Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Attitude and Art Shows




Rejection is a very touchy thing for most artists. When I first began entering shows a rejection notice would send me off moping for days. I felt as if the wind was knocked out of me. It would take a week before I felt like picking up the brush again. The feeling of hurt and rejection was overwhelming. My husband began to dread me entering shows…I can see why!

Ten years ago my education and understanding of how certain shows are judged was increased when I served as the Exhibition Director for the National Watercolor Society (NWS). The society is one of the most recognized in the watercolor community. The annual international exhibition is selected with the greatest of integrity. The first year I had an eye opening experience. I sat in the room while the 3 judges selected the show. The judges viewed paintings projected on a screen. No talking is allowed and the judges vote yes or no with a device. No one knew how the other was voting. On this day the judges had to select 100 paintings from over 1300 entries. It is a very long day. In the first round of viewing all the painting more than half were rejected. How long do you think the judges viewed each painting, 2 minutes, 5 minutes…? How about an average of less than 10 seconds! My painting was rejected in the first round, and my heart sank. 

That evening I cried and I poured out my heart out to my husband. Through Mike’s great wisdom, understanding, and love I came to realize I was giving ultimate power to others to determine how I felt about my artwork. From that day forward I decided I wouldn’t give that kind of power to anyone accept those who are a trusted friend, a mentor, or my husband. So what’s my point? Don’t let anyone define how you feel about your work! Be proud, hold your head up and let your brush sing with all its might!
 
Last summer I learned another lesson. I was in Southern France teaching a workshop when I got an email from the President of NWS congratulating me for getting into the Annual Exhibition. After 10 years I finally made it! What came next was a flood of emotions I hadn’t expected...I went from elated to sad. The one person I wanted to share it with was my husband and he was in the states. I called him that evening to share the news but without a hug, a kiss, or a pat on the back…it didn’t feel the same. You see, a joy not share isn’t much fun at all. I tucked away my joy and decided I would celebrate when I attend the NWS Gala Reception. I went to the reception and it took everything I had to put on a fake smile. It was the worst…all I wanted to do was leave. You see, it was the same week my 30 year old son was diagnosed with cancer. So what’s my point? Any achievements or recognition I might receive means very little in the scheme of things. Today, Daniel is in remission…that’s an achievement!
 
I’ve learned a lot through these series of events and I hope my message hasn’t felt like a downer…I don’t mean it to be. More than anything I want to express what I have learned and how these lessons have made me a better person and painter. I paint with a different heart and purpose, now.

Happy Painting!
Brenda

40 comments:

  1. Such wisdom. Thanks for sharing this.

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  2. So well written, Brenda -- excellent lessons for all of us to consider.

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    1. Chris, We talked at the NWS reception. Your kindness was greatly appreciated.

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    2. Brenda, I thought about that reception as I read your post. So sorry you were having such a tough time -- it surely wasn't obvious -- you were so open and friendly, and generous with advice in response to my questions about sketching.

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    3. Chris, I hope our paths will cross again soon. I enjoyed our conversation and your uncontainable joy for creating art. You are a jewel in the art community!

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  3. Thank you, that means a lot to me. What a great way to look at it. I agree 100%.

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    1. Thank you for allowing me to share and your warm response.

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  4. Very well said! I Thank you too!

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  5. There's a great book out, last week I found it on the bargain table: Don't Sweat the Small Stuff (and it's mostly all small stuff.)
    That title sums it up for me. When we can live our lives by our own yardstick, weed out the junk, focus on family and value what is REALLY important, it all falls into place. This has been one of the hardest things in life to learn. I'm 74 and just now "getting it."

    Thanks for posting about the ups and downs in your life, Brenda...you're a gift I really appreciate.

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  6. Beautifully felt and so well-expressed. Unless you object, I am going to share this blog essay with some of my college freshmen students this coming semester. I teach dual enrollment classes. They are in their senior year of high school and so subject to rejection: from colleges, sweethearts, peers, even from their self criticism. Thank you, Brenda, for all you do for those of us who follow you!

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    1. Nice to know you liked it! Sure, you can share.

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  7. Thank you for sharing your experience and your feelings with this. Even with an awareness of what we may feel when exhibiting or entering a show, we are all vulnerable to these emotions and often need a good reminder to be good to ourselves. Its easy to place a much greater value on other peoples perceptions about our work than we normally would. I found your recount of the judging process also very helpful to read. I also loved reading the comments in response to this post - you have such a good impact - helping change our viewpoint.

