Peek Inside a Catalog of Your Art

Catalogs document an exhibition or body of work. They are a record of your career at a moment in time.

You can create electronic catalogs and/or printed catalogs, but I urge you to consider the latter.

A printed catalog is tactile. It can be placed in a gallery setting and held in one’s hands. It can be sent through the mail with a handwritten note as a gift to one of your VIPs. There’s nothing quite like seeing your art in print!

Printed catalogs can also be sold. However, catalogs are rarely money-making ventures. I encourage you to think of them as marketing pieces and documentation rather than products you might sell for profit.

Artist Catalogs

A selection of artist catalogs

In order to ensure that your catalog is a lasting document of a point in your art career, see that all of the components are in place.

Catalog Contents

Focus

For a cohesive catalog, focus on a single solo exhibit or body of work. Unless your exhibit is a retrospective, you won’t be served by putting everything you’ve made into a catalog.

Cover


Title Page


Flipside of Title Page


  • Copyright notice and date
  • Credits: Designer, Editor, Proofreader, Essayist, Photographer, etc.
  • ISBN number (if you use one)
  • Instructions for ordering copies

Images

There’s no sense having a catalog without images! Just be sure that your images follow these guidelines.

  • Images should be of high resolution and of excellent quality.
  • Images placed next to one another in the catalog should look good together.
  • Images should have credit lines. You don’t need your name with every image unless the catalog includes work besides your own, but there should be a title, medium, dimensions (HxWxD), and date (if you use dates).

Text

The written portion of your catalog is an opportunity to tell people about you and make deeper connections. Consider the following sections.

About can be placed at the front or back of the catalog. It could include:

  • Short bio
  • All contact info

Your Artist Statement can be near your About or placed next to the images.

A Galleries section tells readers where to find your work.

An Essay by someone else can contextualize your art.

Individual Stories next to images provide entry points for readers.

Prices

Rather than printing prices in your catalog, insert a separate piece of paper with a price list. This allows you more flexibility with pricing.

After Your Catalog is Printed

Take advantage of your new catalog as soon as it’s published. If you’re hard at work in the studio, it will soon be out of date.

I’ll be giving you some ideas for catalog distribution in an upcoming post. Be sure you’re subscribed (upper right of any page on this blog) so you don’t miss this information.

Have you printed a catalog of your art? Share your experience and, if we can read about it or see it online, feel free to leave a link.

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50 comments to Peek Inside a Catalog of Your Art

  • In my previous life as a graphic designer one of the exciting and necessary part of the printing process was to be on hand to review the sheets as they come off the press. This your artwork and no one knows it’s subtlelties better than you. There are many factors that determine the quality of a finished catalog; the original images, the paper it’s printed on, the expertise of the individuals preparing the catalog for press but the most important is your artists eye viewing the sheets after all of the press adjustments have been made. Don’t turn this responsibility over to anyone else.

    • Tollaty agree with William Marvin, as you may of drawen or designed a great piece of art but you could be let down by the printing.

      So always follow your art at every step!!

  • Do you have a recommended place to have the catalog printed?
    I’ve had one book published by Blurb. Not an extensive book, but it cost just over $40 each for 8 X 10 on good paper.
    That’s ok to help promote something but can’t be sold for much of a profit.

  • I have 2 catalogs. One for my American Indians (printed at Blurb), one for my Contemporary Realism (printed at Shutterfly). They both look great. Yes, they are expensive (I waited for discount offers from both publishers) I’ve sold a few but the main reason I had them printed was to give them away to my collectors. Keep in mind that 99.9% of my work is sold in galleries and I don’t know who my collectors are but if they go to the trouble of contacting me and saying “Hey, I bought a painting” then I thank them with a book.
    Of course if I were selling my paintings at a “low end” price, I’d stick with sending inexpensive postcards/greeting cards as a “thank you”

    • This is a recent dilemma for me as an artist…..why DON”T we know who our collectors are? Paranoia.
      I’ve had a running debate with my most active gallery salesperson, who doesn’t want to give me patrons’ names for fear I’ll contact them directly.
      I think it should be illegal to keep this info from artists.
      Nancy

      • It is in some places, Nancy. Illegal, that is.

