Thursday, May 8, 2014

SAA member Lyn St. Clair offers her insights on entering competitions. This is about "Birds In Art" at the Leigh-Yawkey Woodsen Art Museum, but it applies to all competitive shows, including our own "Art and the Animal."

Are You "In" or are You "Out"?

Today hundreds of artists are turning on their computers and checking email with a mix of anticipation and dread. The jury results for the Leigh Yawkey Museum's "Birds in Art" are in and the email notifications have been sent out.

Rejection is one of the most difficult things artists face.   What we create is deeply comes from our hearts, our minds and our souls…the true artist creates work as unique as they are.

Beyond the ability to draw/paint/sculpt...artists must have the willingness to expose themselves to criticism, mockery, judgement, rejection and a public that sometimes simply might not "get" what it is we do.

Being an artist is not so simple as having "talent".  It means having fortitude, grace, determination, compassion, an open mind and a very thick skin.

The rest of the world views our work from their own perspective.  They look at it through eyes that see things differently than we do…maybe a little differently, maybe a lot.

Still, we strive to create something that describes what we want to say about our world...because that is who we ARE.

It is important for artists to remember that art is subjective...
everyone sees something different in a piece based on their own set of life experiences.

Try not to let a jury decision (bad OR good) carry too much weight...

Though it is tempting to try to fit into the niche you want to be a part of….being an artist means being true to that uniqueness within your own soul.

Sometimes it is brutally difficult to "own" your individuality…ask any high school kid!
Regardless of the endless work, the pain, the hard knocks, the string of rejections…nothing matters more than pouring your heart completely into what you do and being true to your own perfectly unique vision.

It is worth it...and soulful intent will shine through in the work you do.
The technical end is relatively easy…most anyone can learn the craftsmanship of making art.  Most anyone can copy a style or a photo and create something that someone somewhere would be happy to have in their home.

The hard part, what separates the wheat from the chaff, is being willing to step outside the box, out of your safety zone…and choosing to leap boldly off the edge without looking for a net.

As Agnes DeMille said:
"The artist never entirely knows.  We guess.  We may be wrong, but we take leap after leap in the dark."

THAT is what makes the truest of artists:  no matter what style they embrace, from abstract to impressionist to representational...
they honor their unique way of expressing themselves through their art.

And no matter how many times they fall...they keep leaping!

Living your creativity in such a way means finding a delicate balance between being true to your vision and learning to find the positive in criticism and rejection.  This is how we become better artists.

One of the things I love most about art is that you never get "there"...
there is always something new to try and there is always room for improvement.
In hindsight, I wish I'd saved the plethora of rejections that have landed in my mailbox (it would be an impressive stack of "no"!)…but it would also be a reminder of the sheer determination that is a big part of my foundation as an artist.
Over the years I have won over 90 awards for my art and my work hangs in museums and collections all over the world...

Along the way, I have also been rejected from more shows than I can count.

If I miss out on an award or get a rejection...I work harder to push that envelope next time.

If I win an award or get "in"...I work harder to push the envelope next time.
Ribbons or rejections...either way, it changes nothing.  I am an artist...and no jury decision can change that.
No matter how many rejections come my way...I will continue to try to break free of my comfort zone and make art straight from the heart.

This is a journey, my friends.  The true artist's path is no yellow brick road…it is fraught with washouts, thorny patches, ruts and blind curves.

Choose your steps carefully, trust your heart, listen to your muse and find joy in the fact that there could be something wonderful to learn just around the next bend.  

"In" or "out", I am grateful for shows like Birds in Art that give us reason to raise the bar and take flight as artists.

Heartfelt thanks go out to the fabulous staff of the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum for, to paraphrase Pooh, giving us something that is so hard to not get into!

Congratulations to ALL of the artists who spread their wings to even TRY for this show...

every one of you is "in" in my book!

By the way...
ALL of the paintings that illustrate this post represent just SOME of my Birds in Art "rejects" over the 20 years I have applied...(and, yes, there were some others that DID get in!)  :-)

Re-posted from Lyn St. Clair's blog: "Wandermuse"


  1. Well put! Thank you for sharing these and the thoughts that went with them.

  2. thank you! invigorating words for a shy artist like me...

  3. Beautiful brush work ,a true master.