Friday, December 8, 2017

Adventures and Accolades

2017 has been quite a year. As the new year approaches, I inevitably look back and reflect on all the changes that have taken place and what I've learned from this past year. I'm very thankful to have received several notable awards and accolades just this past month. For those of you who have been following my journey on social media and here on this blog, you know that this kind of recognition means a great deal to me. I've worked really hard to get here. While I do acknowledge the existence of "talent", I believe even more in the relentless pursuit of one's passion. To me the biggest compliment is not, "You're so talented," but rather, "Your hard work is paying off."

So... maybe some of the hard work is paying off. And the affirmation drives me to keep doing better work than before, to make a painting that is even better than the last. I know, it's a little crazy. Like a dog chasing its tail... I'm never going to reach perfection, whatever that looks like. But in my opinion, it's still a worthy pursuit.

Earlier in November I flew out to Saint George, Utah, to attend the OPA Western Regional and opening reception and weekend festivities at Illume Gallery of Fine Art. Much to my great surprise, the juror, William Schneider, awarded me with the top prize (gold medal!) for my self portrait, "Silent Snowfall."  

Knowing my chances of ever becoming an Olympic athlete are...well, zero... this was probably the only time in my life I'll ever wear a gold medal around my neck. It felt pretty good.

But the best part of the trip to Utah was the hiking. I got explore Zion National Park, and Snow Canyon State Park, for a glorious day and a half before heading home. During those contemplative moments of hiking and painting, I enjoyed reflecting on God's goodness and how He cares about the smallest and biggest moments of our lives. I looked at the world with a renewed sense of awe for its beauty and the fact that I get to have a place in it, even if it's short and probably insignificant in the grand scheme of things. I'm grateful.

So why has 2017 been different? I've definitely had a lot LESS time in my studio than in years past. But I'm trying to become more patient when I'm there, a better listener to the work and what it needs. I've also had more freedom within my work to experiment more, try things without the hindrance of fear, and to be okay with it if it doesn't turn out. Part of this is because there's been less financial pressure on me, thanks to my hubby who ROCKS at his job (!), but it's mostly because I'm finally listening to the right advice and learning to be more nurturing in my craft.

Over the course of the past few weeks, there has been more good news. My self portrait also received a second place award in the Portrait Society of America's Members Only Competition, and my peony still life, "Spring Bouquet," won 8th place in the still life category. There were over 1000 entries this year!

"Vintage Tutu" was awarded First Place (out of over 2000 entries) in Southwest Art Magazine's annual "Artistic Excellence" competition, landing it a full-page editorial in the December issue (see image below). Today I was told that this same painting will grace the cover of a prominent publication... to be announced next month (my first cover!)!

Finally... and I'm still giddy over this... prominent artist and good friend of mine, Quang Ho, invited me to join him on the main stage at the upcoming Portrait Society of America's "Art of the Portrait" conference in April for a portrait demo entitled,  "Approaching the Blank Canvas with Confidence."  We'll be painting in front of 800+ people! Of course, this is old hat for Quang, who is a beloved regular at this event, but for me it's going to be nerve-racking and awesome.  I can't wait! So... if you are still on the fence about coming to the Portrait Society this year, maybe I can convince you to join us. It's going to be a blast!

Finally... the last thing I want is for this post to sound like a brag fest. For those of you who feel like every day in the studio is a struggle, and you enter every online, regional, or national show that comes up... I have been there. So. Many. Times. For years I threw my paintings towards every opportunity for exposure, hoping something would stick, only to realize that I wasn't being smart about it... or patient. I've learned to wait for those rare and special paintings that really sing, and enter THOSE in juried shows and competitions. This year I've only had two or three outstanding paintings, but I'm very proud of them, and judges and collectors are taking notice. Everything else in my studio - the hundreds of figure studies, plein air pieces, and unfinished paintings... will either have their day, or will never see a collector's wall. And that's all right. What matters is that as artists, we are continuing to challenge ourselves and grow. If you make exceptional work, people will start to notice. :-) Happy painting!

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