Take it from one who has learned the hard way...no matter how passionate or how determined you are to make art that expresses a “statement,” don't expect that artwork to be readily accepted, encouraged or lauded. And there is a BIG difference between creating for public consumption versus creating for personal catharsis. That being said, I still encourage any and all artists to make their statement pieces, but only for their own edification. You might get lucky and find a niche collector/buyer that is on your wavelength for this area of your portfolio, but chances are this kind of work will be too edgy for those with more sensible tastes. LOL
Case in point was my entry for the 2011 Colored Pencil Society of America's International Exhibition. This year, my cathartic side won out and I created a piece called “They Stand, Resolute....” I was following a muse that told me that my last entry to make it into the International, called “Summoning The Ancestors,” paved the way, with it's eery use of skull and offering bowl, for a further testing of the jurying boundaries. One takes a big chance with “statement” pieces (especially ones with a slightly morbid theme) as the judge changes year to year and one can never be quite sure what their tastes and temperament will bear. Needless to say, the bloodied dove and the impending doom must have been a bit too much! LOL I didn't make it in to this year's show in Dallas. Dagnabbit...but what can you do?
Well...from what I've observed from my short time at the CPSA International shows, it seems the high quality works that win most of the awards are, in large part, photographic realism-type renderings of traditional (what I would call “safe”) subjects – people, animals, landscape, still life, flowers and the like. There are a few artists that stand out, of course, for focusing their design around plays on words or a specific “style” that they've mastered, but I really haven't seen any where personal statements were made...mood yes, allegory yes, self-effacing humor yes, but statements not so much.
So here's what I've learned from this in the short time I've been showing in these shows (and my other artistic endeavors) – namely that your best bet to gain any recognition is to play it safe, stick to the status quo as far as subject matter, realism (or as close as you can get) is king and, if you're going to attempt to add a miniscule statement, make sure it's done with humor or it won't pass muster. The sight of blood in a piece will probably lose you an invite and, in the end, the judge is god! LOL Taste is subjective and sometimes there's no accounting for what he/she might like...dying, bloody birds included!!! ROFL Also...know your territory...that is, conservative judges, older crowd, traditional mindset – stick to the “safe” subjects and styles; younger crowd, “hip” judges, edgy mindset – they're more inclined to click with your statement stuff. Remember, you attract what you put out there so put out the right stuff for that venue if you want to receive any recognition for your work!
Anyway, I suppose I've learned my lesson, huh? A little weird is OK but blood is a no-no. So take a guess what I'll be drawing for next year. Flowers...portraits...still lifes (without dead or dying things I suppose). Boring? Mostly. Tedious? Most probably. But you do what you have to do if you want to be included, yes? All this also goes for selling, licensing, marketing your art too, ya know. A painting of a smiley face is gonna go over a lot better with the crowd than your save-the-Earth drawing of garbage along the curb or a photo montage of starving, indigenous peoples. You have to decide what your priorities are for that moment in time and save the commentary for your personal work. Who knows...when you get famous (after you die – LOL), your edgy, personal stuff will be worth a bundle! :)
Don't sell out – just know your intended audience and play to it when need be. Hope this little bit of advice helps! Now go do some creating!!!
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