This article is by Carolyn Henderson, the managing half of Steve Henderson Fine Art. She is a Regular contributing writer for FineArtViews and her freelance writing appears in regional newspapers, online magazines, and her humor blog, Middle-Aged Plague.
Let's start on the right foot by eliminating the word "should" from our vocabulary.
Nasty word, "should."
Generally, it's used by others, either directly or indirectly, to impose their will or agenda on someone who isn't in line with the program.
My favorite example of this is the finger waggling children's ditty: "Everybody ought to (read 'should') go to Sunday School . . ," but there are plenty of other examples:
"Even if you are unemployed, you should put away 25% of your net income every month to a retirement savings account. Groceries are not as important as you think."
"You should read to your child 45 minutes a day, beginning prior to conception. They should be able to read by themselves at age 4."
"You should eat edamame for breakfast and lunch. Top it with a tasty coating of powdered fermented kelp."
Some shoulds are not necessarily bad advice. But even good advice isn't always applicable to your situation.
"You should enter art shows. This is the best and only way to further your career as an artist."
"You shouldn't bother with entering art shows. This traditional route is outdated and a waste of money."
What is it about us as humans that we classify and categorize complex situations into one-sentence, one-size-fits-all dictums?
Can we move toward freeing ourselves from this self-imposed tyranny?
First of all, the options we have before us number greater than two, that is, we are not limited to the choice of entering hundreds of shows per year or none at all. We can enter as many competitions – local, regional, statewide, national, international – that 1) we can afford and 2) we feel like we have a good opportunity at getting into because the quality of our work matches the quality demanded by the show, and the type of work we do is in line with the body of the show.
The first year we seriously marketed the Norwegian Artist's work, we spent more than $800 entering shows. Dollar-wise, that sounds like a lot, but believe me, at $15 to $80 entry fee per show, it’s like buying chocolate by the pound at the seashore: it doesn’t take long to rack up a bill.
But there’s a limit to how much fine chocolate fits into the budget, and every year, we review the choices and determine what is worth the fee and what isn’t, always remembering that, just because we write out the check for the jurying process doesn’t mean that we will be juried in.
Oh, and while we’re on the topic of not being juried in, please remember that a rejection notice is not the same thing as a painting not being good enough to qualify for the show. Depending upon the jurying panel, which sometimes consists of one person, a painting can be rejected for many reasons that have nothing to do with ability and skill.
This last statement is easily confirmed by reviewing the catalog of the show, if it is big enough to support one, or simply attending the show, if it is smaller and more local. Across the spectrum, indifferent or even bad art gets into these events, and it’s your guess as much as mine as to how it gets there. I imagine it follows the same path as the business world, where incompetent people are promoted as managers over better workers, or the education establishment, where instructors of less than stellar teaching abilities are advanced to administrative posts.
If the quality control level is too scruffy, I give the show a pass, but if the overall synopsis is high, it’s worth a shot.
Next week: So Do I Shoot, Or Not?