A Moment of Artistic Reflection

“The need to be a great artist makes it hard to be an artist. The need to produce a great work of art makes it hard to produce any art at all.” -Julia Cameron

Last semester, my Intro to Painting professor asked me during my portfolio review what I want to be known for as an artist. Caught off-guard, my answer was pretty vague and clearly not very thought-out. I said I just want my art to make people happy by using bright colors and inspiring subjects and text. After that review, I realized I should probably start thinking about how I truly want to answer that question that my professor asked me, even if no one ever asks me it again. I did think about it, but I couldn’t really come up with something stable. I like too many things I don’t want to feel tied down to a certain style just so that people will recognize me for it. This was a lot more complicated than I thought.

A few weeks ago I saw a flyer announcing that the student-run art gallery on campus was holding interviews for shows next semester. I really wanted a spot so I decided to sign up for an interview. The application said to bring a digital copy of the work we would use. Well, there was a problem. Even though a lot of my work shares a fairly common theme, the styles are all over the place so I couldn’t really create a show with them. I wrote down some ideas for a series and decided on a seemingly simple one. My work would depict the human form, with a partial emphasis on hands, and I would focus on the physical structures, but also the emotions that the human form can express. I even drew a layout of the pieces I would create over the summer. Then I contacted the assistant director of the gallery and asked her if I could just discuss my ideas with her since I didn’t have any work done yet. She said that was fine. I did provide two of my other pieces though, so she could get an idea of what the work would look like. The interview was short, but seemed to go well and I was feeling confident. However, the next week I got an email saying that I was put on a waitlist—meaning if any artist decided not to do their show, I could potentially have their spot. But in order to take their spot, I’d have to have all of my work prepared—meaning I’d still have to do all those pieces this summer (about 15). This decision was so unexpected that I couldn’t help but feel really upset and ashamed for being so confident before. I temporarily lost all motivation to complete any of the work this summer. But I continued to think about it, naturally, and once I got over being upset, I realized why I probably didn’t get chosen for a spot, and it ties in with what I was talking about at the beginning of this post. When I was planning out what my series would look like, I had all kinds of images in my head, so many ideas on how to represent the human form in an interesting way. Unfortunately these ideas and images didn’t translate as well verbally. I have a feeling that my idea may have sounded pretty unoriginal and vague, and well, it kind of was. After all, many artists use the human form as the inspiration or subject matter of their work. So I decided that I will still complete all the pieces over the summer and even if I don’t get a spot next semester, I’ll apply again for next spring, this time with photos of the actual pieces and a clearer explanation of them.

I feel like I’m a really emotional person and when I paint, I want to use these tools to get out everything that I’m feeling that I can never seem to say to people, even the people who are closest to me. Even if people don’t get what I’ve painted, I just want them to feel something strong and to remember what they’ve seen after they’ve left. As I mentioned before, I told my professor that I wanted my art to make people happy, but I don’t always feel happy, so I can’t expect my art to always make people feel happy either. There are some pieces of art that I’ve seen that make me want to cry, I don’t even know how to explain why, but they do. But that’s how I want people to feel about some of my work. And they don’t always have to be tears of sadness. I want my paintings to evoke some kind of memory and emotion within the viewers. I want them to understand how passionate I am about what I do.

In conclusion, you can expect some updates about this series throughout the summer and hopefully you’ll be able to see some progression towards some of the things I’m hoping to achieve!

“He who desires nothing, hopes for nothing, and is afraid of nothing, cannot be an artist.” -Anton Chekhov


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