“Approaching Stanley.”

Rejected, 1988 TasArt Awards.

COVID-19 has resulted in a complete upheaval of our way of life. Currently, isolation is the accepted norm and for how long is anybody’s guess. For some this has provided the opportunity to discover new skills, re-visit practices long-gone from their daily lives, while discovering new opportunities along the way. Long-term social distancing is hard and it’s only going to get harder until a proven vaccine is found and implemented. Boredom has become the number one enemy. For artists and crafts people, this is a perfect opportunity to create all manner of things, that can go a long way to easing the pain of separation, especially from family members. I hope you are coping okay. Things will get tougher before they get better. Stay focussed, keep being creative!

I’ve been dividing my time between gardening and art. Both are going well. My wife and I have a long-term plan for a fruit and vegetable garden at the rear of our block and a native garden at the front. The vegetable garden is almost finished and the construction of our fruit garden will commence within a couple of months. Our native garden will be built early next year. Long-term plans are what’s keeping us focussed and positive.

While in my studio the other day I came across a photo of a painting that I did in 1988. It’s not very good. This fact was confirmed when I entered it in the annual TasArt Awards, one of Tasmania’s major art prizes, based in Burnie on Tasmania’s North West coast. The painting was rejected. I was dejected. Those who have been in that situation will know what I felt like. It’s pretty gut-wrenching to be rejected for any art prize, but this was special, this was my first rejection, but not the last! Failure is never easy to take, but what really matters is how one deals with rejection. You get knocked down, you get back up again; you get knocked down, you get back up again, etc etc. For every art prize one enters, there’s always the possibility of rejection, even if there’s no pre-selection because your work maybe overlooked by the judges and even the viewing public. It’s a minefield out in the real world! If you never ever try, you’ll never ever know what others think of your art, or indeed if your work is worth creating in the first place, Let’s return to my 1988 TasArt entry.

Pre-selection is always a hurdle to overcome when entering such art awards. The good news is that the next time I entered I wasn’t rejected. Yay! I didn’t give up. My perseverance paid off and in the years to come I gained some judges’ commendations and several section prizes. The pinnacle was winning the major prize (then worth $10000) in 2010. This was a moment that I will treasure for ever. I went from ‘Boiled Lollies to Old Gold’ (chocolate). Yes, it took me 22 years to get to the top, but I kept at it.

“Silence at the Table.”

2010 Burnie Art Prize Winner.

Experiencing such ‘failure’ has made me stronger, more determined and confident enough to enter many other art awards over the years and I’ve been well rewarded for my stoicism. It hasn’t been always been all my own way, indeed I’ve had setbacks and even had one of my drawings taken down and removed before it was judged in a major Tasmanian Art Award (the subject of a forthcoming blog post).

‘Keep on keeping on’ and never give up!

I hope you’re coping with all that’s happening and all that’s not happening.


About artkleko

artist, art curator, art teacher, art judge, art critic
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17 Responses to NEVER GIVE UP

  1. Maxine Donald says:

    Solid advice Richard and an excellent reminder for absolutely everyone! I too have been dividing my time between art and garden, my two favourite things to do. My garden has never looked better! I for one have appreciated the ‘wind down’ albeit under such awful circumstances. We in SA have been “lucky” …… (I love your prizewinning painting!)

  2. Gerry Jensen says:

    That was a stunner of a painting ..can still remember it and could describe it from memory … it was one of those jewels that speak to the viewer!!

  3. Edna Broad says:

    I found that being an artist has challenges of rejection that really hurt and highs that balace out. The virus is one of the most challenging because it can’t be defined. To deal with it I have been putting in a lot of time gardening and sorting out my art work done over the years.

  4. Kate Bausch says:

    Thanks for sharing your hopeful story. I’m struggling physically, mentally, and emotionally during this lockdown time. I had to permanently close my little happy gallery and studio where I loved to paint and teach painting classes. I haven’t had the energy to set up my home studio again because I am now in a major depression and I have new physical health issues. I feel like I’m in a downward spiral. Painting has always been my salvation, my therapy, and I don’t have access to it. Our little gardens give me a bit of relief. Hearing about your perseverance gives me hope. Thanks Richard.
    Peace and all good to you!

  5. Roslyn Hamilton says:

    Hi Richard Good to hear from you. Yes my husband and self are coping well also and doing similar as you are – art and garden. Walking and saying hello to neighbours and having our daughter and family walking distance all helps. Keep on keeping on and one day see you again at McGregor in Toowoomba.
    Roslyn Hamilton

  6. Very true. I still find rejection hard, and always will… but I cope. I disagree with one point you make though….”If you never ever try, you’ll never ever know what others think of your art, or indeed if your work is worth creating in the first place”….. the first bit of that yes, if that matters to the maker but the second part, no because surely if “you” enjoyed the process, the immersion in creating, then it is worth it. We can sing for the joy if it but never make a recording or sing publicly, surely we can do the same for art. Being a professional artist perhaps changes that perspective.

    • artkleko says:

      I suppose it really depends on why you create art in the first place, Evelyn. Just doing it for money is not the answer regarding true creativity.

  7. sharonsskow says:

    Truly an inspiring blog. Thanks for sharing Richard. Cheers!

  8. Such good points Richard. To be an artist one has to develop a thick skin – the rejections never stop hurting, but the sting goes away and you gather yourself again for the next one. If you have faith in a piece of art, even when it appears no-one else likes it, that does sustain you I find. Then the acceptances and prizes do help! And like you, looking back at works I have had rejected, I agree with the judges now, although I didn’t at the time! I am keeping busy in this strange time, I have the tendency of a hermit, and am used to working alone, but I do miss getting out and talking face to face with friends. We are doing a big renovation to my studio and my husband’s home office (at least, he is doing most of the work!) I’m back in my ‘new’ light, bright, clean studio now and am loving it. I have become involved in several collaborative projects, in particular with a friend up the road, via her letterbox, where we each start a small artwork with a few marks and the other ‘finds’ something it it Lots of nice surprises!

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