Hi Jungle folks,
Todays article is in a way a continuation of my last, an application of the principles on one hand, but also an honest share of what‘s on my mind before a show. Mostly its probably a soul strip to help me find my own way through sharing and structuring my thoughts.
I share this because a) writing it down helps me thinking it through and b) because it might resonate with some of you out there. Those of you that feel equally like beginners, mediocre and struggling and not sure if they belong.
It started as a short burst of thoughts and ideas that go through my head as I gear up for SMC in two weeks. Even monte is only about a month away and I have barely touched a brush for the last 3 months – mostly for family reasons and because lots of non-painting stuff had to be worked through – but there are always reasons, right? As I am looking at the pre-registration for SMC and what I would like to bring, I realize I have little to show for the last 12 months. Mostly some gaming pieces, certainly nothing worth bringing to a show.
One of the pervasive elements of the last years was that I started to paint for shows, instead of painting for myself (at least when I don‘t just slap paint on gaming pieces). I really enjoy going to the bigger and smaller painting related shows like WME, SMC, the Duke of Bavaria back when it existed and since last year, Monte San Savino has become probably my favorite event to look forward to.
But, still being in the lower standard ranks of painters (at least if the results of the contests can be trusted), it always feels like my theoretical knowledge and ambitions transcend my actual skill with the brush by far. I FEEL like I could be much better than I am – I see more, understand more and can read more in miniatures than I can feasibly create myself. And that puts me under a great pressure: I feel like I have to create better works in order to exhibit – and I feel that if I cannot show improvement, can get a better medal – deserve a better medal – that I have failed to validate my right to belong to the community.
On average and in the top levels, the world of miniature painting has improved in bounds and leaps just within the last decade since I joined it. If we look back further, we can see that this holds true for a much longer time frame – arguable more than two decades now. New painters join the fray every year, gain recognition, become part of the crowd. And sometimes that feels like a threat – the community used to be smaller, it used to be easier to feel like belonging.
It is still a world full of wonderful ( and with overwhelming majority extremely nice) people. However, like in every other community, fame plays a role – and fame is distributed in a meritocratic way – at least meritocracy is a big element. That can lead to a sometimes sad, sometimes exciting spiral, especially for the hobby painter who comes late to the game and can only devote a limited amount of time & energy (but a seemingly endless amount of passion) to the arts: On one hand, you want to belong – and you can – even just on a mediocre, passion-driven base – on the other hand, to earn a seat at the table you have to deliver. To deserve a seat at the table, you need to be a good painter, a great artist or have other redeeming qualities – and if you don‘t, if I don‘t – what am I doing here?
So far for the exposition of my situation – maybe you can relate, maybe you can‘t. But in light of my last article, this can be a starting point to work through things, sometimes it takes the push to write an article to do it myself:
Obviously my inner Diva wants to be awesome – I want to be recognized for the brilliant mind I have, for the great ideas and personality I bring (or wish I brought) to the table.
But at the same time, the Judge sees this for the hubris it probably is, tells me that nothing I can cobble together in the evenings of the remaining two weeks will amount to anything worthwhile. If I put it in exhibition, it‘ll likely not even suffice for a bronze in standard and in the end, what remains will be that my worst fears of mediocrity will be substantiated and revealed for all to see: That I can‘t really create a piece of art worthy of recognition. I‘ve been a failure for not pushing myself throughout the year and now I reap the reward.
The taskmaster tells me, that going there without exhibiting means I don‘t belong. If I don’t make it on the stage and get a medal I obviously don‘t belong.
I spent the evenings of the last two months doing all kinds of things to avoid working on my pieces, probably even this writeup – technically its 6:30 in the morning now, but yeah… On the plus side, my office/studio looks better than ever before and everything is sooooo ready for painting that next year I‘ll be ready to rock the world 😉
Thinking these things through alone doesn‘t make me start painting, but confronting and analyzing my fears allows me to at least see what I am afraid of, instead of leaving me with the queasy, undefined churning in my gut when I think about SMC and Monte, while I feel I should be excited.
It allows me to be excited again to meet many friends, maybe make some new friends, enjoy the art others created and I‘ll bring to the table what I can.
If its a medal in the end, I‘ll be relieved. If not, I‘ll survive.
Some would probably write some encouragement like „you always belong“ – „It’s only fear“ – but fear is real and the worry of estrangement and rejection is too. If you go out there and present yourself, you can get hurt. If you enter a contest and don‘t get the medal, it hurts. If you post on insta and don‘t get a like – it hurts. And there is no way around it:
Everyone who gets the recognition, gets the gold, gets the likes has put in the work and maybe also got a bit lucky. And they went out there and took the risk.
If you didn‘t put the work in, don‘t expect the results – but that doesn‘t mean you can’t enjoy the show and the company. That you can‘t belong to your friends and colleagues, relate to others, talk about the things we all enjoy: Paints, colors, techniques, emotions, styles and tiny busts and figurines.
If you don’t expose yourself – you wont get hurt. But you also can’t get surprised and most certainly can’t be seen. I hope to see many of your works – see it in standard, beginner, master. I hope I am going to be touched by raw creativity and poor execution, amazing craft and perfection, a combination of both. Pieces that wow you from yards away and pieces of sublime and subtle beauty that take a while to discover. Please expose yourself and bring your stuff. Being there means you belong to the community – maybe not the top tables, but you’re there to be seen.
Talk to your inner parts, be honest with them and manage your expectations – the Diva has resigned now to the fact that we will just be valued on what we bring – and that has to suffice. The Judge is appeased as we don‘t expect the unexpectable and accept the verdict of realism and the Taskmaster tells me to stop procrastinating and get back to my brush – two weeks to go now…
Hope to see you in Eindhoven or Monte…
P.S.: Please let me know if this kind of introspective is of any use for you as a reader.
I would be happy to know if you can relate, be comforted that others feel the same or such.