If there was a reality show about being an artist, I think the action would go something like this:
Scene 1, at a local cafe
Artist 1: Did you submit to that show at the Snuffleupagus Gallery?
Artist 2: Yeah. You hear anything back?
A1: Yeah, I got in!! You?
A2: Sorry, my phone's ringing, hang on.
A1: I didn't hear your phone ring...
A2: I really gotta take this.
A1: Are you crying?
A2: Naw, I'm allergic to rejection. I mean, pollen! Excuse me...
[Exit Artist 2, weeping into her silent phone.]
Scene 2, later that day, in Artist 2's home
Artist 2: Hello?
Artist 1: Hey, sorry about earlier. I thought for sure you got in!
A2: No, it's ok. I mean, a lot of galleries are all about big, abstract art, and I'm more of a superrealist who paints small, so I totally get why they rejec...didn't accept me.
A1: Um, yeah.
A2: Right? Which painting of yours got in?
A1: Oh, you know, the one sskdfjddjfiejs...
A2: Wait, what? I think your phone went out.
A1: Oh! I said...the one of the dog park.
A2: What. What? WHAT? The super-realistic mini painting you did when we both went and painted the exact same scene at that dog park and you said Well this isn't really my style but I'll try it and I said Yeah, you should, maybe I'll try to do abstract sometime and you said Ha wouldn't that be funny if we switched styles and I said Yeah, it'd never go anywhere though, and now you got into a show using MY STYLE AND I GOT REJECTED WHEN I DID ALMOST THE EXACT SAME PAINTING??!!??
A1: ..... ...... Um, I think my phone went out again....
[End phone call/scene]
The show would go on in much the same vein. One artist works her tail off and submits like crazy to shows non-stop, and another only does one or two. The latter gets in and wins prizes, the former bangs her head against the wall. She picks herself up again, reminds herself that this is what she loves, that she'd rather be rejected as an artist than accepted as anything else, and moves forward. And is knocked down again. And moves forward. And is knocked down again.
This is the life of an artist, and for some insane, inexplicable reason, this is the life I have chosen. I've had many different jobs over the years, from teaching to office work to retail and restaurant work, and being an artist is what feels right - it makes me happiest and is what I want to do.
But WHY? I ask myself!! When the life of an artist is filled with constant rejection, failures, criticism, and anxiety, why is this the life I find myself pursuing?! Every time I create a piece of art, I put myself up for a little bit of failure. Every painting is a gamble, and it could turn out well and be accepted and loved, or I may hate it and so will everyone else. Or maybe it'll be a mix of the two. It's a highwire act, and at any moment, I might fall. (I'm blessed, though, to have a net of family and friends to catch me.)
Nevertheless, I keep finding myself drawn to my art supplies. Art is about problem solving, and I'm a good problem solver. Maybe it's because I'm a middle child (peacemaker) or a natural teacher, or it's just the creativity ingrained in me, but I love to look at a canvas or a piece of paper or any surface and think, "How can I take this blank expanse and make it into something better?" I'm thrilled when I'm in the middle of a painting! (Don't ask how I feel at the beginning or the end...) I love to think of something ridiculous (balloon animals having adventures...) and be able to execute that idea in paint with the skills I have worked hard to learn and develop. I often just smile when I paint and odten feel a sort of lightness, and almost always some amount of peace.
It's that feeling of happiness and laughter and amusement that makes me keep going back. And it's the successes I've had, as well. Not so much the getting into galleries or shows as much (though that certainly helps...), but I love bringing a smile to people's faces. I like to interact with people and talk about my art and why I do it. I love that conversation, and the feeling of connecting to others in a way that words alone won't do.
This is why, against all good judgement, I keep going back and facing that rejection. I've become MUCH thicker skinned over the years as a result of all of my critiques and rejections, but it still hurts. (I had a really good comparison to Thomas Edison and the electrocution of thick-skinned elephants here, but it seemed a little too macabre.)
This is also why I'm launching a GoFundMe Campaign in an effort to get my art career moving forward. I love making art. I love when other people are brought even a small measure of joy by my art. I would LOVE to make a living doing this amazing thing.
If you find yourself looking at a painting by me or another artist and smiling, or contemplating, or enjoying it in any measure, please consider supporting that artist. Many people giving small amounts can make a huge difference, too, so please consider sharing their work, or their crowdfunding pages, and helping give them a boost and maybe a rejection-free day. Thank you!
To see more of my work, please click this link here: Katherine Downie Fine Art
For my GoFundMe page, click here: Art to Feed Thy Soul
To follow me on Instagram (where I post almost daily updates), click here: Michigan Artiste
To follow me on Twitter or Facebook, click these links: Michigan Artiste, Katherine Downie, Artist
And here's a little video I made to amuse you and show you just how easy supporting an artist can be!