UPDATE FROM JULY 16TH, 2015: I GOT INTO THE SOOKE FINE ART SHOW which goes from July 24th to August 3rd!!! Very excited!!!
OK, feelin’ a little naked as I’m putting myself out there in this one, but here goes.
I’ll let you in on a secret: I am attempting to get into big art shows this year. It’s a little unnerving because these are shows that I’ve applied to get into before and didn’t make it. These are shows that artists from all over Vancouver Island, BC and beyond aspire to get into, hence the stiff competition. These shows are: The Sooke Fine Art Show and the Sidney Fine Art Show and the Salt Spring Island National Art Prize (top finisher wins $25.000!).
So I’ve been to these shows a number of times (except Salt Spring) and here is what I’ve noticed:
I’m hoping that this will be my year. I’ve been working on my “unique artistic voice” (not even sure that’s something you can work on!?) and have been experimenting with a new textured under-painting technique that I quite like and that seems to get attention. I have no idea whether it will be “respected” in the art world or not. So far I’ve had one piece with this style adjudicated by a jury of 3 artists with the Ladysmith Art’s Council. I received high marks (average of 86%) with one juror giving it 100% in each of the categories that included Overall Appearance; Creativity; Composition; Proficiency with Medium and Presentation! This gives me hope (also scary).
The piece I’m currently creating for the first show submission is on a 48” x 36” canvas, which is the largest canvas I’ve ever tackled. I’ve gotta say, I’m quite stiff from kneeling on the floor and bending over this giant thing in order to lay down the texture onto the canvas. As for subject matter, I’m sticking to my forte. I’m doing a tango scene set in a dance academy studio. It has lovely atmospheric lighting and drama!
Stay tuned! The first submission deadline is end of May (Salt Spring) and then early June (Sooke). Definitely got my work cut out for me!!
FINDING THAT UNIQUE SOMETHING THAT WILL SET APART YOUR STYLE OF ARTWORK FROM THAT OF OTHERS. Tricky this one. There are so many artists out there and so many different styles, how do you stand out from the crowd?
OK, so I have a lot of questions and not a lot of answers yet. But, I think this is where the playing, experimenting, leaving the fear and hesitation at the door and just trying different ideas comes into play. If you’ve experienced any niggles in your brain or gut that have been whispering “what if I tried this?”, this is where you need to listen. I believe it’s your “core being” trying to give you some hints.
I have indeed had that niggle over the past few weeks and I’m finally now LISTENING! In fact, I’ve just finished a number of paintings after listening. The first is my first ever self portrait inspired by some strong sunlight streaming in a bathroom window on the ferry from Mill Bay to Brentwood Bay one gorgeous sunny fall day. What is different for me is the background. I created a nice thick textured backdrop by dragging a house paint brush through a thick medium concoction, while following the contour of my subject. The subject in my portrait of course was my big head (in this 18” x 18” sized canvas)! To me this textured under-painting emphasizes the energy that life puts out to the world. I feel this energy particularly from people lost in a “moment” and animals (who are always lost in the moment!). To me it’s also a reminder that what we do and who we are, the energy we give to the world, affects everything. We are like a pebble in a pond, the ripple effect of everything we do is felt (perceptibly or imperceptibly) by all. It gives one pause really, and makes you think about what you are putting out to the world.
Over a year ago I left the life of 9-5 to follow my passion of fine art painting and make a living at it. This new life has had its ups and downs for sure. So far this is what I can tell you about what I love and hate about being an artist:
– the satisfaction and feelings of accomplishment it brings when I nail what I wanted to create, or when the painting turns into something quite different from what I’d intended and with surprisingly wonderful bits.
– the feel of the paint under my brush… so much so that I need to get my fingers in the painting at some point (not great when using Cadmium reds etc.!).
– the feelings when I get a “wow!” when someone looks at my latest “masterpiece”, or when they make a purchase. It is, frankly, a wonderful mix of pride and relief!
– that I can make something flat turn into 3D; create light and texture where there really is none and that I can evoke mood and feeling.
– the fact that I have knelt on the floor bent over a commission painting I’ve already finished to “tweak” something (a face) to “get it just right”…. for 5 hours!! The astonishing part is that it felt like 10 minutes. It was only when I stopped that I noticed my aching back and knees and that I was dehydrated and ravenous.
– that I am a natural DABBLER! I love to paint so many different things in different approaches that sticking to one particular style is not easy for me.
– the doubt and anxiety that inevitably comes during the “ugly/awkward” stage of each painting, and the fact that some of them never really emerge from it.
– that it is such a challenge to sell enough paintings to make a living, despite talent and effort.
– that for the good, the bad, and the ugly, I am determined to make this work!
No wonder paintings can evoke a variety of feelings from on-lookers, for what is poured into each piece is a true roller-coaster of emotions.
I keep hearing from gurus in the art world that in order be “collectible” and therefore taken seriously as a fine art painter you need to have a distinctive and recognizable style and body of work. I want to be collectible so that’s where I want to go! I’ve diligently spoken to other successful artists about how they found their style and I heard things like: your style will find you; just keep painting and it will come. Hmmm. I have been painting for 6 years now (ok, I know that’s not a lot of time in the grand scheme) and I’m still all over the style map! So far I have really enjoyed letting the subject of my paintings dictate the style in which I paint. And, I am a self-confessed DABBLER… I like trying different stuff. Hell, it took me 50 years to finally choose a career that I’m excited to stick with, never mind finding one style and staying with it.
But, I AM RESOLUTE… THIS IS THE YEAR I FIND MY STYLE and create that cohesive body of work. In my world I need a plan! So here it is: I am going choose 5 artists whose work I love and try to pick out the elements in their paintings that inspire me. Then, I’m going to do 5 of my own paintings incorporating as many of these elements as possible (within reason!) for the next 5 months. Theoretically, I should be well on my way by April Fools’ Day!?? We’ll see. I may just find myself feeling the Fool on April 1st, no closer to my goal because it may indeed be a matter of “letting my style find me”.