Two years ago I won the very prestigious “Prix des Pastel” Masters Circle Best of Show award at the IAPS convention. (Trust me- no one was more shocked than me. ) I remember an artist coming up to me and saying congratulations, which was then followed by a statement of something like, “Boy you have really rocketed to fame recently.” but with almost an accusatory tone.
Really? “Rocketed" is not how I would describe my art journey.
In 2009 I attended the portrait convention put together by the Portrait Society of America. They have the world’s best artists teach and show in one dazzling international exhibition that shows off the top ten best portraits in the world. I remember seeing those winners (there is nothing quite like seeing the originals up close) and having a thirst to be one of those top ten. I think the idea was not so much about the glory of that competition, but more about reaching ones' potential. That feeling inside that you can do it. That every painting, and every hour I spend painting, would have meaning on a broader scale. The nobility of the fight…blah, blah, blah….
So I went home and wrote a ten-year goal on my then, brand-new easel. 2019. There is something powerful about writing a number like that down in Sharpie to see every day while I work under it. (and trust me, it is work.)
I thought 10 years would be enough to become one of those “winners" and along the way pick up some “smaller" goals too. You know, "little things" like become a Master Pastelist with the Pastel Society of America. Get an article published in the Pastel Journal. Become a Master Circle Artist with IAPS (International Association of Pastel Societies. ) Exhibit abroad. Win a major international award. It’s funny, I have 2 years left and I have accomplished almost everything else on that 10-year goal list, but I am still too scared to enter that “top ten” Competition. I feel as though I am still not ready yet. Maybe I am realistic. Maybe I don’t want to give up hope. But some amazing things have happened along the way that I didn’t predict in shooting for something so big. I did get an article in the Pastel Journal, but also in France too! Twice! I teach a workshop that I am proud of. I mentor artists to become better, which makes me better.
I see artists online begging for votes for vanity shows- “Like me! Vote for me! so I can win!” I hear horror stories about artists throwing fits and abusing artists running big shows because they didn’t get accepted. I hear grumbles about not winning, about not being “accepted." Why?
I guess because we artists have "end-products." Our worth is somehow linked to admiration of what we create. My sister is an accountant. I am sure she is a “master" at what she does, and yet she doesn’t need others to admire how she balances books. I don’t need to vote for her. Why do we artists need that? Moreover, why do we feel the need to knock each other down if someone does succeed?
Goals are great. That little number has been a motivator for me. But it has been a long path. And it is a hard path. The only “rocketing" I have done is down into depression when I can't work. The hardest days are when I can’t work at all and "mom duties” take over- which is frequently. It is almost like a curse to those who have to have a meaning-filled day. This stuff is hard. Like putting on mascara with your mouth shut.
But like Alainis Morissette says- …..
You live, you learn,
You love, you learn,
You cry, you learn,
You lose, you learn…...
And I have learned to lose. And I have learned it will probably take me another 10 years to even understand all that I need to know to apply to that top ten show. Will it prove then that I am a “good” artist? I realize now that it won’t. It will only be one more sticker added to the journey on this suitcase of my life. Being an artist is every day. It is breathing. It is air. And winning a show will not keep you alive.
Be kind to one another and just paint.