I’m not sure whether this painting is quite done, yet. It’s definitely hot off the press, as I scrambled to get it to the point of entering it in an upcoming show in Tucson.

Which brings up a subject I’d like to tackle once in a while in this blog. How does the reality of being an artist mesh with what the public pictures as the life of an artist?

This interests me because I myself am constantly asked questions which I find annoying. It finally occurred to me that the reason people say things like “Oh, you’re doing art full time. You must be retired” or, “Being an artist must be so much fun”, is that the whole business of working in the arts is a big mystery to just about anyone except artists. And a lot of time, we shroud what we do in mystery or are defensive about it. There are a whole array of cliches about artists, many of which are negative.

So what does this have to do with entering an exhibit? Well, entering shows is one of the many things that professional artists do. Why? Good question. It’s important for building a reputation, which is necessary in order to be able to justify what you charge for your work. You never know who might see the work in the show–which could lead to all kinds of wonderful outcomes, like a sale or an offer of another show.

However, entering shows is an expensive enterprise. There is the time spent in researching exhibitions. Most shows charge an entry fee of $25-35 for 3 slides. Having slides or digital images of artwork is expensive, especially if it is done professionally (which it should be in order to be taken seriously). There are application forms to fill out, resumes and artist statements to polish and print. The whole thing needs to be packaged. And then last but not least is the postage. Oh, and if you want those slides back you have to enclose an SASE (self addressed stamped envelope), so there goes more postage money!

There are always way more entries than there is exhibition space, so much of the work is rejected. Yet having that show record is critical to being a respected artist. And they have to be the right kind of shows. So every time you enter a show you take a gamble. Are you just throwing money away? Do you stand a chance of getting in? How long does it take you to recover from being rejected and move on?

Entering exhibits is only one very small, but important part of being a professional artist. Stay posted for more insights into the work of artists.

Update: This painting, Reed Calligraphy III, was accepted into the big ideas SMALL FRAMES exhibition at Dinnerware Artspace, located in downtown Tucson. The exhibition dates are June 7 – July 19. For more information on this show, see the Dinnerware website.