I wasn’t ever certain what it meant when someone said “you have a distinctive style.” I figured it was a negative comment like, “all your work looks alike.” Perhaps I heard negative because of being so uncertain about my artwork. Over the last few months, maybe 5 I’d say, I’ve come to know that it simply means one can identify the artist by their work because that artist has a certain way of doing things. For instance, one can tell a Van Gogh in a heartbeat. He has an undeniable stroke. I can spot an Ansel Adams a mile away. Is his work boring? Does it all look the same? No, but he has a certain style, a distinctive style that marks his work as his.
As an artist grows in confidence so does his/her understanding of feedback. Sometimes when the feedback is “Well I don’t really like this” I’m able to go, “Okay, but that doesn’t invalidate my work.” I’ve come to know that it means that particular person at that time doesn’t like that piece. It doesn’t mean my work isn’t any good. I believe the more exposure I have to artists I admire, the more feedback I’m exposed to the more confidence I gain as an artist.
Two days ago on the university campus the secretary of that department asked me what I do for a living. I said I’m an artist. I said it and didn’t flinch, didn’t feel embarrassed to include myself with the likes of those I’ve seen on the net, on walls, in museums. Talk about issues of self worth as an artist before. I’d never even use that word in relation to myself. But two days ago I did and it felt good, but it got better. The next day when I showed up for my appointment I brought in my portfolio. I leaned over the secretaries desk and flipped through it with her, showing her Lady In The Trees, She’s Green, Shape Shifter, Reaching Out To Life and others. I explained them one by one. Pretty soon several staff members were around, the clients in the waiting room were listening intently. I realized I’d just had my very first showing. I planned only to have a private little thing with the secretary but it turned out I showed the office and the clients my entire portfolio. Was I prepared? Oh yes I was. After flipping through the entire portfolio of prints I passed out business cards to each and every one in the room, 25 in all. It was a proud a moment.
What if I’d told her, “I’m an unemployed, stay at home mom of a dog and two cats?” I wouldn’t have had the wonderful experience of an impromptu showing. Confidence can take a person a long way.