books and, ultimately, include in competitions and this show.    Meanwhile, Sue works on publicity, creates a flyer and an email campaign, inserts into appropriate regional calendars and coordinates with the gallery venue.

It has to all go together just right

At the same time, Rick is preparing the framing operation – laying in supplies, getting images printed and purchasing frames.    For the record, we usually try to purchase ready-made frames as a way of containing costs.  We’d love to have our framing friends do all this work for us but we’re not there yet.    Most artists we know do their own framing and there are classes we’ve attended and experts we’ve learned from to make sure we do a good job.    Like many artists, we’ve developed some signature looks preferring, in most cases, black frames for most of our pieces.    Sometimes there’s a piece that needs a different color but we’re getting to a place where they are all consistent.

A couple weeks before the actual show hanging, we’ll schedule an entire day to get everything ship shape and ready.    First up is gathering the work.   For us that means bringing them all upstairs from our lower level studio.   Both framed and unframed end up scattered all over our dining and great rooms leaning up against walls and furniture.   Unframed pieces are individually matted and framed.   This is the bulk of our time with Sue cleaning glass and using artists tape to permanently mount photographs to the mats and Rick framing and adding hardware.

We’ll put the pieces into the frame being careful to not leave fingerprints or lint on the inside.    Many years ago, after a visit to China, Sue began to uniquely label all pieces with our corporate stamps in a signature turquoise.    Paintings receive just the Tortuga stamp while photographs also receive the focus stamp.

Each photo is individually signed on the back by the artist also in turquoise.  Then labels are created for the bottom right corner of the back for each piece with our website info pre-printed and the title and media hand written.    It takes a little while but it’s shaping up.

Meanwhile, Rick begins to put hanging hardware on the newly framed pieces and repairing any challenges from those previously stored.    He prefers to work standing up so that operation shifts to the kitchen island.  Drilling small holes for screw eyes and then stringing the picture wire is an art unto itself often resulting in a few choice words and a band-aid. 

By this time, Sue is creating an excel spreadsheet inventory and wall labels.    We chose to take a physical break a few hours in and lay out the show in attractive combinations for the wall spaces available.   We had visited the venue to take some blank wall pics weeks earlier and used these images to roughly plot out how it will look putting like items together –

Laying out the show combinations

“all these people look good together”; “wait, I think I want the black and white animal collection hung together”; “do you like these brightly colored ones from six different continents grouped with each other?   Or should they be spread around?”.    In our case, this might involve a beer or glass of wine.

The inventory is color-coded to help us remember what goes together.   Then  the pieces are given another once over while being bagged in their groupings.   God bless Ikea and those super strong big bags.   Rick loads them all into the Rav 4 while Sue gathers the hanging supplies – extra labels, turquoise pen, glass cleaner, a step stool, business cards, signage if necessary, hammer, nails, and framing backup supplies.    It’s a job well done when it’s all tucked in and ready to hang.

Rick straightening a colorful collection
Sue preparing the labels

Hanging a show is an art in itself.   Sometimes the gallery space has their own process.  Sometimes it’s all on us.   For this show, in a well-situated realty office, we hang it trying to be as unobtrusive as possible during their working hours.   With so much advance preparation and a few on site tweaks, we can get the show hung in a couple of hours or so.   Labels are double-stick taped to the wall near each piece and oila!   It’s ready.

The black and white safari collection is hung together

Focus on Travel shows for the month of April at Dockside Realty, Colonial Beach, Virginia.  The opening reception is Friday, April 12 from 6-9 PM.  If you’d like to see the show with us, drop us an email or note and we’ll plan to meet you there anytime.   Come down to the beach and enjoy a little spring with us!