Regardless of the kind of art you practice, if you have any hopes of making a living at it, you'll eventually have to share your creations, whether at an open mic, in a YouTube video, or putting together an oil painting group show with artist friends. This can be the most challenging part of being an artist, because it is in this exposure that we feel the most vulnerable.
Shimmer by Irena Roma, 2011, watercolor painting, 17 x 17.
For painters and draftsmen, juried exhibitions offer the most straightforward means of building a reputation without hiring a publicist. The process is, however, quite unpredictable, and gaining entry into a show is just as much about current trends, the jury's preferences, and the requirements of the exhibiting venue as it is about the quality of one's work. "Knowing whether you should submit or show a painting is a gut reaction that develops over time and, unfortunately, requires experience with rejection," said artist and instructor Irena Roman during a recent interview for Watercolor.
Ugh! Who wants to experience rejection? After working hard to develop skills and then being brave enough to apply those skills to self-expression, we have to repeatedly offer up our work for scrutiny and expect to be dissed? I wish there was a three-day rule when it came to submitting artwork for juried art competitions. You'd know in less than a week if they're "just not that into you" and you can shake it off and move on to the next one.
Of course, this isn't the dating game, but it may help to take a similar attitude when it comes to entering shows or submitting work for art contests. After sending in your artwork, don't think about it for at least three days–and after that, you won't even remember to care.
If you're not sure if you should risk it, here's a pearl of wisdom from Robert "The Art Spirit" Henri: "Don't ask for criticism until you are sure you can't give it yourself." Try your best to be objective. Best sure you've put down the brush before you invite a judge into the studio (even if it's your mother–especially if it's your mother!). And remember–even Robert Henri received rejection letters.