Friday, April 11, 2008

failure and success


This week's Illustration Friday theme, fail, actually caused me to think (!) about the nature of failure and its flip side, success. Just yesterday I received a fatal 'declined' from a juried show submission and though you'd think it would just roll off me by now (especially since I was asked to jury this show ~ how ironic is that?), I still feel like a capital L loser whenever this happens ... though I'll confess that my first reaction is always, "What's wrong with them?" not "What's wrong with me?" :) I do well enough to have to use an accountant to sort out my taxes -- all income from my art -- so what am I fretting about? I'm at the stage now that I wish I'd saved all my 'declined' slips, like the novelist who papers the walls of his garret with rejection letters, as a kind of celebration of my efforts.

See, I realize now that it really is about efforts and that many of my failures are not necessarily all about me. I had a friend who finally screwed up the courage to submit a fabric piece to a juried show of textile arts. When she was refused she found it so devastating that she decided to never enter another, and retired quietly to work in the $100,000 studio she had built in her backyard. Maybe I just have a bigger ego (OK, there's no question that I have a bigger ego), but giving up seems like a bigger failure to me. (Ask me again when I find myself behind the counter at Timmy's, not having touched a paintbrush in months.) However, I was lucky that the first piece I ever submitted to an important juried show, way back in 2002, was accepted (see right). And before anyone lectures me about success being independent of prestige and commerce, save it for the pulpit. That's a whole other blog post.

But here's a success I want to crow about and it's not even mine. My kids are, at this moment, both taking part in their school's 30 Hour Famine for World Vision. They raised $320 between them. I love this event, and World Vision in general. Naturally I look at my skinny boys and the Michelina's grandmother in me thinks they'll shrivel up and blow away if they go without food for more than four hours ... but I'll get through it. Their school, a small 8-12 school of about 700 students in a middle-class neighbourhood in a less-desirable suburb, has consistently been the top money earner in Canada, including last year when they raised $32,000. The only school that has raised more overall since 1992 is a very exclusive private school within Canada's most expensive postal code.


Blogger Donnnn said...

Thomes Edison discovered 999 ways that a Light Bulb wouldn't work.

Putting all of the internal politics aside, Art is a different beast. My daughters live in the 'Dance' world and I have friends who paint and write. It is so different than being an office drone filing forms 9-5 in some gargantuan grey building or fixing sticky lifters on a duct-taped rusty old '93 Buick.

You should be very proud of the fact that you have the courage to put your heart on your sleeve, hold out your baby and ask if someone 'likes' it.
That is incredibly brave. I think it is amazing. Most people work full time at perfecting their ability to be indistinguishable, innocuous, and invisible. They are afraid to expose themselves in case they make a mistake or somebody doesn't 'like' them.
So what!

Go Go Go.

11/4/08 12:36 p.m.  
Blogger Janvangogh said...

Great news on your sons' efforts.

I have thought about starting an art site called "this was rejected by..."

11/4/08 1:45 p.m.  
Blogger Angela Rockett said...

Must agree with both of the above comments (donnnn said it very eloquently). And with you too. True failure is giving up or not even trying.

And I would love a site called "this was rejected by"! It would be fun, and probably prove just how subjective this whole art business is. Rejection in something like a juried show is just one small group's subjective opinion, and not really anything to do with the intrinsic value of the artwork itself.

11/4/08 3:03 p.m.  
Blogger Deborah Ross said...

I love your work and I, too, love World Vision. I sponsor two girls and a family and they are wonderful additions to my life. Tell your sons I'm proud of them.

11/4/08 4:00 p.m.  
Blogger Teresa said...

Nice trophy! Ignore the rejection letters and only pay attention to the acceptance letters (I know it's hard, I have a filing cabinet full of letters of rejection ;o). Everyone has failed and in fact, I think it is the only way to succeed. As the others said, Just keep trying!

11/4/08 4:07 p.m.  
Blogger andrea said...

Damn. After reading Teresa's very kind comment, my fears that people might read this as a "poor, pathetic, unsuccessful me -- I sure suck" post were coming true, which is so NOT what I'm trying to say, so I felt compelled to add these words: "I'll confess that my first reaction is always, "What's wrong with them?" not "What's wrong with me?" I do well enough to have to use an accountant to sort out my taxes -- all income from my art -- so what am I fretting about?" I'm still stumped by vastly different interpretations of what I've written. I guess that's why I paint rather than write! :) (And Angela and Donn: thanks for getting it.)

11/4/08 4:55 p.m.  
Blogger Toni said...

Andrea we all know it's one persons opinion and there are a million opinions out there.

I knew you weren't saying poor me.

Tell your boys I said yea a job well done.

11/4/08 8:27 p.m.  
Blogger Caroline said...

You just need to find the right jury to submit to... :-)

Lovely trophy for last!

12/4/08 2:03 a.m.  
Blogger Caroline said...

And I forgot to say well done to your boys!

And that I entered a juried show once and it was accepted... which may well be why I've not attempted any more... I'm spurred more by failure than success...

12/4/08 2:23 a.m.  
Blogger Melody said...

Really great post Andrea. I enjoyed every word of it. I too have thought Timmys looked especially good now and again after what I deem a "big" failure. I remember being on an artist tour with a fellow artist who made cerammic plates, mugs, etc. During the entire weekend he sold almost everything and I walked away having sold not a thing.... That was a hard pill to swallow but I moved on. I've realized life is just about picking yourself up and moving on. Besides what's the alternative...I make a crummy cup of coffee.

12/4/08 5:16 a.m.  
Blogger Alda said...

Thanks for sharing your musings on success and failure. A great read, as always.