        But it isn’t unwarranted paranoia. Many galleries have been stung by artists underselling them from their studios. Word gets around and one bad artist ruins it for the rest.

        One final thing: Gallerists (like you) have privacy policies in which they agree not to share buyers names with anyone. Sharing with artists would violate that policy.

  • I’m very interested to know what publishers artists are using, now. I see Blurb and Shutterfly from K. I did a book with a publisher that begins with “My…” and it had an error that they never made good – bad experience.
    I got a quote for an offset one done in China (printing in China is very good, BTW) for 10K. I wasn’t ready to put on my book marketing and distributing hat, yet. POD is much more attractive.

  • I love this idea!
    My husband actually has a catalog of some artist from decades ago that he’s still holding onto…and I never thought to extrapolate from there!
    Slow…but not stupid.

  • Thank you for such a timely blog! I’m getting ready to put together a book for the Longmont Studio Tour in September.

  • This is on my to do list. We had an article about this on SAQA Journal Spring/Summer. Thanks as always for the great info.

  • Katherine Aimone of ArtsWrite is a professional writer and editor, having done just this for years for museums, artists, publishers and various art publications. Her essays are wonderful and she spends considerable time getting to know and understand artists and their arts. I have retained her services and she’s recently published catalogs and essays for some colleagues. I strongly recommend her services. Here’s a link to her website: http://www.artswrite.com/writing-services/

  • I’m interested in people’s ideas about size, too. And online publishers; I think VistaPrint lets you proof your pages for an extra cost, but they’re in a different league than some of us are talking about. I’ve been pleased with the reproduction on postcards I’ve gotten from them, though.

    VistaPrint offers both brochures (one folded sheet of paper) and photo flip books — has anyone made that work for them? I’d like to keep the cost low enough that I don’t cringe at leaving one wherever someone’s expressed interest.

    • I had no idea vista print does catalogs! I am gonna look into it. I have started one on blurb but it is a work in progress……. One thing bothering me is that, my work keeps evolving even though they are still recognizable as an Ishita (lol)! But considering the changes, how do I keep the catalog relevant?

  • I haven’t progressed beyond an online Google docs catalogue yet – but here’s the link to the one I made for our first ever exhibition which was in April this year:
    https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B1sJFToRe7l1bjlrbmtvTVkzd2s/edit?pli=1
    I sent it on to everyone that attended the exhibition afterwards as a thank you – which was well received
    have to start saving before I can get to the printed stage!
    (and Arthur – Vistaprint can make very good postcards too – we were delighted with the ones we had made – and we always use them for business cards..)

    • The problem with the online catalogs is that you have to have a high speed connection to view it. I don’t have that kind of patience. And if I did, I would only look at it once. Maybe a catalog on a CD would be good?

  • Alyson,
    Thank you for this post–especially the part about crediting the photographer. I used to have a photo credit, but was advised professionally (have forgotten by whom) to remove it. This has caused me to rethink what I’ve been doing, which is always good.

  • Alyson,
    Forgot to ask: On a postcard or greeting card, would you advise to place the credit on the back of the postcard?

    • Yes, probably at the lower-left corner of the back, grouped with other info if necessary. I did it in a dark grey (not black) one time, and it looked good. Of course if the front image didn’t bleed to the edge and you had white space that you used for other info, you could put the credit in a small font, flush right, right up under the image.

      I definitely would credit the photographer on a card. I just realized, though, that on my website, where there are lots of images and captions that sometimes take all available space, I haven’t been crediting the shots that aren’t mine. But then what do you do — credit the professional shots and leave your own uncredited? Credit them all, including your name (or “the artist”) over and over? Stick a statement somewhere like “All images by the artist unless otherwise noted”?

