Pivotal Event #7 “Close calls and lost leaders”

Imagine you are a painter just starting out. You rent a studio and you go there every day, inspired to paint. You don’t yet know anything about the business side of making art and you don’t yet have an income but you are completely sold out to the idea of being a successful artist (whatever that is). 

You picture success as measured by whether you have gallery representation and you wonder why some gallery hasn’t yet noticed your work and snapped you up. You are hoping for a saviour—something that will accelerate your success, someone who will see your undiscovered talent.   One day a visitor arrives at your studio and introduces himself. He is a benefactor and each year he chooses one artist to sponsor so that the artist can paint the whole year without worrying about income. This year he has narrowed his selection to you and one other artist in your studio building. He will be making his choice in the next few days and will get in touch with you when he does. This is exactly what you have been waiting for. Exactly what you need in order to become a professional artist. At last your financial problems will be solved!   This is a true story: it happened to me. I started out in my painting career thinking that “overnight success” was how I would become a professional artist. That fantasy stayed with me for years. I pictured that somehow I would have a shortcut to success. And then one day it happened. I should say “almost happened” because after a flurry of activity, I never heard from the benefactor again.   Although it was disappointing at the time not to be sponsored, I’m now grateful to it for forcing me to make the first tentative steps away from my fantasy of success and into the reality of how to achieve it. There are many ups and downs to an artist’s career, many inquiries, lost leaders, rejections, silences, and “almosts.” Each of the ups can carry you away and have you spinning fantasies in no time (I’m still good at getting caught up in that!). Each of the downs is an opportunity to become clearer in your practice, often highlighting the areas you are tentative in, and can be the catalyst for action.

My take-away lesson? Sometimes a “no” is just as pivotal as a “yes.”

Photo above: Main Series 13, circa 2007

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