One of the things I love most about my new studio at the Abbotsford Convent is that Rona Green is in the studio next to mine. She’s taken me on as her protege – very exciting. I’m learning lino printing, and she lets me in to use up all her supplies – paper, lino, ink, the works. She won’t let me pay a cent.
My latest assignment from my new mentor is to create a large lino print to send to competitions next year. Competitions! Yikes.. I admit to feeling a bit confronted.
Let me pause here to tell you a funny little story. Back before I was selling paintings, a friend of mine told me I should have an exhibition. I applied to a handful of galleries and was knocked back. One of them offered feedback sessions, so I booked in to go and find out why they didn’t want to exhibit my stuff, and I booked Paula to interpret for me.
The session was… interesting. To be honest, the guy spoke with such arty language I couldn’t follow. Something about my CV being unusual, that I’m clearly established with all my published books, theatre shows etc, but that wasn’t right. Something about how they should have seen me and work at other galleries first. I got the impression that to exhibit, I would need to be part of the art ‘scene’, though I wasn’t entirely sure that was what he meant. There were also murmurings about the narrative of my artwork, clearly strong but.. but… not sure….
When we left, I asked Paula, did you understand that? What did he say? Her words were quite clear:
“They don’t know you from a bar of soap and your art makes too much sense.”
I did some soul searching. Did I want to stretch myself, to a more obscure style? Hmm.. not really. I want my art to be an expression of me and of the stuff I want to say, and by pretending to be someone else, and emulating an ‘arty’ style to get an exhibition.. that felt blatantly false. I got his point that he shouldn’t give me an exhibition when I was clearly some upstart who hadn’t worked my way up through exhibiting and attending exhibitions by others at the cheaper, more lowly galleries. Did I want to go that route? the thought gave me heebies, frankly. It was about networking, becoming known. And for a Deaf person, that sucks. Would I have to pay Paula for every single exhibition opening?
I made a decision: I would make the art I wanted to make, offer it up on the internet (where no lipreading is required), and if people wanted to buy it, good. If not, I’d make another plan. Either way, I would walk away from the gallery scene. Too uncomfortable for me. As it happens, I’ve made myself a very happy, enjoyable life, selling art that ‘makes sense’ on the internet to people who also like art that makes sense. I don’t have to make up obscure artistic mission statements that are not simply from my heart. I get to do it my way. It’s good.
So you see why I haven’t entered any competitions. I haven’t had any desire to become ‘known’ or win any awards. I just want to make my stuff and share it with people who like it. But if Rona says enter competitions, I am thinking twice. I tell you, it’s so lovely to have a mentor, someone who is actually holding my hand and giving me little prods. I couldn’t do that gallery scene thing before on my own. But Rona has walked that path, and she seems quite prepared to lead me down it. I’m not going to knock back this opportunity!
So.. Ok, I’ll give it a go. I’ll make a large lino print to enter into a bunch of competitions as recommended by Rona.
Large is intimidating too.. can I really carve that much? But I came up with a design, which I’m reasonably pleased with, and Rona spent ages helping me get it to just the right size. She furnished me with everything I needed, and sent me off to carve.
Guess what? Totally addictive. OMG, I couldn’t stop. It was getting dark and I had to go home and head off camping the next day, but I’d only carved half of it. The solution? Wake up at 4am, whip back to my studio to finish carving, and then casually rock up home at 8am to prepare for camping like everyone else. Phew.
Now I’m just waiting for the right day for Rona to help me print it. But since I carved it so fast, she says… make another one!! Gulp…