The Laws of Nature

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Being Ready to Show

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.

Your thoughts??


Elizabeth Seaver said...

Thanks for the thoughtful elaboration of an important topic.

M said...

I have to support your comment about a critical eye from an experienced artist when it comes to assessing ones work. I have been lucky in that area and such comments led me to much introspection in terms of my chosen content and processes. Having my work accepted through a jurying process, either for a group show or public collection purchases has also helped me feel that I am moving along in my development.

hw (hallie) farber said...

"The outlet will come when the work is ready." This might apply to me--I've never sought shows or sales; it has always been someone else's idea. BUT I am not in the same league with artists on these blogs. For sanity, I need to paint, so sales are just icing. Fortunately, my husband and I have a very comfortable life (we never lived "high on the hog") and my kids are successful. In D.C. I found walking into galleries very intimidating--even if it was into my own show.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chris Beck said...

I agree that you have to exercise care in seeking advice about your work. I seldom ask for feedback on a work in progress because it usually has the effect of squelching MY creative ideas/solutions. The few times I did solicit suggestions, I was really stuck, but I was careful to ask people I trusted and I also filtered the advice as you do.

Happy New Year to you, Kathy!!

Unknown said...

I need to sit down tomorrow with a big mug of coffee and read all that good info I've been missing.

Meanwhile, Happy New Year to one of my newer blogger friend but one that inspires and educates me like no other. May 2010 continue to bestow many blessings to you and your family Katharine!!!

Dan Kent said...

Good advice, I am sure - seems like much of it can be applied to many areas other than painting. But I am really here to wish you a happy new year, and to thank you for giving me a perspective on art that I would not have had in 2009. Happy 2010!

Anonymous said...

Happy New Year Kathy!

Interesting post; this art business takes some courage! I'm glad you stuck with it when you experienced the early series of failures. It certainly can be humbling during the process of gaining experience!

Thanks for sharing!

-Don said...

Kathy, Thank you for this posting. It caused me to really think hard about my readiness and my journey so far. Some of this you and I have shared together, but I thought I'd put it all in one concise treatise...

Starting in late 2002 I began painting again for no other reason than to maintain my sanity. I started painting my masks because they were fun. For the next 5 years I would paint after work and on weekends when I "felt like it" and managed to create about 8 finished paintings a year. I only displayed them in my home and in my office at work. In late 2007 I was invited to display my work in a one-night-only solo exhibit in one of the lounges in the Bellagio Hotel and Casino here in Vegas. The invitation came from someone I used to work with who had seen some of my paintings in my office. I guess the outlet came when the work was ready.

That invitation and exhibition set me on the path I'm staggering along today. After seeing my works hanging in the show and having others react to them I decided I needed to commit more to this thing I love. So, in early 2008 I committed to painting EVERY night and trying to get my work into juried shows. By the end of '08 I had painted 41 canvasses for the year and been accepted into 3 juried show - but I had also been rejected by 14.

In 2009 I committed to painting even more and pushing even harder to get my work "out there". I just finished my 50th canvas for the year and have had 15 pieces accepted into juried shows, 1 of which is still hanging at the FCCA in Fredericksburg, VA. However, I also received 28 rejection letters during this time - I will NOT let this stop me. The final quarter of 2009 found me unemployed, but with a strong desire to find a way to "make it" as an artist.

One massive hurdle I have still not negotiated but am working diligently to overcome is a major sale. I would love to see one of my larger paintings find a new home.

I'm ready, my work is ready, but is the world ready for me? Watch out 2010, this IS the year of the Don!


Unknown said...

Hi Elizabeth - thanks so much for your comment.

Hi Margaret - it's good that you find the right people to critique your work, which is so important. Thanks for sharing your experience!

Hi Hallie - thanks for sharing your situation with us. It works for you since you use it to create some wonderful works of art! I tend to work better under pressure but maybe I should learn to relax more :)

Hi Pam - good observation: at some point you must learn to trust yourself. When you do, you can "filter" advice. I find that it's always good to get a critique at any level of accomplishment because it's difficult to be completely objective about our work. Thanks for adding to our conversation!

