I am an artist. I make something every single day. I get ideas and need to execute on them almost immediately. I am also a perfectionist (most artists are). This combo of being an artist, idea person, creator of something daily and perfectionist means I make a whole lot of stuff no one will ever see.
What is all this stuff I don't share? Well, a lot of it consists of a small stack of paintings in the corner of my studio. I've never shown them to anyone because they are incomplete, imperfect or artwork that I don't think anyone could understand. I don't plan to show them to anyone either. Unless... someone asks.
Recently, I invited a few new guests to my studio after an event for a quick tour. One of these guests was Phong Pham, and he was politely listening as I explained my latest works to the small group. I couldn't help but notice that Phong was focused directly on my stack of mis-fit paintings in the corner.
"Can I just see that one?" He asked me. I thought he had to be pointing to the latest work-in-progress displayed on my easel. "No, the one down there behind the others... with the girl."
The painting Phong wanted to see was one I had done a while ago, but never displayed it or tried to sell it because I didn't think anyone would like it. My mom didn't particularly care for it because one of her eyes is intentionally not finished. Mom has always been my best/toughest art critic, so when she plants a seed in my head, it stays. I didn't have a title for this painting, and certainly hadn't thought about a price. Of all the art in my studio, Phong gravitated towards this particular piece.
"How much for this one?"
I was shocked. How did he even notice it was there? I didn't have a price, so I quickly made one up on-the-spot. When Phong talked about they way he connected with this painting, I knew this painting was made just for him. He had been looking for exactly this piece of art, and he had found it there in my corner stack. It's amazing when a piece of original artwork touches someone else- this is exactly the connection all artists want others to feel in their work.
Phong bought the painting. He then followed up with this thoughtful email:
"Over the weekend, I tried to summarize my thoughts about this painting and you. I love the contrast between the surrounding colors, and the woman facial and body expression. From the heaven perspective, blue is the color most abundant on earth and it is the color that often correlates with melancholy; yet she is at peace.
Surrealism is not my favorite, and yet I gravitate to her. In the dark, she looks so real because I was startle by her on the first night.
I think you should name this painting. I have a few thoughts about that."
Well, it was only appropriate to have Phong name the painting. Plus, I am usually pretty terrible at coming up with appropriate/clever names for my paintings. He proposed "Valerie's Escape". I told him we would drop the "Valerie" (because that would imply that I painted myself) and just simply call it "Escape". She is now proudly posted on my website with her new title.
It was an interesting lesson. Not everyone (including my own self) is going to like all of my art.... and that is OK. If everyone liked it, that would be the real problem! Having the courage to display it all (not just in art, but in life) and share every bit of your heart and soul without fear of judgement that is tough. But it's also rewarding, because only then can you make an impact on another person... or perhaps the world. One persons' idea of perfection is usually totally different than the next. Dang my perfectionist side!!!
I have to add, the day Phong came to pick the painting up at my studio, he said "I would have paid a lot more for that painting"!
People connect with truth and meaning in art. You can't fake it. Truth and meaning in art is not the same as technical skill. In fact, most people would prefer to buy a technically imperfect piece of art so long as they connect to it in some meaningful way. So, we should all share our imperfect art, ideas and self. It means so much to just the right person, which is far better than being "safe" and having no meaning to everyone.
Except.... no one will be seeing the oil painting I just messed up. ;)