During the past two months I’ve participated in an exhibit called ‘The Teeny Tiny Show.’ It displayed over 450 pieces by more than 170 artists. Since it was my first time submitting for an art show, I was somewhat nervous. The art was up for sale, and I had all the usual worries: What if it doesn’t sell? What if I’ve priced it too high? Or too low? What does that say about my art? What if people don’t like it?. It was all a new experience, and that was exactly the point of why I wanted to take part. Here’s a blog about that experience and what I learned from it.
Sometimes which choice you make is not as important as making a choice and committing to it.
— Matthew McConaughey, Green Lights book.
The show’s rules were pretty simple: Make whatever you like on a little 3x3 inch canvas. I’ve never painted on a canvas before, so I was pretty excited about trying. But what the hell was I going to paint??
First sketches from January 29th and February 1st
I kept having ideas about what to make, but when I tried to execute them, they were pretty tricky, so I would scratch that idea and try a different one.
One morning I decided that I wanted to have one ‘safe’ painting. If any of my other paintings were a disaster, at least I’d have one that I could use for the show. I only had a pack of four 3x3 canvases, and four was the max amount you could present at the show, so I wanted to make them count.
What is a ‘safe’ painting, I hear you ask? Well, pretty simply put, a painting that I’ve done a few times before, and I know it’s pretty rare that I’ll mess it up. I’ve been a bit obsessed lately with a leafy, colourful pattern, and I wanted to recreate that on a smaller scale.
And just in case making the first painting wasn't enough pressure, I made a timelapse of the whole thing...that's one way of overcomplicating your first go!
While making the first canvas, I realized that watercolour doesn’t really like this type of canvas – 1st important lesson –, so I had to deal with it and try and make it work somehow. I really liked how it looked, so I wanted to make another similar one. I tried using ink pens to produce more leaves (surprise surprise) and then decided that I only wanted to fill a few of them with colour. When you see it from afar, it gives it a really cool effect.
My spirits were high. I had not one, but two ‘safe’ paintings to present the show, so I was more comfortable risking the leftover canvases.
Talking to a friend, she mentioned that she liked when I painted big circles of colour and added black ink lines on top. I wasn’t sure how the canvas would deal with that much water, but since I already had two ‘safe’ paintings, I decided to risk it.
I made a big blob of colour and water on the canvas and immediately thought, ‘this is not going to work.’
Unfortunately for you, I was so sure that nothing would come out of those experimental canvases that I have 0 pictures of the process...
Nonetheless, I waited and waited for the water to dry. It took over 24h, and I got impatient, so I played with it a little bit, and the water came running down the painting. Great I thought, ‘that’s now messed up my original idea.’ Frustrated that the paint wouldn’t dry and that I thought I destroyed that canvas, I let it sit on my desk for a week. I would look at it every day but didn’t know what to do with it. I started to work on other projects and ignored what I thought was a failed experiment.
Having multiple projects, on the go, at the same time and you move backwards and forwards between topics as the mood takes you or as the situation demands [...] It can provide assistance when you're stuck.
The deadline was approaching quickly, so I had to decide whether to try again with my last canvas or be content with the two paintings that I had already made.
One night while I was lying in bed awake, I started thinking about my pink blob painting and what it could be. I started imagining a flamingo with strange legs and a very long neck. So long, in fact, that it came off of that canvas and onto the other canvas. The neck was so long that the head was over the clouds. I also imagined other options, like a long neck all tangled up or a long neck that felt like a kids puzzle where you have to find the end.
Once more, I decided to go with the ‘safe’ option and paint the first idea. I’ve never painted a flamingo before, so I thought that was challenging enough.
Once I finished it, I doubted whether to enter it into the show or not. It didn’t match the other two paintings, and as much as I liked it, it felt a little bit childish. Doubt crept in again, and so I left the painting sitting on my desk some more.
The deadline was now a week away, and I had all the paintings done. All I needed to do was fill out a simple online form, talk about my art, and give the art pieces a title and a price. Easy right? WRONG! I had wisdom teeth surgery the week before, and I couldn’t do anything. I thought it would be easy as it was just mouth pain, but it was so uncomfortable that it took away all of my energy, and all I wanted to do was lie in bed and watch tv...
So the week went by quickly, and as good deadlines do, it set a fire under my ass and I put something together pretty quickly. It wasn’t amazing, but it did the job. I also got the titles for the paintings from friends as I’m terrible at naming things, and I was running out of time!
The final decision was whether to include the flamingo paintings. I told myself that the only reason I was participating in this exhibit was to try new things and experiment, and this painting was the most experiment-like out of the four of them, so I had to add it to the show.
It turns out everyone’s favourite was the flamingo, and it sold pretty quickly too! The ‘safe’ option I first made was sold on the penultimate day of the show. The one-piece I was willing to present on its own because I felt it was my best work. Guess what? I was wrong (again).
Art is about experimenting, getting out of your comfort zone and trying new things. I’m glad I did the flamingo, and I’m so happy that someone bought it and will have it in their house.
Thank you to all the staff at Maury Young Arts Centre and Arts Whistler for putting on such an incredible show every year.
And thanks to you for reading!