Last week, I participated in Easels in Frederick, a plein air competition held annually in Frederick, Maryland. I don’t normally participate in competitions, I don’t really like the concept of competing when it comes to art. So, why did I do it? I teach a lot of drawing and painting classes, and I felt I needed a break for a week to just get away and paint without doing demos, explaining what I’m doing and why, and painting with the intent of teaching instead of just painting. As anyone who is self employed knows, time off from work does not come without a price–lost revenue, so I decided that a plein air event would be a good way to justify a week of just painting, while not completely giving up the opportunity to earn some money from sales. Let me say upfront, I did not at any point consider myself a serious contender for any of the big prizes, doing so is a great way to set yourself up for disappointment. And no, I did not win any awards, which is not the reason I did this in the first place so I was not bothered by that. I did however sell 2 paintings at full gallery pricing, which means two new collectors who may become repeat customers. [Read more…]
I paint a lot of flowers in watercolor, I am always inspired by the ability watercolor has to capture the essence of any subject in a way that is casual yet elegant. It comes from allowing the paint to do what it naturally does: flow. This enables you to capture fluid gestures and create continuous movement in your painting. [Read more…]
This weekend, I attended the opening receptions for 2 group exhibits that contain my paintings. Guide Ropes & Live Wires, the faculty exhibition at the Visual Arts Center of New Jersey, and Fire & Ice, a group exhibit at Blink Gallery in Philadelphia. At both exhibitions, I stood back and watched viewers looking at my work. I purposely stood at a distance where I could observe unobtrusively and barely hear snippets of the conversation. The thought of walking up and introducing myself crossed my mind, but in the end I opted not to, as I frequently do. Although I’m not a particularly shy person, it feels invasive to me or as if I would be putting the viewers on the spot by approaching them. [Read more…]
I’ve been noticing a lot of posts lately on Facebook that talk about recognition. They range from posts about awards won in juried exhibits, to posts that speak about the hope of having a lifetime of work publicly recognized while the artist is still living. I believe that the most important recognition comes from within, rather than from validation that comes from external sources such as shows, awards or name recognition (a.k.a. fame).
In the age of social media and instant gratification, it’s easy to get swept up in how many “likes” your work receives on Facebook, or favorites or retweets on Twitter. But what’s most important is that YOU like your work and recognize its worth with or without the accolades that come from others. I know, coming from someone who posts their work constantly and has a large following of friends and fans, that may seem like a contradiction. However, I use social media purely for the purpose of getting the word out about my workshops, courses and exhibitions. I rely on it as a marketing tool because I earn my living from my art. But, I don’t take it too seriously if every post does not get a flood of likes or shares. I am more interested in visually engaging potential students and collectors with my work, and in sharing a glimpse into my teaching style and work process. In other words, I’m confident in the fact that what I am sharing is useful in some way to my audience. I am not looking to that audience for validation as an artist.
I think there is a myth out there that says if you are happy with your work, you will never progress. I do not advocate complacency in any way, but I do believe that it is impossible to move forward and build upon strengths unless you recognize that you have them. There is nothing wrong with acknowledging the fact that you are a good painter, this is particularly true if you also teach. Look at it this way, if you were a neurosurgeon, do you think patients would want you as their doctor if you felt you were not very good at your job? How can your students (or galleries or collectors) have confidence in you if you have no confidence in yourself.
So take stock of your strengths as an artist, be aware of them and don’t look to outside sources for validation of your work. Be aware of the skills that you still need to develop, and draw strength from the skills you have mastered. A little bit of confidence goes a long way.