Every time I think I’m above it all, I find myself right back, flat-faced, molded, to the hard surface of the ground.
By “above it all,” I don’t mean in some condescending sort of way. I mean transcendent, like I’ve finally graduated, or matured somehow – where the little things no longer bother me. You’d think I’d have a real thick skin by now.
No such luck.
You see, I am an optimist. An idealist. Hopeful and enthusiastic about the future.
But I am a pessimist. Bitter. I’d like to pack it in because I’ve run out of steam.
Throughout my career, people have asked me how I deal with rejection (because there is a lot of it!) and my answers were never disingenuous. One way has been this:
I still save each and every rejection letter, be it a letter or an email, or nothing at all (I make a note of it: sent date/return date). But why?
Well, there are a few reasons. One of them is so that I can know who I sent my promotion to, which promo I sent, when I sent it, and make sure I don’t accidentally send it twice. Another reason is to make notes on what sort of rejection they sent me back (because not all rejections are the same). And the most important reason I keep them is because they are recorded evidence of having tried.
That is most important. All you artists out there in lala land that might be starting out and might be reading this, remember that rejection comes with the territory, but you have to try in order to get anywhere at all. Putting yourself out there is a feat in and of itself!
So I’ve dealt with rejection well. A good ole pat on the back.
But sometimes I am so hard on myself, I’ve practically abused myself, for those efforts of “having tried” not resulting in a “done.” To me a “done” would have to result in some kind of “bite.” Any response from the other side I could essentially justify being a small “success,” as if I had some control over that.
I warned you I was crazy.
But I considered a “bite” any kind of interest other than rejection. So if they wanted to see more, have me bring in originals, or they wound up calling me – anything along those lines – they got a blue star on the paper where I was keeping track of all this stuff. Everything else would be written in red. Red for rejection!
That was the system. I kept it all on paper, even after I had a computer for many, many years. Notebook paper in fact. And in all honesty, it wasn’t that long ago that I abandoned this stupid system. I mean, I think it’s a pretty good way to keep track of paper letters and portfolios, but how much does that happen anymore?
Anyway, I don’t miss it one bit.
Now, is that because I’ve given up, run out of steam, or am I just more properly medicated? I’m not sure, but I just don’t waste my time with that kind of BS anymore.
I also know what I am and am not in control of. (What a relief!) But when I was younger and busying myself with keeping close track of all the 99.99% of the rejections I received – they didn’t bother me very much. I was still very hopeful. My mind said to myself, Self, that rejection is okay. Just stick it in your cap like a feather of having tried and move on to the next one.
That’s pretty healthy thinking, I think.
But now, lately, that kind of thinking seems ridiculous to me.
Honestly, there seems to be minimal “next ones.” My options feel limited since, over the years, I have exhausted my avenues. And now when I get rejected, it doesn’t roll off me like a bead of water – or whatever that saying is about some little flicker of water falling off your shoulder. It’s more like getting a bucket of blood dumped on you like that scene in Carrie.
I don’t know what it is, but I just don’t handle rejection well anymore. It’s like my skin is getting thinner! I think that literally happens when you get older, doesn’t it?
It seems I apply for everything. And most things I get rejected for really don’t upset me. It’s those things that feel like they were within my grasp that kill me.
Some of you might think I am talking about the COLA, and I’m not. The COLA is the City of Los Angeles Individual Artist’s Grant. I was rejected from that again this year. I apply for that every year, probably for the last 12 years (except last year I missed the deadline). I’ve never won and now I never will because I am not going to apply anymore. I’ve never quit trying for anything before! This will be the first, but I decided that, well, I can’t really publicly say what I think about what lies on the side of the Cultural Affairs Department, but on my side of things, my work and my merits just aren’t up to par with my competition. That’s just the truth. And I can handle it.
What’s provoking this blog post is something else I really thought I was going to get, but I didn’t. It wasn’t a grant. It was an opportunity. A residency. As you may have heard, I kind of like those. I try for those a lot and I get turned down from them a lot, but I do usually go for competitive ones.
Anyway, this one was just special and now I’m sad. Woe is me. I’ll get over it. I’ll just feel like a loser for a little while. That’s not true. I feel like one anyway. Ha!
I’m just glad I’m not writing about all this in red pen.
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In other news…
Maybe it was the rejection, the pressure of people counting on me, or both, but I’ve been cornfused lately. I really hate to make that kind of announcement since I only like to report how “great” I’m doing, but I’ll tell you a secret. I only put out my newsletter every few months because I like to wait to for good news to accumulate. You live for a few months through mostly rejection and confusion, some good news is bound to trickle in, and those are the little items I will feature in those cheery newsletters.
Try it! It works.
That way, it looks like it’s all good, doesn’t it? I mean, who is going to report bad news in their newsletters anyway? That’s ridiculous, right?
I’m telling you folks, it’s all done with smoke and mirrors here.
My point being, I don’t like having to make known my artistic struggles when I have so many people now supporting me, but the fact remains, nothing has changed. I’m still Carol and I’m still going to have my crises and my baggage. This blog is still going to be about my little honesty roller coaster, if anything, so other artists might be able to relate. This job isn’t easy you know.
