Digital Media Illustration by Melissa Whitaker
Ahhhhhh. Disappointment, the gum on the shoe of every artist. Difficult to remove and a constant reminder of a step once taken. It clings to your soul and gives you a feeling of inadequacy. A nagging persistence that your art or even you are not good enough. It is a struggle that everyone must deal with from time to time. It has become a constant companion that is stuck to my shoe and I have learned to incorporate it into my walk. Every now and then it gets a little sticky, but most of the time it’s just an imbalance that needs to be corrected.
The artistic way of life is really quite masochistic. The muse inspires one to create, but the creation seldom measures up to what the mind has envisioned. Leaving an artist feeling disappointed, discouraged, disillusioned, and dejected. Then that artwork is put on display for all the world to judge. If the piece is accepted the brain is flooded with endorphins that will give the artist a temporary high. A high that is desperately sought after, to the point that rejection is the price that is willing to be paid in order to achieve a personal validation.
This week I received another email that will be added to the collection of rejection letters in my file cabinet. (I keep thinking that someday I will make a collage of all of them). It felt like I had just stepped on a tarantula size wad of gum. No matter how much I tried to shake it off, it would not let loose. This was not the same as entering a juried art show where the judging was based on your work and whether or not it would fit in with the rest of the show. This felt personal. A judgment of me and who I am. No matter how many times I told myself, “It’s nothing personal.” It stuck to my soul as a constant reminder that I was not worthy. I would be happily preparing Thanksgiving dinner and then BAM! it would remind me and I would start crying. (The blessing was, I could blame the crying on cutting onions). It took a few days and a few bottles of wine to accept the fact that it wasn’t personal. It’s not that I wasn’t worthy, it’s simply that I wasn’t ready YET.
It is extremely tempting to give up and not submit oneself to rejection over and over again, but then there would never be that ultimate high of validation. That wondrous ecstasy of achievement that I strive for. If we let the disappointments fester an accumulate we become stuck and never move forward. Disappointments can fool you and stretch to make you feel like you are moving forward, but they will inevitably pull you back to where you were. I will scrape the gum from my shoe and leave a bit of the residue to harden, to remind me that life has its disappointments, it’s what we do with them that makes the difference. The important thing is to keep moving forward, that is the only way to arrive at where you are going.
Now then, please excuse me while I go to the store to purchase a pack of gum. I seem to have dropped mine.
For the past several days I have tried to write a blog post, but as soon as I wrote something I would quickly cut it because it may have offended someone. Who it would offend, I don’t know, but it really didn’t matter. Offensiveness seems to be the new normal and I do not want to be “normal.”
I live in a small town just outside of Cape Girardeau, MO. Today the town is being visited by the 45th President, Donald J. Trump, Sean Hannity, and Cape Girardeau’s home boy Rush Limbaugh. There is an electricity in the air as a storm is brewing in the West, (seriously, the weatherman is calling for tornadoes this evening) the tension mounts on my social media pages, and I sit here wondering, whatever happened to civility? I scroll through my Facebook feed and see one accusatory comment after another. It does not matter which side a person is on, the accusations are coming from the Red and the Blue. How can we merge the two and make a lovely, vibrant purple?
When did this become an Us vs. Them country? To borrow from one of the greatest authors of all time, Harper Lee, “I think that there is just one kind of folks. Folks.” Scout Finch had a good role model in Atticus Finch and I think we could all use a reminder of Atticus’ advice today, “if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view-until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.” People develop their beliefs based on their life experiences, not another persons background. We can learn from other people’s experiences, but it is one’s own life that develops their beliefs and foundations.
The one thing I have learned during this tumultuous time is, you are not going to change anything by being accusatory and mean to people who think differently. It only makes the divide deeper and wider. Saying that all Republicans/Conservatives are deplorable or all Democrats/Liberals are the Devil’s spawn is not going to heal this divide. It only causes more discord. If you must believe in an Us vs. Them scenario then think of it this way; the more divisiveness and discord ther is, the more ground “THEY” gain. Don’t ask me who “They” are, because I do not know. That one I will leave to the conspiracy theorist to decide. As for me today…. I’m going to go pass out daisies and breath mints, because if a person is going to yell at me, then they better have fresh breath while they are doing it.
For the past few years I have felt that everything I was taught to believe in has been wadded up and thrown into the bin labeled “Lost to Posterity.” While writing this post I sit here and think, “I hope I do not offend anyone.” I have become overly cautious on my words and actions to the point that my only outlet has been through art. Even some of my artwork has been tethered in the hopes of not offending. It was the way I was taught. Be considerate of others. But when does being considerate of others become censorship of self?
I have been told to paint pretty landscapes, flowers and even chickens because that is what people want. It’s safe and not offensive. I’m sorry, but I don’t do landscapes. I am a plant assassin, all I have to do is look at a plant and it will die. And the only chicken I like is what’s on my plate. If I were to paint or draw what others deem is worthy of commerce, it would be a censoring of myself. Then I would be lost.
A few months ago I had the extreme pleasure of meeting one of my favorite artists, Pamela Frankel-Fiedler. Her work is provocative, sensual, and captivating. My conversation with her encouraged me to not be afraid of what others may think and being overly cautious is a restraint of self expression.
I paint and draw because, if I don’t, I feel like I am suffocating. Art is the air I breathe. It is my voice.
In the coming months, I will be exploring this self-expression and it may shock and it may offend, but to NOT explore it would be a suffocation of the spirit. So buckle up Buttercup, we’re going for a ride!
I have heard the critics say many times that photography is NOT art and I seriously can not comprehend what they mean. I’ve seen some pretty bad photos, some of them in an art gallery hanging next to a painting of dogs playing poker. Matter of fact, I have even produced some pretty bad photos, paintings and drawings myself, but they are ALL art.
I’m not here to tell you what is good or bad art, because you know it when you see it. Art is subjective. An artist interprets what they see and through different mediums they are able to convey an emotion in order to elicit a response to their work. That response may not always be what the artist was hoping for, but it is a response none the less. That is what makes it art.
Photography is not simply pointing the camera at something and pushing the button (although, to a 5 year old with a camera, it might just be the pushing the button). The photographer has planned the shot, waited for the light to be just right, adjusted the aperture to produce the exact depth of field, set the shutter speed to capture that one fleeting moment in time. It is the same way an artist applies paints to the palette, sketches a composition on the canvas, smudges the charcoal to create a shadow and depth. It is all art. Whether or not it is good or bad art? Well, that is up to the observer.
For me, photography is a quick escape for my creative mind. When life starts to get busy and it is hard for me to have studio time, I can get creative with my camera. I do not consider myself a professional photographer, but I use photography as an outlet that helps me charge up my batteries to illustrate or paint. So don’t let anyone tell you that photography is not art. If it inspires……….it is art, no matter the tools used.