It is good to have an end to journey toward;
but it is the journey that matters in the end.
– Ursula K. Le Guin –
This painting signifies in many ways the beginning of my journey as an illustrator and for several years defined what I wanted to achieve. When I painted it, I had been out of school for a couple of years and was fighting the mighty struggle to establish myself in the marketplace and get decent work. I did this painting as the cover for a book called “Bowman’s Line”, a murder mystery set in the desert southwest published by St. Martin’s Press. It is significant for me because it marked the first time I had a painting accepted in a major illustration competition when it got into the Communication Arts Illustration Annual. At the time I thought that this achievement would somehow propel me to the notoriety I equated with success. I continued to rabidly enter competitions in search of this artistic Holy Grail. I’ve gotten in a lot of shows, won many awards and lost a lot more, but I never felt satisfied. Of course it is always nice to be recognized for what we do and if such recognition leads to more and better work, then this is great. What I could not get my brain around at the time was that no matter how many awards and accolades one earns with your art, they don’t really contribute to a sense of worth. Meaning that your value as an artist, or as a person, has to come from within. When you depend on the outside world for validation, it is a hollow satisfaction. It took me a long time to just be OK with doing my best, to be satisfied with learning and creating art just for art’s sake. If awards fell my way, all the better. My journey has been much more satisfying since I have let go of (for the most part) the burning desire to be recognized from outside sources. I still enter competitions and I still want to win, but it does not define me and it does not make my work any less good when I don’t. I think that has been the biggest difference.
See full post here: LIFE NEEDS ART2011-04-15.