  • I brought a photobook on my recent trip to NC–along with some smaller and portable works. I think the catalog helped land me the gallery. Sure, my email setting up our meeting led them to my online gallery, but the book was a professional touch that I could hand to the gallery owner during our meeting. I bought it from A&I Books–8.5×11, 40pages, $30 each. It would be nice to have on hand for collectors if I can find a more affordable price.

    • Good work, Cathy! Yes, $30 is a little steep. Can’t really leave those lying around.

      It used to be that we left slide packets with galleries. Let’s see, a sheet of 20 slides at $1.50 per slide (minimum) is . . . $35! More than a catalog.

  • HUGE word of caution: most of the on-line printers, like Vista Print, will their info on the back of their product. So unless you’re prepared to advertise for them, I would not recommend using those commercial online printers. Take a look at some of the samples on ArtsWrite’s website.

    • Which of their products are you thinking of? I have several Vista Print business cards and postcards, and can’t find their name anywhere.

    • Good point, Pat. I’ve found the advertising to be very unobtrusive.

    • The Blurb books I have don’t put the graphic on the back – only on the inside.

    • I have used OvernightPrints for business, blank notecards with my art, and postcards with good success. Prices are really good,they have sales, you can print small runs, they fix mistakes quickly and no logos on them. I have seen nice business cards and postcards by MOO. They have a different look than Overnight and are more expensive. I may give them a go for my next cards.

  • I have used Apple’s Aperture program to design books in the past. I was happy with the quality. Recently I used Blurb (in April and June) to publish several books. Both 8″ x 10″ and 13″ x 11″. Personally I like the bigger size. Images display better and the book opens up to reveal the gutter. Print quality is good. I’ve been a professional photographer for 15 years, been using Adobe’s Photoshop for 20 years and have my own studio equipment. So, I had pretty good images to work with and could design my book in Photoshop. Here is a link to my latest book on blurb: http://www.blurb.com/bookstore/detail/3318160

    • Kort: Thanks for sharing your experience with the different formats. The book looks great!
      I see that there’s a price list in there. Are you happy with this decision to put the prices in print?

      Also, the book lists for $80. Do you mind sharing your costs with us?

      • Alyson, thank you. I put an art list in the book, but did not include prices. I’ve sent a few out for exhibit proposals and have a few on hand for portfolio purposes. The base price for the 58-page book is $74.95. I added $5.00 to the cost. Why? I don’t know. I designed this book for a couple reasons: 1.) as a catalog for my recent show 2.) as a portfolio to send to potential clients, galleries and museums for exhibit proposals. I figured if someone really stumbled across my book and wanted to purchase it… I should make a small fee. Yet, not many people are going to purchase a coffee table art book for $79.95. If you want to keep retail costs down you need to have a publisher print a large run. Or have deep pockets!

  • While I’m still not at a point that I feel I need a catalog for my work, I’m in the middle of a book project. I have thousands of images from a 6 year period that started with a point and shoot up to my dSLR and 4 lenses, then I stopped. After 3 years of not making artwork, I’m back to my art on a whole new level for the last year. But, I was unsure what to do with this archive of images. As some of these images are approaching 10 years old I didn’t feel comfortable submitting it to galleries today because I created those works in a different state of mind than where I am today. As much as my style has stayed the same, much of the context is different and the tone refined and matured. So the book idea is a retrospective in some aspects, but I’m also combining it with some of my personal quotes and short essays on life lessons learned. I feel that honoring my past with an inspirational book is marketable as a standalone product, but also a nice compliment to my standard 11×14 portfolio book as some of you are doing. And, thank you Alyson for the considerations for the technical aspects of making a book complete. It’s a great checklist!

  • Also, keep in mind that if you sell the book through Blurb, they will NOT share the customer info with you. I don’t know how the other publishers work.

