This is a guest post from Veronica Funk.
Art & Fear
I’m often asked how I can share my work publicly, whether online or in exhibits or via sales. It hasn’t always been easy. There is always the fear of rejection when submitting proposals, and once they’re accepted, rejection by the general public.
Especially since a good year or two of hard work goes into the creation of a body of paintings – a lot of life and emotion is committed to the canvas.
But I love to paint; I have tried not to do it, but it was to my detriment so I paint a lot. Plus, I’ve dreamt about being a professional artist for as long as I can remember. Not about the exhibiting part but about the making part. I was an extremely introverted child and found my joy in creation. And it excites me when others fall in love with my work, too.
Thankfully, I keep creating whether or not I have an exhibit ahead of me, but it certainly is easier to stay focused and committed when I have things to work towards.
I have always been afraid of the judgment, of being accused of replicating someone else’s work or of being a terrible artist. But I’ve found that it really doesn’t matter what I do, as long as it comes from a deep part of myself, from my own experiences and using the skills I have been gifted with over time.
In the past I took critiques from other artists or gallerists too closely, believing that they knew better than I and yet as I keep working how I feel led to work, things get better and I feel the most connected to what I do.
Learning to let go and allow others to connect to my work however they do is a wonderful thing.
I know that my form of expression won’t always be understood by others but I also know that that is okay. And, in spite of my fears, the most rewarding part of exhibiting and sharing my work is the positive feedback I receive. And, boy, when my work finds a new home, that is the most incredible feeling. It’s definitely worth overcoming the fear and taking that leap of faith.
Love & Hate
It’s always interesting to me how the process of painting tends to resemble a love/hate relationship. Beginning can be intimidating when I am facing a blank canvas… and then I add colour which looks stunning against the white.
Then I add more colour and I begin to question my colour selection… but by layer number three or four I begin to love it again. And then I add the image and question the choice I’ve made… and begin adding more colour and once again I’m in love. But I begin to feel that I’m hiding too much of the original pattern that I enjoyed adding so much, so I add in more once again. And then I’m uncertain and hide some more, and add some more until I begin to fall in love again.
It’s at this point that I begin to feel that the work is complete.
I really do love the work – the entire process. And I’ve learned to appreciate the love/hate part of the process, too. This is the point where I have learned not to give up. I think much of life is very much this way. The times I feel absolutely horrible in the pit of my stomach usually precede great moments and huge break-through both personally and creatively for me. I’ve learned at these times to be patient with myself and to trust and allow whatever needs to happen.
Recently I read a psychological account of how every relationship works in this way. Originally in a new friendship, intimate relationship, work environment, education, or workshop there is a looking through rose-colored glasses period which is followed by seeing flaws in every one and every thing.
These are often the times we want to give up and yet, in a mature human being, this is a critical time to continue on, to pay attention and have compassion for both ourselves and others, and to blossom.
Sometimes it does mean moving on, both personally and creatively, and at other times it means digging in and working harder. To quote Winston Churchill, “Never, never, never give up.” The fun part is that each of us get to make our own choices.
Rejection is never easy. I know that my work won’t appeal to everyone and even after all of these years of exhibitions and sales I don’t expect every submission to be accepted, but some rejections are certainly more harsh than others.
I really don’t want my work represented by anyone who doesn’t have the passion for it that I do, but not long ago I experienced a rejection that stated that my work wasn’t the caliber of the artists represented which was interesting as I have exhibited with several of the artists they represent. The unnecessarily unkind response kind of gutted me, but then I received an even better offer in a much better space.
The same thing happened with an article that was rejected by one magazine and then picked up by another, one with a larger readership.
I remember early on in my career, I had submitted packages to six of the largest galleries in my region and I received calls from five of them. I couldn’t believe it. But it’s not always that way.
I have learned to allow myself a little grief, and then force myself to move on… that better opportunities usually present themselves.
And there’s this beautiful collaboration that happens with those that are on the same wave length as me, those with similar visions and goals. I am so lucky to be represented by the people I am. I feel absolutely blessed.
And we have all heard the stories of the great ones that were rejected numerous times. Katherine Hepburn apparently had a ‘horse face’ and Lucille Ball was too shy; they were both told they wouldn’t make it in the movies. J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, Dr. Seuss, Louisa May Alcott, Beatrix Potter, and Marcel Proust, among many other authors, were rejected several times before publication (Potter & Proust actually self-published initially). Elvis was told to stick to his day job driving trucks. And Monopoly was initially rejected.
So many fabulous stories of overcoming odds.
So… the old adage to ‘never give up’ certainly applies. I think the biggest thing I’ve learned is to trust my instincts when I open my heart. I don’t panic anymore when I’m running out of time on a submission deadline as perhaps it wasn’t meant for me. And even procrastination is sometimes my soul’s way of telling me to step aside.
There is a place for everyone and everything in this world. Thank goodness for that.
Veronica Funk is a painter with a loose, colorful style. She has just published a book, Sacred Vessel: A Painter’s Handbook, in which she discusses these and other professional and creative aspects of an artist’s life. Veronica lives near the Rocky Mountains in Airdrie, Alberta Canada and has been painting professionally since 1999.