Hi Chris - You made a great point that I completely missed: wait to get a critique until you've completed or nearly completed the work. I agree with you that it can be very confusing and even misleading to solicit ideas when you're in the middle of creating the paintng. Thanks for adding this!

Hi Sheila - so nice to hear from you again!! We look forward to you input :)

Hi Dan - Thanks so much!

Hi Peggy - Thank you, and I'm thrilled that you completed your goal of 60 designs! Hope everyone reads your blog to see them. They're very instructive.

Hi Don - your synopsis is wonderfully revealing and instructive! Thank you for taking the time to share your journey with all of us. I'm impressed by your ability to set realistic goals and to consistently meet them. Each year you accomplish so much more, and this WILL lead you to that "major" sale. With 50 paintings completed this year, you need to arrange for a solo exhibition somewhere. This WILL be the "Year of the Don!"

Casey Klahn said...

I have found that being the invited artist is the best role. Still, it doesn't hurt to look for venues, either.

Very good post. Go get 'em, Don. I agree with Katherine, you need to arrange a solo, even if you do it yourself.

Carolyn Abrams said...

Yes, putting yourself out there is very difficult and it takes a thick skin. I decided early on that i wasn't going to take the rejection letters personally. That was the best advice i could give myself. I was invited to some shows but mostly i sought out venues. This past year though i did recognize that i had pretty much reached the end of that road and wanted to take my work to another level so i sought Kathy's help. I don't know how long it will take me to get there but not only do i want to take my art to the next level but I want to exhibit at the next level also. So....move over Don, this may be the year of the Carolyn!!

Unknown said...

Hi Casey - I agree that it's best to be invited but sometimes you have to let "them" know that you even exist. That takes some effort. Thanks for commenting!

Hi Carolyn - good point! Developing a thick skin and not taking criticism personally is important. Thanks for reminding us! I have no doubt you'll accomplish much in 2010!!

Celeste Bergin said...

Kathy, another fantastic post--and I love reading the comments too--they are as fun to read as your article! I remember (not all that long ago) being completely flummoxed about how to get my work onto a wall. All right, I think it was 5 or 6 years ago. Man, it seems like "smoke and mirrors" if you have never done it. It was premature...but in retrospect I am glad I was willing to jump into the fray. It takes a willingness "to accept rejection"--that's FOR SURE. It is easy to sit on the other side and never throw our hats into the ring...But those of us who screw up the courage to do it are rewarded with all manner of experience that we would never have otherwise. It is not easy--I often wonder why I would do it again...and then I look back and see what a fantastic journey it has been. Your blog really helps people make good decisions about their efforts and how they fit in. You are a natural teacher! Happy New Year....I'm tuned in to see how we ALL do in 2010!

Anonymous said...

Hi Kathy, I had every intention of commenting on this one yesterday. I must have been thinking about it too long. I had to re-look Don's discussion. Way to go! I ended 2009 with receiving my first acceptance for a 2010 show! Yay! Always an honor.

Anonymous said...

Hi Kathy, I had every intention of commenting on this one yesterday. I must have been thinking about it too long. I had to re-look Don's discussion. Way to go! I ended 2009 with receiving my first acceptance for a 2010 show! Yay! Always an honor.

Unknown said...

Hi Celeste - thank you for reminding us about the importance of courage. It's a powerful thing to feel enabled and just "go for it." One of the things I truly appreciate about most artists is their willingness to "expose" themselves through their work. That's why I think that artists need nurturing and protection to a certain degree. And, it's what keeps me blogging ... all of YOU share openly and have formed a community here that's supportive and informative. Thanks for your wonderful comments, Celeste!

Hi Peggy - Congratulations!! This is very exciting news. What will you exhibit and where??

Kathleen Krucoff said...

Hi Kathy,

I have found you & your blog thanks to Don Michael Jr. I have seen your insightful comments on his blog and his latest post referencing this post on your blog led me here. Nice to meet you.

I think you have truly provided more great insights here and I really appreciate it. I look forward to keeping up with your blog this year. Thank you so much for sharing.

Unknown said...

Hi Kathleen - nice to meet you, too! Welcome to our "family." You'll find that we have a friendly and informative discussion here and we hope you'll feel free to join in at any time.