HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone!! I hope that 2010 brings you joy, peace, prosperity, and boundless creative expression!
In his book, Creative Authenticity, Roberts touches upon a topic that's the source of confusion and intimidation for many artists: Principle 13 Being Ready to Show. I was only 18 years old when I first exhibited my work in a regional juried competition, and was too naive to feel the intimidation of being exhibited and judged alongside veteran artists. When I took first prize in my division, I didn't realize just how lucky I was. Fortunately, this experience was followed by a series of failures that taught me a great deal about what it means to be "ready to show."
So, what does Roberts say about this? A mature sense of critical judgment of our own work is vitally important in developing work for galleries. The author emphasizes the importance of diligently working in our studios to create art rather than spending those precious hours trying to market our work to galleries, internet sites, etc. He writes: The outlet will come when the work is ready. Trust it. Personally, I haven't found this to be true. Over the decades of sellinig paintings, I can think of only a couple that I sold outside of my direct marketing efforts. Maybe you've had a different experience ??
Moving on ... Roberts asks When is it [our art] ready? Good question. Recently, I read someone's comment on a blog asking "How do you know when your painting is finished?" My answer has always been that you know it's finished when additions begin to detract from the intended effect and when the work itself satisfies all the principle elements of painting.
But, we aren't always our own best judge and Roberts suggests that we should seek qualified artists to critique our work, even if we have to pay them to do so. I regularly do this, although I seldom pay for the critique, and it's a good idea. However, you'll need to scrutinize the advice you're given.
Last June, I posted some comments about how I handle advice and criticism while trying to stay true to my own vision for my work. The key is to FILTER! I use three filters. The first filter allows comments given by those with expert knowledge who are motivated to help me grow as an artist to pass through and removes those with lesser motivations. The second filter removes comments by others that reflect personal preference rather than objectivity. The third filter is then applied to remove inhibitions from my own thinking. What's left after filtering may be used in conjunction with the fundamental principles of painting to evaluate my work. What's the flaw in this filtering process? I have holes in the mesh that sometimes allow things to get through that shouldn't. So, as I paint I try to recognize that and selectively eliminate those thoughts.
Roberts concludes that we artists need to become effective evaluators of our own work. We learn this through experience and exposure to other works of art and, I'll add, through studying with accomplished artists. He feels that we may turn to those same artists to learn if our paintings are ready to show. Additionally, viewing our work in a public setting alongside the works of others provides us with the opportunity for comparison, which assists us in evaluating "readiness." I advocate for entering juried exhibitions. If your work is good enough to be juried in, that's an indication that your work is "ready" to be shown. If it wins an award, that's a stronger indication. While it's true that subjectivity exists in the judging process, repeated acceptance of your work into regional, national, and international exhibitions indicates that you're "ready." This approach also builds your resume', gives you and your work greater exposure, and allows you to legitimately set higher prices for your paintings.
Finally, I'll add that it's important to believe in yourself. You WILL meet with rejection now and then, and maybe even a lot. Don't let it stop you. Either your work isn't ready or you haven't found the right venue for it. Either case may be changed by your efforts, and your efforts rely upon your attitude and creative solutions. But, you're not in this alone ... there are many artists who generously provide good advice, encouragement, and support. Turn to them.