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Change the Game

[BLOG POST 1/14/24] Growing up we played a lot of board games and Monopoly was a popular choice. At first it was fun but as I got older, and became a better player, one of the other players (who shall remain nameless) would simply change the rules to the game so he would win.

Suddenly "Go" would mean "Stop for 3 Rounds" or maybe the prices to purchase a house or a hotel would be doubled, and sometimes he would simply distract me and steal my money.

As a younger person and a female growing up in a household that worshiped men, it never occurred to me that I could change the rules too. Instead I simply played by whatever crazy new rule was being imposed.

For a while.

Then I stopped playing the game when I realized I would never be allowed to win.

Recently I applied to an art organization for membership (who shall remain nameless) and my application was rejected. I'm sure they receive a lot of applications and I know that it's very hard to judge art--each piece is unique. But the comments as to why they kindly declined felt a little confusing. They said some nice things like:

"...the artist is skilled, especially given the technique and process..."

And then they said some not so nice things like:

"...regardless of skill, in my opinion, the subject matter cheapens the talent. It could be student work, studies, etc. I would like to see something more interesting."

"I'm finding there is too much inconsistency in the mark-making"

"I'd also to see a deeper dive into one specific topic to create a cohesive body of work"


Of course this is just one person's opinion but this person is in the position of a "gate keeper" and I'd be lying if I said their comments didn't smart.

After taking some time to process everything, talk to other artists, and watch this short video from a gallery owner talking about how they decide to work with an artist I've come to several conclusions.

First, I need to keep painting. It's only been since December of 2020 that I started painting on my own after my atelier training. That's only 3 years and in the video I mentioned above they said they are only interested in working with artists who are 6-10 years into their art career. So I have some time to refine my technique, do some deep dives, and develop my artist resume.

I always feel like my next painting will be my best painting yet so I just need to keep painting.

Second, I need to change the game a little and relabel my still life paintings. Getty has a well written short article about still life paintings that you can read HERE but this is an excerpt:

The term “still life” describes a work of art that shows inanimate objects from the natural or man-made world, such as fruit, flowers, dead game, and/or vessels like baskets or bowls.

Still life is a genre that spans art history. It is found everywhere from ancient Egyptian tombs—decorated with paintings of objects from daily life—to works of modern art where it provided opportunities to experiment with new techniques, forms, and styles.

There are many possible reasons an artist may be inspired to create a still life....they may wish to play with perspective and the arrangement of objects in the picture plane (otherwise known as “composition”) or highlight different techniques.

Other times, a still life represents something significant about the artist—like a prolonged period of time spent indoors. Or, it could provide practical benefits, like eliminating the need to hire a model or travel to a landscape.

The key is that traditionally still life paintings have been seen as "practice" and whereas they are necessary and even included in museum collections, they aren't seen as "interesting" by many people, including the juror mentioned above.

So I want to change the name of my paintings from "still life" to something more in alignment with what they are to me–a way to share my life experiences and perspective. Maybe that way viewers will understand that each painting has layers of meaning and each item was chosen for a specific reason, not just to experiment or practice.

So far I've had a couple of ideas. Dear reader let me know if you like any of these or if you have any other ideas:

  • Inner Life Paintings

  • Storytelling Paintings

  • Symbolism Paintings

  • Narrative Paintings

  • Self Awareness Paintings

Third, be patient and keep looking, especially for other ways to change the game. I saw a meme on Instagram that really resonated. It said something like "dear artist stop focusing on the setbacks because they pale in comparison to your successes to come".

So one juror didn't like my work.

So I didn't get one thing I applied for.

So what.

That's just this moment. More moments are coming and as long as I stay true to myself, keep painting, and keep looking for opportunities it will eventually all come together. And probably not at all in a way I could predict.

That's the fun part.

Which reminds me of the 1998 movie "Shakespeare In Love". In it there is a scene where all appears lost and one character is worried about how it will all come together. Another other character says, "Strangely it all turns out well." When pressed as to why it all turns out well he says "I don't know, it's a mystery".

So here is to the mystery!

May everything in real life be resolved as quickly as it is in a 2 hour movie. 😉

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