|"See the Light". #53 of my 100 Square Project. 10x10" mixed media on wood panel. Available.|
I had a high school art teacher who laughed at me when I told him I wanted to go on to a university fine art program. Apparently, I had no talent. Yeah, whatever... if there's one phrase that describes me, it's stubborn as hell. Nobody was going to tell me what I could and couldn't do. Screw that.
Art school was another thing altogether (pretty sure I've written about this before, but I can't find the post). This was discouragement on a whole other level.
The first year was awesome... I was focused on building a portfolio that would get me into the 2nd year, so I approached each project with an enthusiasm I didn't know I had. Drawing was great, painting was cool, even art history was enlightening (except for the section on medieval architecture. I totally blew that. I still can't remember the difference between buttresses. And I still don't care).
One thing about the program I was in... the whole focus seemed to be more on how to think about art than on the actual execution. I didn't have many of the skills my classmates had, since I didn't go to an art-focused high school. I didn't know painting techniques. I knew squat about sculpture. Printmaking basically required me having the instructor beside me the entire time, telling me what to do. I wasn't really what one would call a self-motivated learner.... I realize now I could have gone to the library and gotten out books on technique, taken outside workshops, sought out extra help and help from classmates (this being the days before the internet and YouTube). But I didn't think of it. I kinda figured it should be part of the program and it'd happen eventually. I guess I eventually figured it out, but it was slow and painful.
I worked hard. I tried to understand all the stuff covered in the classes. I diligently did all the assignments and attempted to learn something form them and not just get frustrated. I was in the studio late into the evenings, every weekend, I hauled stuff home to work on when I didn't think i could take another weekend inside the concrete walls. My grades were reasonable enough, but my critiques? OMG... brutal.
There was one guy in particular that would always find a hundred things wrong with everything i did. It wasn't "finished" enough. It was too slick. My paint was too thin. My paint was too thick. My colour choices didn't work together. I didn't actually fulfill the assignment requirements, or it was too much within the assignment requirements. I grew to really hate that guy. I grew to really hate critiques. Add to that my brain didn't quite work the way everyone else's seemed to... I didn't like doing thumbnails and often strayed really far from my original sketch. I liked to work things out as I go, which, according to the 80s way of doing things, was totally wrong. I had to hand in a sketchbook, which I liked to doodle and take notes in rather than doing finished drawings (wrong). And my work got rejected from every single juried show I submitted to.
Was it any wonder I pretty much stopped creating as soon as I graduated?
|My first series after a very long hiatus was |
all figures, weaving in and out of fragmented
backgrounds. I've thought about revisiting this...
My first real series was based on the reams of figure drawings from these drop in sessions. These pieces got me into my first outdoor art shows, and I got a few pieces into a group show at a local gallery. I submitted to a load of juried shows and I still got rejected from most of them. But I actually sold a few. Those first sales... a couple to coworkers, and a few to complete strangers... made SUCH a difference to how I felt about my work. It was encouragement to keep going.
Those first few art fairs were interesting. I had no idea that people actually haggled with artists at these things. Or that everyone was willing to share an opinion, even if it was not complimentary nor asked for. I had people ask me odd questions. Why did I choose to paint this and not some other thing? Why did I use so much blue? Why did I never use pink? Why did I choose that kind of frame? Why did I not frame this other one? Or they would offer opinions on my art career... I would sell more if I painted something else or did it differently was usually what it boiled down to. So discouraging. Add to that the non-stop pan flute (ok that was one show, but 3 days worth of Simon and Garfunkel covers on a pan flute? OMG, I was ready to kill myself), the kids knocking stuff over or getting ice cream all over my display, having to wait to go to the bathroom until someone I knew came by and could watch my booth, the difficulty setting up and tearing down, my aching feet, the heat, the rain, the gale force winds... outdoor shows soon lost their glamour. Ugh.
|One of my music series paintings. This one sold right away.|
Once I had this figured out I was able to stop taking things personally. Letting go of other people's judgement enabled me to just go about doing the work I wanted to do, and showing it when I could. I don't really submit to juried shows anymore (art fairs are different... those are often also juried and those are the best kind to submit to). When I finally got into one of the more prestigious shows that had been eluding me for years, it was a meh moment. Didn't have any impact on my career whatsoever. So at $50 a pop for the entry fee, was there any point in continuing? Sure I got to meet a lot of other local artists (they were the only ones that seemed to go to the openings), but I was managing that anyway. So I stopped entering. And I'm fine with that.
If you're interested in seeing more of my recent work, check out my website. mariannemorrisart.com.