And big congrats to your two boys ... how wonderful that they're being introduced to the bigger picture and how they can contribute.

Just out of curiosity, what *is* Canada's most expensive postal code?

12/4/08 6:25 a.m.  
Blogger joyce said...

So good.
I love what you wrote here about the flip side of failure. I strive for the courage you speak of, and fear that I may land up in the back yard studio, or as Donn so eloquently stated- perfecting some dull filing system all alone.

12/4/08 6:45 a.m.  
Blogger Within Without said...

It's great to read such honest thoughts tinged with the kind of humour and "What, me worry?" attitude that probably is required of every successful artist.

Art seems to me such a daring thing to do anyway, it being so subjective and all. You're baring your talents for all to see and if you're a professional, it's all about people liking it.

So to see you talk on the one hand about feeling like a loser but then rising above all that, day in, day out, is invigorating.

And I'm sure that courage and go-for-the-gusto approach extends to the World Vision project your kids are into, which is a great thing.

Courage and commitment rub off. Good on you, girl.

12/4/08 7:17 a.m.  
Blogger Peter said...

I wish I could think of a deep and meaningful comment to make ... but I can't!!! Really I just wanted to say 'hello' and say that I think your pictures and your posts are fab. I've been re-reading your blog (all the previous posts) and there's so much good stuff in it!

12/4/08 11:25 a.m.  
Blogger Hayden said...

congrats to your boys - that's really impressive!

as a "hiding in the studio type" with my writing, I have nothing but admiration for your courage - each and every time you submit something.

12/4/08 12:49 p.m.  
Blogger andrea said...

Wow -- every time I make a "warts and all" post I feel trepidation but the comments always prove that I worried for nothing. Thanks.

12/4/08 1:21 p.m.  
Blogger dinahmow said...

I know from which direction you're coming. You manage to sell (some of) your work, and you most certainy are showered with praise from impecunious would-be buyers!
Art (whether writing, music or visual) is fraught with these tempting little carrots. And you are right in that failure is acceptance of low worth.I think some wise man (woman?) said the only failure is acceptance of defeat.
I hope you've got the oven fired-up for the end of the "famine."

12/4/08 7:57 p.m.  
Blogger girl work studios said...

trepidation Andrea? this is a great post! We love your eloquent and humourous honesty! That's also a mighty fine award for last.

For me, just knowing that Timmy's is always hiring is one of the great motivators in helping me move my butt. ( least sometimes)

And way to go Pratt boys! That's inspiring.

12/4/08 9:41 p.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm with Peter there: keep on writing and painting and drawing!

13/4/08 3:46 a.m.  
Blogger andrea said...

Dinah: It's the praise from the would-be buyers who can well afford it but don't that gets me. But THAT's just bad manners and grumbling on my part. :)

GWS (or call I call you E?): Yay! I thought the drawing was the best part of this post (for the humour, not the art). Thanks for noticing. And now, I have a date with Roll Up The Rim and a bagel...

Laura (and Peter): Thanks. And thanks also to Joyce, WW, Alda, Jan, Deborah, Toni, Caroline, Melody and everyone else who I've been too lazy to respond to...

13/4/08 7:23 a.m.  
Blogger Michelle said...

Andrea, YOu echoed the advice from my favorite guilty pleasure TV show, 'What Not To Wear' When you try on clothes and they don't fit right, it's not YOU , it is the clothes, move on. Same with submissions, its not your rork, its their perception (which of course comes with hidden agendas and personal biases), so..move on!
I once entered a juried show in which the juror dismissed most piecse, mine included. In his statement posted at teh opening referred to him only being able to pick the least of the worse art available!!! Clearly this was not my problem!

13/4/08 9:11 a.m.  
Blogger Janvangogh said...

There is an art fair back home that is really hard to get into. I had tried several times with no success.

Two years ago, I was painting at a fundraiser. Doing the same kind of work. Some fellow walks up to me and asks me if I do art fairs. Hands me a business card and says I should apply.

Yes, he was on the committee for that hard to get into art fair.

Go figure.

13/4/08 3:36 p.m.  
Blogger Donn said...

Hands up everyone who had to Google Dinahmow's 'impecunious'..
be honest?

Fabulous word innit? Learn a word a day to keep the old brain on it's toes. I am placing impecunious in the folder with parsimonious, penurious, pusillanimous, and tightass.

13/4/08 8:43 p.m.  
Blogger andrea said...

Michelle: There's nothing more pretentious than the art snob, is there?

Jan: Sounds like a money grab to me!

Donn: Hey! I knew impecunious! But as for parsimonious, penurious and pusillanimous, then ixnay. I'm a little fuzzy on tightass, too. (Ooo -- that generated an unwelcome image! :)

14/4/08 11:07 a.m.  
Blogger Molly said...

You silly girl! That IS funny! When I was in California, I saw a store called 'Tight Assets.' I wanted to get a picture, but never did. I love learning new words and keep a dictionary within reach at all times, and a Spanish dictionary too, believe it or not, because for some reason, I come upon plenty of Spanish/Latin/Hispanic language too, and I hate not understanding.
The English language is always changing, don't we know. I have been looking into how American Indians native languages have been lost, are near lost, or have those trying to save and revive theirs. Lately with teenagers, and young adults around, I have had to refer to the Urban dictionary. Now that really makes me feel like I'll never get it. Once they're 'mostly' moved out, I'll be back in the dark with the less threatening, though more familiar 'regular ol' dictionary.'
As far as your post, Andrea, say what you mean, mean what you say. That's what I like best. Honesty is one of your best qualities.

16/4/08 4:08 p.m.  

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