Bing! and Bzzzt!

Even if you are not a fan of America’s Got Talent, you’ve likely seen clips  or similar programs in which a pleasant little sound like the ringing of a small bell signifies that a contestant has provided a correct answer or is exceptionally talented. Bing! 

A wrong answer or a performance to which the word “talent” does not apply is immediately followed by loud and unpleasant sound at a low pitch much like…..well….something that is not done in polite company! Bzzzt!

We have the “Bing” of affirmation, and the “Bzzzt” of rejection. It can be entertaining in a quiz program or a talent show. But for the rest of us, affirmation and rejection can seriously affect how well we do our jobs, our confidence, and sense of self worth.

I once received a mailed notice that my painting was not accepted in a show. It arrived on a form the juror completely ignored, choosing instead to stamp a big red “REJECTED” diagonally across the paper. That seemed rather nasty. Bzzzt

Art friends and I often discuss affirmation and rejection, so I asked them to share their experiences for this blog – good, bad, or ugly.   

One friend wrote, “…your topic on Affirmation and Rejection is a deep undertaking. We read over and over how we are NOT to rely on others opinions, but to paint for ourselves. I know that there is a point in every painting at which I realize (with horror) that I have gone from painting for me to painting for a juror or someone who I surely don't even like! Someone nasty! That 'someone' is my own inner demon who is demonizing my painting! Noting all of the blurps and runs. After pondering this further I believe [dealing with this inner demon] is a lifetime journey.”

She added, “I DO know that the paintings of my own that I deem acceptable or [to which] others have responded positively are those in which I just WAS. I was just doodling, in the mid-area of my mind. I love it that there is neither affirmation or rejection in this safe haven. Only the flow of creativity. Why do we look to others or give others the chance to either affirm or reject what came from our heart? What makes us care? Profit? Validation of self worth in painting?”

Another friend shared, “It doesn't take too much affirmation to make up for tons of silence, which I invariably interpret as rejection. While working his way across the keys, my piano tuner admired one of my paintings across the room, and suddenly that painting rose several notches in my own estimation. It doesn't matter the lack of artistic expertise of the viewer, a positive and sincere word has a wonderful effect in drowning out the negative inner voices. So, for that brief time the painting was a good one, giving at least one other person pleasure, and it doesn't matter that I later tore it up.” Piano Tuner - Bing!  Inner Critic - Bzzzt!

She also wrote “I am thinking about the time when I sat quietly incognito, listening in on people at a show of my work. Hobbling along with a cane came a little old man and his tiny, hunched-over wife. "Very nice painting," she said……. "but mighty expensive." Alas, affirmation followed so quickly by rejection! “ BingBzzzt!

Life can be tough, even brutal for we artists. Everyone thinks themselves a qualified critic. I think most artists soon decide whether to put on the gloves and get in the ring - or not. For some artists “If you can’t stand the heat, stay out of the frying pan” is profound rather than a simple adage.

Two silver haired ladies once went with me to an opening for a group show.  They were old enough to have earned the right to say whatever they chose, and often did. But on the ride to the gallery, I hoped to temper that right just a bit. I said, “Now if either you see a painting you don’t like or don’t understand, the artist or a relative or friend might be standing nearby. So rather than say “This is awful!” or “I really don’t like this piece!” just knit your brows, put your hand thoughtfully to your chin, and say “How interesting!” and all three of us will know what you really mean.

As we stepped up to view the first painting one of the women said, “WHAT is THAT supposed to be?” Bzzzt! I needed no clue to understand what she meant.

Thanks for reading my blog. Bing!