Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Oh Bother - Rejected and Profit?

How do you cope with rejection? I am not talking about rejection in the form of a show entry or gallery bid. I am talking about the visceral reaction of a viewer and whether they like your painting or not. I tend to get ticked, that is before or even if, I ever feel sad about it. I'm more the 'who do you think you are' type of reactionary. But every now and then I have to stop and ask why? Why does somebody reject what obviously has been a hard fought battle with a blank canvas and some faulty paints...or maybe its the brush's fault.            Right.......yeah that's it. 
Every time somebody views a painting that you have painted, they are presented with the opportunity to reject it (which makes me wonder at my level of penance with this blog). And should they reject it, you are presented with the opportunity to learn from it or to reject the rejection. 

Wind Canyon Spring - Study 2

Several reactions come to mind from some close friends and family. My least favorite reaction is the one that means "what were you thinking while you were painting this?" Its as though they do not want to hurt you, the painter, and are trying to figure out what you want to hear. The more you paint and show your work to others, the more varied reactions you will get. Even professional painters of long standing get the one odd flake in the bowl whose reaction can flatten an otherwise wonderful day. We often forget that there ARE people out there who do not feel validated unless they can put down somebody else, or their work. Their put downs are not based in the validity of the work, but rather in the lack of validity they feel in regards to themselves. They are less likely to get 'into it' with an attack to the work than to the person. So it is safer to put down a painting than to look the artist in the eye and say 'your momma dresses you funny'. By pronouncing a painting as somehow lacking, they can feel superior to it and thereby, the artist. It can be hurtful in the extreme. Class critiques of the sixties were known for their vitriol and many an early career was nipped in the bud. Many learned not to paint, but rather to avoid the possibility of acid criticism, to simply not paint.

How to cope? That's different for each artist. Remember that art is a communication effort. If they don't get it, have I failed? Or have they? Its probably some of both. Not all paintings speak to all people equally. What sends me into waves of appreciation is not another viewer's dream stuff. To some, all art has to have some social stance, some fight to be fought. That's what's so cool about art - it can be anything. And when you bash somebody's work, is it the work you are bashing or unintentionally spotlighting your own inability to understand? Good question. It does make me temper my commentary.

In the years I have been painting I have found that comments, like reading lists, really do give you an understanding of where in the scale of development a person's maturity level is located. An honest evaluation, tempered by the awareness that it is a personal reaction, is required for the commentary to be of value. It took years for my husband to figure that out. And he's a quick study. I still have friends who 'love' everything I paint. If they say they liked a previous painting better than this one, I press on and ask why. It tells me more than a blanket "I love this".  I find out what makes them appreciate one painting more than another. It makes me mindful of what others look for, when viewing art. If I am wise, it does not make me paint more narrowly in the more appreciated style.....it makes me better aware, the better to judge my own efforts against my own self-set goal.

After painting, these are the questions that I ask myself:
• Does this painting communicate what I wanted it to?
• Is this work well composed?
• Is the chosen palette appropriate to the time/season/locale/mood?
• Would I paint this painting the same way, or would I try some other approach? 
• What would I change (as I view the completed painting)
If I can answer these questions, I stand a chance of improving as a painter. I stand a chance of less rejection. Inspiration can lie at the feet of these questions.

Stapleton Kearns, a painter whose efforts, ethic and painting style I vastly admire (not to mention his nifty blog) says that every passage in a painting has to work, or the viewer will be bothered by it and not get past  that discomfort in the viewing. He squarely puts the fault at the feet of some flaw in the painting, if it fails to be appreciated. He is to some degree right. But I do not believe that all the fault should  laid at the artist's feet. What a viewer brings to the experience of a painting determines the degree to which they feel any appreciation. In support of this assertion, I am reminded of the day I went to the Los Angeles Museum of Modern Art. They were showing Monet's haystacks in a circular display room. I stood there spellbound, mouth open, in humble admiration. You could actually tell the time by the way the sun shone on and about them. Each color passage was a kaleidoscope of color  and intensity. A visual banquet. Behind me, a very self-important woman walked in and loudly said "If you've seen one, you've seen them all. Why bother?" My friend had to restrain me. I was ready to throttle her.

Was it a difference of paintings, or difference of perspective and appreciation? 

In the immortal words of Eeyore......"Oh bother". So its another rejection. Can I profit by it? That is my question.

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