  • What a great post! Thanks, Alyson. It’s those specifics like adding an about page that are so easy to forget. Instructions for ordering more catalogs? I never would have thought of that!

    I’m definitely tweeting this out. Fab info!

  • When creating a catalog, should only available work be included?

  • Trina Stephenson

    We use a POD publisher and create a new portfolio each year of the significant works created over the past year. We sell them in our studio gallery and online and provide a copy to patrons who buy one of the paintings in the portfolio. After that year is complete, we make the portfolio private access so no more copies can be made and we tell everyone at the time that those portfolios are only available for that year. They are generally about 46 pages and we can sell them for about $20 profitably. We have not created our 2012 portfolio, but this link shows our publications: http://www.lulu.com/shop/search.ep?type=&keyWords=Michael+Chesley+Johnson&x=16&y=7&sitesearch=lulu.com&q=

  • Thanks for this checklist Alyson. It will be helpful for the next time I do a catalog. I just completed a 21 page catalog on Lulu. http://www.lulu.com/shop/christine-sauer/textile-constructions/paperback/product-18929044.html I received a grant from a local art foundation to help cover costs. I printed 50 copies which cost 11.99 a copy. I did it all myself, including the photography. I included excerpts from an art critic review and an interview from a local lifestyle magazine with permission from the writers. The process took about a full week of editing and editing again to get the flow right. I used lulu templates which fit my skill level (rather than a PDF-maybe in the future). One helpful hint is that I printed just one copy to review it and was glad I did ’cause it looked good but when you see it in print it’s a different experience. I knew with a bit of tweaking it could look even better. I edited it again (another 2 days) and ordered the 50 copies. I am using the catalog to approach galleries, send to curators, and for exhibit proposals. I have a show coming up in September and will have them for sale. I really liked doing this process as it helped me see the body of work in a different way and it is a nice record of a period in time. A couple of my artist friends have created catalogs after seeing the one I made.

  • Christine
    That is 75% less than my paperback 8X10 with approx 30 pages I did with Blurb. What size, paper was yours?
    Thank you

  • Ever since reading this blog post I can’t get the idea out of my head – now I simply must have a catalog of my most recent body of work (all African coast sailboats leaning toward an abstraction of white triangles) to promote at my exhibition and to use as an upscale marketing tool for collectors and galleries. I am 13 paintings into a (hopefully) 20-painting series, and the idea of a catalog has inspired me to look at the paintings differently – groupings by color, etc. Pricing something like this is tough in Nairobi, but I hope it will prove affordable, and I will let everyone know how it turns out.Thank you all for such good comments!

  • Latoya Smith

    Over the years I’ve ordered dozens of catalogs that were printed with less than expected quality, some being downright scrappy. A couple months ago my company printed some catalogs with PCA Delta in Pompano Beach FL, and they were great. I’ve been printing with them ever since. They show care for the environment by using soy based inks, plus recycled papers are available upon request. If you need catalogs printed go to http://www.pcadeltaprinting.com/ I strongly recommend them.

  • [...] few weeks ago I wrote about what should go into a catalog of your art.  (Be sure to read the comments for catalog tips from [...]

  • [...] have been on my mind. First up, thinking about a catalog? Alyson has two articles on catalogs. “Peek Inside a Catalog of Your Art” has fabulous tips. This past spring I put together a “quickie” book from Shutterfly to [...]

  • I’d love to make a small book but I’m not sure my photography is adequate. I’d need to hire somebody which around here would cost a lot. Not sure how to solve that one; saving up for a better camera!

    I get around the privacy issues with collectors by asking my sellers to attach a postcard with my warranty info to each invoice. The catch is that collectors must register their painting with me by signing up for my Collector’s Circle by email. People don’t always give me their snail mail but at least I have an email address for updates. I never ever undercut my sellers (and will send them to purchase via the store if work is already promised there) so they are willing to work with me on this.

  • [...] Set aside 2 hours to write copy for catalog. [...]

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