Once Upon a Time…

The Chicken That Saved the DayAs 2014 drew to a close I sat in the break room at work doing what I usually do on my afternoon break:  check my e-mail.  I like to think that there is some philanthropic duke somewhere out there just waiting to send me a check for a million dollars “By golly, she’s the one!”  So while I hold my breath waiting for that to happen I enter as many competitions that I can afford to in the meantime.  One fine day in late December I received an e-mail letting me know that my painting “The Chicken That Saved The Day” was accepted into Incite 3: The Art of Storytelling and I couldn’t help but let out one of my patented high-pitched squeals.  I ran around the corner to my boss’s desk and began jumping up and down waving my arms in the air.  This was a signal to him to stop whatever he was doing and pay attention to me.  Reluctantly he put down his keyboard and leaned back in his chair, “Oh God.  What now?”  After I jump-yelled-air-punched at him he was able to make out “Chicken…Book…Competition” and gave me a high-five.  Now let me describe why this competition was different from any other I had entered…

chicks_n_tomatoesOnce upon a time there was a chicken named Chickey Penny and she lived with 15 other chickens in the backyard of a little house in San Jose.  She was an “aracauna” and had brown feathers with willow-green legs.  She had ear “tufts” and a beard.  She was also the smallest in the flock and the other girls would peck at her.  All of Chickey Penny’s feathers on her back and tail were plucked clean except for one which stuck straight up like a little flag.  One day a girl and a boy moved into the little house and met the flock.  Chickey Penny jumped right up on the fence to say “hello” and it was love at first sight.  Every day when the girl got home Chickey Penz would run up to the gate and try to squeeze through the bars to welcome her home.  She also knew that there was a brown paper bag inside the house that had the most delightful of snacks so soon Chickers just waltzed into the house to help herself.  She quickly learned that the house was a much nicer place to live than in the coop with the other chickens.  Instead of being pecked she was petted and got to sit on people’s laps.  “I much prefer this flock, this will do quite nicely!”

Eventually the boy and girl moved to San Martin with chickens in tow.  Chickey Penny did not ride with the other chickens, she rode to her new home on the girl’s lap while watching the California hills roll by.  When the sun would set and bedtime drew near she would walk down the hallway announcing to everyone that it was time to go to sleep “BAAAACK BAK BAK BAK!”  She would roost on a towel behind the pillows andme and chicks wait for the boy and girl to come to bed.  As the girl would fall asleep she would stroke Chickey Penny’s feathers and she would stretch her neck across the pillow and purr.  Chicks loved the country life and was especially helpful re-dispursing leaf piles throughout the yard.  Seasons changed and years passed.  Christmases came and went and she even put up with wearing painstakingly made ridiculous holiday outfits.  Chickers lived to be 16 years old and was the best friend the boy and girl could have.

One day the girl decided to paint a portrait of her feathered best friend.  She wanted this painting to be special, something that really conveyed Chick’s spirit and especially what she meant to her and the boy.  She knew even before picking up a brush that this would be her favorite painting.  Finally after weeks and weeks, she stepped back from the easel.  “She’s done!” The girl knew that she wanted to share this painting with the world.  She wanted everybody to know about Chickey Penny so she started entering the painting into book competitions.  Years passed and every once in a while Chicks would be in a local art show.  She was happy that people were able to get up close and personal with the painting but it wasn’t enough.  She kept submitting only to receive, “Dear participant, thank you for your entry but we regret to inform you that…”  Until one day in late December with the New Year peeking around the corner…

tom_n_chicks…”The Chicken That Saved The Day” was accepted into Incite 3: The Art of Storytelling and will be roosting on the world’s bookshelves later this year!

Congratulations Chickey Penny!

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I’m a Sore Loser

BLOG-7-Salsa-Caliente
Salsa Caliente

So you paint your heart out.  Blood, sweat and tears go into your masterpiece.  You feel good, you feel creative, positive energy is oozing out of your pores.  This is awesome, this is the best piece I’ve ever painted, this is a winner; this is the golden ticket!

When you run a race, you’re going for the gold.  You’re not thinking, “That silver medal has my name on it!”  You train, you get inspired, you focus. You line up at the starting line alongside your fellow competitors and firmly plant your feet in the starting blocks.  With the finish line in sight, you visualize yourself breaking through that tape.  The gun goes off and you shoot out of the blocks like a rocket.  You submit to a show.

Time seems to stand still and the waiting game begins.  The notification date arrives and you check your inbox.  You think, “Maybe I missed the e-mail?  Maybe I wrote my e-mail down wrong (double check entry form).” When the sun sets on the notification date you really start to get creative.  “Maybe it’s going into my spam folder (double check e-mail settings).  Maybe they’re sending me a special letter instead – did I write my address down correctly (double check entry form)?  Yeah, that’s it!  A secret, special letter written especially to me about how especially special my painting is!  (double check mail box).” Then you get it,  “Thank you for submitting, unfortunately…blah blah blah.”  REALLY?!  It is at this point you still see the finish line tape, only it’s wrapped around someone else running down the track with their arms in the air.  You didn’t win, you didn’t even place – you’re one of the chumps wheezing their way trying to catch up with a cramp in their side.

