As you might remember, last Thursday, I participated as a featured artist at “REVEAL”, RAW Boston’s summer showcase for artists, designers, photographers, stylists, and musicians. I’m happy to report that it went well and that it was worth all the effort I put in to my preparations for it. And now…it’s over, which means I can get back to MAKING stuff! (I’m very excited about that). But since the show experience warrants some reflection, please bear with me as I devote just one more post to talking a bit (okay, maybe a lot) about it.
So…the showcase was a great time! I felt good about the work I showed and how I represented myself. I had the pleasure of talking to other artists and exchanging valuable insights. (I have to say, it felt particularly good to be able to pass on some helpful tips to people who are going through things that I have gone through myself! Turns out I’ve learned a few things over the years!) The whole experience – from the weeks spent in preparation to the final take-down – was full of personal growth and learning.
Here are some of the things I learned:
- Anxiety and fear are inevitable, but I can make room for them without losing sight of the larger picture. Okay, I know it wasn’t the Emmys or anything, but even so, I was very nervous about the event. I felt angsty from the very beginning, when I found out that I would be participating. My nervousness peaked the day before the show, when I had to repeatedly tell myself that “I know I feel like I’m going to die right now, but it is just anxiety, and I don’t have to freak out about it.” During the weeks before the show, this anxiety popped up a lot, but instead of fighting against it (and feeling bad about it, wishing it would go away, and generally feeling like a pathetic speck of a person) I decided to accept it as another part of the game. Whenever I felt stress pressing down, I reminded myself that there were infinite ways that the show could play out, and since I have no ability to know or control the future, I would just do what I thought was best, have faith, and keep my mind open to the possibility that good things might come out of it. And surprisingly, the day OF the event, I felt fine! For one thing, I had the comfort of knowing that I was well prepared. But also, my mind was in a good place after spending so many weeks practicing faith, openness, and positivity.
- People are shy. We are all insecure about something. It’s a funny dynamic — the insecure artist and the insecure viewer, side by side, feeling awkward. I think people are afraid to talk to artists about their work because they don’t want to “say the wrong thing” or sound like they “don’t know anything about art”. But I’m not going to judge you for “not getting it” or for never taking some dumb art history class. And I don’t make art with the expectation that you’ll see it the way I see it. I want to hear what it is that you see! — how does it make you feel? What stories does it conjure up, what does it remind you of? I LOVE it when people tell me what my work means to them. It fuels the drive to keep making stuff. It satisfies the “longing-for-connection” aspect of being creative. And it reveals amazing things about the diversity of human experience.
- And artists are shy, too. Instinctually, I don’t want to bother people. I don’t want to impose myself on them while they look at my work, or dare to assume that they find it engaging in any way. But I suspect that, more often than not, people appreciate hearing the artist tell the story behind their work, even when the story isn’t linear or…much of a “story” at all. (i.e. “I did this before getting dressed to go to my friend’s wedding…I needed to do something creative and it just sort of came to me. I started drawing a whale, because whales need to be drawn, and then of course I realized it should be wearing a sweater.”) I like to see the humanness of other people’s artwork. It helps me feel connected to the work and to the artist. Showing viewers that the work is a process — that it’s a living thing — opens doors for communication. Then the artwork isn’t just a final “product”, but instead acts as a jumping off point for a richer connection. Art is made with time, energy, brains, and countless unexpected external influences. It’s a very human expression of divergent thinking and the way we make associations in our minds. When people understand that, it makes art less “intimidating”, less inaccessible. It’s all just another opportunity for connection!
- People really like dogs. My illustrated dog prints are always a big hit, and they are the most frequently bought items in my Etsy store. People always comment on them. But surprisingly (and I’m okay with this!), no one bought any dog prints at this show. Dogs are a personal thing, I guess. Everyone wanted it to be THEIR dog.
- My experiences have taught me lessons that are worth passing on to other artists! For example: Finding a good way to make prints of their artwork seems to be a VERY common struggle for artists. Which company should you use? How can you ensure that the print quality is excellent? How much are you willing to PAY to have prints made? I make all my prints myself. I am so happy with my Canon Pixma printer – it is getting old now, but it does a MARVELOUS job making high quality prints that I’ve been able to sell all over the place. Sure it took a lot of trouble-shooting (and a lot of frustration!) to get the print quality just right, and I had to test a lot of different papers before I found one I liked, but I eventually established a system for making prints that I am proud of. Now, I have no problem telling people that it is worth it to invest in a printer and good paper and to take the time to learn to make prints in-house.
- The human digestive system is very…emotional. I had no appetite the whole day of the show, and had to force myself to eat regular meals so I wouldn’t pass out at the event. For dinner before the show, I made sure to eat the blandest of sandwiches (a tough thing, because I love me some SPICE), but I STILL got indigestion! My mom saved the night with the emergency Rolaids she found in her purse (she’s my hero). And then, of course, as soon as I got home and put on my PJ’s, I found that I was starving! It was the sweet, sweet release of tension leaving my body, and so…I celebrated with ice cream and chips 🙂
- I’m not the only person who needs to retreat and recharge. The day was long – set up started at 1 and the event wasn’t until 7 PM. I certainly wasn’t the only artist there who needed to take 5 minutes to sit in the car and regroup before the show.
- That one should not be in such haste to pack up and beat the traffic at the end of the show that one leaves important things behind. Bye-bye extension cords. Bye-bye print racks. (On the other hand, if that’s the hardest lesson I had to learn that night – not to leave stuff behind — then all-in-all, I’d say it went quite well!)
- And finally, I was reminded of this very humbling and mind-blowing truth: I am tremendously blessed to be in the situation that I am in. I’ve had the support of my family, my husband, and my closest friends for my entire life. No one (other than the occasional stranger) has ever tried to convince me not to pursue art. When I have my doubts, my parents and my husband are the ones who tell me to have faith and keep going. They’ve always given me the space, time, and freedom to create. They’ve been patient and understanding. They’ve helped me with projects, shows, buying materials, and growing a business. They’ve prodded me to challenge and stretch myself and to take the next step when it’s been time to do so. They’ve spread the word to others, and they’ve helped open doors. They’ve been so generous – I’ve never had to live off of government cheese or go it alone. Without them, I wouldn’t be doing this. It takes a village, as they say.
To my husband, and to my parents: I’m sorry that all I can ever do is say thank you, and that no matter how many times I say it, it will never be enough. Thank you, thank you, thank you.
And with that, I bid you, good day. Thanks to everyone who came out to the show. It meant a lot to see you there and have your support!
Oh, and Happy September, yo.