There are some great moments of validation in an artist’s career:

  1. When someone likes a piece of your work
  2. When someone likes a piece of your work enough to buy it
  3. When you win an award for a piece of your work

Thankfully, I’ve had the first two happen . . . and now I can say I’ve hit the trifecta!

A few weeks back I submitted one of my photos for an online contest with a company called Art Forward Contests (unfortunately their site is down for maintenance, but please check back):

Lake Tahoe 2012 - Heavenly LightThis piece, called Heavenly Light, is one of the images that, while I was capturing it, I KNEW would be amazing (provided I caught it right).  So I was thrilled when I saw how it turned out.

That’s why I thought to include it in the Art Forward contest.  And when I heard from them two weeks ago that I won, I was over the moon!  There were over 800 artists who submitted their pieces for this contest, and mine was chosen for the Bronze award!  According to the congratulatory letter that came in the email, my name will show up on a double-page spread in an upcoming International Gallery Guide.  This guide is distributed in Galleries, Museums, and other locations, and apparently reaches hundreds of thousands of art patrons around the world.  In addition to that, my image and contact information will appear in the “Winners” section of the website (when they finish updating it), which has a following of about 15,000 and growing.

I think I literally bolted out of my seat and jumped up and down for joy when I read the email, for I can now call myself an award-winning photographer.  I did win one before for a piece called Open Reflection, but that was when this was all just a hobby for me . . . when I was just testing the waters to see if I could make a go of this photography business.  For some reason, this award seems more of a validation, saying “Yes, your photography is good enough.  You may continue.”

It also encourages me to continue submitting my photos to contests.  Who knows, the next award I receive might be the Gold.

Moving Past Disappointments

One of the struggles a new artist has to go through is rejection.  This is true of every profession, but some artists take it worse than others.  And those people who tell you to develop a thick skin or that “it’s not personal” have either never been rejected, or have forgotten the self-doubt and negative talk that runs through your head.

You hear stories of famous actors or authors who received hundreds of rejections before someone finally decided to take a chance on them, so maybe you can grow that thick skin over a period of time, but I’m guessing it still stings until you sell enough of your work to overshadow the amount of “no thank yous” that you’ve accumulated.

Ahhhh, to be there.  To have sold enough art, shown in enough galleries, or won enough awards that the occasional rebuff doesn’t sting any more.

Sadly, I’m not there yet.

I recently sent in a couple of photos to be considered for a specific project with my local gallery.  This project was for a grant to go take photos of a particular area in California for an upcoming calendar.  I submitted two images that I was really proud of, and that I thought would perfectly fit the scope of the project.  Then I sat back and waited until the chosen artist was selected.  As the day of reckoning drew nearer, I grew more and more excited about the possibility of winning the grant, and being able to have my work seen by people who purchased the calendar (more exposure, you know).  So when I learned that I wasn’t chosen, it was like a punch to my gut.  I learned that 20 photographers applied for this one available space, which softened the blow a little, but not enough that I didn’t sink into the “My work isn’t good enough” despair that often follows a rejection.

I’m not proud to say that I did wallow in that self-loathing for several hours after learning that I hadn’t been selected.  Even now, there’s a bit of doubt that my photography isn’t good enough to be submitted to any more contests. But I know that wallowing like that isn’t productive.  I have to keep plugging along and continuing to apply to gallery exhibits, or find new ways to sell my art, because I won’t win contests or sell art unless I put it out there.  No one is going to come to me out of the blue and say “I’m looking for some great pictures.  Do you happen to have any to sell?”

The other productive thing I’m going to do is to continue honing my craft.  There are lots of things still to learn, and the more skills I can acquire, the more I grow as an artist.  And the more I grow as an artist, the better my chances of winning contests and selling more work. Plus, the people I’ll meet in the classes have the potential to be future colleagues, or even future collectors of my work.

I’m also going to see about working with a mentor.  Someone who can give me one-on-one help and point me in the proper directions to further my career.  I’ve already got a photographer friend who’s said he’ll work with me, so YAY!

And all the excitement over working with a mentor and taking more classes has helped me to move past the disappointment of not being chosen for this latest project . . . which might just help me to develop that thick skin.