You know, I was told once back in school that you can pray all day long to pass the exams but if you don’t study… so I’m a big believer in ‘God helps those who help themselves’. But I’m just as big a believer in ‘you can plan and help yourself all you want, but unless God gives you the green light, then’…
Having said that, I really am just so very grateful!
But yes, I finally did get a show, and it really was a miracle because you know, galleries usually are booked a year in advance. So this, and the last one I was able to sneak into as a guest artist (‘not really a show’, but still) really were, literally, heaven-sent.
There really was a lot of asking involved, though, and that’s what I want to talk about today, mainly because of two things I’ve seen recently.
One was an episode of that online self-help show (‘help themselves’, remember?) where the host interviewed this famous writer who said he didn’t start making any money from his writing until he was well into his 50’s. Even now (even with all his best-selling books), he said he still has trouble getting projects off the ground, or even support from people close to him.
The other one I saw was an article about how this now super famous pop star had a Facebook page put up by her haters back in uni saying how she was never going to be famous, ever.
That singer told about how she started out living in the cheapest apartment she could find. The article described how she really put herself out there writing songs for other people and all that other stuff in the background before things started happening for her. When she made the acceptance speech for her award in the end, she said in a nutshell that it is a lot of hard work.
So I guess it’s really just all about not giving up.
The author guy said in so many words that perseverance counts more than talent, and right now I’m reminded of someone else, who was very good technically, and who kept asking and asking this other artist I knew about how to go about having a show.
Turned out this someone else was, as I understood it, looking for a ‘shortcut’ because that someone actually wasn’t willing to put in the work.
Remember when I said art is a mind game? I didn’t just mean that for what ‘takes place in the painting factory’—I also meant it for what happens outside of it; specifically, on the way in.
Because there are just so many things in the way, on your way into the painting factory. So many things get in the way. Worse, there are things that trip you up or push you back. Even worse (or worst, even) is when the thing that trips you up or pushes you back is you.
Lucky you if you have a fantastic support system. Some people have family, friends… family and friends (lol), a dog, a familiar, a fairy, whatever. But if you don’t (or think you don’t), then who do you have left?
I still think that you can have the largest support system in the world, and pray all the livelong day, but if you don’t act, then…
…paintings ain’t gonna paint themselves. //Grin.
You know, where I come from, we have this thing about this guy who parks himself under a tree with his mouth open waiting for the fruit to fall in? Don’t be this guy.
But let’s say you’re the hardest working person you know (or one of the)—you know what happens when you keep working and working (and working and working).
You get tired.
It happens, you know. Even robots become low batt.
But sometimes the batt becomes so low it can be tempting to just, you know. Throw the towel in. It’d just be so easy to not re-plug the charger and let the bloody thing run out.
So sorry but you know, that reminds me of yet another thing I read in yet another one of my forever favourite books—if you’re riding a horse and you feel like you’re falling off? What you do is grip harder with your knees and sit up straighter.
Look, I know (I super know) this is easier said than done. But really, however great your support system is or however many prayers you say, in the end, it’s all up to you. Even when (if it should be in accordance with His greater scheme of things) God helps out, it’s a lot like throwing somebody a life ring in the ocean—it’s up to the somebody to reach out and grab it.
You’ve just gotta keep pushing. It’s the only way. However many times you fall, you just gotta keep picking yourself up.
And don’t wait for somebody to come and help you.
That somebody may or may not come. If something—your art, in whatever form that might take—means that much to you, is that important, then you’re not gonna leave that to chance, are you?
Say your kid’s safety is on the line—that’s not something you’d leave to chance, would you? Like if you were out on the savannah, or the beach—a lion may or may not have your kid for lunch or your kid may or may not drown—who in their right mind’s going to play wait-and-see?
In a way, your art, your creation, is your child—and as with an actual child in the examples above, time is of the essence. Wait too long, the opportunity passes and something irrevocably tragic might even happen.
I looked and saw I had to ask 17 galleries before I got this show (and don’t even ask me how many novenas I said). Along the way, I was ignored, I was too late, I got Dear John letters, I was told… things I don’t much feel like repeating now, eheheh.
On the way to one of the 17, I was with my mom and dad (yes, they still take me to these things). In fact (to my everlasting shame), a few weeks ago, Mom came with me to lug a large-ish painting of mine for the gallery to check out (I have a busted shoulder and she wouldn’t let me carry it). (Shame on me.) (Thank you, Mom.)