Your mind begins to swim with questions and you ask yourself “Where did I go ‘wrong’?  Maybe it’s her head, maybe it DOES look like a lima bean.  Was the piece too small?  Was the piece too blue?  How dare you call my kid ‘ugly’! Maybe I should just focus on teaching, why do I even bother painting?”  So you catch your  breath and begin to do the only thing you can: mope.

Moping is a wonderful self-pitying action that draws attention to yourself because that’s what you really want, right?  So you do your best impression of a corpse lying face down, spread eagle on the bed with her head buried in a pillow.  You’ve gotten into juried competitions before – what gives?   What was their criteria?  “What do I need to do – create a vision board?!”  Note to self: buy poster board, magazines and glue sticks.  Who the hell got in anyway?  Of course your friends get accepted and you make plans to go to the opening reception.

So you go to the opening to support your friends because they crossed the finish line before you, but really you go see who the heck got in, what it took to get accepted, and of course, who won the grand prize.   You congratulate them, put on a good face, and act like it you’re not bothered what-so-ever when people ask you “Where’s your piece?”  You most definitely do NOT show people your painting on your phone and ask why the h-e-double hockey sticks am I not in the show?  By the end of the evening you’ve given yourself TMJ from saying “congratulations” every fifteen seconds.   Sound familiar?

Ok, cry baby, pull your big-girl panties up…you’re better than this!

Alright, let’s take a closer look.  I’ll break this part of the post up a little differently to emphasize these points.

1.  So you paint your heart out Good start.  You should ALWAYS paint your heart out.  There are two sides to the coin when you think of your piece as a “winning” piece.  A) You value your piece and see it as achieving greatness (more on this in future posts…) B) You’re painting for the competition instead of for painting’s sake.  Finding the balance and maintaining it between these two sides is key.

2.  You’ve gotten into juried competitions before – what gives? Ahhh…complacency.  I looked it up.
[kuh m-pley-suh n-see] A feeling of quiet pleasure or security, often while unaware of some potential danger, defect, or the like; self-satisfaction or smug satisfaction with an existing situation, condition, etc.
When you believe that certain competitions are a no-brainer boy do you deserve to get smacked upside the head.  You can’t be passionate and complacent at the same time.  Which do you think the jurying panel is looking for?

3.  “Where did I go ‘wrong’? Why do I even bother painting?”  Well that’s a good question, why DO you bother painting?  Is the sole purpose of putting paint to canvas to win the blue ribbon?  “Where did I go ‘wrong’?” can be flipped to “Where can I ‘improve’?”  See the difference?

4. Moping.  Get over it and get over it fast.  The people that do not get past the moping stage will never be great artists.  Moping is an attention-getting scheme and it is not artistic at all.  Can you imagine Robert De Niro thinking to himself, “How come I wasn’t offered that part?  Don’t they know who I am?  I mean come ON!  If anyone wants me I’ll be sulking in my bedroom eating a quart of Ben & Jerry’s!”  MOVE ON, PICK UP THE BRUSH, WHAT’S THE NEXT PIECE, WHAT’S THE NEXT COMPETITON?  Even if you got the grand poobah prize you should be thinking “What’s the next step?”

5.  Vision boards.  I might jest, but an important part of personal growth is positive visualization.  Yeah, sounds a little bit new age but think of it this way:  do whatever it takes to get you pumped up to do what you are passionate about.  If this means pinning up magazine clippings, photos, famous quotes, rejection letters or a postcard of a cat dangling from a branch telling you to “Hang in there!” then DO IT.

6.  Who the heck got in anyway?!   Oh this one’s a peach!  With this attitude you’re going nowhere fast.  Resentment is a big piece of baggage that’s so heavy you need both arms to carry it.  By resenting other’s success you don’t have the open arms to welcome your own triumphs.   Support your friends and when they ask, “Where’s your piece?” just tell them it didn’t get accepted, it didn’t get invited to the party, it’s at home washing it’s hair, whatever floats your boat.  Your friends believe in you and you should believe in them.

7.   What’s next?  This is just one competition, it’s not the only competition, it’s not like you didn’t get picked to get on the space shuttle to continue the human race on some distant planet.  Use rejection as a form of self-evaluation instead of self-deprecation.  Keep submitting.  Keep improving.  Keep painting.

I really enjoyed writing this post and if you found it helpful, interesting, or even infuriating I would love to hear your comments.  Follow my blog “The Fearless Painter” for more of my art process insights.

"Possibilities About" by Holly Van Hart
“Possibilities About” by Holly Van Hart

Come check out the inspiration behind this blog post!
2 shows / 1 reception date “Salon at the Triton.  A 2D Art Competition & Exhibition”
& Holly Van Hart “Possibilities Abound
at the Triton Museum of Art
“Salon” runs from: December 6, 2014 – February 8, 2015
“Possibilities” runs from: November 23, 2014 – February 14, 2015

Reception for both: Friday, December 12, 2014, 6:00-8:00 p.m.

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