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Sunday, May 18, 2008

The Joy and Misery of Competition

There is nothing more exciting than to hear a judge call out your name as a winner in a juried exhibition. Not all artists thrive on that kind of adrenaline, but yours truly does. First of all I believe showing your work to the public gets your name out there. If you show your work enough, art lovers start to recognize you as an artist with the right stuff – someone whose work is worthy to hang in a gallery. It also gives you something positive to mention in your resume. Sure there is some risk in getting out there but why keep your talent to yourself? A pile of paintings under your bed just doesn’t cut it! These precious children you have created may give you a smidgen of pleasure knowing that you made them with your own two hands. However, hearing the praises of gallery crawlers, whether they be experts or an admiring Joe Dokes who stepped in out of the rain, is by far more exhilarating.

Some art groups deliberately book fewer competitions for its members to perhaps take the pressure of competing off their creative shoulders. I wonder though if the society leadership may be doing their members a disservice. Let’s face it; we all compete for our place in this world we live in. We all have this need to know how we stack up against the other guys and gals, how good our work really is, and not just our own opinion of our skills and ability. For me it only seems natural to want to know what others think of my work – good or bad. Criticism is also a big part of growing as an artist. We all rarely get enough beneficial criticism. Although negative comments can be a bit painful, flowery praise from those close to us may be soothing but have little benefit in the long run. We learn from other artists and friends who give honest critiques about our work. Part of being out there is learning what we can do to improve our craft – that never hurts anyone!

Having said that, when you enter a juried competition you are hoping with all your heart that you’ll get a hefty dose of recognition, some cheering applause, a few supportive accolades, a stroke or two of praise and perhaps a ribbon or maybe even a check! There is a huge let down when you don’t win. Not winning can be hard to swallow. If you get enough rejections you may even do something stupid like quitting! It happens. I always feel a pang of rejection when my hopes are dashed – that is a natural reaction, too. What we do with the let down is what counts in the end. Turning a disappointment into a positive lesson that makes you a better artist is what matters.

Although the possibility of losing is always present, the risk of getting shown in a juried show is more than worth it.


1 comment:

  1. Joe, thanks for the comments on my work!
    As to competitions I think I will drop in a word here.
    I have found that competing on a national level has pushed me to improve more than anything else could have. No matter how many rejections I received in the beginning and even now, I embarked on the next painting as if it would be the best I had ever done. I believe entering these shows made me strive to be better rather than sitting still and being content where I was...I see this as a learning journey and take whatever there is out there to push me to become better. It is hard though as artists do tend to wear their heart on their sleeve and art is very personal...somehow we have to set that aside and know that growth is the most important thing and take whatever course there is to improve and hone our craft.