My goodness...what an awesome experience! The show opens...the crowd gathers, the drums roll as cameras flash. Suddenly, unexpectedly, a voice calls MY name to accept an award. GOLD award to "x", SILVER award to "y", BRONZE award to SANDRA VAN DEN HAM! I almost fell off my high heels. I was shocked. I didn't even think I deserved to be in this show. So many beautiful paintings, so many talented artists from all across Canada! Almost 300 paintings submitted by 200 artists and only 73 juried in by the Vancouver FCA. I was one of fortunate few who made it. I...Sandra Van Den Ham a Bronze winner in this prestigious National show. Many thoughts rushed through my head. "I actually beat my favorite artist"...someone whose painting style I idolized. "Maybe I should just paint like ME" said the little voice in my head! Geez...is it possible... "maybe I AM good enough". I pinch myself to make sure it is all real. Yes it is...and darn...I'd better pass the camera to a friend to get a photo before it is too late.
I have to tell you the story about this little painting that won... in spite of me. It was the little painting who 'knew it could'. The story begins with tears of sorrow but has a happy ending with tears of joy.
My son plays cello and during his recital I took some great backlit photos. Eventually I developed a few of these into paintings. A series I refer to as 'The Cellists'. As it turns out, this was a good decision because some of the artists/musicians I painted, really appreciated my work and purchased the paintings. None of them were ever exhibited. However, this one little painting, for various reasons, never got completed, but rather sat in the corner of my studio for months awaiting 'touchups'. Eventually it was finished and as a last minute choice, was picked as my third entry. Well, as luck would have it, the two I was CERTAIN would get in...didn't...but this quiet, understated painting did.
Well, it makes me laugh now, but there were so many mixups on this painting...it still makes my head spin. There was a problem on the measuring of the canvas for the frame. Then the frame had an 'accident' leaving me to look for another suitable match.
The new frame however required the edge of the painting to be cropped. So I rushed it into the extremely busy, frame shop in Kelowna...a long drive. Since I was in a hurry, I opted to just leave the painting with them and failed to give explicit instructions regarding my marks on the canvas showing where to cut...and you guessed it...they trimmed off the wrong edge and affected the composition slightly. I was devastated.
I didn't know how to fix what was totally my fault. Too much of a rush. After making a few phone calls to see if a small fillet inside the frame would help if there was a bit more trimming done...I eventually decided that I would probably have to cut the painting down more and lay out more money for an emergency custom frame...expensive! Plus I would be running on empty by picking up the frame on the way to the show to set up...nothing like last minute fixes.
Luckily I had the common sense to first ask another experienced artist to look at my work before making such a critical decision. In her professional opinion she said "just leave it, it still looks great" and so I did. In the frenzy I was judging my work too harshly. It wasn't exactly the same, but the change didn't ruin it. As an artist we are our own worst critics. That little voice isn't our friend you know!
Thinking that everything was finally going smooth, I let down my guard and... oops...forgot to remove those charcoal cutting lines I placed on the canvas for trimming...and went ahead and sprayed the darn thing with varnish. Luckily I noticed my mistake and still had time to remove the varnish with Gamsol and revarnish. Thank heavens it was only re-touch varnish. How could I be so stupid!! See...there goes that voice again!
In the end...it all worked out fine...better than fine actually. I won the BRONZE award for one of the best paintings in the show. I was thrilled and exhausted. After the opening I took a few moments to appreciate what I had accomplished...give myself a great big hug...and reflect on what I had learned and could apply to future events. Here is what I came up with:
1. LESS HASTE = MORE SPEED...slow down
2. DON'T LISTEN TO THAT INNER CRITIC - IT'S SELDOM ON YOUR SIDE
3. THERE IS NO ACCOUNTING FOR TASTE AND YOU AREN'T THE JUDGE. So do your best, and consider throwing in an extra painting now and then. You don't know what the judges are looking for so increase your odds and throw in an extra painting! To date, two of my winning paintings have been last minute additions! You never know what the judges are looking for...so there is no use guessing.
4. PAINT YOUR OWN STYLE...it just might be good enough!! It's great to study and learn from other artists, but in the end it is your own uniqueness that will set you apart from anyone else. Learn the basics and then do your own thing. Find out what your personal fingerprint is by painting, painting, painting. There are no short cuts.
5. ASK FOR ASSISTANCE FROM SOMEONE YOU TRUST, ESPECIALLY IF YOU ARE TIRED OR OVERWHELMED, BEFORE MAKING ANY CRITICAL DECISIONS LIKE CROPPING A PAINTING OR FIXING SOMETHING THAT ISN'T BROKEN!!
Just a few words of wisdom from a lesson learned. Happy painting. Sandy :)