My first gallery show was almost 10 years ago now, in a local gallery that was also an outpost of a high-end frame shop. The gallery faced the courtyard in a fancy outdoor shopping center filled with carefully curated little boutiques and restaurants, a few benches, a fountain. It was a spectacular location once I got comfortable with having my artwork on display for all the world to see.
I had done some framing at that shop, of my own work, and the gallerist was quite complementary of the paintings. I didn’t tell her were mine until I went back to pick them up and I summoned every once of my courage and asked her if the gallery accepted submissions. It turns out she was the shopkeeper AND the gallery’s curator, and she encouraged me to submit some sample images and an artist statement for consideration. I was both thrilled and terrified at the prospect.
Thrilled – a gallery was interested in seeing more of my work! And terrified – a gallery was interested in seeing more of my work!
I had never done anything like this – never submitted my work anywhere for consideration, never prepared images in Photoshop or burned a CD (ha! A CD. Remember those!?), never written an artist statement; the exercise exposed every one of my vulnerabilities, it laid me bare. And I did it anyway.
I generally consider myself to be one of the least courageous people I know; I steer clear of the edge of the trail at all costs, literally. I wish I had a video of us, hiking at Yosemite, with me hugging the mountain the whole way up, saying to my kids, “One day, when you tell your children about how scared I was hiking up this mountain, make sure you tell them that I did it anyway!!!” And I did do it – hike up the mountain, and prepare that packet for that gallery. I don’t remember the ins and outs of making the CD or writing the statement, and I don’t remember delivering the packet to the gallery, but I can summon the angst like it was yesterday.
What I do remember clearly, and now we’re getting to the crux of it, is picking my kids up from school that same day – Lucy must have been in Kindergarten, Bennett in 3rd grade – and telling them on the car ride home that I had done a brave thing. I distinctly remember telling my children that it didn’t matter if the gallery wanted to show my paintings or not - and I think I meant it - that what mattered was that I had pushed the edge of my comfort zone, that I tried. I think I felt brave that day. And proud.
I have pretty much followed that hug-the-wall approach in my work since the beginning. Create, share some, and wait for opportunity to smack me in the face so hard I fall over before doing anything about it. There have been gallery shows and commissions and studio visits along the way – and sure, I’ve peeked around some corners looking for an opportunity from time to time, but at the end of the day I have hugged the wall, and carried on.
And guess what? I’m tired of that approach. I’m tired of walking so close to the mountain, sweaty palms and pounding pulse, looking down at my own feet. I’d like to look up for a bit, to see the horizon with its peaks and valleys, and trust that it’s all going to be ok.
A few weeks ago, Meredith Bullock announced on Instagram that she would be making a painting a day and offering it for sale right there in the app, and she invited other artists to join her. My first reaction was, “that sounds horrible,” and that’s exactly how I knew I had to join her.
Offering my work for sale online, putting a price tag on a painting, suggesting that someone may want to buy it – those things are terribly uncomfortable for me, and I can’t say why. I’ve sold my work in galleries and privately through my studio for years, so why is it uncomfortable for me to put the work online with a price tag? I don’t know. But I’m doing it, by baby steps, I’m doing it. I’m looking up and out at the horizon, moving my body toward the center of the trail and away from the safety of the mountain. I’m doing it.
Meredith calls them #dailybraverypaintings, and I’m following suit because that’s what they are for me – daily acts of bravery. I’ve painted and posted four, of which three have sold, and one has not so far – and I’ll tell you a little secret, I’m most proud of myself for the one that hasn’t sold. Not that it’s my favorite of the paintings, but knowing it’s sitting out there as an offering with a price tag, unsold, it pushes the bounds of my comfort zone. It makes me feel brave.
This is how we rise.