Everybody has to kowtow sometime to somebody else’s opinion, schedule, expectation, or structure. As much as we’d like to, we don’t operate in the vacuum of noninfluence and nonjudgment. Parents have to prepare meals that are nutritious and that taste good to their kids. Students have to turn in work that meets with instructor preference. Employees have to perform their jobs on employer schedules. Businesses have to offer products and services that customers want. Our choices and decisions are exposed and scrutinized.
Back in my days as a corporate executive, I remember listening to my colleagues complain about this boss or that committee questioning the decisions they made or how they did their work. “If only so-and-so would get out of my way and let me do my job. That’s what they’re paying me for!” I also remember thinking, “What I’d give to only have two or three people scrutinizing my work.” When you’re an accountant or a loan officer, you’ve got your boss and maybe a small committee reviewing your work. When you’re responsible for the organization’s marketing and communications, everything you do is dissected by thousands. Certainly your boss has an opinion, but then so do the company’s (in my case) 850 employees, 200,000 customers, and the community at large.
I remember one woman calling me to complain about a campaign we were running. Three of our branch managers—Tom Neve, Dick Ragain, and Harry Polland—were being featured in an advertisement that touted the bank as having products for “every Tom, Dick, and Harry.” The woman told me the ad was sexist and that I should have included a woman. I gave her my standard speech about appreciating feedback and that our best customers are the ones who let us know when our service isn’t up to par. How else can we improve? Of course, in the back of my mind, I’m thinking we don’t have any women branch managers named Tom, Dick, or Harry, but apparently that was beside the point. Then I asked her what branch she banked with to which she replied, “Oh, I’m not a customer. I just thought you’d like to know.”
Artists Are Courageous
You have to have skin to keep your insides in…and the thicker the better when you’re the marketing and communications director. If you’re easily offended or continually affected by the opinions of other people, you’ll never be able to develop advertising that meets the strategic needs of the organization. Identifying an audience and creating a message that not only speaks to that audience but results in action (buying product, changing perception) is the basis for successful marketing. Not winning awards, not pleasing the CEO’s spouse, and not having all your friends tell you how much they like your work.
Imagine then how much courage an artist must have to continually put his or her work out there for public critique. Artists may create art “for art’s sake” or to express political issues, work out mental shortcomings, or discover the meaning of life. But whatever the purpose, all art is soul-baringly personal to the artist. We create in gouache and blood. To adapt a quote from sportswriter Red Smith: There’s nothing to art. All you do is sit down to a blank canvas and open a vein.
I suspect that having your art disparaged is a little like someone telling you that your children are stupid and untalented—maybe even worse because you can always blame substandard children on the other parent. A thin-skinned artist who can’t handle exposure, scrutiny, and bad reviews won’t be an artist for very long.
Cuesta College Student Art Exhibition
Every year, Cuesta holds a juried student art exhibition. The school invites a juror, usually an artist or gallery curator, to review submitted artwork, determine what gets in and what doesn’t, and select winners. Students may submit as many pieces as they’d like for a nominal fee ($5 each), which is used for cash prizes. Artist and Cal Poly instructor Michael Barton Miller (http://www.listeninglass.com/) served as the exhibition’s 2010 juror.
All my instructors encouraged students to submit entries, but cautioned that jurors accept work according to their own objectives and taste. Qualified pieces are often rejected because they don’t fit into some larger theme.
We had an excellent response from students this year with hundreds of pieces submitted and approximately 50 accepted. I submitted two charcoals and four paintings; one of my charcoals was accepted and none of my paintings. I am disappointed that Window of Opportunity didn’t make the cut, but my painting instructor assures me that there’s nothing wrong with my paintings and that I shouldn’t be discouraged. I attended on Friday Michael Miller’s lecture about his own work. The presentation was thoroughly enjoyable and did, in fact, reinforce that artists, too, have their own points of view and taste.
The exhibition runs from April 29 through May 17, so make sure you stop by and check it out if you can. The Cuesta College Art Gallery is located on the San Luis Obispo campus in Building 7100. Here’s my piece that made it into the show:
|The Visit, 2-Piece Charcoal on Paper, 30" x 44" (2010)|