How compass success?

The envelope was the first sign.  I’ve been on the receiving end of enough rejection letters to know that those are always thin.  After all, it doesn’t take much paper to say “Dear Ms. Quentin, After careful consideration we regret to inform you…”  blah, blah “You suck”… “Sincerely, X”  Usually one single spaced sheet of paper will do it.

But this envelope was thick.  Not Birds in Art thick, where the forms come in a mythically huge 9×12 envelope (or so I hear), but weighty.  Several sheets of paper inside.  And we all know art shows require an absurd amount of paperwork.
So I was feeling pretty good as I started to open the envelope.  At least one of them got in.  I bet it was…

… not at all the one I was expecting.

That’s the second time that’s happened to me now with this show.  I send my 2 picks, Steve chooses a third, and voila! the third pick is the winner.  Maybe I should just let him pick all of them from now on!

But I am now preparing a piece of art to ship to Kentucky, to the American Academy of Equine Art’s Fall Open Juried Exhibition.  The AAEA is one of my personal “Triple Crown” art shows.  AAEA membership is limited to those who are juried into three of their yearly fall exhibitions, and the fall exhibitions are usually very heavy on the applicant side.  To be juried in two years ago was amazing.  To be chosen twice, after only the third time I’ve entered, is awesome.  Assuming I ever get juried in again, I can then submit my body of work for review and possibly be inducted as a member.  Heady stuff.

There are a few shows to my mind that establish you (me) as a serious artist – the AAEA, Birds in Art and Arts for the Parks.  The Arts for the Parks show is sadly defunct, and that is a true shame, because the caliber of landscape and environmental art produced for that show every year was phenomenal.  I am not and have never been a landscape painter, but it was always something I wanted to try.  And Arts for the Parks was the pinnacle of landscape painting.

Birds in Art originated as a tiny exhibition at a small museum in Wisconsin, and over the years has grown into possibly the finest avian art show in the world.  Competition is insane to be juried into each year’s show, and they often have hundreds or thousands of entries from all over the world.  I’ve only entered once (got the thin envelope) but every year I prepare to submit a piece.  I never actually DO (it’s a lot like my attendance record for the (former) Budweiser Grand Prix in Tampa, in fact) but I always WANT to.  I will one of these days.  Got the entry deadline (tax day, in fact) already on my calendar.  I’ve got time until April, right?

And then there’s the AAEA.  When I was younger and decided I wanted to try this whole “painting horses for a living” thing, they were the group whose name came up constantly.  With a strong emphasis on realism, traditional works, accuracy and excellence, the AAEA show every year is a special treat for an equine artist.  The artists in the AAEA shows are some of the very best in the field, and the quality of work is always spectacular.  To have a piece hanging at this show is a huge honor, and I am very grateful.

So… what does all this mean?  I’ve already learned that I don’t consider myself an artist just because I do art.  I have to be doing good art, apparently, and in order for it to be good, it has to be appreciated by someone else.  It’d be phenomenal if it was appreciated with large bills of currency, but, failing that… does this count?  People put art in shows for lots of different reasons.  Exposure, sales, collector value, CV and resume pumping… all those things.  I do it for all those things.  But I also do it because I believe in artistic excellence and personal vision.  No one else has your voice, not in writing, or in speech, or in art.  And the ability to show your voice on a gallery wall with others whose “voices” are judged to be excellent, well… that puts you in pretty good company, doesn’t it?  And maybe, for some of us, that provides validation.
Now, on to the SAA, the Draft Horse Classic and the new bird painting!