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    1. Chantal, Judging is so different from each society but NWS really keep the process uncontaminated by any comments or talking during the judging process. Happy Painting!

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  8. Thank you for being a model for how to deal with rejection, Brenda. It's not the same as critique, a process by which we are actually given something to consider as we move closer to mastery. Rejection gives us nothing useful, so why not let it wash off our backs and move on, energized by the process of creating something fresh?

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  9. Thank you so much for sharing your wise insights about an area that seems big and scary to me. I love painting, but I've been very fearful of entering shows - feeling not quite up to snuff and fearing the impact that rejection might have on me. You've really given me something to think about, and helped me to see that being rejected isn't something to take personally. Reading about your attending the NWS reception, my heart ached for you. I'm so happy Daniel's life has turned around and he's doing well now. Thanks for sharing your life so openly with all of us. I hope I'll have a chance to meet you in person one of these days.

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    1. Leslie, Thank you for your heart felt comment. You're a sweetheart. Hugs!

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  10. Not a downer at all! A great putting it into perspective essay. The important things in life can't be dependent on others' judgements and perceptions. I'm so thrilled to hear that Daniel is in remission.

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    1. Carol, Sometimes we all get things out of perspective...life has a way of waking us up to see what's really important. Blessings to you ♥

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  11. Hi Brenda, I loved what you wrote, it hits home for me. I am always afraid to show my watercolours, afraid what others might think. I am also a seven year breast cancer survivor and really have learned not to sweat the small stuff in every aspect of my life... except my art, it so personal. I need to be free and just enjoy my art, and just be truly happy I am even here to paint!! Thank you so much for your words.

    My love to Daniel... I understand how you feel.

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    1. Beth, Art is such a deeply personal expression of ourselves...rejection can feel very personal. A quote I like says "Don't let rejection go to your heart of success go to your head"...I like that!
      I'm delight to hear your a cancer survivor...YEAH! Hugs ♥

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  12. Here is a hug from me, you will always be a winner in my book. I have learned so much from you. Rarely do you meet someone who loves to teach and is as personable as you are. See you soon. Karla

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    1. Karla, you are deeply precious to me, too! Hugs ♥

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  13. Happy Independence Day, Brenda!
    I treasure this post and the subsequent comments...so candid, so real. We need to remind ourselves that we are the lucky ones...we are the painters in the world.
    I also thought you might be pleased to know that I often refer to the information/demos from the Wisconsin workshop. Kudos to you for being such a great instructor.
    Jane from Omaha

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    1. Thank you, Jane!
      I had a fun time with you and all the ladies in the workshop. Your kindness, and willing attitude made the workshop a real JOY!
      Happy Sketching!

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  14. Thanks for sharing. Wise words!

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  15. Well said Brenda! Wisdom to be learned from. Thank you for sharing and giving us perspective on the important things in life!

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    1. Michelle, You're very welcome. My priorities have changed over the years (a lot) and some lessons have take me a long time to learn. Hope I don't have to learn this lesson again :)
      Happy Painting!

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  16. I have read this post of yours and all the comments a couple of times already and now I finally have a chance to write. You have a way of expressing yourself that touches the hearts of those who read your words. Thank you so much for sharing with us all and helping us to see the real true value in life!

    I will be printing this post and putting it into my "Brenda Swenson" folder that is filled with many of your lessons. Thank you for not only sharing your talent, but your heart as well.

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    1. Theda, Bless your heart! I am thankful for the words of encouragement and affirmation I have received along the way. I have been blessed!

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  17. Thank you for sharing this post link on FB. I really appreciate knowing that I am not the only one who feels rejection so deeply. Usually after a few days, I am able to distance myself from the hurt and begin to objectively analyze the piece. Sometimes I find new ways to improve it or to more on in another piece, and there are times when I feel that it is just right as it is. I appreciate your sharing how pieces are judged and understand the very difficult job it must be for a judge. Thanks for your words and all the inspiration you send out into the universe.

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    1. It's important to paint for yourself and keep your reasons clear. Happy Painting!

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  18. Thanks Brenda - a very balanced and wise approach!!

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