Last week my work was rejected for the Oil Painters of America’s annual show.
I would like to say that the rejection doesn’t really matter much. Admittedly, it’s nice to be accepted by your peers, and the occasional pat on the back doesn’t hurt. When your success is built on your artistic expressions, it may help to have a leather hide. Yet, barriers that don’t let anything in, can’t build the sensitivity to let much out either. So I try to keep my hide akin to a human version of the control top pantyhose my mother used to wear; seemingly indestructible, flexible, breathable, able to offer support in places that grow weary, and just a tad shiny. Though, strong as they may be, if you’re dancing in the woods, you’re bound catch a snag.
But I can’t stay out of the forest, so I planned a course to navigate through it. It may be loose, but it’s a plan nonetheless. Work really hard, submit to big juried shows, gain entry, eventually place – and the rest will be history of course… I’ve managed to make a living finger painting; surely I can parlay that into this fine art gig. Some of what I see living under this title is less than ‘refined’, therefore I’ve determined that you don’t have to be Michelangelo to flourish. You have to be dedicated to the work and willing to market yourself like a branded cereal (or pay someone to do it for you).
It’s not all business. Without art, I don’t function well as a pleasant human being. But I can’t just paint for the sake of expression (yet). I need to paint well, and find approval, and be financially rewarded for my efforts. Does that suck all of the purity from my work?? I hope not – cause like it or not, a girls gotta eat, and paint is not free until you’re successful enough to afford it. There are some limits to my prostitution. I don’t paint cats.
I want to continue to grow and progress in my abilities as a painter and I’m working hard to do that. But the study, the trial, the error, and the constant desire to master add a certain tension to my work that doesn’t exist when I’m just spilling it out on the canvas. Ideally, I’ll become so well versed with my medium and technique that the tension will dissolve and I’ll be left with a better flow, and perhaps…better work. Or… perhaps the tension is not from the paint at all. Perhaps it just shows up there…?
When I paint solely for the sake of expression, it feels divine, but it’s not always pretty and I doubt that you would find it in the portfolio of ‘respectable’ shows.
I know there is a balance. I hope I find it soon – or I will need a different plan, and a new set of panty hose.