Tailor-made: Creating work for themed comeptions.

In my efforts to establish a more actively consistent exhibition record I’ve accumulated a lot of prospectuses, some of which focus on some sort of theme. More often than not, I discard these “themed” exhibitions unless they serendipitously align with my actual work. I’ve been lucky lately because my work deals with nature and birds in a time when ecological awareness is “trending” across the nation.

Despite this streak of fortune, I do occasionally run across miniature shows (which appeal to me due to the smallness most of my work). Sometimes I already have work that fits a specific category (8×10 or smaller, etc.) but other times, I find myself creating tailor-made pieces per exhibition specifications. While I can’t foresee actually changing my subject matter, targeting a set size is something that compromises very little.

In the past, I’ve found these exercises to be a lot like mini-challenges to myself. The 4×4 miniature show is a good example because it pushed me out of the box I’d been painting in for a while – it allowed me to see my subject matter differently and opened up new possibilities for further exploration of my media and content. Recently, I’ve been creating work for submission to similar shows and have found similar effects.

In the end, it’s not important if the work is accepted or not (although some fortunately has been) because the process of creating the work with a different goal in mind helps me in more ways than acceptance into the exhibitions ever could alone.

I just mailed off my entries for the PACE: Post-Card Art Competition & Exhibition last week and couldn’t be happier with the 4×6 paintings I submitted. I played with a couple of new ideas that I’ve been to chicken to explore on a larger scale for fear of derailing my momentum this close to my solo show. Having done so, I now feel more inspired and confident to try some of these ideas out on bigger works earmarked for the upcoming exhibition.

Ascension #5, 4×6 inches, watercolor, ink, and graphite on paper
Misdirection, 4×6 inches, watercolor, ink, and gouache on paper
Suspension, 4×6 inches, watercolor, ink, and gouache on vellum and paper

Placing restrictions or guidelines on my work reminds me of assignment driven work done in art school. For me, those projects were rarely seen as arbitrary exercises (lets face it – some did), but there were always challenges and lessons to be learned by applying myself to set confines. Unlike the subconscious structures I sometimes create around my work – around my process – those consciously established at the beginning of a project some how allow me to think more outside of myself – help me recognize when I have unknowingly put up walls in my normal practice.

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