I’m a Sore Loser
So you paint your heart out. Blood, sweat and tears go into your masterpiece. You feel good, you feel creative, positive energy is oozing out of your pores. This is awesome, this is the best piece I’ve ever painted, this is a winner; this is the golden ticket!
When you run a race, you’re going for the gold. You’re not thinking, “That silver medal has my name on it!” You train, you get inspired, you focus. You line up at the starting line alongside your fellow competitors and firmly plant your feet in the starting blocks. With the finish line in sight, you visualize yourself breaking through that tape. The gun goes off and you shoot out of the blocks like a rocket. You submit to a show.
Time seems to stand still and the waiting game begins. The notification date arrives and you check your inbox. You think, “Maybe I missed the e-mail? Maybe I wrote my e-mail down wrong (double check entry form).” When the sun sets on the notification date you really start to get creative. “Maybe it’s going into my spam folder (double check e-mail settings). Maybe they’re sending me a special letter instead – did I write my address down correctly (double check entry form)? Yeah, that’s it! A secret, special letter written especially to me about how especially special my painting is! (double check mail box).” Then you get it, “Thank you for submitting, unfortunately…blah blah blah.” REALLY?! It is at this point you still see the finish line tape, only it’s wrapped around someone else running down the track with their arms in the air. You didn’t win, you didn’t even place – you’re one of the chumps wheezing their way trying to catch up with a cramp in their side.
Your mind begins to swim with questions and you ask yourself “Where did I go ‘wrong’? Maybe it’s her head, maybe it DOES look like a lima bean. Was the piece too small? Was the piece too blue? How dare you call my kid ‘ugly’! Maybe I should just focus on teaching, why do I even bother painting?” So you catch your breath and begin to do the only thing you can: mope.
Moping is a wonderful self-pitying action that draws attention to yourself because that’s what you really want, right? So you do your best impression of a corpse lying face down, spread eagle on the bed with her head buried in a pillow. You’ve gotten into juried competitions before – what gives? What was their criteria? “What do I need to do – create a vision board?!” Note to self: buy poster board, magazines and glue sticks. Who the hell got in anyway? Of course your friends get accepted and you make plans to go to the opening reception.
So you go to the opening to support your friends because they crossed the finish line before you, but really you go see who the heck got in, what it took to get accepted, and of course, who won the grand prize. You congratulate them, put on a good face, and act like it you’re not bothered what-so-ever when people ask you “Where’s your piece?” You most definitely do NOT show people your painting on your phone and ask why the h-e-double hockey sticks am I not in the show? By the end of the evening you’ve given yourself TMJ from saying “congratulations” every fifteen seconds. Sound familiar?
Ok, cry baby, pull your big-girl panties up…you’re better than this!
Alright, let’s take a closer look. I’ll break this part of the post up a little differently to emphasize these points.
1. So you paint your heart out. Good start. You should ALWAYS paint your heart out. There are two sides to the coin when you think of your piece as a “winning” piece. A) You value your piece and see it as achieving greatness (more on this in future posts…) B) You’re painting for the competition instead of for painting’s sake. Finding the balance and maintaining it between these two sides is key.
2. You’ve gotten into juried competitions before – what gives? Ahhh…complacency. I looked it up. [kuh m-pley-suh n-see] A feeling of quiet pleasure or security, often while unaware of some potential danger, defect, or the like; self-satisfaction or smug satisfaction with an existing situation, condition, etc. When you believe that certain competitions are a no-brainer boy do you deserve to get smacked upside the head. You can’t be passionate and complacent at the same time. Which do you think the jurying panel is looking for?
3. “Where did I go ‘wrong’? Why do I even bother painting?” Well that’s a good question, why DO you bother painting? Is the sole purpose of putting paint to canvas to win the blue ribbon? “Where did I go ‘wrong’?” can be flipped to “Where can I ‘improve’?” See the difference?
4. Moping. Get over it and get over it fast. The people that do not get past the moping stage will never be great artists. Moping is an attention-getting scheme and it is not artistic at all. Can you imagine Robert De Niro thinking to himself, “How come I wasn’t offered that part? Don’t they know who I am? I mean come ON! If anyone wants me I’ll be sulking in my bedroom eating a quart of Ben & Jerry’s!” MOVE ON, PICK UP THE BRUSH, WHAT’S THE NEXT PIECE, WHAT’S THE NEXT COMPETITON? Even if you got the grand poobah prize you should be thinking “What’s the next step?”
5. Vision boards. I might jest, but an important part of personal growth is positive visualization. Yeah, sounds a little bit new age but think of it this way: do whatever it takes to get you pumped up to do what you are passionate about. If this means pinning up magazine clippings, photos, famous quotes, rejection letters or a postcard of a cat dangling from a branch telling you to “Hang in there!” then DO IT.
6. Who the heck got in anyway?! Oh this one’s a peach! With this attitude you’re going nowhere fast. Resentment is a big piece of baggage that’s so heavy you need both arms to carry it. By resenting other’s success you don’t have the open arms to welcome your own triumphs. Support your friends and when they ask, “Where’s your piece?” just tell them it didn’t get accepted, it didn’t get invited to the party, it’s at home washing it’s hair, whatever floats your boat. Your friends believe in you and you should believe in them.
7. What’s next? This is just one competition, it’s not the only competition, it’s not like you didn’t get picked to get on the space shuttle to continue the human race on some distant planet. Use rejection as a form of self-evaluation instead of self-deprecation. Keep submitting. Keep improving. Keep painting.
I really enjoyed writing this post and if you found it helpful, interesting, or even infuriating I would love to hear your comments. Follow my blog “The Fearless Painter” for more of my art process insights.