Anyway, I told my dad that I still remember what it was like some 10 years ago: I’d been at that same place where all the art galleries were. I was literally going door to door with my portfolio and my proposal and getting either shrugged off or turned down on the spot at each one. (At least this time around I only went to one, haha.) ‘That’s just how it is,’ said Dad, shrugging.
That famous author was right—it doesn’t get any easier.
I remember telling my boss recently that every show, for me, feels like the first one. I still get really, really embarrassed, you know, approaching galleries and stuff. Basically telling people ‘hey, check out the new stuff I made’.
Like you’re only as good as your last show or something and really, unless you’re this superstar artist or something (which I’m most certainly not), people couldn’t care less about what (you think) you’ve done in the past.
But you just can’t let that stop you. Just keep looking. If a gallery or whoever says no, well, it happens. It hurt. It was embarrassing. Boo-hoo, you worked really hard on that proposal. Okay. Acknowledged. Time to move on. There are other galleries out there. Other places. Other people who might be willing to give you a chance and who’ll appreciate your stuff.
They’re out there. Just keep looking.
And for me, if you don’t find them? And nothing happens? Well at least it won’t be for the lack of trying. Like that never-say-die anime guy says, ‘We may have no chance in hell to win, but we cannot let it end this way.’ I’d rather die fighting, lol—or better yet, live to fight another day.
So you lose a few battles (can’t win ‘em all), but what counts in the end is whether you win the war.
And wars aren’t won without strategies.
I don’t want this post to be one long, cliche-filled pep talk, har. I think I ought to at least, you know. Share something practical—what does not giving up and pushing forward and so on look like?
Maybe you’re thinking it looks something like a giant smiley face that doesn’t change in the face of countless doors slamming in it. And that giant smiley face is coated in Teflon and worn as a mask by that bunny that keeps going and going and going… Close, but no banana.
See, I’m pretty sure that bunny ain’t rockin’ AI or ML capabilities—which is to say don’t just keep going, but think about where and how you’re going. While the jury still seems to be out on who really said that whole ‘doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results’ thing, you gotta admit there’s something there.
I also read somewhere recently that you can’t just ‘be so in love with your work that you work for yourself and only for yourself and to hades with whatever anyone else thinks’—or something to that effect.
Personally I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t very fond indeed of my own ‘children’ (even if they’re far from perfect and do cause me a lot of grief) (just like ‘real children’) (I’m told, hee). But again, I also think that’s at least partly true.
That said, may I humbly put forth a few suggestions for re-strategising.
You know, in case the pink-bunny-with-the-drum stratagem isn’t panning out.
- See if there’s anything you can change about your concept or your proposal (unless you really, truly believe in your concept (which is as it should be) to make it better. Like maybe laying it out or printing it nicer or including nicer pictures or something.
- Try ‘stalking’ the galleries or the venues you’re proposing to, like maybe your work would appeal more to another gallery or it might be shown to greater effect somewhere else.
- Try looking in other places—not just other galleries or exhibition venues but geographically. The world is a big place, and I’m thinking the more places you can ‘make better’ by bringing your work to it, the better.
- Try getting help—if you’re one of those who don’t (or think you don’t) have a support system, try looking around for someone you can get practical advice or actual assistance from for making your work or your proposal better.
- If the ecosystem you happen to be in isn’t conducive to or supportive of your efforts, then it might be better to find one that is. I know how this might sound, but I reckon surrounding yourself with nay-sayers and party-poopers can’t be doing much for you in the morale-boosting department.
Now I’m not saying you make friends who tell you only what you wanna hear and not what you need to—I’m just saying there might be a difference between being a truly constructive critic and a hater.
And now that I’ve come to the end of this post I realise I’ve got some nerve writing this (and any of my other) blogs seeing as I’m no award-winning, superstar artist or something.
I mean isn’t this the sort of thing people say if you’re like the super famous pop star I mentioned. I reckon it is so all this would most probably have meant a whole lot more coming from someone of that calibre.
This is just, me knee-jerk reacting I guess to my ‘yippe-ki-yay I got a show today’, which in turn is making me feel like saying stuff to anyone who might be in the same boat as me. Stuff like ‘I know how you feel’, 'you’re not alone', ‘just hang in there’, and ‘keep plugging away’.
Don’t worry, I’ll be a lot less deluded once I’ve gotten over it and I start slaving away in the painting factory again. Wish me luck—or better yet, pray for me.