At the same time, I’m still going to pull it all together in the end. I always do, so DON’T WORRY! (That is, if any of you are.)
So now can I just please write about how my brain has been MUSH?!
I have been going through a lot of ups and downs, artistically. I’m just about coming out of it now, but it wasn’t fun!
It was like I was driving down the street and someone threw a wrench into the engine. I was broke down on the side of road flailing my arms at passers by, but no one stopped to help. What meanies!
But they shouldn’t have. I’m glad they didn’t. I really should fix this thing myself, since, I’m the one that threw the wrench in the engine in the first place. Why would I do that?!
Well, I’m making the wrench sound like a terrible thing, but it’s really something new that hit me. Can you believe that the “wrench” was inspiration? I got inspired to do something else other than what I’ve been working on/toward.
And that’s a problem why?
I made it a problem, well really, I felt like it was a problem for a few reasons:
Too many directions at once:
I already have this Kabbalah aspect. The paintings are being built upon Hebrew letters. On top of that I’m painting abstract compositions that more or less have to do with large rock formations. I also am making a film and probably presenting a few stills (photographs) from it, and now I want to add something new???
Too much significance:
Kabbalah (alef), Exodus, Joshua Tree, jumping into the “new.”
Too much to defend/too much explaining to do:
How do all these elements tie together and make one cohesive show? And what the hell can you title such a show?
All this because I got a seriously excited bug up my butt to start painting new abstracted landscapes of the desert. I mean, I just want to try at least. Just some small ones and see if they would come out the way I imagine them to be.
Is that so wrong?
That doesn’t mean I am not going to pursue everything I still have planned otherwise, nor am I any less excited. In fact, I want to do them both at the same time! I feel frantically creative! Sort of manic. Not in a scary way though. Almost, but not quite.
Finally, I realized that I was putting the cart before the horse.
Instead of just creating, I was already editing the show – when I don’t even have any art to edit yet!
Once I realized this…actually, once Michael pointed this out to me, I was like, “Duh!”
So, I’m just going to create.
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I am still working on the alef piece, which isn’t going to be called that. I’ll think of something eventually, but I put a couple more thin layers of white oil on it after I sewed the edges of the patterns (which is where I think we last left off from here) and there’s a bit of waiting time between these layers of course.
And I finally started the very basic composition on this with some oil pastels.
From here on out I’ll be painting color and blending — all the funnest parts, and the most crucial parts too. It’s like perfecting mark making. Or you try to anyhow.
At the same time, I have been working on rewards. Yes, still! Like I’ve said before, I have more pieces of art than I have people to reward (some people get multiple things), but I am glad to say that out of 58 people, I have 16 more people left to reward. I’ve got a lot done in a couple of months.
Also at the same time, I am working on two other paintings. I know I said I would be working on the largest one next, but I started “tet” – a 20 x 20 inch canvas, and one of the new abstracted landscapes – a 16 x 20 inch canvas: a completely new experiment for me! I have absolutely no idea if this is going to turn out the way I dreamed, but we shall see.
You can not see it in progress either, but if this one works, then perhaps the next one.
I will take a few progress shots of the small tet piece, but we won’t be following it as closely as we have with the alef painting. I don’t want to bore you all. I’ve only slopped some acrylic paint on the 20 inch square canvas, and cut the pattern pieces that will form the tet shape.
I cut those patterns with the same shears I used when I worked with my dad back in the day. Then they get notched before the staples come out. After that, they’ll be ready to become Journal drawings.
All that so they can be stuck to the canvas to be mostly covered in paint. Why? Why, oh why?
I guess because of the significance and the fact that I want them to very, very subtly show through, but not so you can really read or see them exactly. I like that look.
I know, I’m weird. That’s a lot of work for something that’s going to be covered up. I suppose I shouldn’t write anything too serious on them, right? ha!
The thing is though, it’s a good way to bury my secrets into the paintings. It’s my way of putting blood or guts into them and no one knows what in there but me. You might be able to make out a work here and there, but you’d never be able to see the whole thing. They are like whispers from ghosts. A child ghost mostly.
And the main significance. Well, I can tell you. I can tell you the significance to all this if you want, but I am such a big advocate of all of my art being for the viewer’s interpretation. Even this work too. I always feel like if I tell viewers what it all means to me, it’s like taking away their meaning and I don’t want to ever do that. My meaning and your meaning are never in conflict! My art means what you think it means. I’m serious.
It’s just while I’m making it, I have my own relationship with it. When it’s finished, then everyone else has their relationship with it. It’s not really mine anymore.
But anyway, these Hebrew/kabbalah pieces are really about me leaving my past. I want to stop being so affected by my past and just leave it there – and live in the present. That’s truly my exodus.
It was the purpose of my meditation in Joshua Tree, the studying I’ve been doing, the process behind these paintings, and the new compositions on top of the Hebrew letters.
I can’t give a better explanation than that.
Take it or leave it. 😉