By Synthia Clark
Do you have an artistic hobby you don’t want to keep to yourself anymore? Ever think about selling your artwork? Have you dreamed of seeing your art on the walls of galleries? How well do you handle rejection?
If you’ve thought through any or all of these questions, this blog post might be for you.
My medium is photography. For most of my life, I was pretty selfish regarding my work. There were several reasons for that. The process of taking photographs meant so much to me, not really the outcome of what I captured. Also, the outcome was mine, not something I wanted to explain to others. Finally, and most embarrassing of all, I was simply afraid of rejection.
Luckily, as I got older my conception of everything grew. I learned more about my craft by joining photography groups, taking courses and working for Austin Peay State University’s student newspaper as an undergraduate. I opened myself, and my work, up to criticism (both positive and constructive). And I began to see the benefit of sharing.
In 2013, after about a year of living in Knoxville, I took my next step by entering the photo contest at a local fair. I was extremely surprised and encouraged when I actually placed in a few different categories.
The next year, I entered more contests and joined the Knoxville-Area Photographers Meetup Group. Last year, I joined the Tennessee Artists Association (TAA) and Camera Club of Oak Ridge (CCOR). Through TAA, I took the leap into art shows. Simultaneously, I dove into my own business, The Little Things Photography.
My best advice is to become involved. One way is to join interest groups related to your medium. Doing so will provide you with learning opportunities and a network of individuals who have experience. When you feel ready to start applying (whether it’s a contest, show, festival, etc.), start your research early, read thoroughly and don’t be afraid to ask questions. When you get rejected—which will happen at some point—remember all judging is subjective. Rejection isn’t an acceptable excuse to give up. Oh, and consider your schedule because the art world frequently conflicts with standard working hours.
One of the most important things I’ve learned is how different the process is depending on what you’re doing. Contests, juried art shows, festivals/markets—they all have different methods, rules, timelines and outcomes. I’m still trying to figure out where I want to focus my efforts.
The last couple of years have greatly damaged my bank account, reinforced my time management skills, taught me a lot of lessons and made me feel a wide range of emotions.
I’ve endured everything from utter, devastated resignation when I showed up three hours early to set up at a festival, only to immediately break my tent and not make a single sale all day. To absolute, prideful joy when I made my first sale to a complete stranger.
Ultimately, I’m gratified to be putting myself out there and giving all of this a shot. It’s not easy, but it is interesting figuring out what you really want and meeting so many people along the way.
Synthia works in the Department of Educational Psychology and Counseling at UT Knoxville as an administrative support assistant and acts as webmaster, writer and photographer. She enjoys staying busy with hobbies like photography, travel and music.