When Elizabeth and I first started contemplating making this course, we brainstormed about all the things we wished we had learned in the first ten years of painting. We talked about what might have helped us get better had we known. We both love teaching, we love to see someone fall in love with the same thing we love with all our hearts. To see someone step up to another level and feel good about themselves and what they are accomplishing is such a satisfying and exciting thing! To watch someone gain self confidence in their ability to create is the best thing ever. There is one thing I’d like to talk to you all about that hopefully will give you a sense of relief and a knowing that every stage is normal and we have all been there – no matter how skilled, how “talented”, how driven you are. That subject would be self doubt and insecurity. At times it can be debilitating and make you want to give up.
In my art career, I have been very fortunate to exhibit with some very, very well known and great artists. I don’t know why, except for my persistence, but I have been really lucky to get in the galleries and shows that I have been in – long before I was ready. This has had its advantages and its disadvantages. I am also extremely hard on myself and on my work. In 2010, I was invited to be a guest artist at the Maynard Dixon Country Show. I was doing backflips in the parking lot with excitement of being asked! It was the biggest thing that had happened to me in all of my years of painting so far. That very same summer I had four other gallery shows and was working my little behind off. Somewhere in the back of my mind, I had reasoned that the MDC 2010 was a plein air event. Instead of thinking that I should be very, very prepared with my very best work possible, I went with my normal Fly By The Seat Of Your Pants mentality and showed up down there to paint. I am not exactly the most accomplished plein air painter, especially not then. I have gotten better as a result of this experience but I don’t have a “way” of direct painting. I jump in with both feet and pray to the heavens that they work out in the end. By the end of the show, I had a body of work together that I felt pretty good about. I had a great time “star” watching, meeting the artists I have admired since the earliest of days. Although I was timid and certainly intimidated, I made the very best of it and put myself out there. Until…….. The day of hanging our works had come upon us. I found my spot where I was to exhibit and hung my work before anyone else had the chance. Then I took a break to freshen up before the reception. As soon as we came back to the reception, I walked in to see my work hanging with the rest of the show. Let me tell you, there is NOTHING more humbling than to see your not necessarily best work or best effort hanging next to the likes of Clyde Aspevig, Daniel Pinkham, T. Allen Lawson, Len Chmeil……you get the point. I was completely devastated with my own work. If I could have grabbed them off the wall and ran home without embarrassing myself any further, believe me, I would have. The comparison of my work against others tormented me to the point of giving up painting completely! I was done, I was going to cancel my shows, sell my paints and get another job ASAP. The work probably was not quite as bad as I was telling myself, but it wasn’t even close to up to par and it was really the first time I had hung next to anyone of that caliber. I cried in the parking lot, I went to my husband to be consoled with my tail between my legs. He was completely baffled by my reaction and had no idea what to do to make me feel any better! Thank you to a warm and generous spirit, Dan Pinkham, he took me to my work and talked to me about it and truly acted interested. If it had not been for that, I might have truly quit. Two weeks later I was taking a workshop with him in California and chin up, determined once more to get better and never allow that to happen again. Looking back now, it was actually one of the best experiences, albeit painful, of my career. How many times in one’s life can a person hang their work next to the best of the best and see EXACTLY where they stand in quality? Of course, it would have been much easier for it to be in private but hey, you get what you get! This art thing forces us to wear our hearts on our sleeve, put our vulnerable self out on display for all to see and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. It is a roller coaster from the beginning until the day we die I think.