Monday, October 27, 2014

Not Loafing, and Not at SWLA Annual Exhibit 2014

Baltimore Oriole at Tent Caterpillar Nest and Black Skimmers. Thumbnail Pencil Sketches by Ken Januski

Black-throated Blue and Green Warblers and Bonaparte's and Laughing Gulls with Forsters Terns. Thumbnail Pencil Sketches by Ken Januski.


First things first: I'm never much bothered by not getting into the Birds in Art Show in Wisconsin each year. Sour grapes you might say but you'd be wrong. At this point it's hard to even want to get in. The catalog, which is all I've seen since the museum was closed the one day I tried to see the show, is so disappointing year after year after year that I've lost my enthusiasm for either applying or being accepted.

However I have been in two of the Society of Wildlife Artists Annual Exhibition in London, UK, in 2011 and 2012. Those shows I was excited to be in and would have been sorry not to have been in if I'd not been chosen. In fact I had no expectation whatever of actually being accepted. When I saw the video of last year's show, including the talk by David Attenborough I was doubly sorry that I hadn't applied for the 2013 show. There was only one reason that I didn't apply - the approximately $500 I paid in 2012 to have the works stored when they arrived in the UK until the official drop off days and then transported there and picked up again if they didn't sell. This did not include the shipping costs of about $100 each way that I decided I could live with. But a total bill nearing $1000 and no sales was just too much to pay for the prestige, and to me it surely was prestige, of showing at the annual exhibit.

But this year I decided to try again. The reason is simple: there is nowhere in the US that I know of where I'd like to show my work. Birds in Art unfortunately is not the place for me. I wish it well but my reaction to the catalog year after year tells me how foolish it is to apply. On the other hand every time I see works from SWLA members and from the annual exhibit it's like a breath of fresh air. This is a show worth getting rejected from. It is a show worth trying harder to produce work that will be accepted. I don't at all feel that about Birds in Art.

So to end this tangent I decided this year I would pay the extravagant prices to try to get in. That is until I learned that I now needed to have a Tax Representative in the UK in order to apply. I don't blame anyone for this. It is probably a necessary complexity of international trade and international exhibiting. But for someone like me it is just too much, in both monetary and bureaucratic costs.

Today I got an email from the Mall Galleries where the show takes place. That included two links to the upcoming show for this year. SWLA Browse and Buy shows work that can be bought online. In addition the SWLA 2014 Online Catalog can be seen at the second link. This is what wildlife art can and should be, at least to me. I wouldn't mind getting rejected from a show like this. The director of the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum, which inaugurated and has hosted Birds in Art for years, recently suggested that artists who didn't get in needed to just work and try harder. I think this advice was well meant but I think it's just wrong. Some types of art will never get in and I wouldn't be surprised if many of the artists who do show in Birds in Art would not be accepted into the SWLA or their annual exhibit. Unfortunately for me the type of show I aspire to be in is thousands of mile and thousands of dollars away, though I'm sure the reverse is also true and there are some European artists who'd be much more comfortable with Birds in Art than with the SWLA Annual Exhibit. It is a sad truth.

Now to my loafing. It might seem like I'm just not doing much artwork these days. I am spending a lot of time birding and in doing so looking for subjects for new prints and paintings. I've really enjoyed all the sparrows I've seen recently and in particular all the Purple Finches. But I've also been looking through photos and sketchbooks for new subjects. I always do this and it's a time-intensive process, one where even I think I might be loafing.

After you've done art for awhile I think that for many it is a constant change from contemplation and thought to work and back and forth again. Just working without much thought may work when you're younger but at some point I think that many artists don't want to repeat themselves and end up thinking about what they want to do next. But too much thought is bad as well, probably even worse, in that it can totally shut down an artist, like a deer in the headlights scared to go this way or that.

Recently I've realized that doing small thumbnail sketches of ideas that pop up as I look through my photos and sketches is a good way to not get lost in thinking, to work while also deliberating. That is what I'm showing at the top. None are finished works and weren't at all intended to be. But they are me working my way towards my next painting or print, the one that will be showing with SWLA in 2015. Well maybe........................

No comments: