Art Show Entry, Dallas OAC ART214 Exhibition
One of my New Year’s resolutions for 2022, in addition to the usual “eat better” and “get more exercise” items, has been to enter a drawing into an art show. Several years ago, based on a suggestion from a co-worker, I submitted a sketch for the River Oaks 5 X 5 Art Show. This was very early in my return to this hobby – in fact, I hadn’t even started using color yet. I entered on a whim, expecting nothing, but for some reason they accepted my “tiny art” portrait into the art show. Two years later, with additional practice under my belt, I attempted to enter the same show again. I felt like the newer, in-color pieces were much stronger efforts…yet neither was accepted. Perhaps I was being too sensitive, but it did undercut my confidence a bit at the time.
I have wanted to “get back on the horse” again regarding art shows, but the last couple of years of pandemic weirdness have given me a ready-made excuse. I also found plenty of other reasons to potentially talk myself out of it. I often play devil’s advocate with myself when making decisions, asking questions like, “can I explicitly describe why I want to do this?” or “are there specific reasons I shouldn’t?” With the implication being that if I struggle to explain why I should, or can too easily explain why not, perhaps it’s not wise to move forward. My poor wife is kind enough to hear me out after these internal debates and provide her thoughts too (particularly useful when I’ve gone spinning off into oddball spirals of illogic).
In this case, the point came up in my head that I don’t actually want to sell artwork! Which is arguably the main point to many art shows. So why do this? I think for me, there are a couple of reasons. One is to try to engage with other artists. This is something sparked from an online conversation with printmaker and textile artist Claire at Tactual Textiles; she described enriching interactions with other textile artists and how that has helped put her own creations into perspective. Granted, I didn’t exactly make any connections at the River Oaks show in 2017, but it did put me physically around others in the local art community. I have gained a ton of insight and value from my online interactions with artists via WordPress – folks like Claire, Hilda Rogers, Steve Kidd, the Pessemiers, and many others (side note: I should do another post linking to all these sites I enjoy so much). Anyhow, I think trying to just get myself out there, global pandemic allowing, would be good for me. I think more of this sort of thing could be beneficial, much in the way that Claire described.
Another compelling reason for entering an art show, if I’m being totally honest, is validation. As I’ve mentioned many times here on this blog, I am an amateur, self-trained artist. I pick up as much as I can from reading other artist blogs and so forth, but there is so much I don’t know and still have to learn. That first art show was a huge surprise, and although it wasn’t the only factor, I think it had a real role in motivating me to practice and continue drawing. It’s encouraging for an external party to essentially tell you, “other people might be interested in seeing this” by choosing to exhibit it to the public. You can tell yourself something is good, and your family can encourage you, but this is a different sort of indication.
All of that being said, I did actually submit a portrait for an art show. After a bit of research, I found the City of Dallas Office of Arts and Culture’s ART214 juried exhibition. Basically, it showcases the works of artists who live in North Texas in a few of the cultural centers in Dallas. Here is the piece I submitted:
In this case, coming up with an idea was a bit more difficult than usual. My standard practice is relatively simple; I draw whatever catches my interest. If it’s fan art from a show I’ve been watching, or even just some random stock photo I see – if it makes me feel like drawing, that’s exactly what I do. But I am much more cautious when a situation wades into potential commercial use. Although I do not care about selling anything, an art show is definitely within that realm where I believe caution is wise. As usual, my path here was to draw family members. Outside of family and friends, I’m actually not sure what other options exist where you could safely enter a possible “for profit” item. Are there professional portrait models within the price range of a hobbyist like me? Like, “here’s $20, will you be an art subject?” I’m really not sure how that works.
This portrait depicts a family get-together, some time around Christmas, featuring my wife, two kids, and sister-in-law. Here, they were decorating cookies with various icing colors. An important thing I wanted to capture with this one is how serious my kids were taking this! They were incredibly focused on achieving their cookie goals, so I wanted to make sure that came through here. Meanwhile, my wife and her sister were less serious, but still invested in preventing icing mishaps. Expression-wise, I do believe these expressions and positions come through in the drawing. I was also very focused on making this colorful. Many of my recent drawings have been very gray…which is my favorite color. But exploring the many styles of gray may not make for particularly interesting artwork, so I wanted to purposefully go a different direction.
For this drawing, I didn’t record any time-lapse video. As much as I like how some of those YouTube time-lapse videos turn out, creating them is a bit restrictive. First and foremost, it means I can’t put my face right over the page while I’m drawing, which is particularly difficult when I want to concentrate. But it is also limiting to some extent because it’s something I have to set up and mess with, and makes me want to finish the portrait in one sitting. That’s not an issue for shorter drawings, but for longer ones, I like to take smaller bites.
So, as I didn’t have any video to provide a progression, I went back to an old stand by I haven’t used in years! I took photos during the drawing process, then wrapped them all together into a time-lapse .gif image. Basically, a slideshow as the drawing came together, which I’ve embedded above. I am curious, if readers made it this far through my gigantic wall of text, what are your thoughts on time-lapses? Do you like them? Do you prefer shorter .gif slideshows? Or ultra-short YouTube videos? Or longer videos? I’ve embedded a survey/poll below – let me know what you think!
Another interesting tidbit about this one is related to the size. I intended this portrait for art show consideration from the get-go, I tried something a bit different this time. I worked with the largest size paper I’ve done – 11″ X 14″ this time. Previously, I had almost exclusively worked with 9″ X 12″ paper (occasionally standard 8.5″ X 11″ for informal doodling). The extra space was nice! Though I didn’t like the off-white tint the paper appears to have…in the future, I’ll have to explore some other offerings in this size for a better color. I like being able to lean on a brighter white, to let that shine through for light reflection where appropriate. I also like the contrast between that white and the colored pencil. That effect is diminished a bit here unfortunately.
Another departure from my “normal” on this one – I spent quite a bit more time on this drawing. Usually, I’m all about getting faces detailed, then everything else becomes an afterthought. But since it’s for a specific purpose, I wanted to devote more time to the background and scenery. Basically, I wanted to slow things down a bit more than usual and allow myself the bandwidth to make it more complete. A standard portrait, based on the raw video for YouTube video recordings, usually takes somewhere between one and two hours (a bit more for multiple subjects or other complications). I explicitly wanted to give myself permission to come and go with this one, not trying to do it all in one sitting. If I had to hazard a guess, I’d say this probably took about four or five hours total.
To wrap this conversation up, I want to try to answer this final question – how did it all turn out? I have submitted the artwork to the ART214 Dallas OAC judges to review. I think the show starts at the five venues in late March or April, so I’m guessing it should be somewhat soon when the decide. I like the finished product well enough – there are things that could be better, but I always look at my artwork with a critical eye. It’s technically decent, but may not be especially compelling. So, if they want to try out a new artist who no one has ever heard of, perhaps there’s a chance. However it shakes out though, I’m glad I gave it a shot!