12 October 2014

You Have To Start Somewhere

Robin Eggs - 8x10" - Oil on canvas


About this time of year 2 years ago I was working on an exhibition submission for my paintings. It was one of my first submissions for painting. All my documents (artist's statement, bio, and cv) were written from a strictly photographic perspective, so it was necessary for me to re-write things. When it came to my cv I realized it was time to do some reorganization. Previously I had listed all my exhibition experience together and made the solo and two person shows bold to distinguish their greater importance. It was now time to separate the exhibitions in group and solo shows.

This seemingly simple act took me back several years to when I first started to submit my photography for exhibition consideration. I had taken a professional development workshop on writing artist's statements, resumes and bios. I remember sitting there with a blank piece of paper wondering what I could possible put down on my resume. I remember looking at the examples we'd been given thinking I'd never get there. Going from a blank paper to having pages of exhibitions, awards, and collections seemed as daunting as a kindergartener looking at the road to a law degree.

I had to really stretch to get something on paper for my earliest cv. I had things like a high school exhibition and award and an online exhibition. That's all the photography exhibition experience I had. Luckily I did have some experience with fibre arts events, which at the time I had never considered an art form. I had participated in some juried fibre art shows through the provincial guild and had won some awards for my fibre work, so I included that. Thankfully my cv wasn't too empty, but most of what was there was totally unrelated to what I was doing at the time. The road seemed long and steep.

Now here I was, a few years later, with a 3 page cv totally related to photography and a need to separate exhibitions like I remember seeing at the beginning of my journey. I even excluded many exhibitions, such as duplicate events or shows of less importance. I was being offered exhibitions, turning exhibitions down, and being highly selective of those I did, but I was starting out all over again in a different media. Sure I had lots of exhibition experience with photography, but I was an unknown within the world of painting.

What's the point of all of this? I know the road looks daunting, but it is only our own fears and insecurities that stand between that blank piece of paper and the three page CV. I started out with virtually no experience. Everyone does. So if I can do it, so can you.

One thing I have done consistently is set realistic goals. Once a year I set goals for myself that I think I can achieve. I started small, and with each success I set a goal that would take me to the next step. Here's a look at some of my past goals that show how each one was just a bit beyond the last.
  1. 2007: Have a photograph in a public exhibition.
  2. 2008: Have my work in a museum show.
  3. 2009: Have a solo show.
  4. 2010: Have work in a show outside Alberta.
  5. 2011: Have work in a major exhibition.
  6. 2012: Have work in a government sponsored exhibition.
  7. 2013: Have original art in a public exhibition.
  8. 2014: Be accepted into the Federation Of Canadian Artists.
I can't emphasize enough how important this goal setting has been to my career. Faced with that blank page and not knowing which way to step, goals have given me something to focus on. When I get out of bed in the morning I have a purpose to work towards. Yes there is art making, but being professional means you have to do more than just create the art. You have to know what to do next, and my goals have made it clear what's next. I've presented a simple list, but in reality my goals have been a bit more complex than one simple item on a list. I always have a goal for learning or skills improvement as well as career milestones. 

If you haven't set goals for your art career, do it today. Set realistic goals - also write ideas on how you plan to achieve them. Then enjoy the ride as you watch those goals coming to fruition. And enjoy the warm fuzzy feeling you get five or ten years down the road when you can look back with pride on all you've achieved.