As I sit down to type, I am struck by the difficulty of summing up the current state of affairs. In my studio, my four classes are moving along wonderfully. In fact, I was forced to turn away a student for the first time, as there are currently more students than there are openings. I’ve finalized a couple of sales, one painting which is going out to California. The corporation of Chase Manhattan bank has approved of an exhibition, which will feature 9 to 15 smaller canvases depicting the faces of people from Islip. My trip to London was incredibly exciting, as I was able to reconnect with all of the Cecil Studios painters who I’ve been longing to catch up with. There are such exciting things, my friends have done some pretty great works, and I’m energized by their dialogue. I may have landed a London gallery, in the gallery district. And as the flowers miraculously poke their soft heads through the hard, brittle scab of earth, the forward momentum of spring seems to have carried my world of painting along.
And then, this morning, the BP Portrait Awards emailed me to say that there were roughly 2,000 applicants to their show, and of that number, they have decided on the top 55. And I am not in that number. They also said something in the email about how the English beat up the Irish really good in the 18th century, and how Cornwall was taller than my great great great grandfather, and how I was always the last kid in the gym class to get picked for basketball, and how I failed my sequential 2 regents in math and had to take it twice, and how I let that one goal up in college soccer. All this in one email, while an animated figure of an Englishman in a powdered wig shook his head “no”, while shaking his finger and giggling a distinctively high pitched English giggle. I might have relayed the email to you with a smidgen of embellishment, but suffice to say, my painting was denied.
I’m pretty good at perspective- I have to be, or else I wouldn’t survive as an artist. But sometimes, for a short while, I am sad. And so, dear reader, as your eyes run across these lines of mine, I’d like you to know that being an artist can be hard. You work so hard, you give it your best, you place yourself out there, you invest lots of money, you cross an ocean with a painting, and you… fail. The courageous lion within me swells his chest, points his paw to the sky, and declares that there is a silver lining, and by God, I shall find it. But, then I realize that sometimes, it’s just grey and cloudy, and its rainy, and I’ve worn the wrong pair of shoes, and woops, would you look at that, I’ve just stepped in a puddle. And now my socks are wet. And I don’t have an umbrella. Yes, sometimes, there is no silver lining, sometimes it is just cloudy. The word “depressed” has displaced the word “sad”, as our generation has overpsychologized and disparaged this normal, healthy, reflexive, human emotion called sadness. In a post-romantic world, modernism would somehow have us believe that life should be a flat line, and that peaks and valleys are intruders. I disagree. I’m sad, I will be sad for a short while, but I’m not ashamed. Because, as I ready myself to paint for the next few hours, I remind myself of one thing and am deeply encouraged. I tried.
Now all glory to God, who is able, through his mighty power at work within us,
to accomplish infinitely more than we might ask or think.
-Paul, Ephesians 3:20