This past weekend a local art show was held at the bank downtown where I won Third Place in painting last year. I always enter and I did so again this year. I had intended to write this letter about prizes in art and what they mean, since I was not expecting to win again this year. I was going to write about the roller coaster ride of prizes, shows, acceptance, rejection, and sales.
Well, this year I got First Place in Painting! WOW. I heard the news from a friend. Gobsmacked. Stunned. Very very happy. Told many people the happy news. Right as I was going to bed last night I worried that my friend may have gotten it wrong. Maybe it was Third Place or Honorable Mention and I’d already told all those people I got First. But no. It was true. Wow.
The thing is, a few weeks earlier another of my paintings had been rejected from a show put on by this same arts group. But I am no stranger to rejection, as anyone who’s done art shows will also say. I once met a guy who helped found the Plaza Art Fair in Kansas City and after the first couple of years, he was rejected! Another artist I know had his work used on the brochure for a show for which he was rejected. It is not uncommon to win a prize one year and be rejected the next.
So, prizes in art–what do they even mean? Generally, they mean that a particular judge or set of judges really likes your work. It’s great to win, of course. It feels wonderful and I am thrilled. I love my painting and somebody else out there loves it, too! Validation is always welcome when you’re putting yourself out into the world through art or writing or anything creative. I mean, many of us would say that when we show our art, we are essentially saying, “See me. Look at what I did! Love me.” This is why I appreciate those people who take the time to really look at my work as much as I do those who buy it. I feel seen.
I will, of course, continue to let people know about this prize. Of course! My painting and ribbon were even shown on the news! Wahoo!! More people to see me, look at what I did, love me. By the time you read this, I will have received my prize in front of everyone gathered there. I will have felt seen and celebrated. As long as I don’t let not winning or being rejected rule me, I’m good.
Prizes encourage me to keep painting, even when the painting is ugly at some point in the middle. Ugh. Prizes help me remember that I have managed to pull other paintings through to the other side. They remind me that I can do it again, even if I have to struggle (as I often do). But they are not everything, by any means. I don’t paint for prizes. I do it because I love doing it. It’s fun and it takes me back to being a kid, playing, getting messy. It is just so much JOY. How lucky am I? Sheesh!
“Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” ― Theodore Roosevelt
“It is deeply satisfying to win a prize in front of a lot of people.” ― E.B. White, Charlotte’s Web
“Art must be an expression of love or it is nothing.” Marc Chagall
If you’re looking for my cards or art, you’ll find all of that on my website. If you enjoy these letters, feel free to forward this one to anyone you think might like it. And if someone forwarded this one to you, you can sign up here to receive the letters right in your Inbox. Finally, you’ll find past letters and poems here.
Thanks for listening,
P.S. MerryThoughts is the name of my first book, out of print at the moment. The word is a British one, referring both to a wishbone and to the ritual of breaking the wishbone with the intention of either having a wish granted or being the one who marries first, thus the “merry thoughts.”