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Saturday, March 12, 2016

Why I Don't Do Things Like Most Artists

I was recently asked why I did not participate in juried art competitions. It got me thinking about a whole range of things that I "Don't Do" that others artists most typically do.

The first juried competition I was ever in I placed in the top three with the photo you see on this page. I wasn't even interested in submitting a piece but the theme was "weddings" and I couldn't help but submit a photo of these two wonderful gentlemen dancing at their wedding reception. Mind you this was before gay marriage was legal and still controversial. But it wasn't controversy that made the jury choose it. It was the emotion held within.

But this photo also represented the last juried competition I was to place work. I get asked often why I never enter work in these things. In fact I had one artist ask me if I felt I was too good for them. 

I can honestly say no. I do not feel too good for them and no I definitely do not feel they are a waste of time for some artists. It is a good way to gain the recognition of peers (the jurors) and to be seen in a public space.

But I do not believe in popularity contests. If a juried competition is truly about the art not the popularity of the artist then it is a wise investment of the artists time. If the judges are chosen wisely, and they take the responsibility seriously their advice can be of great value.

So why don't I submit? I am not sure there is one answer to this question.  Part of it is a true desire to never compete with other artists. My personal opinion is that my work is no better than any other artist. Another is that I honestly did not like the way it made me feel when I did well in that first and only competition. I was smug for a few minutes until I saw the other pieces submitted and really felt mine was not the best. There were others that were equal in skill or surpassing my own.

My whole life as an experimental artist has been to learn something new and in turn share it back to others. For me to compete against others just doesn't feel right.

With that said I can't stress enough that it is important for an artists work to be seen. Art that stays in a closet and is never seen is not art, its clutter.

But when I made the transition from professional photographer to visual artist my own personal game rules included not trying to be an overnight success. I knew it would take a slow methodical build up of name, reputation and art to get where I wanted to go. But those rules did not include some of the classic things that other artists did. The list included but was not limited to:

Street Fairs
Stock Photos
Gallery Hounding
Book Covers

Right from the start I instantly ruled out anything that took more time to do than the investment that time gave back to me. For example as a photographer I have thousands of images I could submit to the stock photo companies. But early on I did my research and saw a bunch of photographers getting $20 a month back for wasting a huge amount of time processing photos of broccoli and cute kids in parks.

I want my time to be in the studio. If I attempt the business of art then I want a fair return on my time. 

Another example is the show I just recently completed. It involved 8 weeks of intense work in promoting and building a top notch art event. But I did it because it was a worthwhile investment of the time. What I gained from it was experience, reputation and exposure in a major way. And while other artists were involved I never felt like I was competing against those artists. I was equally representing their work as well as my own. 

I suppose we all have our personal codes that make us the artists we are. My codes keep me away from many of the things other artists do as a mater of course. I can't always explain why it is that way, but I know surely that the way I do business as an artist works for me. The best advice is to do what feels right to you. If entering a juried competition works for you, then you should do it. But if it doesn't work for you then steer as far away from it as you possibly can or else in the end it may just be a disaster for you. Will I never enter another juried competition? Who knows. If it feels right I just might, but for now I don't mind being labeled a bit odd for my artistic habits. It works for me. 


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