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  • Writer's pictureHelen English Artist

Exhibitions & Competitions

During lockdown I set myself art tasks! They were designed (off the cuff) to create stability as well as the momentum to achieve artistic goals which I would not normally have the time for, and I started painting regularly for my own pleasure. Prior to that, my own painting work had been haphazard to say the least, squashed between commissions and exemplars for art classes which I taught.

In April, I looked at the large empty canvases, bought during an art store sale about a year before, and thought “Right!” – it was time. I set myself a task of using the four weeks to paint two landscapes in acrylic (my background love).

Subject matter for the first one was easy. I had taken a set of photographs, whilst at a neighbour’s house for dinner the previous November. There was a gorgeously battered old wooden boat pulled up on the shore, which a friend of their son’s had rowed over in. I rearranged the composition and painted for a few hours each day. It was my downtime and the resulting picture looked like the ideal place to spend a relaxing afternoon, so ‘Downtime’ became the title of the artwork. To note, I did paint a second landscape but it was overtaken by another art goal which I am still pursuing.

Fast forward a couple of months and I decided to enter the first painting into an exhibition and competition. Now, this is not my usual mode de operandi. I paint for myself and also to make a living through commissions and other sales – I like the quiet life. This was also not the brand of artwork which I am known for. However, the opportunity just presented itself and I thought, in light of the year which we have been having, it was time to contribute to the flora and fauna of the artworld and come together with other artists.

This week, I was chatting with a fellow artist as we met for coffee, and then shopped together for hardware to mount paintings. We were discussing competitions, and the fact that neither of us make a habit of entering them. It is an activity fraught with anxiety. Do I like my painting? How will I feel if I am not accepted to exhibit? How will I feel if I am?!! What if my artwork is there and no one likes it? I want to sell it – how will I feel if I don’t? This, aside from the clearly inevitable outcome of not winning one of the prizes, is not the environment to be if you are not feeling level-headed. ! You really do have to be very clear about your intentions and feelings if you put your artwork out there in the fray.

I have considered how I feel carefully. I entered a piece of work, which I am very happy to have on the wall in my house if no one buys it. Whilst it would be lovely to win a prize, I don’t think that it is unique in the way in which ‘winning artworks’ tend to be, so I have fully justified not being a winner! On the other hand, I love my painting. It filled a lockdown hole with true joy, not least of which was my husband’s face when he walked in each day from his essential work to view the progress. It is a record of my time so, if anyone does buy it, I will have to cut some ties with it. And, with that in mind, this weekend I will be labelling and packaging with intrepidation and flinging caution to the wind!

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