Earlier this month I mentioned the unexpected visit my husband’s aunt and parents made to our home. At the time, I was out. I’d gone to Blue Springs to drop off my paintings for the art show being held that week by the Blue Springs Art League. I mentioned then that I’d talk more about the show in an upcoming post. Somehow, though, I’ve just never gotten around to it. So, this morning I thought, maybe it’s time to tell you about my most recent art show experience.
First, though, let me say this: I love art shows. I remember how apprehensive I was back in 2018 when I bravely entered our HFAA “members only” show. Were my paintings really good enough to be on display? Even though I was a member of the club and called myself an artist of sorts, I was so inexperienced compared to the others. Still, I decided to go ahead and enter. Maybe it’s time, I thought. Time for me to take a step forward, time to become a more active participant in our club activities. It was “members only”, which meant it would be a fairly small show. Plus, there were no entry fees. So, what did I have to lose?
With that decision made, I wanted to become as active in the club as possible. I volunteered to help with setting up the display panels for the show, and when I presented my paintings to the woman doing the “check-ins” she looked at them and commented, “Oh, how pretty.”
I’m sure she says that to everyone! All the same, the kind words made me feel good. What made me feel even better was the realization that — once the paintings were all hanging on display — mine didn’t stick out like proverbial sore thumbs. No one would walk past my paintings, point, and laugh. No one would whisper “What are those paintings doing in a show like this?” How good it felt to see with my own eyes that my landscape oil paintings fit in with all the others.
I didn’t win any awards at that first show, but I hadn’t expected to. Just seeing my work on display was award enough, I think.
Then, a few months later at our club’s regional show, I actually did win a ribbon — a judge merit award. I nearly cried with joy. How reassuring that someone who presumably knew something about art actually considered my work to have merit. It was a turning point for me. Maybe it’s time, I thought. Time to take my art a bit more seriously, time to work on different techniques, time to keep practicing and improving.
Since then, I’ve gone on to win more ribbons — including a third-place and a first-place finish. There’s also a “participation ribbon” on my wall from the Raytown Art Club show in 2019. It means a lot to me. It was a very large show — there were almost 100 entries in the “Oil” category alone — and everyone, of course, received one of the pretty green ribbons with the words “Participating Artist”. I love the ribbon and what it means.
- I am really an artist.
- I am actively participating in our arts community.
The Blue Springs show was also fairly large. I could tell by the number of volunteers working the set-up and by the size of the exhibition area. Definitely I wouldn’t be winning any awards, I knew. I handed over my two paintings — one I’d done late last summer and the recent “New-Fallen Snow” I’d completed specifically for this show.
As one of the first post-pandemic art shows in the area, the emphasis was on new work, paintings we’d done while locked away, in quarantine, or in other ways dealing with the effects of Covid-19. I definitely wanted to show new work. Ideas of honesty and authenticity have been coming to my mind in the art I’ve created recently, so I grabbed a canvas one morning soon after receiving my invitation to the Blue Springs art show.
It was a cold, snowy, winter day. So, that’s what I painted. I was pushing it timewise, I knew. I was barely able to allow 6 weeks for drying before I varnished the painting, and a few additional days before framing the painting. In fact, my husband added the hanging wire to the frame on Friday morning, only an hour before I left to drop off my entries. Talk about cutting it close!
When I presented my paintings, I once again heard reassuring words. One member doing check-in nodded toward “New-Fallen Snow”. She commented on how peaceful and serene it looked. It’s always nice to hear kind words. I smiled and thanked her. I was then given an envelope — with a participation ribbon. I smiled again. I had no hope of winning an award at the show, but at least I wasn’t going home empty-handed. How nice to have one more ribbon to add to my collection — this one in bright red with gold lettering.
Because Blue Springs is about 30 miles away, and because the reception was being held in the evening on Saturday, my husband and I did not attend. Pick-up time for paintings was at the close of the show on Sunday afternoon, so I arranged to have lunch that day with my grand-daughter Kayla, who lives in Blue Springs. Afterward we went to the show. This made it convenient for me to pick-up my art on time.
One thing different about this show is that there was no specific “Oil” category. Instead there was an “Opaque” category which included both oil and acrylic painting. There were a few “specific” categories, as well:
- Photography – Color
- Photography – Black and White
- Photography – Wildlife
- 3-D Sculpture
- Mixed Media
- Animals and Wildlife
Kayla and I enjoyed browsing all the exhibits, and gradually we wended our way toward the Opaque category and on to my painting. Oh, my goodness. There was a ribbon hanging on “New-Fallen Snow”. Kayla was excited. I was dumbfounded. My painting had won an Honorable Mention award.
Really? When no one was looking, I reached out and turned the ribbon over just to be sure. Yep. My name. The name of the painting. It belonged to me.
Kayla and I returned to her home, chatted a bit, and then I drove back to the art show. It was still a little early — the show was closing at 4:00 PM — so I sat in the car — waiting and wondering.
How had my painting won an Honorable Mention? I thought back to when I painted it. I said at the time that it was “not an especially award-worthy painting.” I listed all its flaws.
As far as all the “academics” go — all those things judges will be looking for — it’s lacking. There’s not a strong focal point. It’s not an interesting composition. It’s certainly not very original.
And yet this painting received an Honorable Mention? How did this happen? I was pleased to have the ribbon, of course, yet I was completely baffled at why. I could only think back to those feelings of honesty and authenticity. Even while I was painting this for the show, I was really painting it for myself. This painting expressed my feelings. I can only guess that all those thoughts and feelings somehow came through.
As I sat there waiting to pick up my paintings, I thought, too, of the other awards I’ve been honored to receive. I considered the other artists whose work received awards. I’m familiar with many of them. I realized then that my name is coming up along with theirs in show after show, coming up not only as a participating artist but as an artist whose work is being recognized.
It was a mind-numbing realization. I am an artist. Let me repeat that. I am an artist. I must be an artist, right? After all, I have ribbons hanging on the wall, ribbons from different judges in different shows. What a strange feeling swept over me then.
Maybe it’s time, I realized. Time that I accept myself as an artist. Time to appreciate whatever talent I’ve been able to develop. Time to stop apologizing for all that I’m not and look instead at all that I have become.
I am an artist. How about that!